Monday, August 13, 2007

Trojanow horseshit

In Sign & Sight's daily email I was drawn to a summary of what's in the news today: "Author Ilija Trojanow gets his creative writing students off ego-lit and into the world of the foreign". This sounded interesting enough to visit the "feuilletons" page (why does that word annoy me?) for further reading. I wasn't expecting what I got:
Jean-Michel Berg, a student at the Free University of Berlin, tells of his experiences in the seminar given by writer Ilija Trojanow. [..] 'I can't imagine anything more boring than one's own sensations,' Trojanow says, thus staking out the ground between him and Peter Handke, for example, and other explorers of internal worlds. That's why our first task was to avoid 'ego-lit' and write about something entirely foreign.
That's Peter Handke folks, author of Repetition about a 20-year-old Austrian man's journey from his home village to cross the border into a foreign land and "search" for his dead brother using his dictionary of Slovenian terms. And the author of On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House, about a pharmacist who abandons his apoteke to travel across Europe. And author of My Year in the No-Man's Bay in which a writer imagines the adventures of his friends in foreign lands. And the author of Crossing the Sierra de Gredos about a German woman who travels to somewhere probably not-German. All internal worlds avoiding the entirely foreign, apparently.

Of course, Handke's work displays a deep awareness of the paradox of reading and writing; a paradox that each enables both inwardness and exposure to the outside, which might lead some simplistic readers, and perhaps their creative writing teachers, to assume that one need only bypass acknowledgment of the former to achieve the latter, but that would be a fundamental misunderstanding both of literature and of Peter Handke, and would thus disqualify them from any undue attention from people who should know better.

PS: Handke is author of a book of poems called The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld, translated by Michael Roloff, which I haven't read but the title is enough to suggest the nonsense of a simple opposition.


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