“The rushing after lost time, the frantic quest for the present, the rage to be “contemporaries of all mankind” (as Octavio Paz put it) — all these things are typical of the search for a way to enter literary time and thereby attain artistic salvation.”
Casanova, Pascale. “The World Republic of Letters”. transl. M. B. Devoise. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999. pp. 91.
This passage portrays modernity in a peculiar way. The term “artistic salvation” is intriguing in the way that it captures the intentions of so many authors across time. Salvation means that the work will be preserved from being harmed or lost, thus placing the work in a realm outside of time and space, free from the changing trends and modes of literature. Of course, we can consider this to be what happens to a book when it becomes a classic, but Casanova uses this to point out the contradictions of being “modern.” If a classic, a book that has been preserved, is beyond the chains of time, then the quest for being modern is also the quest for writing something outside of time (“literary time”), not the quest to be “connect[ed] with fashion” (91).