Stikkordarkiv: Harold Bloom

Om den østerriske forfatteren Robert Musils forfatterskap og filosofi

«Indeed, nothing about Musil is easy.» (Robert Kimball)

Den østeriske forfatteren Robert Musil ble født i 1880 og døde i 1942.

Han gjorde suksess som forfatter med boken ‘Den unge Tørless’ som kom ut i 1906; senere  arbeidet han størsteparten av sitt liv som skribent og journalist der han skrev en rekke bokanmeldelser og essayer om samtidens kultur.

Fra 1924 til sin død i 1942 av hjerneblødning, typisk nok mens han bedrev morgengymnastikk, arbeidet han på sin store ufullførte roman ’Mannen uten egenskaper’. Musils hovedverk ble aldri fullført, og kom ut bindvis i 1930, 1931 og 1943. Denne boken regnes i dag som blant de største romaner som overhodet er skrevet på det tyske språk. Musil sa selv at formålet med romanen er å gi en slags hjelp i det å forstå og kunne komme overens med den moderne virkeligheten.

Hanna Hickman sier i ‘Robert Musil og Wien-kulturen‘ (1984) om boken at:

books (2)omomo«Den representerer intet mindre enn forsøket på å kartlegge det mulige livet til et sant Moderne Menneske, en som har befridd seg selv fra alle begrensningene i samfunnet, religion og konvensjoner, som har gjort brede studier, tenkt dypt og som søker å utforme livet sitt ut fra fornuftens logikk og følelser på en og samme tid.»

Musil brukte sin kreative energi på å forstå hva Europas krise og det det europeiske menneske gjorde med seg selv og gjorde seg selv til både i ‘Mannen uten egenskaper’, men også i en serie av skarpsindige essays som er samlet på engelsk under den treffende tittelen ‘Presisjon og sjel’,  og i nylig oversatt notater med tittelen ‘Dagbøker 1899-1941.’

Musil forsøkte å forene sitt syn på hvorledes vårt sinn fungerer og hvordan vi fungerer psykologisk og personlig med en gjennomtenkt etisk referanseramme for å leve et riktig liv. For Musil er det levde personlige livet ikke en ferdigpakket sekvens av handlinger og ideer som følger etter hverandre, men et flytende vev som endrer seg fra et minutt til det neste, og der ideer og handlinger ikke kan skjelnes fra følelser og fornemmelser. I bøkene og essayene ønsker Musil å engasjere oss på direkte måter i den moderne kulturens utfordringer og problemer. Språket og vårt forhold til språket er sentralt for Musil, det er primært referensielt men samtidig viser det på en mysteriøs måte utover den empiriske virkeligheten. Musils mål er å hjelpe moderne menensker til forandringer slik at våre ideer og verdier avspeiler våre liv i en moderne verden, og ikke utslitte og utbrukte ideer og verdier fra tidligere århundrer. Han vil hjelpe oss til å finne frem til presisjon i vår omgang med sjelen eller i ting som handler om sjelen.

Samfunnsorden og avvik

» Vi har fastslått at respektable mennesker er dypt tiltrukket av kriminalitet, men selvfølgelig bare i sin fantasi. Vi kan legge til at kriminelle, når vi hører dem snakke, nesten uten unntak ville like å bli betraktet som respektable mennesker. Slik vi kan komme fram til en definisjon: Forbrytelser er den fortettede formen, blant syndere, av alt det andre mennesker tar ut i små uregelmessigheter, i fantasien sin og i utallige smålige hverdagslige handlinger og holdninger preget av skadefryd og ondskap. Vi kunne også si: Forbrytelser ligger i luften og søker bare minste motstands vei, som leder dem til bestemte personer. Vi kan si at mens de er handlinger til individer som er ute av stand til å oppføre seg moralsk, er de i hovedsak fortettede uttrykk for en slags generell menneskelig mistilpasning der skillet mellom det gode og det onde står på spill.»

fotomusilMennesket uten egenskaper

Musil skriver om denne moderne typen:

«His appearance gives no clue to what his profession might be, and yet he doesn’t look like a man without a profession either. He always knows what to do. He knows how to gaze into a woman’s eyes. He can put his mind to any question at any time. He can box. He is gifted, strong-willed, open-minded, fearless, tenacious, dashing, circumspect—why quibble, suppose we grant him all those qualities—yet he has none of them! They have made him what he is, they have set his course for him, and yet they don’t belong to him. When he is angry, something in him laughs. When he is sad, he is up to something. When something moves him, he turns against it. He’ll always see a good side to every bad action. What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context—nothing is, to him, what it is: everything is subject to change, in flux, part of a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a super-whole that, however, he knows nothing about.»

Litteraturliste:

Amman, Klaus (2007), Robert Musil – Literatur und Politik, mit einer Neuedition ausgewählter politischer Schriften aus dem Nachlass , Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag.

Bloom, Harold, (ed.) (2005), Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities, Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.

Böhme, Hartmut (1974), Anomie und Entfremdung: Literatursoziologische Untersuchungen zu den Essays Robert Musils und seinem Roman “Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften”, Kronberg/Taunus: Scriptor.

Bringazi, Friedrich (1998), Robert Musil und die Mythen der Nation, Nationalismus als Ausdruck subjektiver Identitätsdefekte , Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Karl Corino: Robert Musil. Eine Biographie. Rowohlt-Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2003.

Corino, Karl (1988), Robert Musil, Leben und Werk in Bildern und Texten, Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag.

Dinklage, Karl (ed.) (1960), Robert Musil; Leben, Werk, Wirkung, Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag.

Dresler-Brumme, Charlotte (1986), Nietzsches Philosophie in Musils Roman “Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften” , Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum.

Fanta, Walter (2000), Die Entstehungsgeschichte des “Mann ohne Eigenschaften” von Robert Musil , Wien: Bohlau.

Freed, Mark M. (2007), Robert Musil’s other postmodernism: essayismus, textual subjectivity, and the philosophical discourse of modernity , in Comparative literature studies, Vol.44, No.3, p. 231-253.

—— (2011), Robert Musil and the nonmodern, New York/London: Continuum.

Jonsson, Stefan (2000), Subject without nation; Robert Musil and the history of modern identity , Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Herbert Kraft: Musil. Zsolnay-Verlag, Wien 2003.

Luft, David S. (1980), Robert Musil and the crisis of European culture 1880-1942, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

—— (2003), Eros and inwardness in Vienna: Weininger, Musil, Doderer, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Martens, Gunther (1999) Ein Text ohne Ende für den Denkenden, Zum Verhältnis von Literatur und Philosophie in Robert Musils Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften , Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Paris, Wien: Peter Lang.

McBride, Patrizia C. (2000), On the utility of art for politics: Musil’s “Armed truce of ideas”, The German Quarterly, vol.73, No.4, pp.366-386.

—— (2006),The void of ethics, Robert Musil and the experience of modernity, Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Mehigan, Tim (2003), The critical response to Robert Musil’s The man without qualities, Rochester, NY: Camden House.

Müller, Götz (1972), Ideologiekritik und Metasprache in Robert Musils Roman ‘Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften’ , München: Salzburg.

Neymehr, Barbara; (2005), Psychologie als Kulturdiagnose, Musils Epochenroman Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften , Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter.

Roth, Marie-Louise (1972), Robert Musil, Ethik und Ästhetik, Zum theoretischen Werk des Dichters , München: Pauls List Verlag.

Sebastian, Thomas (2005), The intersection of science and literature in Musil’s The Man without Qualities , Rochester and Suffolk, Camden House.

Shin, Jiyoung (2008), Der “bewusste Utopismus” im Mann ohne Eigenschaften von Robert Musil , Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

Some personal notes on the writer Cormac McCarthy, his books and his ‘philosophy’

Written by Einar Lunga

«I don’t intend my books for the generality of readers. I count it a mistake of our mistaken democracy, that every man who can read print is allowed to believe that he can read all that is printed. I count it a misfortune that serious books are exposed in the public market, like slaves exposed naked for sale. But there we are, since we live in an age of mistaken democracy, we must go through with it»./“Jeg har ikke tenkt at mine bøker er for massen av lesere. Jeg regner det som en feil ved vårt misforståtte demokrati, at alle som kan lese det som er trykt tillater seg å tro at de kan lese alt som skrives. Jeg regner det som en ulykke at seriøse bøker blir  eksponert i det offentlige markedet, som slaver som blir eksponert nakne for salg.” (D.H. Lawrence: Forward to “Fantasia of the Unconscious”)

 

167815_1784544290294_6765353_nForeword: «Reading is as important for me as seeing; or, reading is a life changing function for me. It even transforms my brain and makes it a different kind of brain; without access to reading I believe I would feel like those strange eyeless fishes and worms living in deep dark caves of the underworld. Through reading my eyes also become something much more than normal eyes; yes, more like the eyes of an eagle, sailing through the skies and seeing everything down on the flat earth from high up in the heavens. Reading makes my eyes like all-seeing spiritual eyes; and even if there is a lot of things I would not like to suffer from I would never want to suffer from some kind of spiritual blindness. So; to celebrate the endless gifts I am given by reading; every new year, I decide for myself who to me is the most important writer that year. Most important, that is, the writer who for a moment can give me back my newborn eyes and teach me both to see again, and even to be a little blind again, but in new ways. To find such a writer is my version of going into the desert to visit a holy man, and It is also my own personal reader’s Nobel price in litterature. Sometimes it is hard work to find just what I am looking for, as you all know there is a lot of writing souls and sellers out there to choose from.

escherIn 2006 I never was in any doubt about who it was; I had by then started to read Cormac McCarthy. It was like coming home, like waking up some unknown part of myself who had been sleeping through all my years. I read all his books. The world became a different place, I myself became another type of person. I read these books with immense enjoyment, I read them first in english and then in norwegian language and all the time I had this feeling that ‘I am learning something from this author’. To read the McCarthy books became an important part of my ongoing self education.

I also started to read some of the academic studies on his writing. It is still going on, I have met other writers in the meantime but I still read McCarthy today, 7 years later. We all support ourselves through having and making friends, and the writer Cormac McCarthy has become a close friend of mine, through his books he is frequently revisiting my place and my house. I recently reread his ‘Blood meridian‘ partly to test if he still is a friend of mine with something to tell –  unsuprisingly it was like reading a new book for the first time.

And so I can hear you ask: What about my eyes, what have reading him done to my eyes…the answer is that they now work almost like they did for me as a child…I can ‘see’…»

Introduction

To say something about the american writer Cormac McCarthy and his books, is inevitable to say something about a part of the earth that has dominated and redesigned human and animal existence through the last hundred years and more; the mysterious American society and lifeform.  This society broke through in history like some strange and evolutionary sucessful animal and brought forward some new versions of human behavior and what it means to be human. As we all know, this evolutionary process is still ging on all over the place, there are americans doing all kind of business all over the world. There even is ‘an american in me’ doing business with the human soul.

For most of his writing life, Cormac McCarthy was a paradigmatical silent and invisible author trying to register and articulate the deepest voices and messages coming out of his own society. Steven Frye (2013) summarizes this image of McCarthy;

«He embodies but redefines the common notion of the artist as outsider. “

That is, as a genuine writing human used to be in former times; and as far as possible should go on being even in our attention craving times. Too much social attention and publicity in the here-and-now will for sure deform or even destroy every author’s intrinsical authencity and rootedness in his social landscape.

The recent example of the norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård is a telling story and a sad warning: If you want to be an author, you have to avoid or limit exposure to social attention. Knausgård’s greediness for attention and the medias greediness for everything that has attentive potential has without any doubt degraded the state of his extremely talented and promising writing. But we all know, if you start sellling your love to everyone, your love will soon be valueless to most people. Success and to much social attention creates a kind of quicksand that one can’t get out of and that slowly strangles the writers genuine voice.  When I have a look at my bookshelves, I even have started to feel a little embarrassed when I see the thick row of 6 Knausgård volumes.

McCarthy should know everything about this most basic quicksand law of the connection between attention and modern authorship. It seems that to be considered a seriously author and writer, you have to behave towards your writing in a virtuous way. That is precisely what Cormac McCarthy did most of his life.

For years, Cormac McCarthy was deeply occupied with generating hos own ideas and composing texts, plain and simple. He was doing the thing that mattered most to him; writing one book after the other in a gradually more selfmade language and style. He came up with books where a lot always was unsaid and where the unsaid was as essential and important as what was said and expressed. He wrote books that few people knew about and fewer people read and even fewer people admired and liked them. For such a writer the best book is always a book no one has read because it is still to be written.

Then something happened. Very fast, it seems from a distance. The monster of limitless publicity and then celebrity attacked the lonely author; like a greedy predator. Now everything is absolutely different. Our all too human greed for money and social attention caught up with the author McCarthy in the usual limitless hunt for a profitable victim. People who never thought of just reading his texts started to strangle and kill his books – one after the other- through making Oscarmonstrous stylish action movies in the most tasteless american style where more than everything is said and much more than everything is shown. After seeing one of those movies no one has left any wish for reading the book. The piece of art with endless open possibilities that the book was meant to be is stone dead and gone. Every new year to come this poor american writer will be loosing the Nobel litterature price again and again. In times like these, how can a poor genuine author survive and continue to be the only thing that once mattered for him, a creative author? The pathology of our modern pursuit of attention is an American pathology; Derber (2000) describes is like this:

«The pursuit of attention is now emerging as one of the electric organizing principles of American life. Not only are people pursuing attention in new ways, but there is evidence that we have begun to restructure our cultur – including even our politics and economy – around the idea of attention as a glittering ultimate recognition and reward. Celebrities are the icons, but the pursuit of attention is now being diffused and institutionalized, hardwired into our beings through new systems of media, business, and technology, and fueled by new aching deprivations that prey on our psyches. The result is a spreading virus of prosaic but dehumanizing behavior that subtly alienates us from one another and turns daily interaction into a veiled competition for recognition and respect.»

But ouside this pathology of attention, Cormac McCarthy is still a writer. The leading american literary critic Harold Bloom some years ago considered Cormac McCarthy to be one of the four major modern American novelists. He mentions him along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth. McCarthys writing has often been compared to such central figures in american litteraure as William Faulkner and Herman Melville.

There is now a fast growing corpus of views and interpretations of Cormac McCarthy’s novels and their different aspects. The presence of brutal and unexplainable violence and evil are something that provokes many of his readers, but is at the same time very characteristic of McCarthys image of human life. Critics focus both on his views on the role of violence in the history of the human animal; that it is an atavistic trait that is always with us – never far away- civilization or not. Others focus more on ‘American violence’ or the important place that voilence  has in american history into our time; from the conquest of the West and thereafter a long sequence of very violent wars and interventions. Especially the Vietnam war did much to connect the american way of life to violence and domination. Americans has not much doubt about themselves when it comes to using violence, they have gone to their wars  ‘with God on our side’.

I do not believe it is an adequate way to understand the picture of human violence in McCarthys writing by regarding it as a sort of commentary on real episodes of violence og a sort of psychological theory of violence. It is never only concrete acts of violence he is showing us. It is violence as an aspect and part of a much more terrible nonrational darkness that goes with being human. From my viewpoint, his books are without doubt the best modern literary interpretation of something like a Schopenhauerian pessimistic view on the painful hopeless project of a human life in this hostile universe.

As he says himself about the dark side of living:

«The greatest litterature enables us to look into the very heart of darkness by making of the intolerable a thing of beauty».

«The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow.»

«Words of wisdom are spoken without conviction and with no long-lasting effect»….

A little about his biography

The american author Cormac McCarthy was born on july 20, 1933, on Rhode Island. He was given the name Charles after his father, but later he renamed himself Cormac after an Irish King. Cormac is the Gaelic equivalent of «son of Charles». In 1937 his family moved to Knoxville, Tennesse. He spent most of his childhood near Knoxville – and this is where many of his novels are set. He was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic High School in Knoxville. Later he studied at the University of Tennessee in 1951-52. where his major was liberal arts. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1953; and stayed for four years, two of them he was stationed in Alaska where he was host in a radio show. In 1976 he moved to El Paso, Texas, where he lives today. McCarthy’s writings mirrors his movement from the Southeast to the West — the first four novels being set in Tennessee, the last three about happenings in the Southwestern Texas and Mexico. The 1985 ‘Blood meridian’ novel represents a shift in the setting of his writings, to the southwest. His books are therefore divided into the «Appalachian Period» and the «Southwestern Period»

Cormac McCarthys books, and generally on his writing
Cormac McCarthy; ‘this immensely talented novelist’; is among the last honest american writers. It seems as difficult to write honestly as it is to live honestly in USA. Different highly developed styles and sorts of organized and group supported lying and cheating has become the dominating societal norm. This is not a big secret anymore, even if most people find it very difficult to accept. As David Callahan shows in his revealing book “ The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead”, it is a modern societal epidemic. Everybody is cheating. As actors and players in american or increasingly american influenced social life, we are continually forced or persuaded to cheat and lie. After a while without knowing much about it ourselves. When the greed for money, success and social status and acceptance become so much more important as dominating social values, than honesty and compassion…..the only thing that keeps us from lying is the juridical system….and that is not concerned about our daily social living. Many of us had a hope that this could change with Obama as president; one of his strong individual characteristics seems to be his will to honesty and authenticity. He was regarded as almost saintlike…..so with him there could be new hope for the american society….And after some years living in  the shadow of president Barak Obama we all know the paradoxical truth; in America honesty can be worse than a honest lie.

In the passing I think it is also right to say that this expasion of social lying and deceiving systems are also something happening in Norway….and in most other western societies..as we are all heavily influenced from what is going on over there….

It seems that Cormac McCarthy has managed to live his life, and write his books, without becoming too much involved in the ususal and well accepted systems of lying in his society.

He has proved both through how he has lived his own life, and through his series of books, that he is a honest and authentic writer…..shunning all the accepted vulgarities of greedy selfpromotion….not looking for and running after all those money rewards, social attention and forms of success and status, or anything else modern americans are so unshamely and limitless greedy for. He is making gothic stories of ‘terrible beauty’, telling things he thinks is important about our human destiny and possibilites…and that is not very uplifting….describing ‘a humanity that differs only in degree from the rest of the animal world’, and showing «the powerlessness of humanity to withstand the powers of natural mutability»….

In McCarthys writing there is an ‘abscence of vision’….as he says himself..»I don’t know why I started writing. I don’t know why anybody does it. Maybe they’re bored, or failures at something else.»

And as if playing a basic Schopenhauerian tune…..he says:

«If people saw the world for what it truly is. Saw their lives for what they truly are. Without dreams or illusions. I don’t believe they could offer the first reason why they should not elect to die as soon as possible.»

The orchard keeper (1965)

This is his first book, often somewhat underestimated…it is said to be part of his socalled triology of primitivism….containing his first three books…all with central characters who are animallike hominoid primitives with only a rudimentary facility with culture or language…in contrast to their creator. The early novels are said to be more about sin or «evil as a tendency within human beings, perhaps even as the essence of human beings»…

Outer dark (1968)

The basically homeless principal characters in this environment of malignity –

«I dont live nowheres no more» – are lost «an outer dark of incest, murder, infanticide and cannibalism»….. «Night fell long and cool through the woods about him and a spectral quietude set in. As if something were about that crickets and nightbirds held in dread….trees beginning to close him in, malign and baleful shapes that reared like enormous androids provoked at the alien insubstantiality of this flesh colliding among them.”

«Before him stretched a spectral waste out of which reared only the naked trees in attitudes of agony and dimly hominoid like figures in a landscape of the damned. A faintly smoking garden of the dead that tended away to the earth’s curve. He tried his foot in the mire before him and it rose in a vulvate welt claggy and sucking. He stepped back. A stale wind blew from this desolation and the marsh reeds and black ferns among which he clashed softly like things chained. He wondered why a road should come to such a place.»

Child of God (Norsk utgave: 2006)

It has been said about this book; «it is not a consummated work of art, but an affront on decency on every level»

Suttree (1979)

This book, with Cornelius Suttree as a sort of dropout hero, is different in many ways from the earlier books ; one reason is that McCarty began Suttree before his first three published novels. «In the context of so many religious images in Suttree (-), I suggest that Meister Eckhart, the greatest of the medieval mystics, offers insight into both the mysteries of Suttree and perhaps into McCarthy’s oeuvre.» (John Rothfork, «Redemption as Language in Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree,» Christianity and Literature 53, no. 3 (2004)) Sut, the books main character, lives in «a world within the world», ‘a surrealistic dreamworld that exist outside the realm of reason’, a world that is peopled by society’s most marginal figures, the «ill-shapen or black or deranged, fugitive of all order, strangers in everyland», a «fellowship of the doomed»….and if those figures are lost in this world, they are not more at home in the next…»I always figured they was a God, I just never did like him», says one illshapen hominoid. At his son’s grave Suttree wonders, «What could a child know of the darkness of God’s plan? Or how flesh is so frail it is hardly more than a dream»……»they were moving as if to shape the dark to some purpose»…»there is just us, in the grip of no power save those of the words we happen to speak», «sometimes I dont know what people’s lives are for»

-Suttree dreams of the Last Judgment:

«Mr. Suttree[,] it is our understanding [that you squandered your] years in the company of thieves, derelicts, miscreants, pariahs, poltroons, spalpeens, curmudgeons, clotpolls, murderers, gamblers, bawds, whores, trulls, brigands, topers, tosspots, sots and archsots, lobcocks, smell-smocks, runagates, rakes, and other assorted and felonious debauchees.» In his defense, and without even asking to consult a dictionary, Suttree says: «I was drunk.»

Blood meridian (1985)/Blodmeridianen (norsk 2010)

«the alpha and omega of the novel of violence»:

It is also said of some to be the greatest american novel, compared to ‘Moby Dick’. In 2006 it was ranked as the third best american novel in in New York Times.

Haroald Bloom once he called Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian the ultimate Western: “It culminates all the aesthetic potential that Western fiction can have.  I don’t think that anyone can hope to improve on it, that it essentially closes out the tradition.”

Human violence is very basic in McCarthys thought on human life: as he says himself :

«There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed, . . . I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.» (quoted in Woodward, Richard B. «Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction.» The New York Times Magazine, 19 April 1992)

«Blood Meridian received practically no recogniction and remains a novel that few Americans have ever heard of and fewer still have read.» -  This is McCarthys most controversial and polarizing novel; – described as «a novelization of Pekingpah’s west» – it is, as one critic writes, «the alpha and omega of the novel of violence. It is not a novel about violence. It is not a novel in which violence is incidental. It is not a novel in which violence is central. It is violence, period.»-»It is not a story for the squeamish, least of all for the philosophically squeamish. But it compels us to call forth from ourselves a capacity for understanding evil that the various meanings of our lives otherwise cause to be suppressed»(Bell)

«Blood Meridian sings hymns of violence, is gorgeous language commemorating slaughter in all it sumptuousness and splendor»(Steven Shaviro)

One of the epigraphs to Blood Meridian is taken from Jacob Boehme, renders this point metaphysical by saying that Boehme emphasized the notion of God as being or atman, so that «all human beings are fundamentally only one man» (222-23).

He explains that «Boehme described the Deity’s mystical essence as the ‘Ungrund’ (the ‘unground’), implying both nothingness and all, that which in being everything is equally an incomprehensible ‘No thing’» (224).

McCarthy’s tale about the moral landscape of the Southwest-frontier world is a tale about «fight with fists, with feet, with bottles or knives. All races, all breeds. Men whose speech sounds like the grunting of apes» «For the earth is a globe in the void and [in] truth there’s no up nor down to it»…. McCarthys central point in this book is the pervasiveness of human evil; and it was never historical figures like Stalin or the nazis who invented the limitless and banality of human evil. The novel’s extreme brutality and naked bloody violence has been compared to a «slap in the face» to readers living a domesticated modern life, cut off from the basic rawness and brutality of life.

As always in his writing, McCarthy is giving us a scene of human action, feeling and thinking reduced to somebasic parameters; here is no easy hiding away, no false comforts, no modern lies about inborn or institutionalized human kindness, peacefulness and friendfulness……we are not just the peaceful social persons we think we are – we are, as terrible as it seems – given to this world and to other beings as this monstrosity of a being, an anthropoid or a hominoid, yes, …a terrible and frightening sort of animal….and there is nothing called human progress…..we are as we are…..a potential plague…..

«A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets . . . and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.»

«The following evening as they rode up onto the western rim they lost one of the mules. It went skittering off down the canyon wall with the contents of the panniers exploding soundlessly in the hot dry air and it fell through sunlight and through shade, turning in that lonely void until it fell from sight into a sink of cold blue space that absolved it forever of memory in the mind of any living thing that was.»

As readers of ‘Blood meridian’ -

«We are called to no responsibility, and we may lay claim to no transcendence. Blood Meridian is not a salvation narrative; we can be rescued neither by faith nor by works not by grace»……. (Steven Shaviro)

All the pretty horses: 1992

«If you dont have the money to buy it, or a library where you can borrow it, so go out and steal it», said a norwegian critic on this book. ‘All the pretty horses’ won two amercan literature prices in 1992 – The American National Book Award og National Book Critics Circle Award.

Not a country for old men (2005)

«evil is real, and evil walks this earth like a natural man.»

‘Not a country’ is not a very good book; but it is impressive in what it tries to explore.

This is in a way a story about human fate and choice, as can be said in just one sentence:

«Everything you do closes a door somewhere ahead…»

As McCarthy writes :

“Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. I had no belief in your ability to move a coin to your bidding. How could you? A person’s path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning.”

But of course, it is also about our greed for money, power, dominance – and a little about how impossible it is to be good, to carry the light………what we still has to do as a necessity…because the alternative is an existence no one of us would want to have.

The Road, 2006/2009 ‘Veien’ in norwegian)

«The Road paints a world of the darkest fears of the current American subconscious.» (Emily Lane, 2010)

«A few weeks ago I read what I believe is the most important environmental book ever written. It is not Silent Spring, Small Is Beautiful or even Walden. It contains no graphs, no tables, no facts, figures, warnings, predictions or even arguments. Nor does it carry a single dreary sentence, which, sadly, distinguishes it from most environmental literature. It is a novel, first published a year ago, and it will change the way you see the world.» (George Monbiot, 2007)

 

McCarthys siste bok gjør sterkt inntrykk på leserne, som bør være foreberedte før de går i gang med lesningen -

«Any prospective reader of this book must be of sound mind and body when they begin, or the effects on them could be catastrophic.» («A Nightmare Vision of the Fall of Mankind,» The Evening Standard (London, England), 6 November 2006, 37) ‘

McCarthys siste bok er endelig ute på norsk….bare løp til bokhandelen, kjøp boken selv om den koster 349 kr, og nyt å lese og bli inntatt av denne teksten, du vil møte et språk og en fortelling og en stemning som erobrer deg og ditt tanke, ditt sinn…med bilder, følelser, uttrykk og ord -og en intens visjon og forestilling om vår verden, om tiden, før-nå-senere, om oss mennesker og om menneskepesten, og om våre muligheter for det gode og det onde, om vårt liv i mørke og det sårbare etterlengtete lyset…som vi kan velge å la brenne i oss, vise veien….men for en vei…..

The road is his latest book; published in english in 2006…the norwegian translation is scheduled for sept. 2008……and is out just now…run to the bookstore….

The movie version expected late 2008…I have low expectations for that….I dotn see how such a copymovie can make things more clear…..but you never know…..

The road is so far McCarthys most debated novel….it is clearly a book that is making a very strong impression on readers, all over the world….

J.A. Gray comments ironically that -

«the Road is McCarthy at his most «pedestrian»….and truly, this is in a way book on the art of human walking. So, it is true in another way than Gray means to tell us…, the story in the book is basically a last walk; a father and a child wandering as a pair of lonely and lost pilgrims towards something we as humans call ‘the south’, but as we learn, such places are meaningless outside our imagination and human ways …..or rather, as we brutally wake up from our human dream state…we find that everything is always just another part of a potentially totally hellish landscape …there is no salvation, no paradise, no escape….we are all the way walking through a gray and cold postapocalyptic wasteland. The Road is a true psychological or antropological pilgrimage, a pilgrims progress that is in reality a regress…..we are walking trough a wasteland into nothingness….. together with a truly damned human race. ‘Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before’ – with no other intention than just staying alive, keeping alive; and thinking about what one is willing to do to keep alive. The father keeps a pistol with two deadly bullets in case….there is nowhere to go for McCarthys modern pilgrims; what shall we as readers look for – «Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.»

«The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night.»

In ‘The Road’ McCarthy is taking his basic and reductive Schopenhauerian vision and philosophy of human life – «human beings are the tortured souls (-) and the devils» – he has partly taken over from or in a literary way developed further from Faulkner and Melville, and he is going one step further…a decisive step that is……as he is writing he succeds in letting us see and feel what this world is about, what living is about…when one wants to see through ‘the veil of Maya’….What do we see ? As McCarthy is saying: «If people saw the world for what it truly is. Saw their lives for what they truly are. Without dreams or illusions. I don’t believe they could offer the first reason why they should not elect to die as soon as possible.»…….or in Schopenhauers pessimistic philosophy…..the best would be not to be born……but….we are……are’nt we ? So we have to learn to live this impossible life….and to do that we have to be honest…..and McCarthy is helping us to be honest….as he is giving us versions of human living reduced to basic parameters….taking away our blindfolds…showing us that what we fear, the sorts of living we dont want to live……The road is therefore a very important book about human life as a desperate pilgrimage with no happy ending, with no soultion, without a future…the terrible fact is that sooner or later this book is going to be the truth…..we are all of us walking on ‘this road’ ……he us showing us…where we are going, what will be coming…….so, the best would be not to be born…….but we are…..

“There is no prophet in the earth’s long chronicle who is not honored here today” “there is no later” (-) “this is later.”

«When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.

With the first gray light he rose and left the boy sleeping and walked out to the road and squatted and studied the country to the south. Barren, silent, godless. He thought the month was October but he wasnt sure. He hadnt kept a calendar for years.

«We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we? No. Of course not. Even if we were starving? We’re starving now. You said we werent. I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving. But we wouldnt. No. We wouldnt. No matter what. No. No matter what. Because we’re the good guys. Yes. And we’re carrying the fire. And we’re carrying the fire, yes. Okay.»

«You cant. You have to carry the fire. I dont know how to. Yes you do. Is it real? The fire? Yes it is. Where is it? I dont know where it is. Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it.»

Further remarks on Cormac McCarthy and his relation the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer

There seems to exist a deep kinship between the writing of McCarthy and Schopenhauers philosophical ideas about the world and human life.

Schopenhauers thinking has of course influenced many important authers, like Tolstoj, Hardy, Melville, Faulkner, Conrad, Beckett, Kafka, and so on. Sometimes it seems right to say that McCarthy in his books has no vision at all, there is no philosophy he is articulating, just giving a vision of a brutal and violent, indifferent and extrahuman world and life process…..where primitivity and animality is more basic than human qualities. But at the same time, to say that McCarthy is visionless is not quite right. I his very few interviews it seems that he is formulating a philosophy; like this – «I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.»

It is very clear that McCarthy has no romantic or grand or other humanistic illusions about Homo Sapiens and the place he occupies in nature….or nature occupies in him….McCarthy turns his literary back on all sorts of comforting traditional transcendental nonsense in his ‘metaphysics of violence’ (Bell) – it is only violence and its different horrific forms that can be said to be transcendental….behind and over all living and changing things…there is a life’s war…and a brutal world….indifferent and blind to human concerns. As Schopenhauer puts it: «The world is just a hell and in it human beings are the tortured souls on the one hand, and the devils on the other.»(PP)

Published novels

The orchard keeper: 1965.  His debut novel, won the Faulkner Award for a first novel

Outer dark: 1968

Child of God:1973 – in norwegian ‘Et guds barn’

Suttree: 1979 Blood meridian: 1985

All the pretty horses; vol I in The border triology: 1992, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award for fiction in 1992 – in norwegian – ‘Alle de vakre hestene’ in 1993 The crossing; vol. II in The border triology: 1994, på norsk i 1995 – ‘Over grensen’ Cities of the plain, vil III in The border Triology: 1998, in norwegian ‘Byene på høysletten’ in 1999 The border triology came in 2002, ‘Grensetriologien’ came in norwegian in 2006

No country for old men: 2005 – in norwegian ‘Ikke et land for gamle menn’ in 2007

The Road: 2006 – in norwegian ‘Veien’ in september 2008

Books on Cormac McCarthy and his writing

Cant, John.; Cormac McCarthy and the myth of American Exceptionalism. New York : Routledge, 2008.

Steven Frye (ed.); The Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy. Cambridge University Press, 2013

Robert L Jarrett: Cormac McCarthy, Twayne Publishers, New York 1997

R. W. Barcley Owens: Cormac McCarthys Western Novels, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson 2000

Lilley, James D.;Cormac McCarthy: New Directions; University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque

Guinn Matthew. «Ruder Forms Survive: Cormac McCarthy’s Atavistic Vision.»

Myth, Legend, Dust: Critical Responses to Cormac McCarthy. Ed. Rick Wallach. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2000. 108-15.

Hall, Wade, and Rick Wallach, eds. Sacred Violence: A Reader’s Companion to Cormac McCarthy. El Paso: U of Texas at El Paso P, 1995. Lilley, James, ed. Cormac McCarthy: New Directions. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 2002.

Young, Thomas D., Jr. «The Imprisonment of Sensibility: Suttree.» In Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy. Ed. Edwin T. Arnold and Dianne C. Luce. Rev. ed. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1999. 97-121.