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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"
Monday 04 September 2006
Happily working my way through William C. Carter's Proust in Love, and soon to turn to The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren, Proust's Swedish Valet, and afterwards probably returning to finish Richard Davenport-Hines' Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author Whose Book Changed Paris, I realise that I'm always in the mood for some Proustiana! And then, yesterday, Slightly Bluestocking brings my attention to Henri Raczymow's Swan's Way. The publisher's blurb reads thusly:
What begins as a meditation on the fictional identity of the elegant "swan" of Proust's In Search of Lost Time becomes, through a series of turns and twists, an ingenious investigation of the character's real-life counterpart, Charles Haas. Part novel, part essay, part literary sleuthing, Swan's Way is a critical tour de force. Through an inspired reading of Proust's text, Henri Raczymow gradually unravels the multiple contradictions of Charles Swann's personality, brought into focus by the fault lines in Proust's narrative method. The author traces Swann's evolution and the multiple ways in which his Jewish identity keeps peeping through the veneer of respectability of this sophisticated dandy. Through a parallel inquiry into the history of the Jockey Club--to which Haas, a Jew, was, like Swann, exceptionally admitted--and the transformation of the German-Jewish Haas into the fashionable British Swann, Swan's Way evolves into an examination of the question of personal identity and posthumous survival. Charles Haas's Jewish identity is the invisible thread that guides Raczymow through the maze of Proust's work, which serves as a backdrop against which fin-de-siècle French society enacts the ugly drama of anti-Semitism. Blurring the boundaries between life and fiction, Swan's Way leads the reader ever deeper into the unresolved question of literary and personal character.
Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: authors, blogosphere
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Books of the Week
Cambridge University Press
This is the first full-scale biography of Edward Carpenter, an 'eminent Victorian' who played an intriguing role in the revival of Socialism in Britain in the late nineteenth century. 'A worthy heir of Carlyle and Ruskin', as Tolstoy called him, Carpenter tackled boldly the problems of alienation under the pressures of commercial civilisation, and developed a strongly personalised brand of Socialism which inspired both the Labour Party and its enemies, Syndicalism and Anarchism. A homosexual, he grappled with the problems of sexual alienation above all, and emerged as the foremost advocate of the homosexual cause at a time when it was a social 'taboo'. This study, based upon letters and many other personal documents, reveals much of Carpenter's personal life which has hitherto remained obscure, including his 'comradeship' with some of his working-men friends and his influence upon such notable literary figures as Siegfried Sassoon, E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence.
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R. Clifton Spargo
Johns Hopkins University Press
Vigilant Memory: Emmanuel Levinas, the Holocaust, and the Unjust Death focuses on the particular role of Emmanuel Levinas's thought in reasserting the ethical parameters for poststructuralist criticism in the aftermath of the Holocaust. More than simply situating Levinas's ethics within the larger context of his philosophy, R. Clifton Spargo offers a new explanation of its significance in relation to history. In critical readings of the limits and also the heretofore untapped possibilities of Levinasian ethics, Spargo explores the impact of the Holocaust on Levinas's various figures of injustice while examining the place of mourning, the bad conscience, the victim, and the stranger/neighbor as they appear in Levinas's work. Ultimately, Spargo ranges beyond Levinas's explicit philosophical or implicit political positions to calculate the necessary function of the "memory of injustice" in our cultural and political discourses on the characteristics of a just society.
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Poem of the Week
Miss Nancy Ellicott
Strode across the hills and broke them,
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Riding to hounds
Over the cow-pasture.
Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
And danced all the modern dances;
And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
But they knew that it was modern.
Upon the glazen shelves kept watch
Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,
The army of unalterable law.
Collected Poems 1909-62 (Faber and Faber)
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October's Books of the Month
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