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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Giving up on Konrad's The Stonedial: here are my reasons why

People who read this blog will, I hope, accept that I'm not a philistine and that I don't expect every piece of fiction to conform to the Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action - however - I throw up my hands in dismay at George Konrad's The Stonedial, after 3 evenings of trying to make sense of the obstinate and willful obscure novel that is about - at least I think it's about - a famous Hungarian writer-intellectual who'd suffered (to an unknown degree or extent - nothing's very specific here) under the Communist regime and now is recognized and honored - he's at some sort of conference in a Hungarian town whose name begins with K (as do most of the characters, except the protagonist, Dragoman, what are we to make of this? some Kafkaesque trope? all versions of Konrad?) where he has encounter w/ a # of friends of his youth, including the current mayor and former filmmaker, who are now all pretty much comfortable in the bourgeois trappings and the intellectual freedoms, and - well, so what? The only interesting passages, to me, in the first 100+ pages were the accounts, relatively straightforward, of Dragoman's youth - not that they were strikingly original or revealing, but we got a little sense of what he was like as a rebellious schoolboy and as a young intellectual in a stifling society - if the whole novel were on that theme, portrait of the artist as a young man under Communism, it would have been worth pursuing, but honestly all the scenes in the "present" (1993) were so confusing, w/ pointless shifts in POV, with many characters introduced and none well delineated, with a proliferation of similar-sounding names. I actually think some day, not right away, I will give him another try and read one of his first 2 or 3 novels, written under the shadow of intellectual repression, but in this novel he seems to be vamping for cover. Just because you can write whatever you want to in whatever style you want to doesn't mean you should.

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