Missing: God?

Spare time, like the sun, has not been hanging around my neighbourhood of late. For this reason – amongst undisclosed others – I have not been able to delve as deeply into my Greatest Novels list as much as I had hoped. I would like to take this opportunity, therefore, to make a few general points; to hover hopefully above, in all my kestrelesque glory, forever surveying the lie of the land. To put it another way, I would like at this juncture to bring you up to date with a complaint or two arising from said list.

Like all true critics, I start with an excuse. Let me say this. There was never an occasion on which I suggested that my Greatest Novels List was designed with any sort of perfection in mind. I never claimed that its results would be in any way ‘comprehensive’, or that – when all the reviews were collected – it would give anything other than an incomplete image of the European literary scene. I have, I hope, never been presumptuous enough to pretend that I can lay chaos aside for more than a second or so. It can’t be done.

In light of this, I am not ashamed to see my list criticised. Nor am I tempted to dismiss such criticism. I always said that there would be mistakes; which wasn’t to say I didn’t care about the mistakes – rather than I knew that, having appeared (according to the laws of Mr. and Mrs. Inevitability) a time would come when they could be confronted with more ease. That time, quoth the cliché, is now. So here we go:

General Point regarding the Greatest Novels List, No 1: The Absense of Texts which appear to deal directly with Religion.

‘Appear’ may be the operative word here. Or is it ‘directly’? I suppose the point I am making is that I find something rather tiresome about novels which are built around the kernel of a single ‘big’ subject. Show me a great novel that is essentially ‘about God’? Show me the opposite and I’ll be equally impressed.

But I am, perhaps, avoiding the issue. What is seen to be missing are not books that deal, at significant length, with God (or gods) per se, but with institutionalised religion. To put it yet another way, where is Tibor Tibetti’s Artificial Light or Moses Mayeau’s The Rain it Works?  Most obviously, where is Ingemar Glozon’s A Thousand Men – one of the few novels I know to have been unofficially banned by the liberal press for its rigidly pro-Catholic content?

These novels are, I confess, conspicuously absent. Critics do seem to have consciously shied away from them. Why? This, as they say, is the question.

More on a related subject (leading to what may or may not be an answer to this query) later.

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7 thoughts on “Missing: God?

  1. What of Gustav Holschenschifter’s Cathedral of the Heart: Catharsis of the Inviolable? Surely that desreves a place on the list, serving as it does to illuminate- and with such luminous precision!- the pscho-logical-historical meaning of the Jesuits impact on history within the narrowed prism of a single bloodthirsty life?

  2. Naturally I’m not referring to the insultingly pedantic Rieland Versianissimus translation. Readers should restrict themselves to the splendid Ingrid Bassuckhenschaft version on Isthmus Press, which includes Gerhard “Irving” Berlin’s foreword.

  3. Andrew : Berlin was a complete fraud, and his so-called “foreword” is piffle. He wrote it with quite another work in mind and it was only appended to the Isthmus edition after a mishap involving library paste.

  4. This reminds me of the case of Walter P Delasso, the journalist who spent many months designing an ‘all-purpose preface programme’: a simple step-by-step proceedure which greatly assisted lazy editors when it came to the often irksome task of assembling a preface, introduction and/or foreword. Delasso used it himself in no less than forty-one books, none of which he had ever read

  5. Berlin may have been an utter fraud, but at least he was an “authentic” fraud. I’m obviously aiming a barb here at Frances “Bethnal Green” Overhaupptmann. Berlin’s foreword may also have been piffle but did contain an especially interesting number of syllables. Count them sometime, you’ll be surprised at what you find.

  6. You seem to have read Mr Key’s use of the word ‘piffle’ in what may be an unnecessarily negative sense. Personally I’m excited by the word. Piffle is never uninteresting, however many syllables it contains. For irrefutable proof of this I point you in the direction of A F Hudson’s Chrestomathy of Piffle (Fly-Swallow Books, 2001)

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