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Mittwoch, 22. Januar 2020
Bücherliste 2020

4, NG3, NA3, M2, E4

Julian Barnes, The Man in the Red Coat

Während der Lektüre fragte ich mich immer wieder, wie lange Julian Barnes die Idee für dieses Buch schon mit sich herumgetragen hat und wieviel Recherche, Zeit und Liebesmüh er investiert hat. Vieles muss ihm schon bei seinen Studien von Flaubert vertraut gewesen sein. Und immer wieder hatte ich das Gefühl einem langen Vortrag über die Belle Epoque, oder vielleicht einem ausgedehnten Essay, in dem er immer wieder von Namen zu Namen springt, bedeutende Ereignisse in einen Zusammenhang bringt und mitunter rasante Bögen schlägt, so dass letztendlich ein sehr informativer und oft unterhaltsamer Überblick entsteht, mit Dr. Pozzi, der indirekten Titelfigur und Schlüsselperson als Dreh- und Angelpunkt. Mir war vor dem Buch garnicht klar, wie wenig ich selbst über die Personen, die mir schon ein Begriff waren - wie z.B. Oskar Wilde - eigentlich wußte. Allein dafür lohnte sich das Buch schon. Vielleicht wäre die gebundene Ausgabe mit all den Bildern in Farbe besser gewesen, aber das lässt sich ja immer noch nachholen.

Flaubert was always sternly against the sentimental, meliorist view of literature: the notion that an uplifting storoy with a happy ending (though weepie-happy would do just as well) might inspire readers to behave better and improve their lot. But 'knowing humanity' and describing it accurately is an essentially corrective action. Things are not like that, you are saying, things are like this. People operate like this; society runs like this; religion (and sentimental literature) affect human sensibilities like this; what you have read in other novels is wrong. And this corrective function - oh, and by the way, love and sex and death aren't like that either - has an effect, the effect of truth, of restored vision. Though what people - readers - choose to do with this truth is not up to Flaubert. Some close the book in their hands, and simultaneously close their minds; others leave it open, and are filled with a form of grave reverie.
.
Any practising novelist will be familiar with the jocular-yet-serious response when someone newly met discovers what you do. 'I'd better watch what I say, then, hadn't I?'; or, sometimes, 'I've got a great story for you.' You (well, I) will tend to answer, 'It doesn't work like that', because it doesn't. There is nothing more useless than someone else's already highly worked-up anecdote - 'varnished for eternity', as Lucien Daudet said of Montesquiou; nor does a novelist 'study' a real-life person with any deliberate intent to copy and paste them into a novel. The whole process is usually much more passive, sponge-like and haphazard than that. The reader's motive - wanting to understand the process of literary creation - is of course legitimate, but also ultimately futile, since even the most self-conscious novelist often cannot properly explain what it is he or she does, and how it comes about.

(Julian Barnes, The Man in the Red Coat, 2019)

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