The Loneliest Jukebox

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Italian for Postmodernists

Joseph Conrad - the 'Author', not the actual person, that is - is often to be found these days lurking near the start of some 20th century modern literature syllabus or other. As such he becomes the de facto forefather of literary modernism. Yet in The Secret Agent, he ends up describing the patrons of an 'Italian' restaurant in London thus: 'They seemed created for the Italian restaurant unless the Italian restaurant had been perchance created for them. But that last hypothesis was unthinkable, since one could not place them anywhere outside those special establishments.' (Wordsworth Classics edition, p.134). In postmodern style, Conrad considers for a moment whether the restaurant constitutes its patrons or vice versa, before moving on to more important matters. In this fleeting rumination, he anticipates a strand of the methodology that has been used to berate him ever since the early 1970s. Not just precise with language, but precognitive too.


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