literary melancholy

a long talk with Lars Iyer on literature after literature

‘I want to read books that are commensurable with this world, in content and form, books that have abandoned a whole repertoire of literary gestures but which still, in some way, respond to what literature once was. I want to read books that make a problem of their inheritance, a problem of coming somehow after literature. I want to read books that register a sense of their own belatedness (…) Sometimes, I wonder whether my making claims of this kind is a result of my literary melancholy. Shouldn’t it be possible, if one only tried hard enough, to dream of a fabulously new novel to come, of a nouveau roman newer than the nouveau romans of Robbe-Grillet and Sarraute, which would always belong to the future? Mightn’t there be some fiery rebirth of the Modern in some faraway place, among writers who write new manifestos in the dream of restoring a revolutionary purity to their endeavours? I can only say that it seems to me that literature has, in some fundamental way, run its course.’

read the rest at 3:AM Magazine

no more great ideas

a review of Mark M. Freed’s Robert Musil and the Nonmodern

Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities has taken a while to achieve recognition as a modernist masterpiece. This could be because it doesn’t quite fit with our orderly models of what ‘the modern’ might mean. The trouble is, Musil wasn’t Joyce, nor Proust, and to weigh up his book as some Germanic answer to Ulysses or A la Recherché du Temps Perdu is to miss its point. Or rather, its lack of one. Because, however many times you read this famously unfinished novel, one thing’s for sure: you’ll never fully take the measure of its pointlessness. It’d be a stretch to say that the text makes sense of itself, let alone of ‘modernity.’ Rather, its freewheeling narrative propels it somewhere beyond the familiar aims of modernist art. For unlike those others, this book doesn’t want to build systems, to give order to memory or history, or to shore up anything much against its ruins. Instead, it lets those ruins remain as they are: incomplete, enigmatic, never entirely intelligible.

read the rest at Open Letters Monthly