Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Banality of Evil

Hermann Broch, The Guiltless (trans Ralph Manheim): A heavyhanded indictment tracking the cancerous rise of the Nazis to the cellular level. Not without force, but a slight disappointment after The Sleepwalkers, as Broch here ties together previously published stories on the pre-war Zeitgeist, but binds them too tightly to let them breathe, too concerned with its overarching purpose: apoliticism as complicity: "... it is precisely from such a state of mind and soul that Naziism derived its energies. For political indifference is ethical indifference, hence closely related to ethical perversity. In short, most of the politically guiltless bear a considerable amount of ethical guilt. One of the purposes of this book has been to show this and to show the profound reasons for it." FAIL. Both in principle, given the uncertainties inherent in political and ethical action [and worse, the levelling with the truly complicit, and those with the pretense of certainty, and those mistaking or unforeseeing consequences], and as art. The grain of truth (they came for X, but I was not X) is contaminated by the ergot of transcendental surety. Funny, that's more or less what he says about the German character.

Georgi Gospodinov, And Other Stories (trans Alexis Levitin & Magdalena Levy): Short shorts with a long range, more hits than near-misses (yes I wrote that before seeing concurrant prior link) both in conceit and execution, e.g. Peonies and Forget-Me-Nots & Blind Vaysha, Gaustine & A Second Story (too telegraphic). And First Steps inspired me to twitterfic ... and, as with the above, the material is subject to re-use in his other writings, oddly given the second epigraph: "Nobody can enter twice into one and the same story."—Gaustine (Hey, Gospodinov's short stories are a rent in the fabric under this post's rubric, but what can you do.)

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project: With each book, Hemon keeps raising expectations, then exceeding them. (Reviews range from very good to wow! but it's only fair to also link the local papers implicated in the book.) This time, a tightly woven dual-track historical emigrant narrative, better than the Bradbury in my best-of-'05. Sharing surnames across a century might seem clunky stitchwork, but it holds, as do the almost subliminal connections drawn between the narratives, and the times. Not to give short shrift to the local delicacy (pace da Trib), where Hemon's strengths as a stylist can distract from the structural finery. And these are but means for a compelling story, make that two, of how much is lost, how easily, how much there is to lose, how hard it must be held. Best-of-'08.

Richard Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica: Feral children foist upon a feral grown-up world. The Henry Darger cover almost put me off; pace Mr.Waggish, this is a wholly different kind of strangeness, not that of an outsider aesthetic, but faux-naïveté, more fabular, a not-quite-coming-of-age disguised as an amoral children's tale in its diction, occasionally belied by an aside, a citation, a learned allusion. Often compared, favorably, to Golding's Lord of the Flies (which I don't miss missing myself); the plotting and flow are superb yet subversive (just imagine Amis fils' tween fiction).


Blogger JAbel said...

The defunct "A Common Reader" mailings always had "A High Wind in Jamaica" listed.I always wanted to read it figuring the novel wasn't much like the movie.

29/6/08 03:43  

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