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Making Sense of the Present by Pulling From the Past

Jun 13, 2019 - The New York Times

VIENNA — “These fragments have I shored again my ruin,” T.S. Eliot wrote in the 1922 poem “The Waste Land,” referring to art that survives human catastrophe. Those words returned to me as I wandered through a weekend of the Wiener Festwochen, the international performing arts festival that has been welcoming spring to the Austrian capital since 1951.

Like Eliot, who responded to the cataclysms of world war with a poem assembled from cultural artifacts ranging from the Bhagavad Gi...