Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Which they believe to be a revival of the old manner

After reading Flowerville's cutting of Hans Blumenberg I couldn't rest until I found this journeying piece from Proust's Contre Sainte-Beuve (in the chapter on Nerval):

Today there is a school of writers who, being in rebellion -- it must be said, to good purpose -- against the bloodless Battle of Words now in vogue, have imposed a new manner, which they believe to be a revival of the old manner, on the art of letters; and these are their tenets; that in order not to overweight a sentence one will keep it from expressing anything whatsoever, that to sharpen the outline of a book one will exclude any impression, any thought, etc., that cannot be straightforwardly expressed, and, that to preserve the traditional mould of the language one will be ready at all times to accept existing turns of speech, without even troubling to think them over. If this results in a brisk style, a grammar of respectable coinage, a free and easy demeanour, there is no special merit about it. It is not difficult to cover one's journey at a canter if before starting one jettisons all the valuables one was charged to carry; but the speed of the transit, the graceful ease of arrival, are of no great significance, since there is nothing to deliver.


  1. Le vrai est trop simple, il faut y arriver toujours par le compliqué. -- George Sand

    which australian writers would you recommend to me, except murnane and patrick white (the exclusion of both is not based on dislike)?

  2. I would suggest for the moment David Malouf (I'm thinking especially of his early novel An Imaginary Life, and his most recent collection of essays The Writing Life), the early novels of Christina Stead (I'm only saying the early novels because when I read something from her later work -- I think it was her collection of stories -- it seemed that the fire had gone out, but I cannot be sure of her other works), some of Elizabeth Jolley, Helen Garner, Brian Castro, and the French-Australian Catherine Rey... and while I haven't yet read them, what I've heard makes me want to read the work of Elizabeth Harrower, and the one slim book by Mudrooroo (Wild Cat Falling). Then, much earlier, there is the astonishingly eccentric Such is Life by Joseph Furphy & ditto The Pea Pickers by Eve Langley...