Thursday, September 07, 2006

A work fury

A fun interview on Sign & Sight with Germany's dinosaur literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki. Apparently he's written a great deal: it's not a matter of an unbroken will to work, but rather a work fury that refuses to be tamed says Julian Schütt. He's now at work on a huge publishing venture: a canon of German literature. The presentation boxes look like the carriers for cartons of milk at my local supermarket!

In the Romane box there are 18 names and 19 novels, the last of which is Bernhard's Holzfällen (Cutting Timber). While it's gratifying to see Bernhard chosen, this is hardly one of his best (update: an opinion I now completely reject; it is one of the very best!). Perhaps the libel scandal that surrounded it gives it more presence among German speakers? Yet Harold Bloom also chose it for The Western Canon. I'm bewildered.

To his credit, Reich-Ranicki admits the novel section excludes too much (quite so: Extinction and Handke's Repetition!). I did the canon he explains because a project like this was what I was missing in my youth. I wanted to know what was worth reading. The canon is neither a directive nor a decree, it's a recommendation for readers. The collection of stories does include Handke, which reminds me that there is no collection of them in translation. In fact, I haven't seen one translated anywhere. More bewilderment.

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