“Gaslight: Lantern Slides from the Nineteenth Century” by Joachim Kalka— The 19th Century

Kalka, Joachim. “Gaslight: Lantern Slides from the Nineteenth Century”, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole, New York Review Books; Main edition, 2017.

The 19th Century

Amos Lassen

Joachim Kalka in “Gaslight” explores the 19th century and ties the time period to our own through essays on a variety of topics in music, film, literature, and art. He looks at the fascination with its “auratic gaslight,” and its mingling of romanticism and modernity, enlightenment and darkness. Here are the roots of contemporary preoccupations with “gender roles and sexuality, terrorism and technology, mad scientists and serial killers, kitsch and commodification”. For example, Kalka gives us “the connections between Balzac and Billy Wilder, Mickey Mouse and the arms race, the cake fights of Laurel and Hardy and Madame Bovary’s wedding cake”. The nineteenth century comes to life and filled with contradictions, aspirations, and absurdities and as it does it invites the reader to reexamine that era and his/her own, and the stories that we tell ourselves about history.


Leave a Reply