Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I promised a German series, but something interrupted me – I got this

We would like to stress that there is a crucial difference between "an important writer" and "a great writer"; the latter is at this time our sole interest.

An apparently anglo-saxon-favourite-list –of –the one-hundred-best-fuckin-writers-of –all-time. So Faulkner before Shakespeare? With Ashbery at Fifteenth and Homer two stances below? Euripides together with Stendhal and Orwell? And where the fuck is Celan? Have they heard about sth like postmodern literature? Oulipo? Nah. There is something genuine American in this whole lists business and this one is no different: to have all epochs together, in order, measure Blake and Kafka by the same, objective categories… But cut off the irony and look in the list the second time: are there any serious absences? Do we miss anybody severely? Can we in fact construct the canon as we do the shopping list? I come from a notoriously neglected country, speaking a notoriously difficult and marginalized language…so: no Bruno Schulz, no Mickiewicz, no Slowacki…but hello, there he is, Czeslaw Milosz, florid as ever, hand in hand with no other, than….JP2, the Pope. We can obviously see a certain method in the list: even though its authors do not claim it’s decisive, but look: no fucking surprises.

My personal favorite (though repressed one), T. S. Eliot, would be proud of an attempt to hold a certain tradition and individual talent tendency in this list: a bunch of originals, usually struggling with private crises, nervous breakdowns and societal acceptance. Ok, so they are repressed gays & lesbos, religious renegades, blind lunatics, drug addicts, alcoholics, eccentrics, dissidents. Dead in loneliness, despair, misery or forgetfulness. But they are our tradition! Little or nearly no compromise for so called other traditions: Western canon all the way, our own carnival without limits! But am I outraged by the presence of Walter Benjamin – hardly a writer per se

No! I rather cherish the barenaked chest of Ezra Pound in the flourishing of his own madness and the sinister look of the great adherent of disdain, Mr. Jonathan Swift.

There is nothing bad to say about anyone we list here, except in some cases that they were anti-Semitic or racist, hated women or hated men. Literary crimes are usually relative, the caveats of which we shall enumerate.

True indeed. This list says what every list always say: there is no canon, there is no and will never be anything as closed list of the writers of our “culture”. The reason the lists always bring so much joy is that they prove something else: we are hostages of icons, names, codified phenomena. We are reassured. But let me go to bed with my favourite lecture of these days, a little book by Gaito Gazdanov, An evening at Claire, who lived in Paris in the 20s and 30s. some people say he was even more respected than Nabokov at the time. But Nabokov, how did he rank, let’s check…

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