[lit-ideas] Re: Re, Books that Matter
- From: epostboxx@xxxxxxxx
- To: Lit-Ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 4 Feb 2021 11:11:32 +0100
On 27. Jan 2021, at 17:01, Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I didn't see combat in Korea, but had I shipped over in 1955, I would have
seen it in Vietnam; so DeMille's Paul Brenner novels matter to me. I've
described a personal set of considerations. Whether and in what sense
Demille's novels might matter to someone else, I can't say.
I find this an interesting and insightful comment about the personal evaluation
of literature. How important is a connexion to one's personal life in
appreciating (or perhaps even understanding) a piece of literature?
I remember that while reading George Orwell's KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING I had
great difficulty 'identifying' with the protagonist. (Among other things, I
couldn't imagine what it would be like to have to make a decision about whether
to spend the little money I had on food or cigarettes - like many of my
generation I have never gone hungry or had to worry from where my next meal
would come.) I found it impossible to make that 'identification' or in any
other ways 'connect' with what Orwell was saying and I never finished the book
- even though I find it easy to 'identify' with Orwell himself, and consider
him seminal to many of my convictions about life, art and politics.
On the other hand, the reading (several years ago now) of Joseph Roth's
RADETZKYMARSCH had a tremendous impact on me. What identification (or other
connexion) could I forge with the author or protagonist of a 1932 novel
chronicling the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire via the story
of three generations of a family whose promotion to nobility ultimately leads
to their ruination?
Recent research about Roth has shown me that he was a native of Galicia, a
region in Eastern Europe divided today between Poland and Ukraine. It was only
years after reading this novel (and wondering about its impact on me) that I
also learned that my maternal grandfather (who died 10 years before I was born
and about whom I knew virtually nothing - my mother died when I was 7 and my
maternal grandmother had already been remarried and again widowed before I was
old enough to retain any memories of her) had emigrated to Canada (my native
country) from this very region.
Was it some sort of 'genetic' connexion (in a literary, not strictly biological
sense) that had been forged in the reading of this novel? Or was it a purely
the quality of Roth's writing that 'spoke' to me, whereas Orwell in this case
(i.e. in ASPIDISTRA) had failed to connect with me and left me cold?
Chris Bruce, in
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