For our literary lesson today, we take a French flashback to the career of Fillain Hogge-Grillet, the shining sensation of Gallic arts in the sixties.
As the author and critic, Troland Bartres, put it, “Clearly, these are not the dusty old novels of yore in which, as Samuel Beckett once said, "Nothing is Happening". In the novels of Hogge-Grillet, it is clear, Something is Happening. The reader may not be clear what it is, but, clearly, Something is Happening. Thomat Pynchim was impressed, too, saying “The American Novel has become a Sea of Bullshit…Today’s French Novel is a Nation of No Bullshit! Far out, man!”
Hogge-Grillet is only too happy to explain his novels as a bulwark in the war against trite Western Literature: “The language of today is the language of ze capitalist system. The only lan-guage I speak is the language of tomorrow. In order to create, we must destroy the language of the past, down to the very last letter…If letters must be used, let us use them in place of words, and vice-versa, so that the shallow treachery of the whole enterprise becomes obvious to even the least intelligent of readers. If words are a negative space, then we must render every letter at its most vacuous, until the dullness of our very existence transports us into a bold new space in which the negation of our reality has no choice but to reinvent itself. By contrast, the dreariness of the Modern Western Novel is so dull, it can only reflect itself, and thus becomes only a record of the most unimpressive type of banality. The novel of modern America is the purest example of, how you say, bullshit.
“Very soon, the greatest novel ever written will be written. I may not be the one to write it, but it will be written. In this novel, there will only be one letter, and that letter will be A. The entire book will consist of the word A, but this letter will be used with such dexterity as to have a subtly different meaning in every one of its uses. Sometimes, the difference will be conveyed through obvious means of capitulation and font, as in aAAAaaa. Other times, the differentiation will be impossible to see through physical means, but it will be obvious enough so that the reader cannot miss its difference.
“The book will be called A, and its author will only go by the name A. Such a profound shift in literary convention will have no choice but to bring the entire Western Tradition to its literary and philosophical knees. The professors and ze arbiters of so-called literary reality will stumble and tumble as their precious literary foundations are shaken and broken at their very core. I will certainly be proud to witness its demise - Western literature, I mean.
“The only true Great Literature today is to be found in the comic book. I particularly like Ze Incredible Hulk, a great force for philosophy and virtue. But the Novel of Tomorrow will make the comic book look like shit, comparatively speaking. Still, I hope that Ze Incredible Hulk can be a character in a great new novel I hope to write one day, only he will be an English professor, one whose deepest carnal desires are only barely-held in check. He is a monster on ze outside, but he is forced to pretend he is a man of academia, because this is what has become of modern man under ze system of great intellectual decadent thought, as dictated by the capitalist means of production. For the university system is a great factory in which the sausages have been replaced by philosophical constructs, you understand? And he will be bitten on the neck by a beautiful woman who is a werewolf, no? At this point he is forced to reconcile the inner self with the Greater Dialect which is the thought of Tomorrow, and he has no choice but to go insane. He kills himself as a Great Sacrifice for the new Anarchy, which our students understand. It is a tragic ending, true, but you will come to see it is very necessary.”
Wow, that explanation was so long, we barely have room for an excerpt from one of his novels! But here it is, that vintage classic of 1967, “Le Fellow.” See if you think it reinvented literature!
It was on the veranda of … where the man known as M. X was to make his rendezvous with Madame A.
As she walked up to his table, he asked, “Is that balustrade not at a higher circumference than the others?”
“No,” she answered. “It is only the slanting angle of the sun which makes it appear so, for we are in the waning hours of that trick of optics known as the Mediterranean Sun, when one’s eyes are not to be trusted. Such an optical illusion is nothing in the waters of a great sea, where it is easily lost in the overlapping tides. But in the modern urban environment, its effects can be overpowering.”
“Much like the effects of Marxist dialectics on the pillars of capitalist obscuritanism.”
Her lips pulled back in a sensuous smile, as she reached for his drink, and pulled it off the table and quickly imbibed the vermouth from the glass, causing its delicate aroma to disappear forever, even as the sunlight was disappearing to the distant corners of the Earth. As he watched, the drink quickly travel from her moist lips and down into her gulping throat, a thought occurred to him. Only a very beautiful woman could have gotten away with such an act of insolent thievery.
Her eyes grew larger, watching him. They were like luminescent puddles of insouciant mud in a great ocean of playful erotic indifference.
Her eyes could not speak, but he knew what they were saying: The dialect of today’s linguistic current must be counterbalanced by an emotion of dramatic femininity, otherwise it becomes merely one more expression of inhumanistic thought, lost in a tide of flaccid hegemony.