"As Emily Wilson points out in the first volume of this ambitious history of the form, tragedy in ancient times was confined to the theatre. You couldn’t have a tragic novel or a tragic view of the world. Nor could you have a tragic famine or case of heart failure. Using the word to mean a real-life catastrophe, as we do today, is a case of life imitating art. It follows from this that Aeschylus is tragic but Auschwitz is not. Although sorrow and despair constitute a lingua franca among human beings, tragic art tends to flourish only in highly specific circumstances. Tragedy is an act of collective mourning, remembrance and meditation, an attempt to find some meaning or even value in suffering, not simply an image of wretchedness in the raw. The ceremonies that take place on Remembrance Day are in this sense closer to the ancient sense of tragedy than the carnage they commemorate is. Besides, as both Theodor Adorno and Slavoj Žižek have argued, to describe the inmates of the Nazi camps as tragic is a moral obscenity. It is as though the use of the terms ascribes a meaning, or even a value, to something that resists all intelligibility. Tragedy aestheticises the intolerable."
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor