Posts Tagged ‘The Good Soldier’

Ford Madox Ford: The Good Soldier

March 29, 2013

I’m sure other people buy books because they feel they ought to read them, and then leave them on a pile for ages: this novel sat for ten years awaiting my attentions! I’d heard it praised in various quarters, and yet in the end I was deeply disappointed. Yes, I could appreciate the various modernist aspects, the shifting timeframe and the unreliable narrator, but I couldn’t appreciate the superficial and pointless characters, none of whom really engaged my attention or sympathies in the least. ¬†And yet, I was glad I’d read the book… I feel confused, as if I’ve missed something, and am beginning to think that I’ll have to go back to it and re-read – though maybe in another ten years.

This unsatisfactory experience takes me back to two key questions: firstly, what literature will survive to be read by future generations and why? Рto which there is clearly no obvious and straightforward answer, and, secondly, why does so much English literature annoy me? By this I mean that, to me, what is being written in other lands РEuropean and world-wide Рis often more interesting, engaging , relevant, than what is being originally written in England or in English. None of my top three novels of the twentieth century is an English novel.

I know I’m generalising, maybe ridiculously, here, and yet… no-one can know all literature, there’s just too much of it; everyone therefore selects and gets to know and like various aspects, and defends them against all-comers. I’ve spent much time exploring East European literature, especially that from the Soviet era, I’ve read fairly widely in other areas, too, including science fiction and utopian literature. I suppose this means I like my literature to engage with ideas and history as well as characters, perhaps in a way that I don’t feel English literature has done.

So, even though I think I’m probably missing something, I’d need another existence to explore it.

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