Zoltan Somhegyi's Reviewing the Past: The Presence of Ruins (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020) takes the reader on a captivating journey through the phenomenon of ruins. It is a remarkable achievement that, I believe, only someone like Somhegyi--a philosophical aesthetician as well as an art historian, and one who has studied ruins on a global scale--could pull off so brilliantly. — Philosophia
Zoltán Somhegyi surveys ruins from across the globe, covering remnants of antiquity, contemporary urban decay, ruins pictured in artworks, and artificial ruins from eighteenth-century gardens to present-day shopping malls. His sophisticated reflections draw upon extensive research from several disciplines, providing a wonderfully readable introduction to ruin appreciation as well as an indispensable resource for scholars.— Carolyn Korsmeyer, Professor of Philosophy, University of Buffalo
The book Reviewing the Past: The Presence of Ruins by Zoltán Somhegyi is a must-read book about a very topical subject. We live in an age of ruins. On the one hand we save, document and reconstruct with great technical and financial effort all the fragments that have been historically preserved, and on the other hand new ruins are created all around, through war and iconoclastic terror and furor. Numerous aspects of the cultural and art historical, aesthetic, political and ideological ambivalences that determine the theme of ruins are dealt with in this legible and knowledgeable work. — Michael Diers, Professor of Art and Visual History at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg and Associate Professor of Art History at the Institute for Art and Visual History of the Humboldt University Berlin
Zoltán Somhegyi’s new book [provides] readers with a sophisticated, knowledgeable and at the same time absolutely readable perspective on the controversial topic of our relationship with the past and how we should deal with the past’s physical remnants, namely, ruins.
Somhegyi goes beyond traditional representations of the subject in Romantic aesthetics to embrace the visual implications of ruination in a wide-range of non-conventional contexts. The author’s sensitivity, based on many years of travelling throughout Europe and a long stay in the Middle East, brings immediacy and richness of perception to his discussions of the various types of ruins. His survey covers examples ranging from the Greek-Roman world and Byzantium to present-day decaying buildings like abandoned shopping malls and industrial sites, including instances of ruin depiction in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Flemish and Italian painting, as well as in contemporary media such as conceptual art and photography. — Lisa Giombini, Studi di Estetica. Italian Journal of Aesthetics
The ruin is an enigma that may also provide aesthetic experience, and when wandering among ruins everyone has the right and the opportunity to find their own, subjective reconstruction: how could it have been originally, how to imagine what is now lost. This game of logic based on the strength of imagination will, however, become impossible if the destruction was caused by a terrorist attack or if there is a reconstruction that suggests that “only this form of completion” is correct. Zoltán Somhegyi’s book shows that the childhood passion of its author has fortunately remained, the optimistic joy, however, is a thing of the past. Undoubtedly, it is an experience shared by many of us, by the present reviewer for sure.
(This review was originally published in Hungarian.)— Pál Lővei, President of the Scientific Committee on Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; BUKSZ (Budapest Review of Books)