T.E.D. KLEIN, the much under-rated horror writer, sent me in a packet of clippings an article by Steve Wasserman from the Columbia Journalism Review. It contains what I will from now on take as a solemn injunction shadowing the fragments of this bog:
The predicament facing newspapers... is the sea change in the culture of literacy itself, the degree to which our overwhelmingly fast and visually furious culture renders serious reading increasingly irrelevant, hollowing out the habits of attention indispensable for absorbing long-form narrative and the following of sustained argument.
SO, while this swamp might have the appearance of being a collection of random thoughts it is no more fragmented than the NOTEBOOKS of PAUL VALERY or that grand collection of fragments embodied in the arbitrary 15 volumes of the THE COLLECTED WORKS IN ENGLISH published some time ago in the Bollingen series by Princeton University Press.
The reader can enter it at any moment, move back and forth as they might also do in HOPSCOTCH by JULIO CORAZAR and I might as well mention: books by five other authors will fall from the shelf as required: E.M. CIORAN, MAURICE BLANCHOT, ROBERTO CALASSO, MAX STIRNER, LOUIS FERDINAND CELINE.
The most disappointing book of the early part of this coming year will be IMRE KERTESZ's DETECTIVE STORY. (Knopf, January 2008) Set in a mythical, possibly South American country it concerns itself with being the confession of former police interrogator. Much is made about protecting and supporting the "Homeland." And what ideology is present is distinctly of a fascist authoritarianism.
When questioned a woman at Knopf said it was being done at the suggestion of Kertesz's German publisher and the writer himself. Published originally in Hungarian in 1977 it could then have hardly concerned itself with the more obvious experience of the Communist dictatorship in Hungary itself.
So a little anti-American opportunism trumps Knopf's wise and thoughtful publication of two previous Kertesz novels in new translations, FATELESS AND KADDISH FOR AN UNBORN CHILD which were part of a trilogy. Of course the very title of the third book of the trilogy FAILURE might have posed some problems... but at least readers would now know why Kertesz is an interesting and important writer and the debate could really be had as to why Hungary has within its borders three writers--- Kertesz, Peter Esterhazy and Peter Nadas--- who tower over every single living American writer in the audacity of their accomplishments--- authors of books that refuse to repeat the dreary exhausted forms of what passes for innovative fiction in this country. If I was younger and had a gift for languages as did James Joyce learning Norwegian so he could read IBSEN, I would try to learn Hungarian... but I have no gift for languages and so I must endure this insult...
Readers can find these authors at www.hungarianquarterly.com and fortunately many books by Esterhazy and Nadas have already been translated. I have to always mention these three authors together as I find it impossible to rank them... I think of them as a complete tiny far away country. You too can get a visa at your bookshop.