Receding Criticism

I cannot let this one pass, I guess, without a word or two. As Claude Sorgny-Beichveloff was to remind us during the course of his excellent review (first published 2005) I haven’t yet had a good word to say about Hoçe’s Receding Rainfall. In my introduction to the Greatest Novels List (also published in 2005)  I called it ‘a paltry twenty four pages of poetry’: suggesting that it was unfit to be termed a novel, let alone a great one. Elsewhere I have called it ‘charmless and unreadable’ and ‘horribly indulgent in its use of the word “lollipop”‘

As the flames lick my feet, will I recant? The answer, as ever, is ‘yes and no’. Re-reading Sorgny-Beichveloff’s piece the other week sent me straight back (as a good review should) to the book, from which I emerged with what can only be described as ‘the faintest of smiles on my face’. Which is to say: fourth time around, I find myself warming to Mr. Hoçe. He may yet win me over. Notwithstanding any lingering regret over his resounding abuse of the word ‘lollipop’ (I will never stop struggling with this) Receding Rainfall turns out to be much smarter than I remembered. The satirical passages about hats are especially pertinent – and will only grow more so. Nor can I think of an Eastern European novelist who has written more moving lines on the subject of yeast. Beyond this, however, I retain my reservations. A novel – or just a collection of random thoughts? That is the question…

Not a question, I must say, that gnaws at my mind all that much. At least, other questions prod my thoughts with far more constancy. Such as: whatever happened to Claude Sorgny-Beichveloff? An excellent writer, make no mistake about it – but one of many critics to have appeared on Underneath the Bunker just the once, before vanishing like a tugboat in a heavy fog. A sad state of affairs, this. It is almost as if the journal were haunted. They come and go like bees. Only I stand still: the frog under the flower – patiently plying my humble trade, croaking my lonely tune. Claude, Claude, whither art thou Claude? Hast Hoçe wreaked his peculiar vengeance upon you? Or are you contributing anonymous reviews of cheap paperbacks for a major tabloid newspaper? Perhaps all that I heard about the ‘curse of the Sorgny-Beichveloffs’ was true. In which case, I’ll say no more. Except… No, I’ll say no more…