Thursday, December 19, 2013

Their diurnal stars are all the shining holies

I've had Lars Iyer's Exodus lying part read (differently part read) at various times beside my bed for the past year. This is not because his novel, as people often complain of novels, 'didn't pull me through' -- or perhaps it is, since 'Literature should be boring!', as W. says in Exodus somewhere. Henry James once described reading Swann's Way as 'inconceivable boredom associated with the most extreme ecstasy which it is possible to imagine' (and my awareness that this is not only true but the highest possible compliment might even be the very reason I am still steadily rereading À la recherche du temps perdu, which will no doubt take the rest of my life -- a rest of my life that I am in no hurry to race to its end).

For all the protagonists' discussions of end times, Exodus is not at all a teleological narrative. I see Lars and W. agitated and blousy: bickering in a mid field of university canteens and parsimonious conference spreads, with a greyish green moor spreading out on all sides towards an encircling horizon (and an empty bottle of Plymouth Gin rolling around between the drain and the glass doors). Their diurnal stars are all the shining holies -- Kierkegaard, Weil, Duras, Blanchot, Badiou, Rosenzweig, Rosenstock, Gandhi, Marx, Žižek, Kafka, Krasznahorkai, Tarr -- as well as the faceless but ethereally beautiful Essex postgraduates. For some reason, I see W. as dry skinned, thin and woody; Lars, we are continually reminded, has a white, soft middle: they are the yin and yang of our emptying world. Theirs is a sidereal time with all stars, for the moment, descending, but there is something that remains, still, after the stars have passed. Try as he might to leave them utterly stranded, Iyer keeps his protagonists warm from the rumours of thinkers, in the thought of thinking, and we huddle beside them, trying to believe, even as we despair a faux Kierkegaardian despair, in all of this faithful thinking for ourselves.


  1. I'm yet to read Iyer's trilogy. I tried 'Spurious' but it seemed to try too hard, which didn't work for me.

    Nice to see a new post.

  2. The trilogy isn't so very different from 'Spurious' the blog, and I do think there is something missing in the experience of reading these pieces. Iyer himself would probably identify this something as the very thing he's pushing against -- writing's belief in itself as literariness since, as he puts it in his White Review manifesto 'Nude in your hot tub, facing the abyss, (a literary manifesto after the end of literature and manifestos)', 'we are all born too late for Literature'. And yet, and yet... There is an aspect of the great incisiveness and honesty of his fictional writings which is so aware of its gestural aptness that it works hard to avoid the possibility that, even now at this supposed other end of literature (which position I can't quite agree with as it suggests that our 'writer-ancestors' were little more than dupes, and also places someone like Krasznahorkai, by inference, in an odd position), incisiveness and honesty could still be turned into moments of reading that push beyond the nostalgia for Literature. That take us by surprise.

    Thanks for your comment, Anirudh.