Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Downright mawk

From the postscript to Georges Perec's A Void (Gilbert Adair's translation of Perec's 1969 novel La Disparition--Adair's only disqualification as translator is that his name has an 'e' in it), the lipogrammatic book which Perec famously constrained himself to write without using the letter 'e':

I was thus to grasp a significant fact: that, just as, say, Frank Lloyd Wright built his own working and living conditions, so was I fashioning, mutatis mutandis, a proptotypical product which--spurning that paradigm of articulation, organisation and imagination dominant in today's fiction, abandoning for good that rampant psychologisation which, along with a bias towards mawkish moralising (in fact, not so much mawkish as downright mawk), is still for most critics a mainspring of our national gift for (or myth of?) "clarity" and "proportion" and "polish"--sought inspiration in a linguistic avant-gardism virtually unknown in this country, and for which no critic has a good word in so far as it's known at all, but which allows of a possibility of imitating, simulating and honouring a tradition that has brought forth a Gargantua and a Tristram Shandy and a Mathias Sandorf and a Locus Solus and (why not?) a Bifur or a Fourbis, books for which I had sworn undying admiration, without daring to harbour any illusions that I might possibly attain in any of my own works such jubilation and such fanciful humour, by dint of irony and wit, paradox and prodigality, by dint, in short, of an imagination knowing just how far to go too far.

The diction isn't as strange as in Walter Abish's Alphabetical Africa, which in some ways makes its effects more unsettling (the novel it reminds me of most is Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight): it's something like what happens to language in the kind of aphasia associated with damage to Wernicke's area.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, is it REALLY "something like what happens to language in the kind of aphasia associated with damage to Wernicke's area"? Specifically, losing single letters of the alphabet? Some people are better at reality, that's why I stick to fiction, too.