a brief interview with gabriel josipovici

Reposting this link from Jeff Bursey on Goodreads to a brief but excellent interview with Gabriel Josipovici, not so much for its questions, which are fairly pedestrian, but for his responses, which are as always gracefully eloquent in their pithiness and demonstrative of a far-ranging reading mind. A writer who is woefully underappreciated, in my opinion.

Gabriel Josipovici: “I abhor art of any kind that follows agendas”

My favorite responses:

Would it be fair to say that one of the central distinctions for you between works of modernism and books you consider less interesting is not only a sensibility but also the kind of things it can do without, such as description?

Duchamp once said that it was demeaning to expect an artist to fill in the background – and it’s easy to see that once he understood that it was, for him, he was on his way to becoming the artist he was destined to be.

The Goldsmiths Prize was set up to reward fiction that “breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form”– what can an “innovative” approach offer the reader (and writer) that a more conventional novel might not? Do you think that books in this broad category are, for example, better-equipped to address questions of transcendence, mortality, and despair?

These are such difficult issues to pin down, aren’t they? My dear friend John Mepham, a biochemist turned philosopher turned literary critic, who died tragically young, put it as well as I’ve ever seen it put in a beautiful essay he wrote in 1976 on To The Lighthouse. “The orderliness of fiction,” he says, “involves not only an internal orderliness but also an orderliness of its telling. For a story to be told there must be, implicitly or explicitly, a teller of it, a narrator or a narrative voice, the voice of one who knows… But what if we lack this sense of epistemological security? What if our experience seems fragmented, partial, incomplete, disordered? Then writing might be a way not of representing but of creating order.” That, he sees, was always Virginia Woolf’s dilemma and the way of her art. And what he says about her I can identify with totally.

from ‘the air we breathe’ (gabriel josipovici)

Then she was quiet and they were walking together, crossing the Luxembourg Gardens the sun was disappearing behind a thin film of grey the air was cold she started to shiver but he didn’t seem to notice it was as if he had come out with the express purpose of finding her and now he was taking her back and perhaps it was like that he had always had that sort of taciturnity, as if speaking was painful and silence too she wanted to take his shoulders stop him turn him round look into his eyes and ask him what he was doing what they were doing where they were why he was so sure she would go with him that she had nothing else to do the day to give up to him no other friends to see or work to do that she too had just come out for the same express purpose of seeing him finding him returning with him she wanted to look into his eyes ask him to explain but what was there to explain that was always what happened always how it was there was the need to explain to understand and then nothing to explain nothing to understand but still the need persisted and it was as if this nothing was what had to be understood how it could be nothing and something both together and at the same time so that it was as if a hand had taken your heart and squeezed it and it slipped up and out of your hand like a fish you had to hold it you had to press it you caught it again and again it jumped you would never catch it and

–Gabriel Josipovici, The Air We Breathe

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