Life After Death Postmodern Biofiction English Literature Essay Free Essay

More than ten old ages ago in 1998 Adeline Tintner published her Henry Jamess Legacy: The Afterlife of His Figure and Fiction ( Louisiana State University Press 1998 ) after holding explored The Museum World of Henry James ( Umi Research Press, 1986 ) , The Book World of Henry James: Allowing the Classics ( Umi Research Press, 1987 ) , The Cosmopolitan World of Henry James: An Intertextual Study ( Louisiana State University Press, 1991 ) , Henry James and the Lust of the Eyess: Thirteen Artists in His Work ( Louisiana State University Press, 1993 ) , and has continued with The Twentieth-Century World of Henry James: Changes in His Work After 1900 ( Scholarly Book Services Inc, 2002 ) . Henry James ‘s Legacy starts with a quotation mark from his essay “ Is There a Life after Death? ” published in 1910 in Harper ‘s Bazaar, in which he claims that our life after decease is pre-conditioned non merely by the art we produce but by the hints we have left in the witting memory others have preserved of us. Tintner justly observes that “ so captive is Henry James eighty old ages after his decease that it is possible to happen infinite cases suiting his ain definition of “ a life after decease ” . ( P. 1? ) . She has likely ne’er imagined what a resurgence the involvement in Henry James as a fictional figure would undergo in the plants of the authors in the first decennary of the 21st century.

The most celebrated illustrations come from the twelvemonth 2004 when Colm Toibin published The Master, David Lodge Author, Author, Emma Tennant issued in paper-back book her Felony, foremost published in 2002, and Alan Hollinghurst ‘s The Line of Beauty, published in April that same twelvemonth, won the Booker Prize. It was in 2004 once more that the South African author Michiel Heyns offered to London publishing houses another book on Henry James entitled The Typewriter ‘s Tale, which, refused by a batch of publishing houses as the last 1 in this sequence of novels, was published in the following twelvemonth. As an effort to explicate this extraordinary sequence, David Lodge wrote a drawn-out essay “ The Year of Henry James ; or Timing is All: The Story of a Novel ” to be included in his book of the same rubric published in 2007, while Michiel Heyns tried to explicate it all in his essay “ The Curse of Henry James ” ( 2005 ) non by the challenging circumstance of James ‘s life but by the fact that he was the author ‘s author. At the same clip, as if despairing of happening any concluding reply to this heightened involvement in James Cynthia Ozick published the fraud “ An ( Unfortunate ) Interview with Henry James ” in The Threepenny Review in 2005 as a answer to this extraordinary involvement towards the fictional chances James ‘s life has presented. This involvement in Henry James ‘s fictional lives has been continued in such critical documents as Max Saunders ‘ “ Master Narratives ” published in the first issue of Cambridge Quarterly from 2008 wholly devoted to Henry James, while in 2008 to the remarkably big harvest of fictional representations of James have been added two new publication – Joyce Carol Oates ‘s Wild Nights! and Cynthia Ozick ‘s Dictation.

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The present paper will look closer at two of these novels, Michiel Heyns ‘ The Typewriter ‘s Tale ( 2005 ) and Cynthia Ozick ‘s Dictation ( 2008 ) non merely as illustrations of the postmodern biofiction, but as modern-day re-appropriations of Henry James ‘s raids into the supernatural from the terminal of the 19th century.

Henry James ‘s authorship has much been discussed within the discourse of the supernatural, which presents a batch of jobs to the bookmans in general. For many of the European bookmans it seems to be merely “ an umbrella term ” , as Susan Gillman suggests, “ intended chiefly to cite Forth a specific historical context, the meeting in the early 20th century of popular occultisms embracing such varied motions as Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and the “ Jung cult. ” These occultisms represent the Western esoteric tradition, loosely conceived, and derived, harmonizing to conventional historical histories, from Gnosticism, hermetic Hagiographas on chemistry and thaumaturgy, and the cabbala. ” In Europe the effort to happen a sensible account of the supernatural phenomena the 19th-century universe witnessed was preconditioned by the Victorians ‘ “ asking heads, love of forming cognition, and spiritual beliefs ( or passionate and exalted agnosticism ) ” , which “ turn [ erectile dysfunction ] to the relationship between scientific research and life after decease ” . ( R.G.O’F. “ Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death ” , Contemporary ReviewA ; Winter2007, Vol. 289 Issue 1687, p532-532, 1/4p ) , or, in other words, by the authoritative Victorian confrontation between faith and the emerging power of scientific discipline.

If we look at the supernatural from the other side of the Atlantic, it acquires as if more “ flesh ” . It is, so, a well-researched fact that the 2nd half of the 19th century besides witnessing the unprecedented technological and industrial development of the Gilded Age in the United States, saw the rapid and sometimes scaring roar in supernatural happenings. More and more people became convinced in the being of forces beyond rational apprehension and the “ mediums and spirit-rappers ” caught the popular imaginativeness with clasp and emphasis. That gave birth to the Modern Spiritualism motion. It started in 1848 with the unusual events at John Fox ‘s place in Hydesville, New York, and culminated in the creative activity of the Learned Society for Psychical Research to look into all these supernatural happenings believed by so many to be true. Opposed to the old spiritualism, which treated spirit entirely within the model of divinity, the new motion concentrated on the scientific possibility of explicating the communicating between consciousnesses in a fresh manner, competently coherent with the new scientific age, and therefore created a border district where scientific discipline and popular beliefs met. As Martha Banta observes, “ Because of its common focal point upon head and spirit, it [ New Spiritualism ] could be accused of or praised for being both a pseudo-religion and a pseudo-science. ”

It should be noted besides that some bookmans have found an of import connexion between the late-nineteenth-century-early-twentieth-century occultism ( s ) and the development of the societal scientific disciplines and particularly anthropology. As Peter Pelps writes, “ anthropology has a far tighter relationship with the supernatural than most practicians know. ” The fact that the supernatural has really contributed to the “ building of societal scientific epistemology ” does non forestall the usual association of the supernatural with one of the alleged pseudo-sciences, Theosophy. It was a motion headed by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky that drew to a great extent on the thoughts of some of the most popular secret societies, the occultism of ancient Egypt, and on Hinduism uniting them with modern scientific discipline to bring forth a “ hybridaˆ¦ an ‘occult synthesis’aˆ¦ a regular ‘global roar ‘ [ that ] worked a heterogenous district aˆ¦ combin [ ing ] overlapping mystical ritual and symbology with a assortment of racial, national, and international political relations. ”

It can non be denied that New Spiritualism drew at the same time on alchemist thoughts of carnal magnetic attraction and Swedenborg ‘s anti-materialist impressions. In this manner, it became, as Werner Sollors points out, “ a religious response to material civilization and technological advancement while wholly mechanising the universe of the liquors and the construct of adult male. ” To a certain extent, it besides laid down the foundations of William James ‘ psychological science and Henri Bergson ‘s doctrine. Both questioned the possibility for the being of a harmonious, incorporate ego, based on the traditional constructs of the integrity between memory, consciousness, and the senses. They both allowed for the being of dual, even plural, egos, a subject that occupied the imaginativeness of many authors of different backgrounds throughout the 20th century, make fulling their plants with apparitional figures and brushs with the Other.

The battle to give scientific account to phenomena occult was led by the “ Ghost Hunters ” , William James and his friends and co-workers, William Crookes, William Fletcher Barrett, Edward Gurney, Richard Hodgson, Fred Myers, Henry Sidgwick, James Hyslop and others. In her absorbing narrative of their brave effort to happen a sensible reply to affairs supernatural therefore put on the lining their reputes, Deborah Blum suggests that despite their failure, they managed to open new views for human consciousness at the beginning of the 20th century. Very significantly she entitles her book, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, re-appropriating Henry James ‘s rubric for the work of his brother.

Henry James, nevertheless, although strongly influenced by these thoughts, was really much against the mechanisation of the field of human consciousness. His ain essay on the hereafter ends really significantly with the inquiry: “ And when one time such a mental relation to the inquiry as that begins to vibrate and settle, who shall state over what Fieldss of experience, yesteryear and current, and what enormousnesss of perceptual experience and longing, it shall non distribute the protection of its wings? No, no, no – I reach beyond the research lab encephalon. ”

As Dana J. Ringuette points out in her article “ Imagining the End: Henry James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and the “ Reach Beyond the Laboratory-Brain ” ” , “ In his rejection of the “ laboratory-brain, ” in his opposition to nominalist thought, James is most specific about his general construct of an hereafter. If it exists, so it can merely be “ personal ” ; otherwise it would be concretely apparent what happens to all of us at decease, and the hereafter would be discernible. We would see what happens to others, or we would hear from them, neither of which, of class, go on. ”

The effort to see life after decease in its materiality, on the ‘mechanical degree ‘ as if, was however the preoccupation of many people of that clip. To satirise that a whole new genre was created by John Kendrick Bangs, who worked as Harper ‘s Magazine, Haeper ‘s Bazaar and Harper ‘s Young People Editor of the Departments of Humor at the bend of the century. This genre has become known as the Bangsian phantasy, that sets its narratives entirely or partly in the hereafter. A really good illustration of that is Bangs ‘ aggregation of narratives The Enchanted Type-Writer written in 1899. I ‘m non interested in Bangs-James relation, nevertheless, but in he fact that both Heyns and Ozick would utilize the widely dispersed nineteenth-century believe that all these new mechanical innovations as the telephone and the type-writer could function as the medium for linking with the dead. Knocks satirizes precisely this belief puting his storyteller in the company of a type-writer, which types messages from Hades, talking with the voice of Boswell, Shakespeare, and other celebrated figures from the past and stating their afterlife-stories.

Ozick ‘s novelette is set in England at the bend of the twentieth century and fictionalizes the really proper, somewhat tense relationship between the novelists Henry James and Joseph Conrad. In the opening scene of “ Dictation, ” a nervous, unproved Conrad – he has non yet published Heart of Darkness – visits James, already “ the Maestro, ” in his London flat. There, Conrad sees a startlingly impersonal new instrument, the Remington typewriter through which James writes:

On a wide surface reserved for it in a far corner aˆ¦ stood the

Machine aˆ¦ headless, armless and legless – beast

shoulders simply: it might every bit good have been the trunk of a broken


As in his existent life James had hired an stenographer or typist, Theodora Bosanquet, “ who recorded in stenography James ‘s command and so transcribed it on the Machine ; but it shortly turned out to be more efficient to talk straight to the thing itself, with [ the typist ] at the keys. ” A decennary subsequently, Conrad would hold his ain typewriter and atypist, a fragile, besotted immature adult female named Lillian Hallowes, and the two authors, unbeknownst to each other, would both be working on doppelganger narratives: Conrad on “ The Secret Sharer ” and James on “ The Jolly Corner, ” about a adult male who confronts the shade of the individual he might hold been. Inevitably, though each of their employers intuitively disapproves, Hallowes meets her opposite figure, Bosanquet, and a secret plan is hatched out by the clever James ‘s stenographer, wholly a more forceful character, to accomplish “ life after decease ” , the immortality of their employers.

“ Think, Lily, ” Theodora urgedaˆ¦ In all the yesteryear, has there of all time been an stenographer who has earned immortality? Who leaves a separating grade on the unsuspicious hereafter? One who stands as an unerasable presence?

“ Think! ” said Theodora. “ Everlastingness for such as us! Who?

Conciliating, Lilian overreached. “ Boswell, ” she saidfinally.

“ Boswell immortal? As an stenographer? Never! An raging toady. His lone business was to follow in Dr. Johnson ‘s aftermath, whether he was wanted or non! ” ( 34-36 )

Lillian goes on to propose Moses to be rebuked by Theodora once more who offers her immortality for them two to which Lillian replies categorically, “ No 1 can populate everlastingly ” ( 37 ) to which Theodora replies, “ The Master will. Doubtless your Mr. Conrad will. And so shall we – we mere amanuensesaˆ¦ ” ( 37 ) but Lillian gets frightened by what she interprets as the desperate strategy of an imbalanced spirit and runs off. Theodora, nevertheless, does non give up, and eventually succeeds to carry Lillian to transport out her “ clever but simple ” program to replace two transitions from their employers ‘ Hagiographas and therefore gull both all those who claim to cognize the ‘figure in the rug ‘ and the Godheads themselves. Because as Theodora has it, “ What deeper power than the power of covert cognition? “ ( 46 ) Therefore one time Lillian is persuaded, Theodora leaves behind all talk of immortality and admits that what she is after is the power cognition brings. The program is carried out, two transitions from Conrad ‘s “ The Secret Sharer ” and James ‘ “ The Jolly Corner ” have been swapped up and descendants is left to perplex over the conundrum of the two stenographers.

As Socher suggests, “ Ozick has created an elegant hall of mirrors: two writers, two typists, two narratives, two transitions of prose, one by Conrad that is about Jamesian and another by James that sounds about like Conrad. Out of this hallucinating duplicating Miss Bosanquet, who is described at one point as an “ idolatrous therapist, ” contrives her ain elegant secret plan for immortality, something midway between a literary buffoonery ( another spot of secret sharing ) and a devilish trespass. The fable can be decoded – Bosanquet the supplanter is to James as James is to God, and so on. ”

THE THEME of art as trespass, or secret sharing, is besides at the centre of “ Actors, ” the 2nd narrative in the aggregation, having a second-rate telecasting histrion named Matt Sorley ( “ born Mose Sadacca ” ) who attempts to re-create the melodramatic magnificence of a Yiddish histrion of the old school merely to be vanquished by a sort of shade. But the existent twin of “ Dictation, ” and the other vastly ambitious narrative of this aggregation, is “ At Fumicaro. ”

The narrative ‘s supporter, Frank Knight, is a middle-aged Catholic journalist who attends a conference in Mussolini ‘s Italy, before America has entered the war, on “ The Church and How It Is Known. ” The conference is merely every bit deadening as it sounds, and yet it, or instead Knight ‘s failure to go to really much of it, changes his life. Upon geting in his room, he has found the teen-aged fille de chambre retching over his lavatory. “ In four yearss, ” Ozick writes, “ she would be his married woman. ”

Knight sees her at first non as a agony human being or even as an object of desire but as a beautiful object:

The adult female went on purging aˆ¦ . Watching serenely, he thought of

some expansive fountain where mahimahis, or else infant cherubim, spew

foaming H2O from their bottomless pharynxs. He saw her unashamedly:

she was a solid small nymph. She was the harsh Muse of Italia. He

recited to himself, “ If to any adult male the uproar of the flesh were

silenced, silenced the illusions of Earth, H2O, and air,

silenced, excessively, the poles. ”

The transition in quotation marks is, curiously, St. Augustine ‘s effort to depict the abstract beauties of Eden to his deceasing female parent, and yet within two hours Knight has seduced this adolescent, who is in fact already pregnant ( hence the sickness ) .

Knight ‘s first image of his future married woman is as carven rock. But, to his humiliation, it is she who is “ in bondage to sticks and rocks ” – ready to pray, it seems, about anyplace and to about anything: a rotten spot of Roman statuary on the wayside, which she insists on turn toing as Saint Francis, bathetic icons of Jesus and the Madonna whose color is “ molto sacro, ” museum pieces, and, in the concluding scene, the endless “ saints and sufferer and angels and griffins and gargoyles and Romans ” at the top of the Milan cathedral. It is here that Knight has an epiphany refering the effects of devotion that he finds both screaming and mortifying. ‘ ” You could be up here, ‘ he said – now he understood precisely what had happened at Fumicaro ; he had fixed his repentance for life – ‘a thousand old ages! ‘ ”

OZICK ‘S OEUVRE is non exhausted by the inquiry of devotion. Even in this aggregation, the narrative that rounds out the four, “ But What Happened to the Baby? ” does non truly suit the form. It is besides, as it happens, the least successful of the four narratives: a dark gag about Esperanto in the Catskills with an O. Henry turn that does n’t quite carry narrative strong belief.

However, if any author has a expansive metaphor, a secret, the tiling itself at the centre of the labyrinth, it is Ozick. That indefinable tiling is God, or, more exactly if besides more negatively, the fact that nil in this universe, no affair how beautiful, is a God.

Modern Jewish thought may be said to hold begun with Moses Mendelssohn ‘s statement at the terminal of the eighteenth century that Judaism remained valid and still necessary in the universe of the Enlightenment as the faith that rejected all devotions. With a small licence, one could state that modern Judaic literature began at the beginning of the twentieth century with Saul Tchernikovsky ‘s Hebrew verse form, “ Before the Statue of Apollo, ” which laments that same rejection. Even when she is non wholly successful, Cynthia Ozick is, entirely among the major Judaic American authors, a witting inheritor to both traditions.


Reviewed by Abraham Socher

ABRAHAM SOCHER teaches Judaic surveies at Oberlin College. He contributed “ No Game for Old Men ” to our March issue.

.. a enormously reviewing South African novel aˆ¦ Heyns has a bent for edifice clear, expressive prose like a horologist suiting together the workings of a timekeeper.

Gareth Pike, Sunday Times.

aˆ¦ Heyns aˆ¦ is an extraordinary wordsmith who delights in the potency of the English linguistic communication ‘s assortment and for whom every sentence presents an exercising in balance.

Heyns ‘s first novel, The Children ‘s Day, was impressive for its affecting lyricality ; by dramatic contrast, his 2nd novel, The Reluctant Passenger, was an astringent runaway. In The Typewriter ‘s Tale he has fashioned an elegant combination of these seemingly divergent manners.

Karen Scherzinger, The Sunday Independent.

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Infusion from The Typewriter ‘s Narrative

The James household arrived in August, pleading exhaustion from their travels, but otherwise more cheerful than Frieda had yet seen them as a household. They brought with them their girl Margaret Mary, known as Peggy, and their boy Henry, known as Harry. Frieda thought that Peggy and Harry suggested a child-like jolliness and camaraderie wholly absent in the carriers of these names, and preferred to mention to them as Miss James and Mr Harry severally.

The boy had inherited all his male parent ‘s assurance with small of his sensitiveness or intelligence. He was a successful adult male of personal businesss, and treated his uncle with the superciliousness of a immature adult male consciously more capable of covering with life than an aged unmarried man who spent his clip composing books that cipher read. Frieda guessed that he took his tone from the household dinner tabular array, where the impracticality of Uncle Henry would be a frequent topic of amiable head-shaking. There was, in the manner the immature adult male settled into Lamb House and its comfortss, something assessing and critical, as if he were already taking ownership, it being presumptively a made-out instance that as firstborn off-spring of Mr James ‘s eldest brother he would in the natural class of things inherit Lamb House. He irritated George Gammon by suggesting betterments to the garden, which the nurseryman dealt with by impacting non to understand ‘American ‘ ; he infuriated Max by feigning to throw sticks for him to recover and so bring forthing the stick from behind his dorsum after the Canis familiaris had dashed off into the empty distance yelping excitedly. He was, as a adult male of personal businesss, intricately interested in his uncle ‘s system of command, and asked if he could be present at the Sessionss in the Garden Room. Mr James, who in the yesteryear had treated the Garden Room as an inviolable sanctuary from even the most favoured invitees, found it hard to decline his brother ‘s household anything, and reluctantly agreed. Harry assured his uncle that he would non be an noticeable presence, but as he was a instead big immature adult male, and blessed with the household catarrh, he blocked the way of Mr James ‘s circumambulations and sounded like a marine mammal in hurt. This caused Mr James ‘s command to be even less fluid than usual, more prone to long intermissions and alterations.

Apart from this actual invasion of his sanctuary, Mr James had to bear with any figure of other calls on his clip. A bad concern on Mrs James ‘s portion, for case, to which she was much prone, would ask the offices of Dr Skinner, the local doctor ; or an question on Mr Harry ‘s portion as to the invitee installations of the golf nine would force his gracious uncle to attach to him at that place in order to present him. And whereas Harry ‘s golf was conceivably, unlike his female parent ‘s concern, a affair that could be deferred to the afternoon, the immature adult male ‘s mode did non supply for that possibility. All the minor incommodiousnesss occasioned by his ain consideration Mr James revelled in even while he groaned at them ; so, the more he groaned at them the more he revelled in them, as cogent evidence that he could, in defense of his household ‘s estimation of him, be of usage.

Miss James took up less infinite than her brother, or did so less sharply: her presence suffused instead than asserted itself, but was hard to disregard, like a little but moist draft. She was pale and serious, prone to nervous exhaustion, the topic of eternal solicitousness on the portion of her parents and ill-concealed restlessness on the portion of her brother ; this in malice of being alleged to hold benefited greatly from the reliefs of Mrs Newman, the mental curist.

ABSA Chain: Marlene new wave Niekerk in conversation with Michiel Heyns

Marlene new wave Niekerk, Michiel Heyns


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In merely over four old ages you have produced three novels: after the semi-autobiographical The Children ‘s Day came The Loath Passenger, a-laugh-a-minute runaway that reached cult position in homosexual circles, and late Jonathan Ball launched The Typewriter ‘s Tale, a novel which reflects a womb-to-tomb rational battle with the universe and work of Henry James. Could you reflect on this extraordinary rate of publication and the “ author ‘s logic ” of this sequence of plants?

A out of use pipe flushs when you unblock it. For most of my grownup life, which I spent as an academic, I felt that composing fiction was an indulgence that I could n’t afford. So when I got over that suppression there was a batch of repressed energy. As for the logic of the sequence: good, of class most first novels are to some extent autobiographical, so I had to acquire that out of the manner. The Loath Passenger was written as a response to publishing houses who complained that The Children ‘s Day was “ excessively quiet ” ; I thought, well, allow me compose something really much non quiet ( the publishing houses so said they missed the gradualness of The Children ‘s Day ) . Having done that, I was free to turn an academic passion ( Henry James ) into something other than a research article.


What I find extraordinary is your ability to populate immensely different universes, and your manner of composing fluently from “ within ” wholly divergent moral and cultural domains, from the deep rural countries in South Africa to the South African urban homosexuals scene to Victorian England. Any remark?

It ‘s alluring to crimson modestly and mutter something about Keats ‘s “ chameleon poet ” , the “ negative capableness ” that enables the inventive author to come in into and intermix with a assortment of backgrounds, but that sounds a bit assumptive. More merely, so, my three different scenes are merely somewhat more utmost cases of the sort of inventive flexibleness that comes with any author ‘s district. Consider, after all, Triomf and Agaat.


It is non merely The Loath Passenger that was amusing. Your readers marvel at the specific type of dry dry humor that you wield in your novels, besides in The Typewriter ‘s Tale. Could you say something about the topographic point and usage of temper in your work?

Humour happens. I did n’t believe, when I started composing The Typewriter ‘s Tale, that there was anything peculiarly amusing in the stuff, but somehow it turned out that manner. Of class, few state of affairss are inherently amusing: the hapless sodomite who slips on the banana tegument and interrupt his tail bone fails to see why the remainder of the universe is express joying. It ‘s a affair of the position one adopts, and once more I can merely state that it happens: I see these people and they ‘re amusing. It ‘s possible that reading writers like Jane Austen and Henry James schooled me in a certain oblique manner of looking at things, so that the more earnestly people take themselves, the funnier they are. In any instance, in the South Africa I grew up in, in which some people took themselves really earnestly so ( “ Dit is ons grey sea eagles ” ) , temper was a manner of endurance.


When one reads your work one shortly falls under the enchantment of the well-chiselled Heyns sentences, wittily elegant in the makings, the resistances, the exclusions, the symmetricalnesss that they propose. Often one desperations at how stylistically hapless a batch of what one reads these yearss is. It makes me believe that if you were to give a immature author an exercising, it might be something like the followers: “ Write seven long sentences ( three subsidiary clauses each ) about a black cat in which you show that you know your grammar and your rhetoric and that you are interested in uncommon words. ” Remark? Any other advice to immature novelists?

Yes, although for the cat I would propose a coloring material more contributing to making, resistance and exclusion than black. Since you invite me to be academic: a long sentence is non merely three sentences perversely strung together, it ‘s a complex proposition of which the parts cohere, as you suggest, in a assortment of logical and affectional dealingss. The wisdom of the ages has evolved the colon and the semicolon to carry through a peculiar expressive demand ; making off with those leaves the author with merely two instead blunt tools in his tool-box. And to me a verbless sentence remains a headless ox stuck in the clay. Advice to immature novelists? Learn a foreign linguistic communication, any foreign linguistic communication, to do you cognizant of linguistic communication as a construction.


Whom would you like to separate as the three authors you most look up to in the international universe of English letters today?

Phew. Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan and Philip Roth have had clip to set up themselves with a long and impressive back-list ; but I ‘d wish to see, state, Andrea Levy, Zadie Smith and Dave Eggers in ten old ages ‘ clip.


You are wholly bilingual in English and Afrikaans, and come from a half English, half Afrikaans background. The Children ‘s Day is about to be translated into Afrikaans, an uncommon move in the local publication universe. Could you actuate the move? Would you of all time see composing in Afrikaans?

Actually, my background is wholly Afrikaans, apart from my holding an English grandma. When The Children ‘s Day appeared, quite a few people told me it should truly hold been an Afrikaans novel, given the Free State kleindorpie puting and the characters. I had, in fact, tried composing it in Afrikaans, but found, curiously, that it seemed unreal. Possibly because I ‘ve spent my grownup life learning English literature, that ‘s the linguistic communication that comes of course to me in composing. I think that replies both your inquiries: the publishing houses thought here is a book that would travel good in Afrikaans, and yes, I have considered authorship in Afrikaans, but it someway would n’t gel.


If you had to woolgather a small dream of a South African literary scene that would be most good to your demands as a author, what would it look like?

A author needs, more than anything else, readers ( the publishing houses will follow ) . So my dream is of a literate society, a society in which books are read, books are intelligence, and this is reflected in the media. See the topographic point of literature in schools ; see the meagre half-page devoted every hebdomad to books by a paper that aspires to quality position like the Mail and Guardian ; see the acknowledgment given to creative authorship ( as opposed to “ research end products ” ) by establishments like the University of Stellenbosch, and desperation. Conversely, alter all that, and you have my dream.

September 2004A |A 102A A»A ReviewsA A»A The expletive of Henry JamesHYPERLINK “ hypertext transfer protocol: // id=484 ” Buy Issue

The batch of novels about Henry James seems uneven even to Michiel Heyns, who wrote one of them. But to repossess a rule of command, novelists seem willing to go against a life

Michiel Heyns

Michiel Heyns is a author life in South Africa

My agent forwards me another polite missive of rejection: “ I am so regretful but timing is all – and there has merely been a batch of fiction based on the life of Henry James published here. I do n’t cognize how these happenstances happenaˆ¦ something in the ambiance? So regretfully I must state no. ”

The batch of fiction referred to by this editor, I do n’t necessitate reminding, is Felony by Emma Tennant ( Jonathan Cape ) , The Maestro by Colm Toibin ( Picador ) , and now Author, Author by David Lodge ( Secker & A ; Warburg ) . My ain novel, The Typewriter ‘s Tale, therefore has to do its manner, after three old ages in the devising, into an “ atmosphere ” already saturated with fictions about James.

David Lodge ( in an afterword ) remarks on this overplus, without explicating it: “ I leave it to pupils of the Zeitgeist to chew over the significance of these happenstances. “ As a victim of the Zeitgeist, I am left pondering why James is such an resistless topic for fictionalization.

John Updike, in his New Yorker reappraisal of The Master, finds a hint in what he describes as “ postmodernism ‘s rampant eclectic method. “ The blending of fact with fiction that all these novels contrive surely sits easy with a agnosticism about ultimate truths. But is n’t postmodernism yesterday ‘s intelligence? And, anyhow, there are more luridly eventful lives than that of Henry James to take from: a adult male who had, in the standard sentiment, no consummated sexual relationships, who lived an model life, and who avoided dirt at all costs does non look a promising fictional topic.

Part of the reply may be inexplicit in David Lodge ‘s remark in the Bookseller that James was “ a writers’writer. “ In his ain life-time, James allowed, non to state encouraged, adherents like Hugh Walpole to name him “ Master, ” and his friend Edith Wharton, whose novels far outsold his, habitually addressed him as cher maitre.

Less beguiled by his magisterial presence, we after-comers however venerate James for the sturdy nuance and proficient polish of his authorship. He was the first English novelist to take a firm stand on fiction-writing as an demanding art, the technique of which was available to scrutiny and analysis. The forewords he wrote for the gathered New York edition of his fiction from 1905 onwards have been published individually as The Art of the Novel, and are by and large seen as the first serious novel-criticism in English. Towards the terminal of his book, Lodge imagines being able to go back in clip to James ‘s deathbed to describe to him his hereafter celebrity: “ ‘You merely contributed one word to the English linguistic communication, ‘I would state HJ, ‘but it ‘s one to be proud of: Jamesian. ‘ ” Jamesian: the word suggests a certain superfine esthesia, expressed in a proficient command every bit subtle as it is expressive. To supporters of James, like Lodge, it is so a word to be proud of ; to the many people who find James ‘s novels impossibly over-elaborate, the word tends to be pronounced with an dry small face.

Modern Jamesians therefore have a sense of being elected to the service of a benign but know aparting God. But the trueness that James inspires leads all excessively many of those supporters to ignore the expletive he pronounced upon all biographers and post-mortemers – “ a expletive, ” he told his executor, “ non less expressed than Shakespeare ‘s ain on any such as attempt to travel my castanetss. “ James had a womb-to-tomb antipathy to promotion and to the curiousness of unthreatening supporters and lubricious snoops likewise. The promise of privateness and decorousness was portion of what persuaded the immature American to settle in London in 1876. Finding, by 1898, that London offered no safety from the strains of societal life, he withdrew to Lamb House in Rye, where he lived till merely before his decease in 1916.

The privacy of Lamb House accorded good with James ‘s sense of the indispensable invisibleness of the writer: for him, the writer as a individual with a private life did non, or should non, exist, and had no critically relevant bearing on the fiction. Consistent with this rule, towards the terminal of his life, James burned all his letters – the accretion of a life-time of correspondence with the taking literary figures of his clip. This devastation was prefigured in an essay on George Sand, written some ten old ages before, in which he imagines the “ enquirer ” go againsting the author ‘s privateness, even after “ every path ” has been “ covered, every paper burnt. “ Possibly non surprisingly, nevertheless, the consequence of James ‘s insisting on privateness has been to excite involvement.

In one of his more perverse narratives, “ The Figure in the Rug, ” a immature literary gentlemen embarks on a womb-to-tomb pursuit for the eponymic figure, prompted by a august writer who tantalises him with the inquiry: “ Is n’t there for every author a peculiar thing of that kind, the thing that most makes him use himself, the thing without the attempt to accomplish which he would n’t compose at all, the very passion of his passion? ”

The “ peculiar thing ” is ne’er named, though the immature adult male, being one of the Jamesian obsessives, is doomed thenceforth to pass his life looking for the figure in the rug, and some of James ‘s readers, moved to inquire whether the Master was suggesting at some such cardinal program in his ain fiction, have followed suit.

It is so a natural patterned advance from the procedure of reading a James novel to the inclination to read James ‘s life as if it were a James novel, and, if one is a author, to the desire to compose that novel. The figure in James ‘s rug has most frequently been taken to be his homosexualism, by and large assumed to hold been unconsummated. Some mention to this occurs in all three of the recent novels, but in itself it has non figured as a major subject ; instead, the novelists have been drawn to the related affair of James ‘s relationship with the American author Constance Fenimore Woolson, who committed self-destruction in Venice in 1894. Tennant, Toibin and Lodge all topographic point this relationship at the Centre of their diversion of James ‘s emotional life, and it is non hard to see why: the friendly relationship with Fenimore, as James called her, was one of his few relationships with adult females conformable to fictional guess. It is clear from her few lasting letters to him that she wished for more of his company than he was able or prepared to give her. The friendly relationship is intriguingly like a James novel, with its heroine aching off softly for the love of a more or less unresponsive male.

There has been a general sense, come uping once more in these novels, that James felt some guilt at his disregard, even some duty for Fenimore ‘s self-destruction. In most respects such an model and loyal friend, James, the “ historiographer of all right scrupless, ” as Conrad called him, offers in this oversight an resistless topic to his novel-writing adherents. Lodge presses least difficult on this spring, Toibin makes it cardinal to his image of the solitariness and selfishness of art, and Tennant uses it to back up her unsympathetic portrayal of James as a petit larceny and manipulative self-seeker, covetous of Fenimore ‘s commercial success and obsessed with his ain repute.

My ain novel, which covers a ulterior period of James ‘s life, finds its capable non in James ‘s delinquencies of responsibilities so much as in his ain reticent infatuation with the fascinating, ruthless and sexually equivocal William Morton Fullerton, another deracinated American, beloved of both James and Edith Wharton. The truly Jamesian figure here, by which I mean the character whose lone option is to abdicate, is James himself: clip and once more in letters he remarks wistfully on the non-appearance of Morton Fullerton on his doorsill. Affectingly, he likely did non cognize that Fullerton and Edith Wharton were holding an matter: he was therefore in the same state of affairs as Lambert Strether, the hero of The Ambassadors, who remains for much of the novel convinced of the guiltless nature of the relationship between his immature friend Chad Newsome and Madame de Vionnet. Queerly, so, eight old ages after composing The Ambassadors, James turned into the captivated hero of his ain novel ; an sarcasm which in bend begat my novel. I opted to state the narrative from the point of position of his typist, and in this pick excessively, I was following James. In his short narrative “ In the Cage, ” a immature adult female telegrapher builds up a fantasy life around the wire she transmits for society ladies and gentlemen.

There is, so, to supporters of James, an resistless narrative in the really absences of James ‘s life. In this, they can claim to be following the illustration of James himself, who found his topics in absences and suppressions. James is a author ‘s author in that his life presents itself to authors as eminently writable. But he besides presents himself as a theoretical account: non for imitation or copying, but of an artistic ideal. He found in his art the form, the design and the decorousness that life so frequently lacked.

It is this facet that David Lodge develops most to the full in his geographic expedition of the friendly relationship between James and George Du Maurier: as destiny or the Zeitgeist would hold it, James ‘s most demeaning failure, being booed on the first dark of his drama Guy Domville, coincided with the astronomic success of Du Maurier ‘s Trilby. Lodge allows James some all excessively human enviousness of his friend ‘s success and some heavy contemplations on the vagaries of public gustatory sensation. If in relation to Fenimore Woolson some observers have seen James as insensitive and exploitatory, in relation to the theater he is victim instead than culprit. In covering with this letdown, James ‘s stolidity and mature surrender, particularly good cover with by Toibin, represent an inspiration to authors, dependant as they all are on the volatile gustatory sensation of the populace. James ‘s alone artistic unity, a beginning to him of both want and solace, is to other authors cogent evidence of a dedication that so much in the modern publication industry conspires to deter.

James nowadayss to our age an image of modest command. We shy off from hero worship, from the big gesture and the bold claim and yet we admire the assurance based on proficient command that James ne’er lost, in malice of the disheartenments charted by Toibin and Lodge. James led a author ‘s life, paid the monetary value and reaped the wagess – or some of them. He was non apathetic to material success or his comparative deficiency of it, but he refused to compromise his art for its interest.

WH Auden put it best in his 1941 verse form “ At the Grave of Henry James ” :

aˆ¦your bosom, fastidious as

A delicate nun, remained true to the rare nobility

Of your limpid gift and, for its love, ignored the

Resentful mumbling Massaˆ¦ .

There is, of class, a certain sarcasm in paying court to such a adult male through our courtship, if non the mumbling Mass, so at any rate the mass market. This, excessively, Auden foresaw in his shutting supplication:

Maestro of nicety and scruple,

Pray for me and for all authors, populating or dead:

Because there are many whose plants

Are in better gustatory sensation than their lives, because there is no terminal

To the amour propre of our naming, do intercession

For the lese majesty of all clerks.

For finally, these novels are besides treason: lese majesty to the high Jamesian ideal of privateness, discretion, proportion.

On a summer afternoon, shortly before the completion of my novel, my agent and I made a pilgrim’s journey to Lamb House, now a National Trust belongings. There we met Colm Toibin, whose presence was the first baleful inkling either of us had of his purposes. The keeper of the house kindly allowed us upstairs, usually closed to the populace. Both of us made furtive notes, Toibin ‘s, it seems, enabling him to compose the transition in his book in which Henry James, in his sleeping room, can hear his immature invitee and the object of his adulation, Hendrik Andersen, undress in the adjoining invitee room. My notes enabled me to animate James ordering to his typist in the green room. David Lodge, in his recognitions, thanks three consecutive keepers of Lamb House.

Lamb House, James ‘s retreat from promotion and dirt and enquiry, had become the site of treachery: the tower of art had been scaled, the enemy was within the walls. We defied the prohibitions of the adult male in order to convey testimonial to the maestro. But I am get downing to surmise, as yet another missive of rejection arrives, that James ‘s expletive is taking consequence – at least on one author.

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