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

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The problem of "liberated" writers

I shoulda known, but, I'd come across the name George Konrad somewhere as an important European novelist and I'm always looking for new (to me) writers of great style and scope; found that the PPL had 4 of his novels, didn't really know which to select - saw that he had received a lot of attention for his first, written in Hungary under the Communist regime - they didn't have it, but had his 2nd - but I passed on that and instead selected his most recent (or most recent that they had, from 1993), The Stonedial, and that was my mistake. I've come across this phenomenon before, writers living under oppression or occupation do some great novels, forged out of their sense of danger and injustice, and then, when "liberated," it's as if they have nothing more to say, and, worse, that suddenly they can write whatever they want so they confuse freedom of form with freedom of expression, random experimentation w/ innovation, lack of restriction w/ lack of structure. That seems to be the case here: it is extremely rare that I literally had to resort to reading the dust jacket to figure out what this novel is about, and what I learned: it's about a world-famous intellectual visiting a writer's conference (ho hum) in a city where he used to live, and in the process visiting a few of his old friends and comrades from the city. Thank you for that - I could barely tell what was going on in the first 50 pp. Konrad for some reason thinks it's postmodern or form-breaking or something to switch randomly from third person (story is about a writer named Dragoman) to first person - for no reason that I can discern. I did learn a new word: aleatoric, meaning based on randomness and chance. Yes, that was something we used to think was really cool back in, oh, about 1975, but has long since seemed passe and self-indulgent in serious fiction. Tell you what, maybe I was just tired and cranky last night so I'll give it another night's reading, but if it doesn't improve I fold the tent - and maybe some day return to his earlier works?

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