Monday, February 14, 2011

Difficult to read?

I mentioned before Josipovici and his book, What Ever Happened to Modernism, in which he expresses his profound disappointment at the resistance to or lack of awareness of European modernism right across the board in England.   He quotes Beckett who is talking here about art though it may well be applied to our current bestseller lists: '...there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desires to express, together with the obligation to express'.  

Many of the  books published today may be witty, sensationalist, written with panache but they will never challenge, say, Borges.   Read him and he reaches right to your core.   I did and realised that there is so much more to a 'good book' than the realist-type narrative so popular now.   Josipovici says that the latter give a 'sense of security, of comfort even' and draw 'us for a while out of our confusions ... into a world that makes some sort of sense'.   They are, in effect, easy reads.

All of which brings me to an article by Nicole Krauss in yesterday's Observer in which she says that she is surprised her fiction is labelled 'difficult'.  [Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer and is  author of The History of Love and Great House].   Her reasoning is simpler than Josipovici.   She  believes that in the west, we are moving towards the end of effort.   'We have arrived at this place where we just thoughtlessly plunge towards whatever the thing is that will allow us to make less of an effort.   We're programmed to do the easier thing'.

Can I suggest we ignore the 'bestseller lists' and discover the exhileration, joy and wonder in the books of the European and Latin American authors?  Discover literature!

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