An ignoramus’ reading list, or, Catching up on *that*

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October 11, 2004 by AK

I got through three novels during my 12-day stay by the Mediterranean: first A Maggot by John Fowles, in English, then The French Lieutenant’s Woman, in a Russian translation, and for dessert, Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart, in Russian, too.

It was my first, belated, hasty and partly feverish acquaintance with Fowles. I soon sensed Fowles had indeed been an influence on the talented Russian sort-of-postmodernist Victor Pelevin, the author of John Fowles as the Mirror of Russian Liberalism, a brief essay. Fowles, like his Russian esteemer, uses modernist and po-mo tricks to his own ends–not for the sake of the game itself. I’m not well familiar with English prose in general, but I could still discern pastiche and intertextuality when I cared to; recognizing a po-mo flavor, I found the author’s lecturing amusing, not annoying, and the rationally paced narrative kept me suspended like no other book sinse I had–belatedly, too–devoured The Possessed.

But no, it was no light, intellectually titillating reading. It cut right through to the bone. As DeQuincey held, the purpose of poetry–and of literature of power in general–is to move, and yes, I was deeply impressed. I don’t know if Fowles intentionally referred to Confessions at some point, but I think I understand better now what DeQuincey meant by remarking, “at no time of my life have I been a person to hold myself polluted by the touch or approach of any creature that wore a human shape,” and why he inserted the remark.


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