László Krasznahorkai’s new novel, ‘Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming’, reveals the kind of dynamic, both economic and emotional-spiritual, that has facilitated Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian ‘koronadiktatúra’, a form of rule which also appeals to other central European would-be autocrats.
The astonishing achievement of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s writing is its construction of a world of metaphor and simile which is punctured and disrupted by the real. Her novel is the work of a poet, for whom the sensuousness of the material world is a reminder that to compare is to distort.
Poets can be parochial, powerful languages encouraging the sense that there is no need to look beyond their borders. Set against that, there is Osip Mandelstam’s ‘nostalgia for world culture’, a kind of alert openness, a feeling of being at home in an enlarged world of the spirit.
Responding to the claim that writers today draw increasingly directly on their own lives, Jonathan Franzen argued that nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’: the most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention.
Louisa May Alcott’s father was a man of advanced views, a deist, vegan and ‘transcendentalist’. But, as is often the case with those of a theoretical and discursive bent, his practical abilities, as well as his appetite for the hard labour his utopian schemes required, were limited.
Our world is organised by boundaries. Those people, those animals, that kind of weather, those diseases belong down there, not up here. But now these boundaries, from which our sense of who we are, individually and collectively, has been drawn, are beginning to look very porous.
We have all internalised vast quantities of popular culture and carry around long-term what was intended to passingly divert. The disposable has almost conquered the internal, and Conor Carville’s achievement is to show us this in poems that are by turns vivid, horrifying, clever, funny and visionary.