Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Modiano, Knausgaard, Aciman and Marías
Aciman, Knausgaard, Modiano---at the turn of the 20th Century these writers mark the turn of the novel as a work of fiction into a blended work of remembered consciousness, autobiography seguing into fiction and fiction back into remembered past. Much as the author of Historical Consciousness, John Lukacs, described and predicted. Proust perhaps first at the start of the century. What about Javier Marías? His novels do not have quite the same attitude or voice as these other three writers. If he draws on his own life stories, he plays these cards much closer to his chest than the three others. Marias needs to use a fictive design as an armature. See his most recent work, Thus Bad Begins. Hamlet figures all through the work even though Marías describes clearly Madrid in the ‘80s as he remembers it and other features of the experience of living through the long, slow end of the Franco era. A major tale of abusive behavior also provides a main element of the novel, a doctor who raped patients and wives of patients and who succeeded in keeping this behavior safe behind a public image of charity and honor. And yet for all of that, the novel does not have that personal feel of intimate, remembered consciousness that the works of Knausgaard, Modiano and Aciman have. They must tell their stories---there is a sense of their personal need to find who they were and are by exploring what happened to them, what all they happened to do over the years they look back upon. Marías in contrast is a consummate borrower and cobbler of bits and pieces of stories he has heard, he knows or believes to be true in one way or another. He loves to weave them into intricate tapestries of layered consciousness, imitated consciousness, for his pleasure and the pleasure of the reader. A silversmith in Toledo, inlaying threads of gold and silver into the metal of the sword. Damascene work. But for Modiano and Aciman and Knausgaard the appeal of damascene intricacy is hardly present at all. They may scramble timeline and thematic links but they cannot help it, this is the way the moments came back to them, the ways they grabbed them as much as they could, from possible escape. A slight tinge of the desperation of getting into the right words the imagined and remembered way things need to be caught if they are to be caught at all.