Thursday, July 21, 2011

It says: a whole form of literary pretence is over

In his interview by Bibliokept, Lars Iyer describes what it means to be 'posthumous' as a reader and a writer, referring to the philosopher Franz Rosenzweig's use of the term and then, resisting Rosenzweig's presumption of an enduring culture of literary master-works, locating us all as posthumous to it:
Reviewing Jean-Luc Godard’s film Every Man For Himself, Pauline Kael writes, ‘I got the feeling that Godard doesn’t believe in anything anymore; he just wants to make movies, but maybe he doesn’t really believe in movies anymore, either’. Without agreeing with Kael’s assessment of Godard, I’d like to paraphrase her formulation: I think literary writers want to write literary fiction without believing in literature – without, indeed, believing in anything at all.

It seems to me that the literary gestures are worn out – the creation of character, plot, the contrivance of high-literary language and style as much as the avoidance of high-literary language and style, and the abandonment of most elements of the creation of character and plot. The ‘short, elliptical sentences’ of which the blogger of Life Unfurnished writes, the ‘absence of fulsome description’, the ‘signs of iconoclastic casualness’, the ‘colloquialisms’, the ‘lack of trajectory’, the ‘air of the incidental’: all are likewise exhausted.

What, then, is to be done? As writers, as readers, we are posthumous. We’ve come too late. We no longer believe in literature. Once you accept this non-belief, once you affirm it in a particular way, then something may be possible.
And yet despite or even because of this resistance -- the affirmation of his non-belief and its ability to flower into what he calls a 'legitimate strangeness', particularly through the work of blogging -- Iyer retains what many might see as an unexpected faith in the century old possibilities of the avant-garde:
Spurious is a book on its hands and knees. For me, it feels like the last book, the last burst of laughter before the world ends. But it also feels like the first one, because it has loosened the hold of the past. It says: a whole form of literary pretence is over.
An enviable energy -- perhaps the only way to blog, to write.

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