British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-fiction – Quill Quire
DESCRIPTION: In Solar Dance, acclaimed writer and scholar Modris Eksteins uses Vincent van Gogh as his lens for this brilliant survey of Western culture and politics in the last century. The long-awaited follow-up to Modris Eksteins’ internationally acclaimed Rites of Spring and Walking Since Daybreak. Now he has produced another thrilling, iconoclastic work of cultural history that is a trailblazing biography of an era–from the eve of the First World War and the rise of Hitler to the fall of the Berlin Wall–that illuminates our current world, with its cults of celebrity and the crisis of the authentic. Solar Dance is a penetrating examination of legitimacy and truth, fakery and pretence–highly relevant to all of us today.(quillQuire)
Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age
by Modris Eksteins
Van Gogh. Few other names carry so much cultural weight. Simply mentioning the Dutch painter calls forth myriad associations: the ubiquity of Sunflowers and Starry Night; the mystery of the severed ear; madness; depression; his addiction to absinthe.
How do we account for the uncanny staying power of the troubled soul who sold only one work in his lifetime yet posthumously became the most celebrated – not to mention most expensive and most reproduced – artist of the modern age? Modris Eksteins suggests that “our fascination with van Gogh tells us a good deal about ourselves.” But he goes much further. For the University of Toronto emeritus historian, the painter represents an authenticity that has disappeared from the modern world.
Solar Dance follows the basic model Eksteins employed in his acclaimed 2000 Trillium Book Award winner, Rites of Spring. Just as he used Stravinsky’s controversial ballet to enter into a meditation on modernity in early 20th-century Germany, he subjects van Gogh’s legacy to an exploration of truth, celebrity, and “mounting existential crisis” in interwar Germany. Eksteins’ central thesis is that van Gogh’s work fed public hunger for the transcendental in an increasingly rational time, but also stoked its penchant for commodification, appropriation, and falsification.