Friday, May 18, 2007

harold brodkey

Following Saul Bellow there's another great american writer that hasn't been widely read. Or at least, not totally accepted as the Nobel Laureate: Harold Brodkey. When I started reading 'The runanway soul', I just couldn't believe that what he was describing was the very neighbourhood in which I was living: The Loop in St. Louis. With the same trees, the same buildings, even some vintage stores, so that was a real kick to keep on reading this novel of about 900 pages. (The Spanish translation, 'El alma fugitiva' is also available in Publishing House Anagrama).

So Brodkey is a rare case. In his own words, "to be possibly not only the best living writer in English, but someone who could be the rough equivalent of a Wordsworth or a Milton, is not a role that a half-way educated Jew from St. Louis is prepared to play."

Critics were harsh to the novel, because of its autobiographical quality (His alter ego, Wiley Silenowicz comments on his difficult childhood --he was actually adopted--, his disgust for his adopted sister, and his androgynous behaviour), its postmodern strategies, and its blunt language and slang. ('Catcher in the rye' seems a nursery rhyme compared to this). Some consider his prose too impenetrable and excessive in its sexual descriptions. For instance:

''The alluring, imaginarily dimensioned dementia of meaning tucked into the animal bribe with its hint of favorable apocalypse: I have to fight it off, this sense that the conclusion is ALL. Masturbation is nutty with idealism, with hallucinations, with self- induced finalities...'The not- stayingness of pleasure hurts oracularly-and intimately.''

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