Wyndham Lewis and the Manifesto

Wyndham Lewis - Lonely Volcano

Wyndham Lewis often comes to people’s attention because he was well known for his manifestos, especially those contained in the two issues of BLAST.  Lewis lamented the lack of radical talent in pre-War London in his memoir Rude  Assignment (1950) saying — ‘I wanted a battering ram that was all of one metal …  A good deal of what got in seemed to me soft and highly impure.  Had it been France, there would have been plenty to choose from.’

This makes him my kind of artist.  Publishing is a perilous industry and we live in anodyne times, and these two factors combine to drive any sort of radicalism out of letters, with the general feeling being that everything has been done, and that book sales to the middle aged and the middle class are all that matters.

The term ‘manifesto’ occurs plenty  in Lewis’s writing during the Vorticist period of 1914-15. For the rest of his career, Lewis described his pronouncements on art and literature as ‘propaganda’, ‘treatises’, or sometimes just ‘Blasts’, when he was feeling all John Knox about things.

He even called himself a ‘polemicist’ or ‘pamphleteer’, and mad old volcano that he was, he continued to fulminate against the pricks, all the way to the end.

Lewis was a key influence on my novel The Studio Game from Fledgling Press.

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