January 05, 2009


Dagger Di Gorro

Elizabeth Costello also compares the raising of animals for slaughter to the Holocaust (as Coetzee once did in a lecture); so neither she nor her creator is entirely immune to the wackiness that sometimes afflicts great writers. (Investigate some of Saramago's political opinions for the living paragon of the phenomenon.)

Isn't Lodge's review "missing the point" that Coetzee wasn't obligated to paint some sort of thin fictionalized portrait (let us agree to deplore that phrase henceforth) of West and his novel when the perfect example for his argument was ready to hand? Wouldn't such a "portrait" be a graver insult to West and his novel? And to what purpose - sparing West's feelings (not to mention some sales of his long forgotten book as well as some publicity for his long forgotten career)?

I guess it makes sense for Lodge, of all people, to point out that it's "bad sport" - but bad art it is not - and for a veteran "fictionalizer" like Lodge to charge Coetzee with hypocrisy for the opinions voiced by his narrator (i.e. to mistake the character for the creator).

As for the salience of Costello's point, I think one must ask, How would one know where these limits exists (i.e. the boundary between art and obscenity) if they weren't crossed (frequently multiple times within the same work) by artists of enormous talent? Don't theses boundaries exist at different places for different people? And isn't it the artist's role to work along these boundaries, explore them, rather than to respect them as sacrosanct limits never to cross?


Thanks for the insightful comment, DDG! Let me know if you're ever looking for a stint as a guest blogger ... I agree with you entirely, especially regarding that fundamental mistake of assuming the character and creator are one. Coetzee has always struck me as being far too wily to accomodate such simplistic readings. And I think you've perfectly rendered the delicate dance between art and its limits.


One should also point out that Costello's rendering of West's account of torture is itself a fiction. Some of the things she describes as happening in the book don't happen: they are inventions - very much of a type and on the same scale as what she acuses West of.

Diana Manister

Dear Dagger,

I'd wager a film of hundreds of lambs being slaughtered would be nearly as demoralizing as watching people being hung. I suppose it depends on who is in the audience though.

I'm with Coetzee. The statistics on the number of animals slaughtered worldwide in a day constitute an obscenity. Because we find their body parts wrapped in plastic in the supermarket some of us, like you for instance, are glib about this savagery.

Alvy Singer

Mr. Savras, the movie was brilliant. It creates a suspenful climax in the Hitler failed killing that its masterful because Singer is a very risky filmmaker: try to make a thriller of a story which everyone knows the end is an impossible (or masterful) task.

The problem of the movie is what Sontag called the fascinating fascism. You never see a victim in this film and never hear, in the spanis dub at least Mr. Savras, the word democracy. Stauffenberg was comfortable with torture, but probably hated de killing of jews because of his familiar linkage. What the Stauffenberg people want was a new regime, a more nationalist one in which construct a stronger and mysthic country (Stauffenberg was a catholic).

The big shots of the nazi-like swiming pool. The obsession with clean. This is pure (and unconscious) nazi art. And nazism was real and if we don't want the fiction having the duties of the nonfiction, it has to be the same way if it happens the opposite.

And great post, sorry for my grammar (spanish, as I've told).

Alvy Singer

Ups, some mistakes: the killing of jews, spanish dub. And Stauffenberg was favorable to the slavery in Poland.

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