This essay explores the possibilities of quietism in our time. It begins by examining briefly versions of quietism, Eastern and Western, then turns to particular works of Rilke, Kafka, and Beckett to review exigent images of quietism, variously relevant to the modern condition. Subsequently, it touches on some contradictions of quietism and politics, which Zadie Smith also considers in her essay, “Speaking in Tongues.” Finally, the essay dwells on David Malouf's novel, An Imaginary Life, as a fully achieved parable of quietism, applicable to all places and ages. Throughout, the essay argues for a new, kenotic simplicity, a quietism grounded not in transcendence but in pragmatic virtues of self-dispossession.
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Anonymous Envoi; Quietism Now?. Common Knowledge 1 April 2010; 16 (2): 276–284. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2009-091
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