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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A COMMENT TO A DISCUSSION AT: "THE MILLIONTH.COM"

http://www.themillions.com/2011/04/how-avant-is-it-zadie-smith-tom-mccarthy-and-the-novel%E2%80%99s-way-forward.html/comment-page-1#comment-20157


As the translator of Handke’s GOALIE and all his early activist, conceptualist and formalist plays, as the first publisher of Bataille novels in the U.S.  [Urizen Books] and of Michael Brodsky, etc, etc. you will I hope allow me a few comments on a matter that I have dwelled on since my college days – not that translating GOALIE necessarily, in one’s translator’s myopia, means that you understand what Handke does by involving the reader so syntactically in the workings of Goalie/ Construction worker Blochs’s paranoid schizophrenic’s way of being in the world. That is a crucial difference, is it not, say, the opening of REMAINDER which is ABOUT something, whereas Handke in GOALIE and ever after: IS.

 Handke, however, has gone on, through about five phases, introducing the dream screen of film into novel [ABSENCE], underlying pictorial anchoring [ACROSS] and become a self-named “lyrical epic” writer of PLACES who re-magics the world verbally, most prominently in CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS. And, I would say, never lost, now incorporates everything – the craft of a deconstructor of his first novel [DIE HORNISSEN]  and the pure phenomenology of DER HAUSIERER [the two books are in the Romance languages] in carrying on and innovating within that particular great realist tradition – where his INNERWORLD OF THE OUTERWORLD procedure ALTERS THE STATE OF MIND of the reader.  Moreover, he is a virtuoso at his business [something he demonstrates with panache in the next novel of his to be published in English translation, MORAVIAN  NIGHTS] and he shares one point of reference – Flaubert – with Zadie Smith, who seems to think that a great realist like Balzac is also a lyrical realist.  Handke belongs to the direction that Jameson is also aware of: ecriture pure.

A lot of the discussion here, also among the reviewers of  McCarthy and Netherland is a bit too general for me to sink my teeth into.  But let me go on the record:  Anyone for whom the novel is serious business pays no heed what is written under the aegis Oh Tannenbaum, as I call him, who thinks Jonathan Franzen is a great American writer and that  FREEDOM is  a masterpiece of American literature. Nonetheless, occasionally the intelligent take slips in, perhaps because the underlings at that shop are frequently sharper than their boss.

Ditto for the NYRBooks. Pay no heed to what is written there about novels.  Any magazine that publishes a piece such as J.L. Marcus’s on Handke because he opposes the one-sided blaming of the Serbs for the disintegration of Yugoslavia and makes it the occasion for utterly moronic decimation of his novels and plays and then prohibits critiques even from old acquaintances, such as I am of Bob Silver’s; or which/who champions Susan Sontag’s novels just because she’s part of their crowd – and I much liked her and her essays - is just another parti pris organ.  The NYRB is for the busy intelligent reader who needs these matter predigested, e.g.  the fine Jonathan Raban doing that kind of roundup of Foster-Wallace’s work:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/may/12/divine-drudgery/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=May+12+2011+issue&utm_content=May+12+2011+issue+CID_60266178674481a3bafb34907cdeb9d8&utm_source=Email+marketing+software&utm_term=Divine+Drudgery


and see

 http://handke-discussion.blogspot.com/2009/12/letter-to-robert-silvers-ny-review-of.html

 

I reread the Zadie Smith piece and am puzzled by her using Balzac, a great realist if ever there was one, as one of two examples, Flaubert is another, of the “lyrical” novel, while leaving out Germans such as Stifter, Eichendorf and Goethe or the Russians in what she calls the “Anglophone” tradition – which for me stretches from the Kangaroo and Kiwi lands via many parts of Africa, where my friend Elvis write in the most marvelously musical pidgin, all around the world then to Hawaii. Being “avant garde” must come of necessity, some kind of need, certainly not for its own sake. Adorno , who had real difficulty imagining anything beyond Proust, also mentioned that a registrar, a good seismographic phenomenologist, might invariably get some purchase on the spirit of the time. I would say that the mansions of the novel are as great as the world, and to quote Handke: “The world is the discoverer.” As to what is real: ink and paper/ electronic impressions on screens, the brain that buzzes as it reads and decipher instantaneously within the homogeneous possibilities of each language – within more or less aesthetically pleasing alphabets.

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MICHAEL ROLOFF
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