Saturday, May 27, 2006

Portals of discovery

During the Open Source discussion (as mentioned below), the presenter Christopher Lydon wished for a Great American Novel like Dostoevsky's Demons, which James Wood referred to as The Possessed (so I presume that's the same book with in a different translation. It's also translated as The Devils). Anyway, this was the work that Thomas Bernhard read as a young man in a sanatorium, dying (or so it seemed) from tuberculosis:
Never in my whole life have I read a more engrossing and elemental work, and at the time I had never read such a long one. It had the effect of a powerful drug, and for a time I was totally absorbed by it. For some time after my return home I refused to read another book, fearing that I might be plunged headlong into the deepest disappointment. For weeks I refused to read anything at all. The monstrous quality of The Demons had made me strong; it had shown me a path that I could follow and told me that I was on the right one, the one that led out. I had felt the impact of a work that was both wild and great, and I emerged from the experience like a hero. Seldom has literature produced such an overwhelming effect on me.
This is from Gathering Evidence, itself an engrossing and elemental work. Almost everything he says about Demons applies also to my experience of reading Gathering Evidence. Curious then that Bernhard did not go on to write an Austrian version of that novel. He merely reinvented the novel in his own likeness.

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