CHRISTINE BROOKE-ROSE.

I am surprised to discover, via the search box on the right (between the calendar and the archives), that I have never mentioned Christine Brooke-Rose here. I found her critical study A ZBC of Ezra Pound endlessly provocative and illuminating when I read it many years ago (you can apparently read the whole thing at Google Books), and she’s one of those people (like John Berger and Gene Wolfe) I’ve always meant to read more by but haven’t gotten around to yet. But I always enjoy her words when they catch my eye, and I was saddened to learn of her death last March. Here‘s a Guardian appreciation by Natalie Ferris (“If she has taught us anything, it is that shifting curiosity is the very lifeblood of language”); here‘s a useful collection of links by Kristi McGuire, with a nice paragraph from her writings about Pound (“There is a timeless, apocalyptic quality in Mr Pound’s poetry which one suspects even his adverse critics find disturbing, but which most poets respond to, even if they do not understand”); and here is a Waggish post providing excerpts from a number of her essays—I particularly like this, from “Palimpsest History”:

Now knowledge has long been unfashionable in fiction. If I may make a personal digression here, this is particularly true of women writers, who are assumed to write only of their personal situations and problems, and I have often been blamed for parading my knowledge, although I have never seen this being regarded as a flaw in male writers; on the contrary. Nevertheless (end of personal digression), even as praise, a show of knowledge is usually regarded as irrelevant: Mr X shows an immense amount of knowledge of a, b, c, and the critic passes to theme, plot, characters and sometimes style, often in that order. What has been valued in this sociological and psychoanalytical century is personal experience and the successful expression of it. In the last resort a novel can be limited to this, can come straight out of heart and head, with at best a craftsmanly ability to organize it well, and write well. [...]
The novel took its roots in historical documents and has always had an intimate link with history. But the novel’s task, unlike that of history, is to stretch our intellectual, spiritual and imaginative horizons to breaking point. Because palimpsest histories do precisely that, mingling realism with the supernatural and history with spiritual and philosophical reinterpretation, they could be said to float half-way between the sacred books of our various heritages, which survive on the strength of the faiths they have created (and here I include Homer, who also survived on the absolute faith of the Renaissance in the validity of classical culture), and the endless exegesis and commentaries these sacred books create, which do not usually survive one another, each supplanting its predecessor according to the Zeitgeist, in much the same way as do the translations of Homer or the Russian classics.

Comments

  1. J.W. Brewer says:

    From something (which she intended as positive . . .) about Pound via one of the links, I’m reminded that someone could write a very snarky piece about the distant relationship between Pound’s classical Chinese writers and the actually-historically-existing classical Chinese writers much along the lines of that piece in the other thread contrasting Heidegger’s Greeks with the actual ancient Greeks.

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