Grand Hotel Abyss

“A considerable part of the leading German intelligentsia, including Adorno, have taken up residence in the ‘Grand Hotel Abyss’ which I described in connection with my critique of Schopenhauer as ‘a beautiful hotel, equipped with every comfort, on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity. And the daily contemplation of the abyss between excellent meals or artistic entertainments, can only heighten the enjoyment of the subtle comforts offered.’ (Die Zerstörung der Vernunft, Neuwied 1962, p. 219).”

—György Lukács (1962), Preface to The Theory of the Novel


“Schopenhauer’s philosophy rejects life in every form and confronts it with nothingness as a philosophical perspective. [… N]othingness as the pessimist outlook […] is quite unable, according to Schopenhauer’s ethics […], to prevent or even merely to discourage the individual from leading an enjoyable contemplative life. On the contrary: the abyss of nothingness, the gloomy background of the futility of existence, only lends this enjoyment an extra piquancy. Further heightening it is the fact that the strongly accented aristocratism of Schopenhauer’s philosophy lifts its adherents (in imagination) way above the wretched mob that is short-sighted enough to fight and to suffer for a betterment of social conditions. So Schopenhauer’s system, well laid out and architecturally ingenious in form, rises up like a modern luxury hotel on the brink of the abyss, nothingness and futility. And the daily sight of the abyss, between the leisurely enjoyment of meals or works of art, can only enhance one’s pleasure in this elegant comfort.

“This, then, fulfils the task of Schopenhauer’s irrationalism: the task of preventing an otherwise dissatisfied sector of the intelligentsia from concretely turning its discontent with the ‘established order’, i.e., the existing social order, against the capitalist system in force at any given time.”

—György Lukács (1962/1981, pp. 242-243). The destruction of reason. London: Merlin Press Ltd.