Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

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17.2.07

Multiple perspectives of Faulkner

William Faulkner may well be America's most successful literary export. It is perhaps no less a testament to his style than to the matter he treats, decline as an aftereffect of profound but distant upheavals as felt in the backwaters, which is in all its aspects antithetical to what America is thought/thinks itself to represent. While this gave rise to McOndo via Garcia Marquez in LatAmLit, the backwash to Europe is what I'm on to.

Robert Pinget, That Voice (Barbara Wright trans), is billed as a "Faulknerian take on rural life" within his larger Faulknerian ouevre, but while the provincial setting (the near environs of Agapa) and instability of point of view and of relations between characters attests to a commonality, Pinget is stylistically closer to Beckett (and to the nouveau romanists). His preface highlights a thematic dual meaning of anamnesis, "whose literal meaning is the recalling to memory of things past, is, in the language of psychoanalysis, a patient's remembrance of the early stages of his illness. In the present case, the anamnesis is triple: 1) That of the narrator, 2) That of the chronicler (relative to the work achieved up to the present time), 3) Formal (relative to the structure of the book, which, after the halfway mark, is recomposed or decomposed by reascending; in other words, the themes are resumed in the reverse order of their formulation.)" The third meaning of anamnesis is not mentioned: the eucharistic prayer recalling Christ's sacrifice and ending with the words "Do this in remembrance of me." (Nor is the split chronology, between All Saints/All Souls in the first half and Easter season in the second, when time is permitted to proceed once again.) Whereas one theme is effacement of scribblings on a slate, and the story begins and ends in the cemetery, the last will and testament of the uncle specify preservation of the manuscript he's compiled out of bits and pieces as an integral part of his house; so this novella stands in relation to Pinget's other writings. I've exhausted what Dalkey offers of Pinget, but Red Dust has much more.

Juan Goytisolo, The Marx Family Saga (Peter Bush trans) brings Karl and his women back in 1993 to witness the effects of the dissolution of the system built on his system. The novel, a satirical send-up not only of Marxism but of Marketism as well, is split into 5 parts, proceeding from the socioeconomic through the literary, Merchant & Ivory cinematic and talking-head dialectic to the utopian. No one is spared; well, one is, in the end, but that would be giving it away, and that would violate capitalistic precepts. Mr. Faulkner figures in as the author/narrator's publisher, introduced in the second part, with a Gradgrindian emphasis on factual fidelity; beyond the meta cleverness, there is a curious opposition between Faulkner and Dickens in play here; advantage to the latter, but displacement to urban settings does not dilute the relevance of the former (especially given Marx's own distance from the class that took him up on it). While not as enamored of this as some, I still highly recommend it.

Cesare Pavese, The Moon and the Bonfires (R.W.Flint trans), was his last novel, while his last translation into Italian was Faulkner's The Hamlet; Pavese borrows the barnburning to build upon it (as noted in the Rudman's nyrb intro, which should be left for last, or longer: no one tells me how anything must be read). Again a provincial setting, in rural Piedmont, and a community of dubious relations, but the narrator is a foundling who found success in America before returning after the war to find he still has no place (not that Americans do, Oakland being one of his stopovers). Thematically this is closest to Yoknapatawpha, but stylistically it derives from Fitzgerald, Hemingway and that ilk. While excellent (remarkably tightly plotted, perhaps too much so at times), this novel doesn't impel me to investigate Pavese's earlier works (though Flint's intro [pdf] better introduces Pavese's life and work), despite even Calvino's warmth: "Each one of Pavese's novels revolves around a hidden theme,something unsaid which is the real thing he wants to say and which can be expressed only by not mentioning it."

2 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

It's a shame you don't feel impelled to read Pavese's earlier works because some of them are excellent. I can speak for Tra Donne Sole and particularly La casa in collina, which in my opinion ranks far above most other postwar neorealists

4/3/07 10:41  
Blogger nnyhav said...

I'm keeping them under consideration (Calvino's recommendation counts for something, I've read all in translation except Italian Folktales), but the postwar neorealists don't pique my interest, if you mean Jovine, Fenoglio, Sciascia (lots of nyrb titles there) ... in the vicinity, I've read Verga and Vittorini, and Carlo Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli (in order of increasing pleasure), but it's what followed that grabs me -- Primo Levi, Bassani, Lampedusa, Eco. Gadda is next on my list. And, shamelessly, I've hardly delved deeply into Faulkner ...

4/3/07 18:01  

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