Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter.

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, film for the modern world:

From Kafka to Sebald – essays on narrative form in modernist fiction:

Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing by Leslie Hill – Preview:

Judith Butler – On Never Having Learned How to Live:

“Deleuze always insists on grasping the virtual , as it were ‘behind’ the actual.”

The HTMLGiant Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze:

Frederic Jameson on Realism and Utopia in The Wire:

Fascinating piece on memory by Jenny Diski:

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebastian Bach:

Roberto Calasso interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh:

“Books are sublimely visceral, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a perfect delivery system.”

Remarkable colour photos from inside Nazi-occupied Poland, 1939-1940:

God’s Angry Man — Werner Herzog (Full Documentary):

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow:

The story behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover:

A Doll House By Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen at the Grand Café (1898) by Edvard Munch

Ibsen’s A Doll House turns on a single sentence, Nora’s “We’re settling accounts, Torvald”. On that sentence the puerile Nora merges from her pupal cocoon and rejects her husband Torvald. Before that sentence the reader is accustomed to Torvald’s casual misogyny and pomposity. It is a sentence of deliverance, of the sort that lifts the hair on the back of your neck. Nora begins the dialogue that concludes this electrifying third act.

NORA: We’ve been married for eight years. Doesn’t it strike you that this is the first time that the two of us-you and I, man and wife-have talked seriously?
HELMER: Well-“seriously”-what does that mean?
NORA: In eight years-no, longer-right from the moment we met, we haven’t exchanged one serious word on one serious subject.

Michael Levenson, in Modernism, describes the impact that A Doll House had on Europe in the late nineteenth century. “Anecdotes abound of quarrels over dinner and demands by hostesses that guests refrain from discussing Ibsen”.

The event that thrilled and appalled Europe was Nora’s departure from her husband and sleeping children. But the shock of rupture needs to be placed within the speech conditions that prepare it. When the dialogue in the third act turns back on itself and confronts the disturbances of conversation, it lays out a challenge as radical as its final event, in some ways even more radical, Nora does not simply leave after speaking; she leaves because she speaks.

With repugnance, Ibsen was coerced to write an alternative ending for German theatre, a conciliatory conclusion that he later described as a “barbaric outrage”. In a letter to a newspaper Ibsen stated, “Those who wish to make use of the altered scene do so entirely against my wish.”

Completed Shyness and Dignity

Dag Solstad: described in the blurb as Norway’s leading author, an icon among Scandinavian writers. This book Shyness and Dignity, described as one of Solstad’s major works. I suspect that there is depth here that I missed through my unfamiliarity with Ibsen’s The Wild Duck.

The first part of the book, Elias’ growing tension in his senior school classroom, is brilliant. The presence of this melancholic man, set against the bored, passive defiance of his classroom, whether real or perceived, is powerful. After Elias’ pivotal action, the novel is undermined to a degree by the lofty, romantic Johan Corneliussen, a heroic figure who’s use as a plot device is flimsy and clichéd.

It’s not all melancholic introspection, there is humour here, of a sort, as in the description of a downhill skiing race:

One after another, they turned up on screen, in helmets and Alpine gear, before they threw themselves down the mountainsides of (or among) the Alps. Henri Messner, Austria. Jean-Claude Killy, France, Franz Vogler, West Germany. Leo Lacroix, France. Martin Heidegger, Germany. Edmund Husserl, Germany. Elias Canetti, Romania. Allen Ginsberg, USA. William Burroughs, USA. Antonio Gramsci, Italy. Jean-Paul Sartre, France. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austria. Johan Corneliussen knew the strengths and weaknesses of all the racers and continually informed Elias that now, now, he had to watch out, for there, on that slope, Jean-Paul Sartre will have some problems, whereas now, just look how Ludwig Wittgenstein’s suppleness manifests itself in that long flat stretch …

It’s not Curb, but I chuckled.

The writer’s artistry, to the degree it survives translation, is palpable from the first part of this novel. The second part feels compromised. I do however plan to read Solstad’s other novel in translation Novel 11, Book 18.