Roger Scruton

A Quest For Truth

Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire: Politics and Religion in Wagner’s Ring


Ashgate 300pp £50 order from our bookshop

Studies of the Wagner music dramas abound; but few of them explore, as Mark Berry does in this dense, difficult but rewarding book, the background of philosophical and political ideas from which the dramas emerged. Wagner was a man of universal intellect, who had been steeped in the Young Hegelian philosophy that shaped the ideas of Marx, and who took an active and foolhardy part in the revolutionary movements that briefly shook the Continent. Greek tragedy was as important an influence on his artistic development as the music of Beethoven, and his growth as a composer went hand in hand with a more hidden but equally significant growth as a thinker. His prose writings – hectic in style, and frequently cryptic in content – testify to an intensely serious philosophical vision. Wagner wanted to understand the modern world in its full spiritual complexity, to present its inner truth in artistic form, and to find, through art, a meaning that would both illustrate and compensate for the loss of the old religion. The result of this quest for the truth of modern life is contained in his masterpiece, the Ring cycle, and Berry’s exploration of the philosophical and political ideas that inspired the drama marks a step forward, both from the cheeky Marxism of George Bernard Shaw, and from the attempts, of Donington and others, to read the drama in purely ‘inner’, psychological terms.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The 25th Bad Sex in Fiction is happening in a week. There’s a press release if you’re the sort of person who wants a press release ,
    • sorry I can’t spell fluttering. I was agitated.,
    • Probably try and get an announcement out later, for all these male writers who think of fluttering inner muscle sheaths...,
    • He felt the muscles far inside her flutteriung around him,
    • Next week sees return, and we've got discounted tickets on offer, right here: ,
    • We're rarely topical - tricky as a monthly magazine - but we've an article this month all about Laurence Binyon, po… ,
    • "We will remember them" - who wrote those words, and why have them become our terms of memorial? ,