Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The novel: a minor genre

It’s not often one comes across a statement by the French novelist and full-time controversialist Michel Houellebecq that one can agree with, but John Dugdale in the Guardian Review’s ‘The Week in Books’ has unearthed this from Public Enemies:

“He [Houellebecq] sees poetry and its subculture as ‘something precious disappearing before our eyes . . . I have seen the poetry sections in bookshops get smaller, seen the poetry collections gutter’; ‘poetry simply has no place any more’. And he is typically unsentimental about the cash-strapped verse-reading circuit and annual claims of a ‘growing appetite’ for poems. Yet he is in no doubt which form is superior: ‘the novel (even in the hands of Dostoevsky, of Balzac, of Proust), in comparison to the poem, remains a minor genre’. In poetry ‘words seem to be surrounded by a radioactive halo. They suddenly find their aura, their essential vibration’ whereas the novel is a mere ‘piece of machinery’; ‘compared to a poet, no novelist has or can ever have a style’.”
Guardian Review, ‘The Week in Books’, 08.01.11, p.5

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