I seldom listen to new artists. I seldom read works by new writers. It is something that I grow occasionally anxious over, feeling that perhaps I am becoming older than my years and adopting the curmudgeonly habits that cloak a soul now healed over.
Instead, I seem to spend an increasing amount of time guiltily revisiting the texts that I considered to have been formative in shaping me. Each time I revisit one of these works, it is admittedly, with a new perspective or mission, so it is not an entirely self defeating activity of diminishing returns. I revisited Kafka because I wanted to analyse the structure of writing out dream logic. As an adult I recognised something that I failed to appreciate as an adolescent; that there was a technique of moving rapidly from distant vistas to microscopic close up in a single breath, and a connivance of indicating difficulty and constriction of movement – both very clear factors in the progression of dream narratives.
More recently, on account of belatedly trying to learn French, I returned to Camus’s l’Etranger. Again, there were things to uncover that had completely passed over my head as a teenager. The casting of light and heat as protagonists affecting the actions of Meursault, the representation of societal tension in Algiers, the extraordinary acceleration forwards and outwards of time and scale that has a vertiginous effect upon the reader which contributes to the sickly looming of the guillotine. Also – this time around – there was the sense of trying to establish whether it was the english translation that was dated (the word “tight” for drunk being a notable case) or whether the dating effect would still be transparent in the original – should my French ever get competent enough to be able to figure that out. (JK told me in the bar last night that Camus did indeed compose his texts in a rough, very Algerian French – which perhaps explains why I actually read the original at all)
This morning, I read an interview with Gabriel Garcia Marquez who remarked that he too often revisited works that he had first encountered in his youth and how the mature reading revealed the true extent to which these works were important, and how their import had largely passed him by on those younger readings – which he referred to as premature audacities without a future