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For Josipovici modernism is a response in art (all art, music and painting too for example, not just literature) to the “disenchantment of the world”. That disenchantment is the loss of the Medieval sense of the numinous as being part of everyday life. In short, the Medieval vision of a world filled with purpose and divine meaning gave way to what would ultimately become the Enlightenment with its vision of a secular world governed by reason and natural laws (yes, I did just gloss over about 400 years there).

This is absolutely critical to everything that follows. The death of enchantment does not mean that people were happy in the middle ages but disillusioned thereafter. It is not a personal loss of enchantment. The point is that the European concept of the world changed from it being a place in which the natural and supernatural were different facets of the same reality to a world in which the natural and the supernatural were firmly separated (and in which the supernatural could therefore potentially be discarded entirely)...

Nice review of What Ever Happened to Modernism? over on Pechorin's Journal which pinpoints the “disenchantment of the world” as central to Josipovici's thesis.

The current NYRB has an article on Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism?, said article being written by Eliot Weinberger. I’d been expecting an inspired reaction to an inspired book, but that is not what I found.

Weinberger clearly did not like the book, but I cannot figure out quite why. He jumps from an attack on its title (based a strangely literal reading of it) to a bunch of random, nitpicky-type arguments... I don’t mean to imply that Josipovici’s argument is beyond critique or even that I agree with it completely; I only mean to say that it’s disappointing to see someone of Weinberger’s reputation completely fail to engage with one of the more interesting and accessible critical books to be published last year.

This via Scott over at Conversational Reading. "Disappointing" is the very least of it. Do we have no literary critics able to deal with the philosophical arguments that Josipovici makes in his book? It would seem not.

To me, the animus displayed by most critics to Josipovici's book stems from a misunderstanding of his project. I wonder would the book have been received more fairly if reviewed in the philosophy pages?

Addendum: Steve has responded fully to Weinberger over on This Space.

When What Ever Happened to Modernism? came out critics and writers pounced on Josipovici’s well-reasoned remarks about the deficiencies found in the works of Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Philip Roth. The local tempest needn’t be recapitulated here, and indeed, Josipovici’s comments on his fellow writers occupy only a few pages of the book. More serious discussion occurred–though not a great deal of it–concerning Josipovici’s argument that Modernism had not found a lasting place in the homeland of Virginia Woolf and Wyndham Lewis, and the adopted home of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. In Josipovici’s view, Modernism is not a style or period of 20th century literary history, but stretches back in time (taking in Cervantes and Wordsworth, for instance), and is closer to a philosophical position. As he says about Mallarmé, Hofmannstahl, Kafka and Beckett – words that may apply as well to Josipovici – they all feel impelled to write, this being the only way they know to be true to their own natures, yet at the same time they find that in doing so they are being false to the world – imposing a shape on it and giving it a meaning which it doesn’t have – and thus, ultimately, being false to themselves. Their works feel like an interference with the world... lacking proper authority they have strayed into a place where they should not be...

In the wake of the stir caused by What Ever Happened to Modernism?, a reader might pick up Only Joking expecting to find it the equivalent of eating something disagreeable yet good for you. This isn’t the case at all. Despite its title (for we’re aware of the irony of that expression, and how seldom it consoles when we’ve been made the butt of a remark), Only Joking is a witty, complex comedy of machinations, mirror figures, sex and love, art, and verbal dexterity. In 2009 Josipovici’s After & Making Mistakes was published: it consists of two novels collected under the same cover, with “Making Mistakes” based on Mozart’s comic opera Cosi fan tutte. For all I know, the same underpinning could be present here. However, there’s enough business with doors, telephones, disguises and cats to qualify Only Joking as a pastiche of British farce.

Jeff Bursey reviews Gabriel Josipovici's Only Joking in the Winnipeg Review.

Below is an unused review of Gabriel Josipovici's two 'novellas' After and Making Mistakes that was never taken up and I'd almost forgotten having written.

I'm not sure it quite ever fully opens up, but it does the beginning of a job, I think:

To be human is to be amongst those who thoughts we don't we know; to be in the dark. Perhaps this condition is the source of our urge to speak. Language, born of absence, filling a lack, generating light. To be human is to be alone, and also to know that we are in thrall to thoughts we call our own, yet are barely aware of. Perhaps this very unknowingness is the source of writing. Writing from out of a void, to fill a void. Both speaking and writing, then, veil ignorance of ourselves and of others even as they display it, even as they ameliorate it.

There is an element of Bad Faith to the traditional novel. This gloriously humanistic art-form is peopled with voluble, intelligible puppets, but the novelist's urge to get inside his or her characters in order to make those characters "fully-rounded" – the oddest beacon of a novel's success and one that has become a fetish for most reviewers – is the one thing that should give us pause. By colonising a character's thoughts a novelist, finally, confirms that they are only characters and subverts the entire project. Realism collapses in the face of what we've been told to think of as realistic characters. This is why a novelist like Dickens can be simultaneously so sympathetic – the humanist urge is palpably there – and so sentimental. Certain books in the Modernist tradition (from Joyce to Kafka and beyond) whilst accused of being cold (lacking in 'humanity') or austere or overly-intellectual have every right to complain that their radical humanism (their concern with writing itself, their awareness of their potential for solipsism, their ability to see and respect both the Self and the Other as finally unknowable) has been ignored because it doesn't display itself as mawkishly as the character-stocked mainstream.

Gabriel Josipovici is a writer firmly in the modernist tradition. As a critic he has taught that modernism is not merely an aberration (or exultation) in the arts that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but rather a thread (a threat?) that runs from the most exuberant early novelists (Sterne, Rabelais, Cervantes) through the Victorian novel where it was rather submerged and flowered again, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, in the period of (official) Modernism. But modernism remains a challenge, an embarrassment to the (post-)Victorian novel, a question posed against its unacknowledged assumptions. The work of Beckett is vital here. From the fifties, a singular body of work appeared that made much of the rest of American and European Letters look flaccid and insincere.

It is facile to suggest we should judge Josipovici’s critical work by how well he writes himself. Nonetheless it is fascinating to see how such an important critic (whose recent What Ever Happened to Modernism? has gained a good degree of notoriety) goes about the real work of writing fiction, and whether or not his own fiction could withstand a dose of Josipovician critique.

In After, Alan Schneider finds himself ‘pursued’ by a woman from out of his past. Alan is married but, we’re led to believe, also has something of an eye for the ladies: we oversee him flirt, for example, at a party and on his way to see a grieving friend. Claude, however, is different, more than an earlier dalliance, more substantial and more threatening. Alan is unnerved by her reappearance, and by memories of the event that led him to leave her and Princeton where he worked, and return to London fifteen years before we meet him.

At a critical point in the narrative we learn casually: ‘And now it seems, they are walking in Epping Forest.’ This is quietly devastating. Josipovici allows his characters to come alive simply by the conversation that seems to occur naturally between them, but simultaneously – the harder part, the key to the artistry revealed here – reminds us that these are not real people. This is an ethical move embedded in the fiction rather than a post-modern trick that brings attention to itself. It suggests we can never know what someone is thinking: we meet them via words. The literary blurs with the real, then, not because of fidelity to facts, but by revealing the literary shape, taste, depth of the real itself.

The same trick occurs when Alan speaks with his artist friends, and with his own mother, about art and writing. What is at stake for his characters is at stake for Josipovici as a writer. None of this is arch. Josipovici is a hugely intelligent writer, yet this is an awkward form of praise with which to burden such an entertaining one. That the critical event in After, the reason for Claude’s reappearance, the memory of which is insubstantial, contradictory, but requires both their conspiracy and their co-creation, reminds one of Blanchot’s concept of the Disaster, and of the rupture that Alain Badiou portentously calls an Event, or, more appropriately, what Proust has written about memory and its infelicities, voids, tricks and inversions, about the delusions we hold about ourselves, others and the past – all could suggest a stubborn intellectuality. But nothing could be further from the truth. Warmth and humour exude from these two short novels which are best described as comedies (with all the historic weight of that word acknowledges) – and, incidentally, would make wonderful radio plays.

It is a cliché most normally applied to poetry, that it is the gap between the words that are most important. It is true for Josipovici’s work. Making Mistakes is more playful than After. It is a story echoing the tale told in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Two couples change partners, and then change again. The comedy here is both richer and more absurd, the writing sparkles. A lightness of touch – lightness is a touchstone in Josipovici’s criticism – is maintained throughout. But witty repartee never masks the fact that couples – lovers, readers/writers – will keep making mistakes, especially if they think we can ever really know one another. And we can't. Because we are never transparent, not even to ourselves, making mistakes is what we do, it is what makes us human. Only a writer as subtle as Josipovici could remind us of this old lesson in a form that so often wants to pretend our opacity away, to use a knowing verbosity to fake what is going on inside. Lighter is better, and better at keeping us in the dark.

There are so few podcasts worth listening to – Entitled Opinions, In Our Time (unless it's on science), KCRW Bookworm – that is worth drumming out news of a fourth. Colin Marshall's Marketplace of Ideas has been going for a few years but came to my attention only recently when Gabriel Josipovici was interviewed about What Ever Happened to Modernism? If you know of any others of equal quality, please let me know.

So says Steve. And, please, if you do know any decent podcasts, let us know in our respective comment boxes!

Point of information: Jeff Bursey reviews Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism? in the January/February issue of American Book Review. I hear that the review is 'positive' but, sadly, it is not online.

I also hear, Matthew Cheney has a review of WEHTM? in Rain Taxi. Also not online!

On the 9th April at 4pm (as part of the Free the Word Festival) Gabriel Josipovici, Geoff Dyer and Dubravka Ugresic will discuss "whether the novel must evolve once again to reawaken readers to the forces that are at work in society"...


The novel was once a surprising, disruptive genre that challenged familiar ways of seeing the world. Over three centuries of evolution, it has repeatedly reinvented itself in order to comprehend a changing society. But has it become stale and conventional? And has the novel’s process of renewal come to an end? Join Gabriel Josipovici, author of What Ever Happened to Modernism? essayist and novelist Geoff Dyer and Croatian writer and academic Dubravka Ugresic as they argue whether the novel must evolve once again to reawaken readers to the forces that are at work in society.

Chaired by Alex Clark.

Tickets: £8 (£5 PEN Members and Concessions), or £25 for full festival ticket. For more on the talk, visit the event's page over at freewordonline.com

Over at The Marketplace of Ideas...


Colin Marshall talks to Gabriel Josipovici, author of many novels and critical essays involved with the aesthetics and techniques of modernism. In his latest book, What Ever Happened to Modernism?, he traces modernism’s roots further back in history than perhaps any other scholar of modernism has done before. It’s all in the service of the titular question, which expresses a deep concern of anyone who enjoys modernist works today: how and why has the Western world so largely ignored the excitement and potential of modernist art, that is, art conscious of its own limits and responsibilities?

From This Space:


Ramona Koval: You say modernists look with horror at the proliferation in modern culture of both fantasy and realism, both Tolkien and Graham Greene, both Philip Pullman and VS Naipaul, out of respect for the world. Tell me what this horror entails. Why?

Gabriel Josipovici: The last part of that phrase is something that I touched upon when I was saying that this is not simply a clever modernist trick that springs from a desire to make the reader see that everything that can be said about the world is still going to leave a lot unsaid which is there in the world. So, in a way, they are trying to make you... just as much as the lyric poets are trying to make you... see the world itself as it is out there, and what I was saying there was I think this proliferation of fantasies from Tolkien through to the Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman and so on, is a curious sort of indication of the way in which we would rather just turn away from the world and live in pseudo myths and mythologies, and they are pseudo, they're not the real thing as they were in cultures that really had myths and really believed in them. And similarly I think straightforward realism also stops you actually recognising this mysterious thing that our lives are open, are not going to be subsumed in a narrative we can easily tell, but we are constantly going to come up against something which is much more mysterious, much stranger, much more un-inchoate than we imagine.

Part of a transcript from interview on ABC Radio National of Australia about Josipovici's What Ever Happened to Modernism?

Ficton Uncovered invited me to contribute to their site. So I wrote about Gabriel Josipovici's fiction...


(The Ficton Uncovered has been down since the weekend, so I'm now reproducing my article in full below...)


In the summer of this year (2010), a critic of some standing (and with over 25 books under his belt) suddenly seemed to cause a silly season media storm for saying in his latest book what he’d said in all his previous ones, and what he’d dedicated a lifetime to articulating. The academic in question is Gabriel Josipovici, the controversial book was What Ever Happened to Modernism?. In it, Josipovici argued that modernism wasn’t confined to the period of Official Modernism at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, that literary art always needs honestly to face modernism’s perennial questions, and that many of today’s most vaunted writers of literary fiction are woefully overrated. I couldn’t agree more strongly with Josipovici in his overall analysis. The media was less convinced. What it particularly seemed to find galling was that an “unknown” academic had the nerve to tell writers how they should write, and implicitly accuse literary journalists of not realising that their novel-writing emperors were inadvertently wandering around without any pants. What, they growled, did a dusty academic really know about fiction?

The question is idiotic, of course. Critics of all forms of art don't have to be practitioners to have useful things to say; indeed, if that was the case, none of us would be allowed to respond to anything. Whatever your view of, say, Brian Sewell, I think we can all agree that he probably can't paint as well as Rubens! The bile directed at Josipovici was yet more idiotic because, firstly, he was not in any way unknown -- countless books, a longstanding contributor for the TLS, JQ etc, and a regular reviewer in the Irish papers to boot. Secondly, and arguably more important, he too is a writer of fiction! Josipovici, it turns out, is a practitioner of some considerable note, with 13 or so books of fiction published over the last few decades. What we have here, then, is precisely the kind of critic the media so often call for: one who really knows what he is talking about, and from the inside.

It is true, however, that Josipivoci is, as a novelist, comparatively unsung (he did win the Somerset Maugham Awards back in 1975). This is a real shame. Whilst his critical work is peerless, it feeds into and comes out of his work as a practitioner. A subject close to Josipovici's heart is that of authority. In short, artists from the dawn of time worked as craftsfolk within a tradition. When tradition began to splinter -- and it is ever-splintering, so choose your own moment of Fall -- artists had to ask themselves: who/what gives me the authority to speak, to write, to paint. Rabelais and Sterne asked this of themselves when, no longer community storytellers, they knew that the printed book would see their words take wings and reach a much wider audience than ever before: but what of their responsibility to their 'audience', now unknown, now so detached from direct contact with them? A connection had been broken in this brave new world. TS Eliot felt the same lack of connection to a world in pieces after WW1. Why should someone listen to Prufrock's woes?

Art without authority forces the question of the responsibility for art back onto the artist. Why am I saying this? To whom? What right do I have? These questions can't be answered archly. These aren't the ingredients for postmodern insouciance. But they are the questions that serious literary artists have to know hang in the air as they write. Of course, heavy questions don't always need earnest answers. Josipovici is a delighfully light, funny and engaging fiction writer. A comedian in the fullest sense: intelligent, knowing, sly. As he punctures others' pomposity, he also laughs at himself. His critical bombshell, What Ever Happened to Modernism?, landed earlier this year, but it followed last year's novellas After & Making Mistakes (published together in one beautiful volume by Carcanet Press) and is followed this autumn by two more books. Hearts Wings and Other Stories collects together a lifetime's worth of short fiction; Only Joking (CB Editions) shows the author at his comic best.

So, Josipovici the critic is someone I'd say you really must read if you want to think carefully about what writing fiction means, but Josipovici the novelist is someone you must read to know what delightful, considered, modern writing actually is.

Finally! Stephen Mitchelmore gives Gabriel Josipovici's superb What Ever Happened to Modernism? the review it deserves:


The title of this book is a question asked by a professor of English and answered by a practising novelist. Apart from Milan Kundera, no other living writer has engaged with modern fiction with such depth of learning and lightness of touch. I have been reading Gabriel Josipovici's fiction and non-fiction for over twenty years but little prepared me for the sustained focus and force of this remarkable book. Until now his literary critical works have been collections of essays, even his book on the bible, The Book of God, is a series of discrete essays. Given this back catalogue which includes the lectures given at UCL and Oxford University, it's predicatable that the new book has been characterised by some as an academic treatise rather than an accessible essay in the classic sense. The deceit needs to be countered not only because it is wrong but because it also confirms Josipovici's verdict on English literary culture as "narrow, provincial and smug". This can be demonstrated by bitter and dishonest reactions, as well as some more respectful if condescending assessments (more...)

If ReadySteadyBook had not have been called ReadySteadyBook, then I might just as well have called it The Gabriel Josipovici Fan Club. I've been reading Josipovici since the early 90s, a time when my reading was mostly philosophical and political. When I launched ReadySteadyBook in 2003 -- a signal to myself that my reading was now primarily literary -- Josipovici attained key importance in my own personal pantheon, and ReadySteadyBook has regularly referred to (and been informed by) his work over the several intervening years. Aside from Stephen Mitchelmore's blog This Space, I don't think any other website has banged the drum for Josipovici as loudly. It is ironic, then, that over the summer, whilst ReadySteadyBook has been mostly off the air (due to it gettting a new 'engine' and my getting a time-consuming new job), Josipovici has attained a degree of notoriety for remarks made in his latest book What Ever Happened to Modernism? (and in a non-interview in the Guardian that came about because of it).


L'affaire Josipovici has crystallised a number of things in my mind about British literary culture, so this won't be the last time I refer to it as ReadySteadyBook comes alive again over the next weeks and months. Today, however, I just want to respond to Ian Jack's petty and undignified piece in the Guardian yesterday.


It's interesting that Josipovici's book which, in many ways, is both a call to read more carefully and an enquiry into why reading carefully is beyond so many cultural gatekeepers, has been read so sloppily by so many of its critics. Josipovici 's book is in no conceivable way an encomium for "experimentalism" as Ian Jack so astoundingly misreads it, nor is it an essay of high praise for High Modernism as others have assumed. Josipovici doesn't invoke marginal or avant-garde writers, nor praise typographical or narrative playfulness over stale traditionalism, but rather brings us back to canonical writers (a good part of his essay is taken up with Wordsworth) and allows us to see what was at stake for those artists in their work, and what is at stake for us as readers. The best reviews of the book (if I have the strength, I'll consider the worst reviews at another time), Sam Leith's grudging appreciation ("I enjoyed the sinuousness and vigour of Josipovici's arguments") or Tom McCarthy's measured and welcome warmth both make mistakes about this book even as they fail fully to come to terms with its arguments. Leith inexplicably reverses Josipovici's considered appraisal of Euripides; McCarthy (a friend, and a writer and critic of considerable skill) misattributes to Josipovici views he rightly criticises Adam Thirlwell and Julian Barnes for espousing; Ian Jack just writes a lot of nonsense about Gertrude Stein that suggests he hasn't read Josipovici properly (if at all) and that he most certainly wouldn't understand Stein if he got anywhere near her challenging work.


Josipovici's subtle, serious and very moving book is the only one I know that takes us beyond stale (and historicist) arguments about Form. It is the only book I know that gives us the tools to see how the experimentalism-lite of, say, Will Self, David Mitchell and Salman Rushdie is postmodernism's way of not responding to the perennial challenge of modernism (in the same way that much Victorian fiction didn't respond to Cervantes and Sterne; most Edwardian fiction didn't understand what Woolf was having to respond to in order to write as she did: let us not forget, most Edwardian readers were taking out, from the Woolworths lending libraries, the kind of books that Persephone Books now republish; or, on the continent, were reading Némirovsky!).


Two themes dominate Josipovici's book, as two themes have dominated most critics’ response to it. In a world that moved from being viewed by the vast majority through a sacramental lens, to one where earthly powers had ever more secular explanations, the problem of authority became a problem for art and artists. Why and in what way did the artist have authority to speak? And how could that question inform the art that the artist produced, so that their work did not exhibit the bad faith of pretending that question away. This leads to our second theme: the disenchantment of the world. Do artists seek to re-enchant the world (and who/what gives them authority to do so) or to respond to its disenchantment? Either way, it's a serious job, even when you're laughing as you do it, like Sterne or Spark. For readers who seek through their reading to reach into existenital questions of their own, it is a vital activity. The critics who responded to Josipovici seem disenchanted that he has reminded them how small their current giants are, annoyed that he has asked why so many of the books they have spent a lifetime praising are so thin and insubstantial, and they have responded spitefully to an authoritative critic that they don't have the nous to read carefully and even to begin to understand.

Jeff Bursey's review of Gabriel Josipovici’s two short novels, After & Making Mistakes, just went up on The Quarterly Conversation:


Like Beckett’s plays, Gabriel Josipovici’s works fend off resolution; also, his texts have more white space than is found in most novels (mainstream or not), and there’s a great use of dialogue. Great, as in its great compactness, naturalness, and poetry — but also as in a lot. There are few narrative passages in the recent novels Goldberg: Variations (2002) and Everything Passes (2006). The space around the words emphasizes that each line counts, and allows each line to breathe on its own. They have, so to say, sentience. The lulls and repetitions of Josipovici’s prose give readers the opportunity to see how his characters come across while they think, feel, talk, repress, obfuscate, and go about their business (more...)

Via the BBC:


It is a year since the death of Anthony Minghella [well, he died in March 2008, so this has been on the BBC site for a wee while] had shocked and saddened those close to him as well as his fans.

Before his celebrated career in film winning awards for The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley, the producer and director studied at the University of Hull and then became a lecturer at its drama department.

It was here that he produced his first piece of work, a musical stage adaptation of Gabriel Josipovici's Mobius the Stripper, which had broadcast on BBC Radio Humberside in 1976 (more...)

Happily, the BBC provide some audio extracts: Extract 1 from Mobius the Stripper; Extract 2 from Mobius the Stripper.

In a fleeting fit of energy midway through last year, I proposed to some fellow bloggers that a symposium, hosted here at RSB, on Gabriel Josipovici's superb novella Everything Passes would be a jolly good thing. Well, as I've discussed (in my recent Hamlet and Lear pieces) it quickly became obvious to me that, last year, I didn't have the energy to organise anything. So, I owe a sincere apology to those friends who wrote some wonderful pieces (which will soon see the light of day here on the site -- hopefully, next week) expecting the symposium to go ahead.


Happily, several bloggers have posted the would-be symposium pieces on their own sites. Richard Crary, Dan Visel, Steve Mitchelmore and now Waggish have all written pieces that expand upon the review Paul Griffiths wrote for me a couple of years back.


Please do read these excellent contributions, and then I'll have a few more up for you here on RSB next week.

The Jewish Chronicle offers the first review of After & Making Mistakes, Gabriel Josipovici's two new novels in one (very handsome) volume (via This Space):


Dissatisfaction is a peculiarly middle-class indulgence. A life that from the outside appears perfect — moderate success, sufficient income, a loving family — can from feel from within claustrophobic and merely adequate, plagued by thoughts of the successes unachieved, the ones that got away, and a nagging lack of purpose.

Gabriel Josipovici’s two new novellas — each barely over 130 pages and issued together under one, elegant cover — both deal with this quiet despair of the bourgeoisie (more...)

Gabriel Josipovici enthusiastically mentioned reading Stephen Crane in last year's Books of the Year symposium here at ReadySteadyBook: "what a great writer he was! Not just The Red Badge, which is indeed one of the great books about war, up there with The Iliad and War and Peace, even though it is less than a hundred and fifty pages long, but also such short stories as The Open Boat and The Blue Hotel. In fact everything he touched he turned to gold."


Where Gabriel goes we follow; and Richard is already on the trail:


I was struck by the fact that Crane was born November 1, 1871. That is, four months after Marcel Proust (born July 10, 1871). Younger than Proust! In my mind, where Proust feels present, his concerns relevant, Crane has always seemed locked in the dusty past -- not only were some of his writings required reading in grade school, but the subject of his most famous novel, The Red Badge of Courage, is the Civil War. His association with this war is so complete, I think, that it has only served to reinforce the sense I had of him belonging to a much earlier period than he does. In truth, of course, Crane's realism was innovative in its time, and I can see now that it stands as a precursor to the writing of some of the historical Modernists, Hemingway in particular (more...)

Tamar Yellin interviews Gabriel Josipovici in The Forward:


There is still hope for the novel. In a climate increasingly hostile to fiction that does not adhere to the conservative parameters set by the publishing industry, some writers continue to work according to their own lights. Gabriel Josipovici is remarkable for producing novels that belong to the modern European tradition of Kafka and Proust, yet he writes not in German or French, but in English — and, more remarkably still, out of an English setting.

Perhaps it is this, too, that has helped alienate him from the English realist tradition. “I take very little pleasure from the great 19th-century novels, especially the English and French varieties,” Josipovici told the Forward. I like fiction that is not anecdotal, but not whimsical or surrealist, either. I love Borges, but I also love Muriel Spark; I love Marguerite Duras when she hits it off, but I also love Thomas Bernhard and his crazy excesses. But I don’t see these as being different in kind from the poets I love — Yeats and Stevens and Eliot — and some of Auden and some of Celan. Or perhaps they are different in kind, but when I read them I simply feel — with all of them: Yes, this is it!” (More...)

Via This Space:


Three years after the sublime Everything Passes, Carcanet has announced new fiction from Gabriel Josipovici -- "without doubt our most important writer" (Lee Rourke). August will see the publication of After & Making Mistakes; two novels in a single volume.

After "is haunted by a traumatic memory. A woman re-enters the life of a man after fifteen years -- for vengeance? for reconciliation? Or is her return only imagined?". Making Mistakes on the other hand "explores the ironies of relationships more playfully. In a reworking of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, two couples change partners -- and change again -- with the connivance of a modern Don Alfonso and his Despina."

One of my Books of the Week this week is A Time to Speak Out "a collection of strong Jewish voices, drawing on an established tradition of Jewish dissidence, come together to explore some of the most challenging issues facing diaspora Jews, notably in relation to the ongoing conflict in Israel-Palestine."


Thanks to the good folk at Verso (thanks Rowan!) we have a PDF version of Gabriel Josipovici's contribution to A Time to Speak Out, Cousins, up on RSB for you to enjoy. Go read!

The Jewish Chronicle online seems to have opened up its articles' archive. Search for Josipovici, for instance, and you get a whole pile of priceless reviews from the man himself. Go play!

Just spotted this from last week's TLS but no link I'm afraid. Seeing as I've dissed Bolano, who Mark's a fan of, I should mention that one of his favourite writers, Gabriel Josipovici is writing on the incredible Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi, currently being exhibited at the Royal Academy

Earlier, I mentioned my Editor's Corner Tuesday Top Ten feature (today featuring Two Ravens Press publisher Sharon Blackie). Well, I'm going to go ahead and steal my own idea (hardly original, for sure) and have a Tuesday Top Ten here on ReadySteadyBook ...


Below is a list -- how exciting is this! -- of Gabriel Josipovici's "top ten novellas – or short novels, or long short stories – books of about 100 pages that ask to be read in one go. I give the English title of standard translations for all except the Perec, which, so far as I know, has not been translated:"


  • Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew
  • Kleist, Michael Kohlhaas
  • Stifter, Ice Mountain (often translated as Rock Crystal)
  • Melville, Bartleby
  • Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilitch
  • James, The Turn of the Screw
  • Mann, Death in Venice
  • Kafka, Metamorphosis
  • Pinget, Passacaglia
  • Perec, Un Cabinet d’Amateur

Anyone have a copy of Adalbert Stifter's Ice Mountain they want to swap for ... a pile of new books? I can't find a copy anywhere! Actually, I do have a copy (of the Pushkin Press version): I best read it!

In this week's TLS there is an abridged version Gabriel Josipovici's lecture What Ever Happened to Modernism? (which I heard Gabriel give in London, back in March, as did Stephen Mitchelmore and Ellis Sharp).


The lecture, and now the essay (which I'm afraid isn't online), made me think again about Establishment Literary Fiction (ELF). It isn't that ELF is bad. Some ELF is good. And certainly much of it is very good indeed at being ELF! But since Modernism, and again since Modernism's questions were re-articulated by the writers of the nouveau roman — especially, then, for those who see the novel as a mode of enquiry or, better, a mode of discovery ELF seems to me to be the embodiment of Bad Faith. It manifests a willing refusal to acknowledge that the questions that Modernism posed even exist (or that the novel might be a place to inquire about their answers).


Therefore, ELF endlessly repeats the tropes and styles of the Victorian Novel, with its fingers in its ears, shouting its (sometimes very good) narrative, flaunting its (sometimes very finely drawn) characters, refusing to be interrogated and refusing to recognise its own structural ressentiment.

I should have mentioned this a wee while ago (apologies to Richard that I didn't): some great stuff over on The Existence Machine about Gabriel Josipovici, including thoughtful posts on The Book of God and Goldberg: Variations.

Tales from the Reading Room on Gabriel Josipovici's stunning récit Everything Passes:


I began to read the first few words and felt myself slipping, slipping, as if down a polished chute, those aching blank spaces dragging me across to the next portion of dialogue as if across a dangerous precipice. I had to put it down for a while because it frightened me. And for the same reason I had to pick it up again. When it was finished, I was stunned. It was quite the most extraordinary piece of writing I had encountered in a long time.