Cold Cold Modernity

‘Beneath its film-school framework and Joycean approach to plot, Silence with Subtitles is essentially a sentimental epic, with brief moments of melodrama belying the supposed modernity of its form’ (Jinpes Terenk, on Oa Aayorta’s first film/novel)

Republishing Terenk’s review of Aayorta’s second novel has raised a lot of questions, not least Terenk’s attitude to technology and/or modernity, which he treats as if they were interchangeable. Modernity and melodrama, as seen above, are cast as opposites; so too modernity and sentimentality. To be modern, in Terenk’s book, is to be swift and heartless, cold and mechanistic: essentially soulless. Using ‘technology’ can only be, it seems, a distancing device. Or is this really what he is saying? It is hard to tell what Terenk means by ‘technology’ exactly. Aayorta’s first two novels use film: this, certainly, is technology – but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Aayorta is either technological, truly, or even especially ‘modern’. Terenk uses the phrase ‘twenty-first century’ – but there is nothing twenty-first century about film, or even DVDs (which were invented at the end of the twentieth century).

All in all, this is a somewhat confused review, as I’ve probably pointed out before. But it covers the basics relatively well, providing a fair summary of Aayorta’s previous work, and a vaguely clever interrogation of the novel in question. Terenk is at least honest about what he thinks of Aayorta’s approach, which clearly frustrates him – and I respect him both for admitting this, and for trying to root out the cause of his frustration (even if he fails, ultimately, to do this).

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