Eine Biographie des Romans

Knapp 1200 Seiten benötigt Michael Schmidt für seine neue Biographie des Romans. Entsprechend schwergewichtig ist das Buch, von dem ich mir bewusst nicht die Kindleversion bestellte. Obwohl ich es noch nicht las, beeindruckt mich Schmidts Ambition, alleine eine Geschichte des Romans anzugehen. Eine sehr ausführliche Rezension schreibt William Deresiewicz für The Atlantic:

Schmidt’s account is chronological, but loosely so. Early chapters flash forward to the present or near-present, so that Aphra Behn shares quarters with Zora Neale Hurston, Daniel Defoe with Capote and Coetzee. Schmidt is weaving threads, picking out lines of descent: the Gothic, the exotic, the vernacular, the journalistic; manners, genres, voices, verisimilitude. Through Mandeville and Foxe’s „Book of Martyrs“ and „The Pilgrim’s Progress“, we see the novel (or rather, its precursors) find a sense of form, coalesce from a sequence of incidents into a coherent structure. Through Defoe and Richardson and Fielding, the 18th-century emergence, we see it becoming the novel.


Note the breadth of Schmidt’s attention, the variety of angles from which he’s able to approach a book. He has his favorites (Fielding, Conrad, Naipaul, Amis), as well as those he thinks are overrated (Thomas Pynchon, Ian McEwan, Paul Auster), but he takes each one on his own terms, and in his own times. He doesn’t expect Dos Passos, with his political engagement and documentary style, to look like Nabokov, the avatar of aestheticism. He doesn’t ask the writers of the past (or the present) to affirm his social views. Some get a couple of paragraphs, a few get 10 pages or more, but each is seen as if intensely spotlit; they are their own story, as well as part of a greater one.

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