Friday, November 13, 2009

"Watered-down Modernism" and watered-down watered-down Modernism

In 1997, Michael Hofmann expressed despair about the prospects for foreign literature in English translation. He does so in a review of a book heralded as in the tradition of Proust and Mann and 'one of the great novels of modern times'. However:
[Péter Nádas's A Book of Memories] is a bastard of romantic schlock and watered-down Modernism. To describe this as 'claiming and extending the legacy of Proust and Mann' is quite breathtaking. Yes, Nádas’s sentences are long and relatively abstract, but they have none of Proust's openended inquisitiveness or the purpose and design of Mann. They are without risk, without discovery, without grandeur. Far from resembling or – ha! – outdoing Proust and Mann, this is utterly epigonal writing, a third-generation Zweitaufguss for middlebrows.
Another writer whose three volumes are said to "constitute one of the great novels in modern European literature" and are also "already being compared with Proust" is reviewed by Margaret Drabble in this week's TLS (not online):
[Javier Marías's Your Face Tomorrow] has been compared to Proust ... But the trilogy also suggests an upmarket James Bond.

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