Reply
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

The Absurdist Strain

[ Edited ]
From Sterne's Tristam Shandy to Lewis Carroll's verse, on to the bleaker work of Samuel Beckett, absurdity in literature reflects on a world that has -- for various reasons -- seemed absurd in the eyes of artists of every age.

What "absurdist" works do you account among your favorites? What makes them appealing to you?

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 11-30-200612:01 PM




Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Frequent Contributor
donyskiw
Posts: 578
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

Magical realism comes to mind and I automatically think of South American writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabella Allende.

Denise
Correspondent
willowy
Posts: 148
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain



donyskiw wrote:
Magical realism comes to mind and I automatically think of South American writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabella Allende.

Denise



When I saw this thread I immediately thought of Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well!
-----------Willowy----------
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

[ Edited ]
The book I recommended elsewhere 'City of Laughter : Sex and Satire in 18th Century London' shows some excellent cartoon and print references to 18C literature and is perhaps relevant here. Here are some satirical drawings from Jane Austen and the Regency period (not from the book):-

http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/ppbrokil.html#thumbn

http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/ppbrokil.html#clothsat

http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/rgnclfil.html#men





IlanaSimons wrote:
From Sterne's Tristam Shandy to Lewis Carroll's verse, on to the bleaker work of Samuel Beckett, absurdity in literature reflects on a world that has -- for various reasons -- seemed absurd in the eyes of artists of every age.

What "absurdist" works do you account among your favorites? What makes them appealing to you?

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 11-30-200612:01 PM



Message Edited by Choisya on 12-06-200608:04 AM

Frequent Contributor
Kourt
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

Thank you Choisya. Those links were great. I ws reminded of a course I took in College called the History of Costume. We studied period clothing.
Melissa_W
Posts: 4,123
Topics: 516
Kudos: 1,083
Blog Posts: 3
Ideas: 15
Solutions: 33
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

Even though he's a contemporary writer and they're great fun, Jasper Fforde's novels definitely fall under the heading of "strange stuff". He pulls from so many different genres and borrows characters from every major work of fiction. Fforde even manages to get his digs in at consumerism and totalitarianism.
Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Frequent Contributor
Kourt
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

Melissa I totally agree. I love Jasper Fforde's work's.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain


IlanaSimons wrote:
From Sterne's Tristam Shandy to Lewis Carroll's verse, on to the bleaker work of Samuel Beckett, absurdity in literature reflects on a world that has -- for various reasons -- seemed absurd in the eyes of artists of every age.

What "absurdist" works do you account among your favorites? What makes them appealing to you?

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 11-30-200612:01 PM





I tend to separate out absurdist literature into two basic categories: those that I think are using absurdism for entertainment (such as Fforde, mentioned elsewhere in this thread) and those that I think are using absurdism for serious commentary (in this much larger group I definitely include favorites such as Carroll's Alice books, Don Quixote, Gulliver's Travels, and proabably Tristram Shandy if I ever get around to reading it again with more attention to its sub-messages).
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

Would Gogol (not British, I know) fit in here, Ilana?
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

What a great question, Laurel. Gogol has one foot in realism and one in absurdism—so he’s a really interesting figure. Some people on this board, like Choisya, who have a special interest in Russian literature, should enter in here.

On one hand, I think Gogol is a great example of an “absurdist,” because he states surreal events in deadpan prose. In one of his best known stories, “The Nose,” a man wakes up without a nose, and just keeps on with his life. In parallel, Kafka’s Gregor wakes up in The Metamorphosis as a bug, and tries to just get to work.

But Gogol’s also gone down in history as a great Russian Realist, because he focused on social problems. He tried to accurately portray class struggle. He tried to make literature true to proletariat reality and assumed an absurd style to get there.

A neat little detail about his absurd side, taken from Gary Saul Morson in The New Criterion: “Even Gogol’s name was fictitious, a sort of natural pseudonym. The family name was Yanovsky, but when Catherine the Great decreed that only hereditary gentry could own serfs, Gogol’s Ukrainian grandfather invented a noble ancestor, Hohol (in Russian, Gogol) and changed his name to Gogol-Yanovsky, which was Gogol’s name until he dropped the real part. His mother, who was eighteen when Gogol was born, came to believe that her son had invented just about everything, including the steamboat and the railroad.”



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

This is so interesting, Ilana! Thank you. (Gogol's mother sounds like some of James Thurber's relatives.)



IlanaSimons wrote:
What a great question, Laurel. Gogol has one foot in realism and one in absurdism—so he’s a really interesting figure. Some people on this board, like Choisya, who have a special interest in Russian literature, should enter in here.

On one hand, I think Gogol is a great example of an “absurdist,” because he states surreal events in deadpan prose. In one of his best known stories, “The Nose,” a man wakes up without a nose, and just keeps on with his life. In parallel, Kafka’s Gregor wakes up in The Metamorphosis as a bug, and tries to just get to work.

But Gogol’s also gone down in history as a great Russian Realist, because he focused on social problems. He tried to accurately portray class struggle. He tried to make literature true to proletariat reality and assumed an absurd style to get there.

A neat little detail about his absurd side, taken from Gary Saul Morson in The New Criterion: “Even Gogol’s name was fictitious, a sort of natural pseudonym. The family name was Yanovsky, but when Catherine the Great decreed that only hereditary gentry could own serfs, Gogol’s Ukrainian grandfather invented a noble ancestor, Hohol (in Russian, Gogol) and changed his name to Gogol-Yanovsky, which was Gogol’s name until he dropped the real part. His mother, who was eighteen when Gogol was born, came to believe that her son had invented just about everything, including the steamboat and the railroad.”


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

IlanaSimons wrote:

What a great question, Laurel.Gogol has one foot in realism and one in absurdism—so he’s a really interesting figure. Some people on this board, like Choisya, who have a special interest in Russian literature, should enter in here.

On one hand, I think Gogol is a great example of an “absurdist,” because he states surreal events in deadpan prose. In one of his best known stories, “The Nose,” a man wakes up without a nose, and just keeps on with his life. In parallel, Kafka’s Gregor wakes up in The Metamorphosis as a bug, and tries to just get to work.

But Gogol’s also gone down in history as a great Russian Realist, because he focused on social problems. He tried to accurately portray class struggle. He tried to make literature true to proletariat reality and assumed an absurd style to get there.


Although I am an admirer of Gogol, particularly Dead Souls, I find him extremely depressing, which isn't surprising because he was a depressive who ended up as a religious maniac:smileysad: Life for him, as for Kafka, was so painful that the only way he could make sense of it was to treat everything as being absurd, even life itself. The realism and pain is always there in the absurd - which of us cannot see the ridiculous side of life even in the midst of grief? How often do we say 'If I didn't laugh at such-and-such I would cry'? Cartoonists make a fortune out of showing us the absurd in the most tragic of situations, especially war, and like Pagliacci, we laugh in the face of tragedy. So, for me, absurdism is realism.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

I'll take the thread of the first part of your statement. Kafka and Gogol as sad people. I think this is true. Beckett also comes to mind. They have a distancing aesthetic. Kafka and Beckett suck a humane situation dry into a sort of mathematical or abstract impossibility. They’re literary ascetics—and were also very skinny men. I think the prose (which I DO love) is itself anorexic, leaving out the luscious part of life outside the book.



Choisya wrote:
IlanaSimons wrote:

What a great question, Laurel.Gogol has one foot in realism and one in absurdism—so he’s a really interesting figure. Some people on this board, like Choisya, who have a special interest in Russian literature, should enter in here.

On one hand, I think Gogol is a great example of an “absurdist,” because he states surreal events in deadpan prose. In one of his best known stories, “The Nose,” a man wakes up without a nose, and just keeps on with his life. In parallel, Kafka’s Gregor wakes up in The Metamorphosis as a bug, and tries to just get to work.

But Gogol’s also gone down in history as a great Russian Realist, because he focused on social problems. He tried to accurately portray class struggle. He tried to make literature true to proletariat reality and assumed an absurd style to get there.


Although I am an admirer of Gogol, particularly Dead Souls, I find him extremely depressing, which isn't surprising because he was a depressive who ended up as a religious maniac:smileysad: Life for him, as for Kafka, was so painful that the only way he could make sense of it was to treat everything as being absurd, even life itself. The realism and pain is always there in the absurd - which of us cannot see the ridiculous side of life even in the midst of grief? How often do we say 'If I didn't laugh at such-and-such I would cry'? Cartoonists make a fortune out of showing us the absurd in the most tragic of situations, especially war, and like Pagliacci, we laugh in the face of tragedy. So, for me, absurdism is realism.





Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Absurdist Anorexia

[ Edited ]
What a great description, Ilana! Perhaps Isaiah Berlin would call them skinny hedgehogs. It can be very deadening to a person's soul to allow only one perspective to life.


IlanaSimons wrote:
I'll take the thread of the first part of your statement. Kafka and Gogol as sad people. I think this is true. Beckett also comes to mind. They have a distancing aesthetic. Kafka and Beckett suck a humane situation dry into a sort of mathematical or abstract impossibility. They’re literary ascetics—and were also very skinny men. I think the prose (which I DO love) is itself anorexic, leaving out the luscious part of life outside the book.



Choisya wrote:
IlanaSimons wrote:

What a great question, Laurel.Gogol has one foot in realism and one in absurdism—so he’s a really interesting figure. Some people on this board, like Choisya, who have a special interest in Russian literature, should enter in here.

On one hand, I think Gogol is a great example of an “absurdist,” because he states surreal events in deadpan prose. In one of his best known stories, “The Nose,” a man wakes up without a nose, and just keeps on with his life. In parallel, Kafka’s Gregor wakes up in The Metamorphosis as a bug, and tries to just get to work.

But Gogol’s also gone down in history as a great Russian Realist, because he focused on social problems. He tried to accurately portray class struggle. He tried to make literature true to proletariat reality and assumed an absurd style to get there.


Although I am an admirer of Gogol, particularly Dead Souls, I find him extremely depressing, which isn't surprising because he was a depressive who ended up as a religious maniac:smileysad: Life for him, as for Kafka, was so painful that the only way he could make sense of it was to treat everything as being absurd, even life itself. The realism and pain is always there in the absurd - which of us cannot see the ridiculous side of life even in the midst of grief? How often do we say 'If I didn't laugh at such-and-such I would cry'? Cartoonists make a fortune out of showing us the absurd in the most tragic of situations, especially war, and like Pagliacci, we laugh in the face of tragedy. So, for me, absurdism is realism.




Message Edited by Laurel on 12-09-200602:16 PM

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain



IlanaSimons wrote:
I'll take the thread of the first part of your statement. Kafka and Gogol as sad people. I think this is true. Beckett also comes to mind. They have a distancing aesthetic. Kafka and Beckett suck a humane situation dry into a sort of mathematical or abstract impossibility. They’re literary ascetics—and were also very skinny men. I think the prose (which I DO love) is itself anorexic, leaving out the luscious part of life outside the book.

Yes, in that sense the prose is very like Austen but unlike Austen, all these authors deal with the social problems of their time and, despite their pain, face those problems head on. I had not made the connection with them being skinny and possibly anorexic but it is a good point. I think all of them might question whether there was a luscious side to life since they always wrote from the depths of the darkest part of their souls. Their lives outside of their books was also drear:smileysad: (Beckett less so, perhaps, and his work is therefore somewhat lighter.)
Frequent Contributor
prince_alfie
Posts: 43
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Absurdist Strain

Lately that would be the works of Michael Houellebecq and Celine and Frederic Beigbeder... all of whom are rather wonderful writers in their own rights. French absurdity is very elegant.
Top Kudoed Authors
User Kudos Count
1
1
Users Online
Currently online:54 members 434 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: