Wednesday, June 03, 2009

In Brief: Two more by Josipovici

Contre-Jour: A triptych for Pierre Bonnard: Novel from 1987. My least favorite of Josipovici's works, though certainly not without interest. I knew nothing of Pierre Bonnard, still don't really. This isn't a biographical novel. For one thing, here the painter has a daughter, or at least seems to, whereas in real life he did not. As elsewhere, repetition is key. Whereas in, for example, the sublime Everything Passes the repetition of phrases has a musical quality and the effect is quite moving, here I grew annoyed. There is some interesting stuff about the artist's devotion to his work, to the exclusion and detriment of everything else--perhaps this is why the fictional daughter is introduced, as a sort of spectral presence, the daughter that could never have been, and who even here in the fiction is ignored, marginalized, outside of her parents' marriage, outside of her mother's devotion to her father, outside of the father's art. By the end she appears to not exist at all.

In the Fertile Land: Short stories, also from the 1980s. Some of the stories here are not terribly memorable, but there are a few worth mentioning. I especially enjoyed the 100-page novella "Distances" and the stories "He", "Steps", "The Bitter End", "A Changeable Report", the title story... there are echoes across his work, artists working, repetitions, a man at a window, grief, mourning... some are very short, merely a page or two; some are all dialogue, attributed or otherwise. The collection is worth picking up (and unlike much of Josipovici's pre-90s work, inexpensive used copies can be found), particularly with half the book given over to "Distances".

Speaking of Everything Passes, here is a nice appreciation at booktwo.org, a site new to me (link courtesy Steve Mitchelmore, via Twitter).

For convenience, here are links to my previous writing on Josipovici's fiction:
In a Hotel Garden
Goldberg: Variations, review and follow-up
Moo Pak and Now, in brief

Of course, I've blogged much more extensively about Josipovici's crucial criticism; for that, as always, click on the label. . .

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