Last week, the lead article in Die Zeit's culture section,the Feuilleton as they call it, put the boot into the Anglo-American novel: a spectacle I always enjoy. It must be that clever, "makes-you-want-to-turn-the-page" arty-ficiality of folk like Franzen & Ian McEwan; the totalitarian tendency it has.
The seventy year old Hungarian novelist Péter Nádas appears to know a fair few things about totalitarianisms, of both the eastern & western variety. Die Zeit's lead article was dedicated to reviewing his 1800 page Parallel Stories, also out now in English translation from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It's in this review that the critique of the Anglo-American novel is made, by the reviewer, Iris Radisch (Die Zeit, 9.2.2012) together with Nádas. This is my translation of Iris Radisch's critique:
"[In Nádas's novel] murders and conflicts are not solved, stories aren't told to their ends and characters are abandoned, no longer followed. Nothing - really, not one thing - is given closure, is allowed to explain itself, to round itself off. As if that was the most ancient, Ur-task of literature! - to take a handful of those infintely many grains of sand which make up our lives and fill them into little forms, to pat these down and - decorated with a punch-line - unload them again on to the sand mound.
Péter Nádas calls this bourgouis sandcastle novel - which until today remains the mission statement of angloamerican literature - "a manoeuvre to distract us." It contains nothing but well-trained little stories about nicely-dressed feelings and well-pruned thoughts, designed to keep the chattering classes in a good mood, "while the rest of the world can get on with its arms-deals in peace." "
Well said, Péter Nádas! Certainly an interesting PR strategy, for winning over those North American and British readers.