Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tom McCarthy's top 10 European modernists

"From time to time, Western literature undergoes an upheaval so momentous that its entire landscape is transfigured," writes Tom McCarthy at the Guardian. "The old order falls away, or rather is devoured and transformed by its own offspring, and the tremors carry on for decades, even centuries, with fault lines spreading out in all directions. Modernism is not a movement, nor even a way of thinking, but an event: an event with which any serious writer has, in some way or another, to engage, and to which they should respond."

So who tops McCarthy's top 10 list of European modernists?
James Joyce

If the Dutch claim to have developed "total football" in the 70s is true, "total writing" pre-dates their achievement by five decades. With the publication of Ulysses in 1922, the novel reaches a point at which each line, each image and each turn of phrase crackles and hums with the associations that it's firing off to every corner of the work. Tram-wires, advertising hoardings and printing presses speak to one another as they penetrate the most intimate reaches of consciousness. While written by a perhaps not-quite-European Irish holder of a British passport, and set in Dublin, it's for the most part in the high-Modernist melting pot of Paris that Ulysses finds its shape. With the publication 17 years later of Finnegan's Wake, Joyce takes his total-writing logic to its ultimate conclusion, and presents what in effect is the source-code of the novel itself - of all novels, their very possibility.
Read about the nine writers who stand in Joyce's shadow.

Tom McCarthy's acclaimed novel Remainder is currently being adapted for the cinema by Film Four/Cowboy Films.

See--The Page 69 Test: Remainder.

--Marshal Zeringue