Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terminal Zwei

Very occasionally you come across a first novel that is breathtakingly brilliant. Which is always slightly unencouraging: you will reluctantly google the author to see his/her age at the time of the publication. It is different with mucisians, painters, mathematicians (I claim unfairly): you can see it as a freak of nature, a narrow skill taken to extremes, but literature is different, wider, universal. You think to yourself that no-one should have that wide a scope that young, you are amazed and envious...

This happened today with Jennifer Egan's first publication: The Invisible Circus. Such a mature text and technique, experienced and wise beyond years. Naturally there are some obvious flaws there but what comes across is a cool but fierce assessment of life and history, life in history. It is this combination that lifts the text far above the usual sensitive comedies and tragedies of manner: a private story in the felt context of history, of time. (Another striking thing effortlessly portrayed, sensually and analytically, was the physical dimension, manifestation of falling in love - a thing exceedingly rarely well described without any sentimentality, coarseness or unreality.) Astonishing achievement by an author so young.

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