From chapter 84 of The Man Without Qualities.
Ulrich went on: "Every great book breaths this spirit of love for the fate of individuals at odds with the forms the community tries to impose on them. It leads to decisions that cannot be decided; there is nothing to be done but to give a true account of their lives. Extract the meaning out of all literature, and what you will get is a denial, however incomplete, but nonetheless an endless series of individual examples all based on experience, which refute all the accepted rules, principles, and prescriptions underpinning the very society that loves these works of art! In the end, a poem, with its mystery, thousands of words in constant use, severs all these strings, and turns it into a balloon floating off into space. If this is what we call beauty, as we usually do, then beauty is an indescribably more ruthless and cruel upheaval than any political revolution ever was."
Thoughts I've often played with: how art and religion are ideas for which there is no corresponding reality, but only instances. Not as in particular to general: there is no "general." Like traces of radiation in a cloud chamber from shattered particles that no longer exist. Inclusive definitions of either religion or art are not possible because we ourselves exist only in that same fragmented state and cannot conceive of any whole of which they might be, or have been a part. That is, religion and art are chips broken from something no longer there--and perhaps. never was there. They tempt us with a common and deadly malady--to enter into them as though they were everything. Nothing is more poisonous to life (this is easier to see in religion: the moment we embrace any one of the numberless realizable instances as though it were the whole, we are set off against all the other possible instances; and are sure to generate out of the friction countless new instances: why else are there so many "religions?"). Art seems less dangerous, but only because, thank god, we are less inclined to take it so seriously. The chief danger in regard to art, is politics (and sometimes, religion), where it may enter into a symbiotic relationship that is sure to pervert both partners. The impossibility of art: one of the themes of my novel, The Magic Slate as in the chapter of that same name, HERE