Archief van
Dag: 11 januari 2018

Look at love and life

Look at love and life

kehlmann6

[review cuttingedge.be] Kehlmann weet het voor elkaar te krijgen dat de lezer het boek in een adem wil (en zal) uitlezen. Vanaf het begin grijpt het boek je vast, om enkel in heftige intensiteit toe te nemen. Wie is vader Arthur, die meer dan eens uit het leven van zijn zonen en vrouwen verdwijnt om af en toe onaangekondigd op de stoep te staan om daarna weer te verdwijnen? Waarom blijft Martin in zijn priesterschap, terwijl hij giftig wordt van broer Erics devotie en zelfs tijdens het afnemen van de biecht candybars wegwerkt? Wat drijft Iwan om maar door te gaan met het vervalsen van schilderijen, waarvan de oorspronkelijke schilder eigenlijk de enige vervalser is? Vragen die niet beantwoord worden. Complexe tegenstrijdigheden, omfloerst door filosofische gedachtenkronkels. Toch wordt het boek nergens vervelend zweverig of aanmatigend pretentieus. Kehlmann weet door zijn opzet (eerst een auctoriaal narratief, vervolgens alle personages vanuit het ik) ervoor te zorgen dat je kunt meevoelen met alle actoren in het verhaal. Regelmatig haalt hij levensvragen en –kwesties aan. Zo herhaalt hij een paar keer dat we geboren zijn om te zien, maar aangesteld worden om te kijken. Hij laat de lezer nadenken over de onduidelijke lijn tussen toeval en zelfbeschikking. kehlmann4Hij stelt religie centraal zonder evangeliserend te zijn. ‘F’ is een adembenemend goed boek dat moeiteloos alle facetten van de verweven levens van een gezin beschrijft, alsmede de eeuwige stempel die ouders op hun kinderen achterlaten. Het leest als een berglandschap, met pieken, dalen, haarspeldbochten maar vooral: een prachtig uitzicht.

De Duitse pers: ‘Filosofische roman en pageturner kwamen nog nooit zo dicht bij elkaar.’

kehlmann7

 

 

[review theguardian.com] F by Daniel Kehlmann – a comic novel about the death of God

This is an exuberant look at love and life

It cannot be an easy thing to write a comic novel about the death of God. Still, the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann may just have pulled it off. “F” [fatum] is the protagonist of a book within a book, the debut novel of Arthur Friedland, a rather disorganised buffoon who never had any success as a writer until an encounter with a hypnotist gave his life its chilly purpose: “This is an order, and you’re going to follow it because you want to follow it, and you want to because I’m ordering you, and I’m ordering you because you want me to give the order. Starting today, you’re going to make an effort. No matter what it costs. Repeat!”

My Name Is No One is so exuberantly nihilistic, its readers are throwing themselves off TV transmission towers. As Kehlmann says: “The sentences are well constructed, the narrative has a powerful flow, the reader would be enjoying the text were it not for a persistent feeling of somehow being mocked.”

kehlmann5If Kehlmann played this intertextual game to the hilt – if F itself were as unforgiving as Arthur’s novel – then we would be looking at a less important book, as well as a less enjoyable one: some Johnny-come-lately contribution to the French nouvelle vague. The spirit of Alain Robbe-Grillet, the movement’s greatest exponent, illuminates the scene in which Arthur takes his granddaughter to an art museum to study a picture by her missing uncle: “She stepped even closer, and immediately everything dissolved. There were no more people any more, no more little flags, no anchor, no bent watch. There were just some tiny bright patches of colour above the main deck. The white of the naked canvas shone through in several places, and even the ship was a mere assemblage of lines and dots. Where had it all gone?”

There are many such moments, they are all as beautifully judged as this one, and they are not the point. The point of F is not its humour (though Kehlmann, like Robbe-Grillet, can be very funny indeed), but its generosity. Arthur’s three sons, in their turn, make superhuman efforts to give their lives significance, and these efforts tangle and trip over each other to generate the comic business of the book. The eldest, Martin, a Rubik’s Cube expert, embraces the priesthood despite his lack of faith. Of Arthur’s two sons by his second marriage, Eric enters the glass-and-steel world of high finance to help control his fear of cramped spaces. His twin brother, Ivan, is a would-be painter turned art dealer, and author of Mediocrity As an Aesthetic Phenomenon.

“When I was young, vain, and lacking all experience,” he recalls, “I thought the art world was corrupt. Today I know that’s not true. The art world is full of lovable people, full of enthusiasts, full of longing and truth. It is art itself as a sacred principle that unfortunately doesn’t exist.”

Ivan, like all the others, lives in a nihilistic universe, but he is not himself nihilistic. It worries him that the world cannot live up to his expectations and those of the people he admires. These people include his lover Heinrich Eulenboeck, an artist with a true calling but only mediocre ability. What kind of world is it that plays such a trick on a person? “How do you live with that, why do you keep on going?”

The answer seems to be love. In a godless world, love counts for a great deal. And failing love, ordinary human decency goes a long way. Since Kurt Vonnegut died, there has really been no one to tell us this; the reminder is welcome.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail