Perry Anderson

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Are there any appropriate dimensions to literary biography as a form? The stature of a writer, and length of life, might be expected to provide some co-ordinates. Yet even among modern masters there is little consistency.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:14 (two years ago) link

"Marriage extended rather than altered this, Powell acquiring many an in-law from an Anglo-Irish background to which he was allergic"

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:15 (two years ago) link

To endorse, largely, what has been said: it seems plain that PA likes AP partly because he can identify with the relevant milieu. It is frustrating, in a way, that someone as brilliant as PA lacks perspective on this.

Arrival at the age of 13 at Eton, a year after the Great War had come an end, brought him in Spurling’s view

the underlying stability and continuity that came from a sense he had never known before of belonging to a community that accepted him, the nearest thing to a place where he felt at home. The school became from now on a kind of virtual extended family whose members – however rebarbative, reluctant or remote – stood in all his life for the actual relatives he hadn’t got.

Fortunate in finding himself in a house ‘with a poor reputation and no standards to keep up’, presided over by an easy-going master, he flourished as a member of the school’s Arts Society, did well academically, and emerged more polished and confident socially.


the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:18 (two years ago) link

John Bayley (Letters, 10 January) wonders where I found a Russian tricolour of black, gold and white. The answer is: from the Imperial decree of 1858 which made it the correct flag of the Empire, in concord with the Romanov arms – and from the processions in Moscow today, in which rival banners express attachment to different aspects of the old order. There are those for whom it is more handsome a symbol of the past than the Batavian colours of which Bayley is fond.

Perry Anderson
Los Angeles

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:20 (two years ago) link

Mark S's favourite:

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:21 (two years ago) link

Like Proust he needs an editor

xyzzzz__, Monday, 30 July 2018 14:04 (two years ago) link

Seriously need to finish Lineages of the Absolutist State one of these days.
So long.
So dense.
Maybe tomorrow.

woof, Monday, 30 July 2018 14:17 (two years ago) link

I read the second half of PA's Powell epic today.

He spends most of the last pages describing AP as a very conservative or right-wing person. To what end? The only logical end really seems to be what has been a very standard PA manner for 30+ years: to play his own kind of Olympian contrarianism by writing with intimate sympathy about people on the political Right and showing no interest in criticizing their political views.

He also manages, in a predictable way, to insult people who are sceptical about Brexit. He doesn't live in the UK and doesn't face the various problems that Brexit has brought and will bring.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 19:17 (two years ago) link

(The one thing he has in common with Morrissey, I suppose. Irish blood, Californian heart.)

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 19:18 (two years ago) link

Unusually, PA picked up in a Guardian literary comment piece. The one striking thing here is that she quotes something he wrote 34 years ago - if that wasn't 'Modernity & Revolution' then I may not have read it:

the pinefox, Monday, 6 August 2018 13:46 (two years ago) link

two weeks pass...

This is the post where I ask for help in parsing one of Perry Anderson's sentences (or in this case fragment of a sentence):
"Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older than when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"

(this is an example of one of proust's "lapses of control": who is older than what here?)

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:08 (one year ago) link

Yes, I puzzled over that also. It didn't help that I haven't read Proust for nearly 15 years.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:24 (one year ago) link

Odette - when Swann's wife - is a certain age

The narrator is now older than this

Now Odette visits Uncle Adolphe


is that what it is saying?

Again, much too far from Proust now to know - don't even remember an Uncle Adolphe.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:26 (one year ago) link

This could conceivably be a failure of prose or of copy-editing.

LRB editing has worsened in the last couple of years.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:27 (one year ago) link

yours is one possibilty (though it's not made clear why this causes a problem)
viz "Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older thanshe was when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"

another is this:
"Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older thanhe is when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"
(which is presumably impossible since the events come in the opposite order?)

i guess a reckless copy editor might have deleted some such phrase? (why? hardly to save space) -- it's a copy editor's failing in any case, since a good one (me or you) wd have flagged up and problem and insisted something be done about it. i agree abt the worsening in general

oddly enough an adolphe who's an uncle has already been mentioned: not a character in the book but proust's own maternal grandmother's uncle -- so i didn't blink at this till i went back just now confidently to inform you who the adolphe in the book was, and can't (the only extended proust i have read is the extracts in this essay)

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:43 (one year ago) link

in mine the bolded he is the narrator not the uncle lol, basically a copy editor shd have thrown the whole fragment back at PA and insist he restructure it more clearly and quick now, obnubilate indeed

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:45 (one year ago) link

I used to marvel at the absence of basic errors (spelling, grammar) in the LRB - say, 10 to 15 years ago.

They have come in since then, sometimes say 2 or 3 per issue. I suspect also that there were errors way back, say 35 years ago, and the period I am talking about was a high plateau of quality in between.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:49 (one year ago) link

I think it's that the narrator is older than he (the narrator) is when Odette figures for him as Swann's wife. The narrator, as a child, visits his uncle Adolphe and meets a lady in pink at his house. This lady in pink turns out to be Odette, who lived as a courtesan before she married Swann. But by the basic timeline of the story, Swann and Odette should already be married well before the narrator has reached the age of this episode. So it's unclear whether: (a) the narrator has met Odette Swann, who is implausibly reverting to her relationship with Adolphe, or (b) he's met the unmarried Odette de Crecy, and Proust has confused his timeline.

jmm, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:50 (one year ago) link

aha, thank you jmm :)

i guess that is more obvious to someone readily familiar with the text -- so that it unravels itself via information not actually available on the lrb's page -- but even so it is not terrific writing

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:06 (one year ago) link

Which is not something I would often say about Perry Anderson

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:18 (one year ago) link

rereading this essay i'm enjoying it a *lot* but i do think that writing abt fiction rather than reactionary thinkers or "politics from 30,000 feet" sometimes brings out something a bit discordantly antic in PA's prose -- actually not far from the kind of stuff that made me grind my teeth when christopher hitchens was being a bit too clever in his sentence-making (with similar pretext: i.e. when writing abt fiction rather than politics): "making an English equivalent of the Latin ablative absolute one of the trademarks of his style, with sovereign indifference to schoolroom objections to the pendant participle"

that final phrase is somehow just too cute (esp.after the clumsily repeated "to" before it): give a good example perry and stop showing off

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:27 (one year ago) link

or trying to show off

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:28 (one year ago) link


the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:30 (one year ago) link

There are, iirc, several instances in Proust with timeline issues. I think he died before all seven vols were published but there were probably issues around any editors dealing w/Proust in the first place. Yeah, lol.

Powell is a reactionary thinker writing fiction - making the last section the strongest. Biggest laugh was Anderson sorta going along with Powell's hatred of Auden/British lefties just because Lyndon Johnson quoted the last line of September 1, 1939 in a speech.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:12 (one year ago) link

That was poor. That poem is one of the greatest modern poems in English that I can think of. PA, for all his brilliance, wouldn't have it in him to write something like it. He's unwise to mock it for the way it has been appropriated. He doesn't even bother to mention (though it's relevant) the best-known fact about the poem - that Auden kept changing the words because he was anxious and uncertain about the meaning.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:20 (one year ago) link

Is the second part of the Anderson essay still only available to subscribers?

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:22 (one year ago) link


I still don't really understand PA's attraction to reactionary thinkers, let alone the way that here he makes no criticism of Powell or doesn't seek to articulate a dialectical relation between ideas that PA supposedly disagrees with and fiction that he thinks perceptive.

I think it comes down to contrarianism, in line with Mark's observation about (C) Hitchens.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:24 (one year ago) link

admittedly i was reading it in bed late but i found part 2 quite hard going: at the start he is wrestling with the mysteries of differential popularity, which ends up being smug and dull -- popular culture is apparently wildly foreign territory to him and he's using adorno and debord as his baedecker, which lol (has he actually ever been to the cinema? he doesn't write as if he knows what films are actually like) (also is it true that there are no blockbusters than run on understatement?)

then he gets into the weeds of translateability (of idiom, of humour) -- which if course bears on global popularity -- but the survey is too sketchy to do the work he wants it to and too sketchy also for you to get into what interesting about it that isn't pretext-driven. d'you think he's actually read dream of the red chamber?

i didn't really follow the point he was making about bayley (who i anyway have zero interest in): that powell went over bayley's head? who cares?

the section on powell's knowledge of and interest in world lit -- as manifested in his essays and the quotations in the book -- is good, but a bit buried (i'd have liked more honestly, but i think perry is quite out of his wheelhouse here and couldn't risk more)

and then the actual real politics section: which becomes increasingly dispiriting, partly bcz powell's judgments are so cookiecutter tribal and his insights so meagre, and partly bcz it honestly isn't re-integrated back into any of the rest of the piece


contrarianism plus staunch anti-liberalism

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:58 (one year ago) link

Yes, re: anti-liberalism.

I think he quotes Powell saying Labour is part of liberalism?

I suspect that he has, indeed, read the massive Chinese novel. Am sure he wouldn't bluff that. It's all the kind of thing that Moretti would have told him was important.

I think I agree with you, Mark, re: the final section, the banality of AP's views, and how non-integrated it is!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:13 (one year ago) link

That (from Mark S) is a pretty good critical summary of Part II.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:13 (one year ago) link

d'you think this is a colossal extract from a longer soon-to-be-pubished book? the "reactionary thinkers" essays in the LRB ended up as a book

(tho they were more easily freestanding: i wonder if some of the sketchier sections will actually exist at some point at deeper length)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:21 (one year ago) link

This is a good and intriguing thought.

re earlier book, do you mean:


the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:22 (one year ago) link

I don't agree with Anderson at all btw (and from a google of it I saw that Auden was ambivalent about the ending, but it stuck so..), just noting the bizarre contortion at that moment.


xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:23 (one year ago) link

I think I should get a load of the older PA books. I know some of the material but tons I have still not read. Like that book and also:

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:25 (one year ago) link

PA is pretty good on Global South lit so I reckon he's read Dream of Red Chamber. There is an essay of his in the LRB discussing historical fic that pulls in a wide range of novels (Cities of Salt, Buru Quartet)

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:27 (one year ago) link

spectrum begins with a long chapter on reactionary thinkers -- hayek and oakeshott and etc -- which began life as essays in the LRB (i guess they wd have felt odd in the NLR)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:30 (one year ago) link

His essays on India (which unusually I am not sure I read!!) became a book.

And so did US FOREIGN POLICY AND ITS THINKERS after ALREADY occupying an ENTIRE issue of NEW LEFT REVIEW a few months previously.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:31 (one year ago) link

we shd post him a print-out of this thread so he can rewrite where necessary (e.g. concerning uncle adolphe and also omitting any discussion of john bayley's opinions on anything)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:43 (one year ago) link

I read all his essays on EU states (incl his essay on Cyprus!) back in the day, and I think that became a book too.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:49 (one year ago) link

Yes that became a big book.

I didn't read the Cyprus material because it was so vast and I couldn't find any personal interest in Cyprus. There are these rare cases where I can't get excited about PA's work.

The Germany essay in the book appeared in the NLR under the heading 'Land of Ideas?'.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:57 (one year ago) link

I'd second the recommendations for The New Old World (that big book w/ the EU essays and Cyprus) and Spectrum. I didn't have much personal interest in Cyprus before but found it a v gripping and fascinating read. Perhaps because I knew least about Cyprus and Turkey, those two chapters were the best parts of the book, though his essays on France and Italy are among his best (imo).

I interned at Verso five years ago and asked about what his next colossal one would be - I was told it was likely going to be a collection of the essays on Russia, Brazil, China and a longer theoretical intro/conclusion synthesizing views on the BRICs, although who knows, I could easily see him having switched gears and put out an 600 page book on the 20th century novel.

I haven't gotten to the second part of the essay yet (picked up the print copy of the LRB yesterday) so will withhold judgment on it as a whole for now. Had been a pretty big PA stan before (while not always agreeing with particular points) so am always pleased to find others (and to notice this thread!).

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 14:13 (one year ago) link

Federico, that is most interesting. Are you a long-time ILB poster? We have a FAP tomorrow.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:06 (one year ago) link

xp Anderson has written at length about those three countries in the LRB, IIRC

Neil S, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:08 (one year ago) link

"at length" sort of goes without saying with PAnderson of course

Neil S, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:08 (one year ago) link

i was disappointed by Spectrum, felt i was lacking background on some of the thinkers (esp on the right) that was assumed

flopson, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 20:37 (one year ago) link

Been on a long holiday, read through the last nine of A Dance to the Music of Time for the first time.
I liked it well enough, but Anderson seems to overestimate it/Powell massively in the two articles. Keeps taking midweight literary basics as some kind of mastery - allusion is catnip to him.
Still on holiday, but will try to get round to saying more about Powell and/or this chunk of Anderson when I get back.

woof, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 21:35 (one year ago) link

Hey pinefox, I'm a (fairly?) long-time lurker and (very) occasional poster. I'm trying to get in the habit of posting more regularly, though my schedule's been a bit crazy the last while. Unfortunately, I'm not in London, otherwise I'd happily join.

I read elsewhere (on another thread?) that the overestimation is part of PA's "bid" to elevate Powell to a more respectable, if not canonical, status, and using (abusing?) Proust in the process. It seems somewhat plausible, whether it's something he deliberately set out to do or not. Still haven't read pt 2 yet, but look forward to getting to it tmw or this weekend.

Federico Boswarlos, Thursday, 23 August 2018 02:12 (one year ago) link

That seems about right - the Tariq Ali article on Powell makes it clear that PA has been reading and rereading and laughing aloud at Dance for an age, so I suspect the article is the eruption of a forty year internal monologue where he’s arguing with himself that this is better than Proust. Writes it as a late-life treat.

(I think mark s suggests something like canonising AP for a bet in one of the other threads which I also like)

He’s an unpersuasive critic though imo.

woof, Thursday, 23 August 2018 07:23 (one year ago) link

I don't remember Ali on Powell - I don't like Ali but I like it when he drops in anecdotes about PA.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 09:07 (one year ago) link

hah great post, thanks mark!

Neil S, Thursday, 23 August 2018 09:55 (one year ago) link

I think I agree about the 4-5 stage process of PA's submerged thought / motives here.

Clarification: 'PF catalogues him with the "dogged, quiet writers of realist fiction"' -- only in that I was grouping PA's version of AP, as far as I remembered it, with this, after you had reminded me of it (so it was your classification in fact, which I was just citing!). I have never read a word of AP outside what PA quotes, so don't truly know whether he is dogged, quiet and realistic or not.

Also: the specific criticism I made of Lethem in that post applied to one of Lethem's later novels, but does not at all apply across his whole career - which has transformed quite a bit. So the problem, as I see it, is possibly characteristic of late Lethem, but not early Lethem, at all. Whereas to my eyes (and Lethem's, in fact, as per review of BLEEDING EDGE) early Pynchon and late Pynchon do not look very qualitatively different from each other.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:02 (one year ago) link

Was Powell a popular author in his day, amongst "the people"? The alleged soapiness of A Dance had lead me to think so, while Proust is pretty much shorthand for stuff only effete intellectuals read.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:08 (one year ago) link

There is a consistent supernatural element to Dance that breaks the confines of dogged realism - haunted houses, spiritualism, a character based on Crowley. See also Simon Raven's Alms for Oblivion sequence, which again dabbles in the uncanny while presenting a largely realistic portrait of English society.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:12 (one year ago) link

yes sorry i'm doing a lot of cutting to the chase on my side of the argument (always easier when you've read nearly none of the authors under discussion): i think all i'm doing actually is trying to throw a wrinkle of complexity and reservation into this specific judgment of yours (re lethem's first description of miriam):

It seems to me that in reality, we don't draw this kind of symbolic conclusion from an item of clothing someone wears. And the fact that we wouldn't do it in life makes it risky for the novelist to do it - it's his imposition on the action - without getting anything valuable in return.

So it may well be risky for this novelist at this moment in this book: in the sense of "getting nothing valuable in return" and in the sense of annoying well disposed reader mr p fox late of this fandom. (And no one on that thread has stepped in to defend the description at issue…) But there are other kinds of novels where there is a useful return -- my claim is that this return functions at the level of overarching belief systems, mostly, either the author's or those of the world being sketched (or both), rather than locally and empirically. There will sometimes be good reason to raise the stakes, even if there isn't here -- it's not just a matter or good or bad taste.

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:15 (one year ago) link

the (to me) rather laboured section at the start of pt 2 is PA talking through the relative popularity of the two authors less in units sold than in reception theory terms i guess (books about and industry surrounding; translations of etc). his argument that proust is proto-pop bcz proto-pomo is both snide and flimsy

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:20 (one year ago) link

everyone (not the "people", the other better everyone) agrees genuinely is the move that underpins it, and any extended discussion threatens to bog down in a quasi-political argument abt who "the people" actually ever are

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:22 (one year ago) link

re previous post about JL:

I don't think I can judge these claims, for my part, without seeing another example, ie: of an instance where you think an author does this successfully.

Again for me a relatively extreme example of the aesthetic would be Rushdie, which for me would ring alarm bells about it as a tendency.

I think that 'belief systems' are sometimes relevant but also that authors (like JL in that case) can fall into an 'aesthetic' that doesn't really have much belief attached to it - maybe an 'attitude' or 'stance' in the external, posing sense, more than a belief.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:25 (one year ago) link

PA seems to be suspicious about Proust being popularized because popularizable. (PoMo, I think, would just be a spin-off of that -- he doesn't actually think Proust is aesthetically PoMo himself, surely.)

I quite like the way that, as this discussion reminds me, PA's discussion is so entertainingly rangy and manifold in theme and approach.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 10:26 (one year ago) link

nice tart letter* also in the current lrb on anderson being wrong abt balzac:

(one of the things going on here, i suspect, is that PA has read and reread powell quite a lot bcz he enjoys doing so -- but has read the various other Vast Oeuvres** bcz as a High-Level Savant he felt he Ought To Have: it's not that he has nothing valuable to say as a consequence, he is a learned and an intelligent reader, but that there's just a trace of duty-based ressentiment to the critique?)

*(from a prof specialising in balzac*** and proust)
**(some of them, half-finished red chamber klaxon is that you i feel beating soundless but imperative on my mind's ear?)
***(i have actually read some balzac! old goriot aka pere goriot)

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:18 (one year ago) link

Christopher Prendergast is also the editor of the newer translation of Proust (and the one I read).

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:32 (one year ago) link

btw i am reading all these posts as if everyone itt rhymes proust with frowst, the only correct way to say it

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:37 (one year ago) link

Was Powell a popular author in his day, amongst "the people"? The alleged soapiness of A Dance had lead me to think so, while Proust is pretty much shorthand for stuff only effete intellectuals read.

― Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 23 August 2018 Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I see there was an adaptation of Dance.. for TV in 1997 (four parts). Anyone here watch it?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:45 (one year ago) link

yes, I've seen it. Simon Russell Beale is excellent as Widmerpool from youth to bloviating Lord and there are lots of other familiar faces, but it doesn't get anywhere near capturing the scope of the novels, and it's all a bit Downton Abbey

Neil S, Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:47 (one year ago) link

Also two different radio adaptations (neither of which I've heard)

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:52 (one year ago) link

yes i watched some of the TV version, i wasn't very taken by it: four parts is the opposite of soap, it totally needs to be tackled reina del sur-style IMO: can i really be the only person watching LA REINA DEL SUR?

as does recherche, with a very boyish kate del castillo as albertine

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 14:07 (one year ago) link

every time i think of engaging with powell i can feel an #istandwithwidmerpool position rising, a bubble of challops frozen into the glaciated mammoth like a dormant pliocene megavirus

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 14:10 (one year ago) link

Anderson must be commissioned to do LA REINA DEL SUR next.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 23 August 2018 14:19 (one year ago) link

as you say he is good on the global south, what can possibly go wrong

mark s, Thursday, 23 August 2018 14:22 (one year ago) link

The judge in Dublin who ran the trial in which Samuel Beckett was a witness in the 1930s called Proust 'Mr Prowst'. This is supposed to be one of the things that made SB despair of Ireland and never want to return.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 17:10 (one year ago) link

What was the trial about?

jmm, Thursday, 23 August 2018 17:14 (one year ago) link

Mentioned this on the pub last night and was just scrolling thru now - two left-wingers and their love for a reactionary (in this case Naipaul):

xyzzzz__, Friday, 24 August 2018 12:39 (one year ago) link

Thanks for sharing, I'd like to give that a read as well this weekend.

I've been thinking more of the "painful admiration" one of them cites and the ambivalence of that relation between a left-wing/progressive reader/critic and a reactionary author (Tariq Ali also wrote an obit of Naipaul - it appears they were friendly?).

It struck me as curious that - with some notable exceptions - this appears to be much more common in English literature than in other countries/regions/traditions? There's Naipaul and Powell, but also the love of Waugh, Larkin, Amis, Kipling, etc. I had assumed it was perhaps in large part due to "high Tory" culture and its reproduction in the cultural institutions/universities in the UK?

I finished the Anderson essay last night and was disappointed he hadn't gone a bit further in exploring this peculiarity of English culture but this afternoon happened to remember he dedicated a typically lengthy essay on more or less this question 50 years ago (!).

It's paywalled on their site, but I believe can be found elsewhere online (or in his book English Questions)

Federico Boswarlos, Friday, 24 August 2018 18:05 (one year ago) link

I was also left unsatisfied by the second part of the essay, I feel like quite a bit was left unresolved. That said, it does make me want to read Powell (as well as The Dream of the Red Chamber and Malcolm Bowie on Proust), so there is that.

Federico Boswarlos, Friday, 24 August 2018 18:09 (one year ago) link

Good to be reminded of n+1. I should read more of it. Like this excellent reply from Wood:

the pinefox, Friday, 24 August 2018 18:27 (one year ago) link

Wouldn't we need to know more about how other countries, et al, handle it before we could say England was distinctive?

Or: Flaubert is in some ways reactionary. He's revered in France (by liberals and leftists, by Barthes, et al). So such traditions perhaps have their own versions of this?

the pinefox, Friday, 24 August 2018 18:29 (one year ago) link

In Germany, one or two of the big modern names have been on the left - Brecht, Grass, Wolf? - which does present a different scenario.

the pinefox, Friday, 24 August 2018 18:30 (one year ago) link

Yes, that's true but I always was under the impression in these other countries/literary traditions that they were more of an exceptional character?

I'll admit, I haven't fully thought this through at length, but I have had trouble coming up with other analogous examples where capital R reactionary authors are still held in the same esteem from other countries (there's Flaubert, Celine in France; Heidegger in the Continental Philosophy tradition). I definitely acknowledge more familiarity with Anglo-American literature than others, but still...! That said, I may be totally missing some obvious examples.

Federico Boswarlos, Friday, 24 August 2018 18:50 (one year ago) link

I would have thought that in France for instance, it could be shown that half the canon was conservative or reactionary in some way. It's an old canard that Marx loved Balzac 'despite' his royalism.

The difference you're pointing to, I think, is not about the historic canon but a more recent field - say, post-WWII. That would be a clearer, because more limited point of comparison.

Then there's also a difference between 'fascist modernism' and 'conservative English', ie / eg: between Pound and Larkin - very different sets of reactions and audiences involved.

the pinefox, Saturday, 25 August 2018 17:25 (one year ago) link

I had assumed it was perhaps in large part due to "high Tory" culture and its reproduction in the cultural institutions/universities in the UK?

I would say that that hasn't been reproduced much in universities (and to an extent elsewhere in the UK) since, say, the 1980s -- English Studies is very much a post-New-Left formation in which the default is liberal or left. In fact in a way, people like Larkin and Powell are *not* that respected in universities, and PA may be writing against that to a degree.

Whether other nations have remained more conservative, or been similar, etc, I don't know - but there have been very conservative (critical) traditions in France / Germany. My understanding is that Barthes and Derrida for instance were writing against much more rigid formations than existed in the UK, which partly explains why they didn't entirely fit our frameworks.

the pinefox, Saturday, 25 August 2018 17:29 (one year ago) link

Yes, those are totally fair points and I prob should have made a distinction b/w fascist and conservative reactionaries which, together with their audiences, are very different from one another.

Also, yes it doesn't seem to be something that has continued among younger generations - at least, I think most younger(ish) conservative/reactionary writers in the English speaking world seem to be, to use an Andersonism, "of little moment." Perhaps in the UK itself, this is in part due to or reflects the waning influence of high Tory culture over the course of the second half of the 20th century? I'll admit to being a bit out of my depth here - not being English and observing from abroad - so should probably stop making these somewhat sweeping generalizing speculations :)

Federico Boswarlos, Saturday, 25 August 2018 19:39 (one year ago) link

Where are you now Federico?

I agree about the waning of high Con culture. In a way this connects to the cultural change often described by old-time ilx poster Robin Carmody.

the pinefox, Sunday, 26 August 2018 07:10 (one year ago) link

Australia's most respected poet, Les Murray, is a tedious reactionary in his politics. (My contribution from a tiny country nobody cares about)

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 26 August 2018 23:50 (one year ago) link

I'm in Toronto where - curious if this is also the case in Australia - we've inherited some legacy of high Con culture too (though not nearly as strong).

To go back to PA's essay, I'm surprised they didn't inspire a larger response in the Letters pages. The journalist/critic Jeet Heer managed to have a successful Twitter poll on it, though.

Anthony Powell is:

— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) August 17, 2018

Federico Boswarlos, Monday, 27 August 2018 15:09 (one year ago) link

I know the poll is presumably a light-hearted jape, but its two options are not really alternatives.

Is Anthony Powell:

a) inferior to Samuel Beckett,
b) superior to Doris Lessing?

Think carefully before you answer.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 11:05 (one year ago) link

do i have to read any of their books tho

mark s, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 11:09 (one year ago) link

re letters: Yes, just one response so far in the LRB? Which made an OK point about retrospective insight into a body of work but was itself ultimately unconvincing. I mean this is literally laughable:

"Without the relation to Balzac, Proust’s project is both unintelligible and, to some extent, pointless."

We might as well all write in, one per issue, saying things like:

"We have forgotten Flaubert. He remains, of course, the master - and Proust's"

"Well and good. But the true wellspring of the Proustian ethos is, of course, Stendhal"

"That Proust is fundamentally unreadable without an expert knowledge of the Goncourts used to be well understood. No longer, to judge from the recent pages of the London Review"

the pinefox, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 11:11 (one year ago) link

this entire exercise is perry dodging the 91 balzac novels he knows he ought to have read (bcz marx) but hasn't

mark s, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 11:16 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

My game plan: read a million words of Powell, a million words of Proust, then some biographies & criticism. Eventually compose 8 or 9 tweets refuting Perry Anderson's views of both. Never say I don't work for you people.

— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) September 15, 2018

mark s, Saturday, 15 September 2018 22:37 (one year ago) link

jeet go on ilx

mark s, Saturday, 15 September 2018 22:37 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

ugh jeet he did a series on tweets on how Powell/that generation of writers had a 'thing' for Thatcher.

I revive with this New Yorker write-up on Spurling's biog, which made me think that oh of course Anderson doesn't even make an attempt at reviewing it.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 29 November 2018 22:29 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

The teratology of the contemporary political imagination – plentiful enough: Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Orbán, Kaczyński, ogres galore – has acquired a new monster.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 31 January 2019 00:05 (one year ago) link

Guess who's back?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 31 January 2019 00:05 (one year ago) link

actually didn't know about the meaning of this word at all.

the pinefox, Thursday, 31 January 2019 10:39 (one year ago) link

Thanks for pulling that out PF. I can see how he comes off as pompous with his wider vocabulary, but in this instance it does the job.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 2 February 2019 18:10 (one year ago) link

Finished this tonight. It's not my idea of a very good PA essay.

The Lula material is partly reheated, simply in that he's written at length on Lula before (but not about his trial, successors, etc). He comes out as quite partisan for Lula's PT / workers' party - that's one of the things that most interests me about the essay. PA still has an ability to be very impressed by certain people, like the analyst he compares to Marx, and Lula himself.

But then the treatment of Bolsonaro: we get the standard PA problem that he hates 'bien pensants' more than anyone else, and is more keen to take swipes at them than to make any serious criticism of the political Right - in this case, by the sound of it, far Right. This particular strain of contrarianism is tired. The things that Bolsonaro has said and done, as I understand it so far, are worrying and dangerous towards several groups of people. PA makes light of most of this.

the pinefox, Friday, 8 February 2019 00:00 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

smh at everyone not knowing what teratology means, do you not read stephen jay gould ppl, everyone familiar* with the paling corpses of birth-dead monsters in 19th century pickle jars knows this word

*i mean like from books shut up

mark s, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 11:04 (one year ago) link

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