Friday, June 24, 2011

Gabriel Josipovici

From page seventy of What Ever Happened to Modernism? by Gabriel Josipovici:
I walk down the road, he says, my life is open before me. I do not know what will happen to me, and if my life so far is anything to go by, nothing will. Even if something dramatic happens, if a car, say, runs me over and kills me, that will not have conferred meaning on a meaningless life, only brought it to an end. But if I open a novel and read in its first pages that the hero is walking down a deserted road I know that this is the beginning of an adventure, of love perhaps, or espionage, it does not matter, it is an adventure. I feel the comforting thickness of the remainder of the novel between the thumb and index finger of my right hand and I settle back with satisfaction. This, after all, is why I am reading the novel in the first place. Not, as the banal view has it, in order to entertain myself, but to give myself the feeling that meaning exists in the world, even if I have not yet found it. That is the secret power of novels: the look like mirrors held up to the world, but what they are is machines that secrete spurious meaning into the world and so muddy the waters of genuine understanding of the human condition.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

André Breton

"Need I add how differently I regard Huysmans from all those empiricists of the novel who claim to give us characters separate from themselves, to define them physically, morally - in their fashion! - in the service of some cause we should prefer to disregard! Out of one real character about whom they suppose they know something they make two characters in their story; out of two, they make one. And we even bother to argue! Someone suggested to an author I know, in connection with a work of his about to be published and whose heroine might be too readily recognized, that he change at least the color of her hair. As a blonde, apparently, she might have avoided betraying a brunette. I do not regard such a thing as childish, I regard it as monstrous. I insist on knowing the names, on being interested only in books left ajar, like doors; I will not go looking for keys. Happily the days of psychological literature, with all its fictitious plots, are numbered." Nadja, 1928.
From 1907, Le scarabée d'or:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

James Joyce

For each of the quotes below, the subject is Ulysses.

He is a millionaire of words and styles. Aside from the prodigious funds of voices that constitute the English language, his commerce spreads wherever the Irish clover grows, form Castilian doubloons and Judas's shekels to Roman denarii and other ancient coinage. His prolific pen exercises all the rhetorical figures. Each episode exalts yet another poetic strategy, another private lexicon. One is written in syllogisms, another in questions and answers, another in narrative sequence. [...] Joyce is as bold as the prow of a ship, and as universal as a mariner's compass.
In using myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him. They will not be imitators, any more than the scientist who uses the discoveries of an Einstein in pursuing his own, independent, further investigation. It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility of and anarchy which is contemporary history.
If you have ever tried to stand and bend your head so as to look back between your knees, with your face turned upside down, you will see the world in a totally different light. Try it on the beach: it is very funny to see people walking when you look at them upside down. They seem to be, with each step, disengaging their feet from the glue of gravitation, without losing their dignity. Well, this trick of changing vista, of changing the prism and the viewpoint, can be compared to Joyce’s new literary technique, to the kind of new twist through which you see a greener grass, a fresher world.