Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Young Poets and Young Novelists

Ingeborg Bachmann:

[...]in order to write a real poem, one doesn't need years of experience, one doesn't need to know how to observe. It's a very pure state, in which only language counts. The impetus for poetry comes from the emergence of a word.... But in the end what enables you to write prose is what you have seen and lived through, what we describe by the inept word "experience." So that comes fairly late in life.

I am in the middle of her novel Malina. It is very tough going. Will see if I can continue or not. A little too avant-garde for me I think :(

Also there are some interesting quotes on the book jacket. One of them says, "Simone de Beauvoir said no woman ever wrote a great novel. Well, Bachmann could and did." Another compares her to Woolf and Beckett. Both motivating and intimidating!


Cheshire Cat said...

I've seen the movie (but for some reason, "Malina" is spelt with an 'e'). Monica Bellucci is pretty hot in that role...

I should try to read the book and see if it's as good.

Alok said...

I am surprised you liked that movie. it is even more sentimental and cringe-worthy than Y Tu Mama... :)

btw, if only the book could be even half as sexy as that film :(

actually Isabelle Huppert plays the role in the real adaptation of the book. (I don't know if the Belluci one is based on any book)

I have been looking for its dvd for long but no success. it looks like a role tailor made for her.

Cheshire Cat said...

OK, I'll shock you a little more, I actually liked "Chocolat" too :)

IMDB says that Elfriede Jelinek wrote the script for the movie version of "Malina". I wonder if there's any anxiety of influence there... Anxiety of influence seems to work differently with women than with men, though.

Alok said...

Chocoloat? Ewww!! Do you like Amelie and Life is Beautiful too? Please say no :)

I read somewhere that Bachmann is one of Jelinek's influences. This book is I think even more difficult to read than Jelinek in the sense that there are none of the conventional pleasures that one associates with reading fiction and Bachmann is far more intellectual too. I really don't think I am one of her intended readers, it's meant more for feminist philosophers and academics or those people who are enthusiastic about (highly) experimental fiction.

Antonia said...

yer I thought that you maybe find it strange, it is either you like it or you don't...the movie is not as good as the book. The director was crap. Jelinek maybe made the best of it, but still, no good film, the only good thing of the film is maybe the cast. Jelinek is a different cup of tea entirely, not comparable with Bachmann. The book is outstanding, but one does not need to be a feminist or an academic, but lifeexperience helps. Bachmann had a doctorate in philosophy, she certainly in some sense os a class of her own. But then again, it is not such an experimental novel? When you say you are in the middle I assume you are reading the nightmare chapter. The last chapter, all the dialogues with Malina is the most interesting one, I think. If you read Th Bernhard's 'Extinction', the poet Maria in the book is Bachmann disguised, also Bernhard's Book 'Ja' in german, maybe 'Yes' in english(?), is about Bachmann.She wrote a review once ofhis very early novels. She quite liked him. Bernhard in Extinction gives a very appropriate picture of her I would assume.

Cheshire Cat said...

Liking a movie is different from thinking highly of it. I think both "Chocolat" and "Malena" succeeded on their own, admittedly modest, terms.

What do you mean by "conventional pleasures that one associates with reading fiction"? If you mean plot, character and narrative, you said yourself that these aren't too important to you. What does "Malina" lack which work of Bernhard or Beckett does not? I need to decide whether to pursue Bachmann actively or leave our encounter to chance.

Also, I don't believe there is any such thing as an "intended reader". Literature, though founded in the intentional, endures as the perpetual trailing away of intent...

Antonia said...

Bachmann is certainly more experimental than Bernhard. I think she can't be compared to Beckett> I don't know to whom, but not to Beckett. Too different they are.

Maybe one explanation for the general uncomfyness with Malina is for this book is from such a strictly female point of view and allows no cheap escapes from that - that the female as such cannot be lived uncompromised given the patriarchy as it is today. Yet there is as well an utopian moment in Malina. It also has been argued that Malina presents the male principle while the narrator the female tho I do not agree with this reading that much, but it can be one way of understanding the book.

It was a book widely read in the seventies by a lotof women, shortly after it has been published.
As for the unsexy impact, there are some short stories which make good this socalled lack, even tho also not in the very conventional manner.

Alok said...

Antonia: I haven't read the two Bernhard novels you name but will check them out. I think I agree with you about the strictly female point o view and also why subjective experiences are required to fully appreciate what the narrator says from her point of view. actually i haven't yet reached the half mark yet. I am still in the "Happy with Ivan" where she names all the books she has read and then goes to cook something for Ivan! Very interesting, will write about it in the next post.

Also the narrator explicitly says at one place that Malina is her "double". this is all very interesting actually:

"He doesn't know with whome he's running around, that he's dealing with a phenomenon which can also be deceiving, I don't want to lead Ivan astray, but he will never realize that I am double. I am also Malina's creation."

And that unsexy thing came out because Cat mentioned Monica Belluci. I am okay if book doesn't have any sex too :)

Alok said...

Cat: I don't really look for plots or psychological characterisations necessarily but also this melange of different styles and voices I find difficult to read. The Macaronic style that you had mentioned on your blog. The book has letters, telephone conversations, fairy tale (in italic)s, surrealist nightmare, journalist interview, a section of descriptive prose which looks like as if taken from a cookbook and lots of other things except conventional literary prose (you, with convetional I-though-this-and-I-did-that kind of narration).

Also I do think there is something called an intended reader. Often energy and enthusiasm, even knowledge are not enough to appreciate what the writer is trying to say. As Antonia says, one needs concrete experiences. I find it hard to understand how someone as fiercely intelligent and intellectual could be so oppressed by love, and love for such an idiotic character. he likes only happy endings and happy books and she likes to write books about "ways of dying" and with titles like "Notes from a morgue"!.