The Modern World

Malcolm Bradbury, Author Viking Books $18.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-670-82443-4
``Make it new'' was Ezra Pound's advice to aspiring writers. In this spin-off from a British TV series, novelist-critic Bradbury shows how James Joyce's experimentalism, Kafka's allegories of the spirit, Pirandello's unmasking of personal illusions, Virginia Woolf's lyrical novels and Proust's autobiography of human sensation all provoked shock and surprise with innovative approaches to contemporary experience. Bradbury ( The History Man , Rates of Exchange ) intriguingly views Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain as a historical novel: the record of our tormented age. The other modernists considered here are Conrad, Eliot and two precursorsDostoyevski and Ibsen. Despite its occasional hyperbole and its assumption of the reader's general unfamiliarity with the writers discussed, this skillful meld of biography, history and literary criticism is a coherent, even exciting reappraisal of the modernist movement. Facing the cultural bankruptcy of the secular state and the fragmented language of our time, modernists sought ways to go beyond inner anguish and dislocation. Bradbury charts 10 representative modernist trajectories with empathetic insight and flair. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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