We all become close readers in romance

That evening, as he was returning home, Charles took up again one by one the words she had used, trying to recall them, to complete their meaning, in order to re-create for himself the portion of her life that she had lived during the time when he did not yet know her. But he could never see her, in his mind, differently from the way he had seen her the first time, or the way had just left her.

We all become close readers in romance, where words matter so much and yet are never sufficient. Charles is speaking early in Madame Bovary, which feels shockingly modern (especially read in conjunction with How Fiction Works); most capital-C Classics don’t. Lydia Davis’s introduction is helpful.

Novels in which I root for everyone and no one at the same time are rare, and rarer still in a novel in which most characters express commonplace sentiments like Charles’s. Those ideas work in the context of Madame Bovary. I wonder how and maybe always will.

All of us have had the moments of trying to take “up again one by one the words she had used,” although the gender pronoun will change based on orientation, and all of us have had those words feel inadequate as we try to “complete their meaning”—an infinite amount of commentary can’t complete meaning. In romance and art this is especially painful until it is accepted.

Orhan Pamuk interview

Orahn Pamuk gives a fantastic interview at the Brooklyn Rail. A sample:

The novel, beginning in the 18th century, began to take over all the previous literary forms. In fact, we can even say it was the early form of globalization. The world, in so many ways, is so culturally globalized that our ways of seeing it are very similar to the post-Renaissance, let’s say from the invention of perspective in Italian and Dutch painting to the invention of photography and thereafter; we still see the world in a similar manner. We are likewise all globalized in our literary imagination, in the forms that we use, and I would say the literary globalization of the world had been completed years ago, when nobody was talking about globalization.

This resonates with Milan Kundera’s The Curtain, a book that deals much with the inherent internationalism in literature. I’m especially prone to such arguments because I’ve been reading so much in translation lately: a post on The Name of the Rose is due tomorrow, I finished Pamuk’s My Name is Red not long ago, right after that I finished Madame Bovary, The Curtain itself was originally written in French by a Czech author, and I’ve even finished books I didn’t especially like translated from Spanish: The Bad Girl and The Savage Detectives. And I began Doctor Faustus a few days ago, though I fear I will have to put it aside for a time so I can work on an academic project. Nonetheless, given the above, what Pamuk says about the globalization of literature is well-taken.

(Link stolen, as usual, from TEV.)

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