Lukács’s claim, almost too famous to merit repeating, still modulates some of the defining parameters of nostalgia’s historical problematic: the dialectic of freedom and imprisonment, nostalgia’s concern with “congruence,” if not self-identity, and, consequently, also its drive toward repetition. All this bears upon what for Paul de Man is the central axiom of Lukács’s essay, “the individual’s frustrating experience of his own inability to acquire universal dimensions.” To strive for universal dimensions is to find and know oneself to be in a situation that is anything but universal. Inscribed into the frustration is the longing, in other words, for an ability not to know, or experience, what it means to be less than universal.

Helmut Illbruck, Nostalgia: Origins and Ends of an Unenlightened Disease