Sunday, September 07, 2008

Stifter Review

Adam Kirsch reviews Adalbert Stifter's Rock Crystal which has just been published by the NYRB Classics. He has been on my to-read list for quite some time.

"Thomas Mann came closer to the true experience of reading "Rock Crystal" when he praised Stifter as "one of the most extraordinary, the most enigmatic, the most secretly daring and the most strangely gripping narrators in world literature." In "Rock Crystal," as in a Mann story, plot and description are never "innocent," no matter how lovingly they are elaborated. Rather, as the novella unfolds, succinctly but without hurry, it evolves into a parable of frightening depth. It is no more than 25,000 words, if that, but in this short space Stifter transports the reader to the heart of the world's mystery, before returning him to a comfortable dailiness that henceforth cannot help but feel haunted."

There is also some news about new york sun shutting down its operations because of financial difficulties. That would be a shame because it has probably the best book and in general arts review section of all American newspapers. The new york times book review doesn't even come a close second even though it has more pages and more resources.


Cheshire Cat said...

I'm really glad NYRB Classics have published "Rock Crystal". It's an absolute masterpiece, and Stifter is, in his way, a genius. I think of him as some kind of forerunner of Raymond Roussel - there's the similar semi-autistic attention to detail.

praymont said...

Stifter's been on my TBR list for a while, too. I think I put off reading him because his bio makes him seem (as Kirsch notes) kind of boring. But I think he appears more interesting today as an influence on Sebald and Bernhard. Actually, I can't remember if Sontag and other critics said he influenced those authors, or just that their work was similar to Stifter's.

Alok said...

hi paul, I don't know if you have heard this interview of W. G. Sebald. In it he himself says that he was influenced by nineteenth century German prose, chief among them was adalbert stifter. Susan Sontag also mentioned it in her essay on Sebald. One of his essay collections also has this wonderful title "Writing About Disaster: Austrian Literature from Stifter to Handke" hasn't been translated yet as far as I know. Stifter's name also comes occasionally in Bernhard's novels...though one of his characters, Reger in Old Masters, isn't a great fan, to put it mildly!

cat: I have read about Stifer and as Paul said I always thought he would be a bit hard going. This review actually makes it sound more interesting, alongwith your thumbs up of course!

praymont said...

Thanks for that info, and the neat link!