Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Voss it all about then?

The Literary Saloon reports that one Peter Craven declares himself scandalised that people simply don't read Patrick White any more.

Craven's article apparently appeared originally in the Times Literary Supplement, which should be warning enough, but I did spend a couple of minutes researching this item and thinking about it.

The Lit. Saloon link to Patrick White reveals that he is indeed the man I thought he was. Australian, Nobel Prize winner (for literature, natch), and author of Voss, among other things.

Voss was published in 1957, so it was probably around that time that I read a review, or an article about White, in the TLS. And you will realise how young I was when I say that I regarded a warm recommendation from the TLS as a signal that I must read something. Nowadays I would regard it as a deadly warning: the equivalent of the skull and crossbones on the label on a bottle.

Anyway, I gave Voss a go. It turned out to be pretty much unreadable, as you would expect. Even the Literary Saloon admits that it is 'long, occasionally ponderous', and 'requires some patience.' Well, sorry, but I ain't got none. Life is too short.

One you can safely avoid, then. Along with nine tenths of those other Bolivian poets and Yugoslav playwrights who have won the Nobel big one. You can recite a list of their names in quite well-read company, and no one will recognise any of them. For instance, just from the last twenty-five years we have Czeslaw Milosz, Jaroslav Seifert, Claude Simon, Naguib Mafouz, and Kenzaburo Oe. Read any of them? Nope, me neither.

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