When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir written by Paul Kalanithi and published in January 2016. Educated in English literature, human biology, philosophy and medicine, specializing in neurosurgery, Kalanithi writes that he was always interested in learning about the “life of the mind” and particularly, what makes for a meaningful life – he rejected the personal pursuit of one’s own happiness as this end.
This book, this truly great book, should be read without further delay by all those who feel concerned by the idea –past, present and future– of Europe. At first sight, it is only a book on a rather overlooked form of Modernism; that is, the Austrian Modernism of the post-World War I period (Modernism, as we know, is more commonly studied in other linguistic and geographical areas, and Austrian Modernism remains strongly associated with pre-World War I culture).
Contrary to film or sports, for instance, literature is a part of culture in which there are still heated debates on what is “good” and what is “bad”.
In 1972, Robert Venturi helped us to “learn from Las Vegas”, and architecture was no longer the same. Since more than two decades, Kenneth Goldsmith forces us to rethink writing, and one cannot insist enough on the necessity to learn from him.
Some questions in life cut across traditional divisions in academia. What is culture? Who is the global citizen, if he exists at all? What is considered progress and decay in our society? Such questions lie at the heart of the values held by all human kind. They cannot be ‘owned’ by a particular discipline. They are deeply personal, and yet shared.
There are many reasons to consider this book, for now alas only available in a hardback, library-only version, the most important publication in cultural studies of the year 2015.
The founding father of situationism, a highly politicized neo-avant-garde movement that is said to have played a decisive role in the May 68 turmoil and author of the influential essay The Society of the Spectacle, Guy-Ernest Debord is considered one of the most important French thinkers of the second half of the 20th Century.