Perhaps the true question raised by "What Ever Happened to Modernism?" is about the way in which art grapples with reality. The 19th-century novelists created characters and set them within a narrative; this was an "arbitrary" process: David Copperfield and Père Goriot are as contrived as the marquise who went out at five. Balzac carried a cane inscribed with the motto "I smash all obstacles." Kafka noted that he himself should have a cane inscribed "All obstacles smash me." Kafka knew that, as Mr. Josipovici puts it, "to be modern is to know that some things can no longer be done."
was anticipated by Josipovici three decades ago in The World and the Book: A Study of Modern Fiction, where he writes in the Preface:
For we must understand that the great modern revolutionaries did not say: 'Don't look at the world the way people have been doing for the last four centuries, it's wrong'; but: 'Don't look at the world the way people have been doing for the last four centuries, it's lazy.'