Saturday, February 23, 2008

The New Novel

Its perhaps not that surprising that there has never been a literary movement of "the new novel" but there has been "le nouveau roman" - literary modernism being more often sneered at by the British, and perhaps leading to its relative withering here compared with other cultures. Gilbert Adair laments the passing of Alain Robbe-Grille in Guardian Review today, remembering the excitement of a movement in art that could meant that an artwork could be as controversial for its form and style as for its comment. You can see why the British would (and does) sneer at such arch experimentation. But "on the whole, the British literary establishment is indifferent, when not downright hostile, to authentically innovatory fiction." Without a doubt, that's true - and its continually depressing how our lauded fiction - and poetry - remains so unwilling - (and "hostile" - thats a good word for it) to be more than just a story, just a book. It's too late in the day now, I think, to expect anything more; we want our writers not to step out of line, to give us stories that fit the prevailing cliches of our time; and certainly not to be provocative with such primitive tools as words themselves. Adair, of course, has been a cheerleader, fanboy and writer of innovative fictions, and I suspect he has long since given up expecting the literary scene to surprise him or us. Its hard to know who is even writing "the new novel" - its certainly not flavour of the month on any of the creative writing courses I've come across; and possibly won't be until a book or range of books finds an audience that is more than just awestruck by the inventiveness of those Europeans for whom English isn't the mother tongue.

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