I happened to read the story since I had to teach it to eight graders. The story belongs to the genre of the Gothic Vintage. The protagonist of the story becomes obsessed with the killing of an old man. The whole story revolves around his pathological mania for killing. The reason for killing is psycho-analytically revealed in the story. The old man has an eye that resembles that of a vulture. The evil eye is haunting the protagonist. The wealth or possessions of the man like Gold does not interest the protagonist. He visits the old man’s house several times in the night and goes through the ecstasy of the thought of butchery. And finally one night he accomplishes the mission. He decapitates the body and buries it in the wooden planks that make the floor of the house. Then Poe brings in the cops who come to house on the pretext of having heard a shriek. The protagonist at first manages to maintain his composure but in the end looses it and spills the beans to the cops that he has liquidated the old man. It’s true that Poe has been characterized as a mad genius and as a tormented artist. The protagonist is suffering from narcissistic, psychotic melancholia. The narcissism is an obsession directed with quirk of violence that shifts the mind from reason to that of passion. The protagonist is going through an intense psychotic phase of psychosis where he is not able to distinguish murder as something diabolic and goes against the Super Ego, the laws of the society. Melancholia is pining for an object that cannot be obtained. Here it becomes a phantasmagoria, the vulture-eye of the old man. The psychotic character is unable to distinguish between fiction and reality. He does not want to take responsibility of the crime and willingly surrenders himself to the police. The psychological build up of psychotic anxiety is a super rendition of art.
Blue at Noon by Georges Bataille is a fascinating avant garde novel. In this essay I would like to deconstruct the way in which women are portrayed. Most of the Women except his wife and Desire are sluts. The prominent whores featured in his novel are dirty (Dorothea) and Xenia. The entanglements of the protagonist with these women are symptomatically pathological. The protagonist betrays devastating hidden oedipal fantasies. The relationships with these women are more intricate and denser than remuneration for occupying the pleasures of the bed. The protagonist takes great pleasure in the disgusting and the revolting. For example: Dirty is drunk and puking and at the same time she exposes herself nude. Sometimes the protagonist becomes an archetypal feminine. For example he sobs: when he gets a letter from his wife. All his relationships with sluts are erotic a melancholia, a fantasy of longing which ceases to be fulfilled. He portrays whores as tender, loving oedipal objects on which he can gratify his emptiness, his angst. The novel takes places in three places, England, France and Spain. In France he encounters Xenia. He is very ill at that time. Xenia though a whore goes to a great extent of nursing him back. The amazing thing is that he does not feel grateful but treats her with intense repulsion. In Spain he encounters Desire. The Spanish revolution is going on there and she has intense communist views. Though he becomes close to Desire, he treats her like a wretch. He has no interest in her intellectual proclivities. There are no scenes in the novel which are sexually graphic. Drunkenness, puking and nudeness become orgies for the mind of the protagonist. Though the novel is experimental, the narrative is straight forward and goes on from the beginning to the end. The protagonist is an erotic Sisyphus who is tormented by the weight of his sexual entanglements and finds release of his emotion through sheer repugnance. The pleasure of the bed has become a narcotic stone which is rolled down by him in mental stupor. The protagonist is always in state of psychological fornication. As a work of Art he is Picasso’s bull who is limpid and strangulated by his own emotions. The author creates whores who are fond of him. The creation represents a maternal, oedipal reaching out. Is it a kind of oedipal narcissism that the author suffers from? There is no political consciousness for the protagonist. He maintains a stormy silence when Desire discusses ideas about communism. The creation of the psychology for the whores in his novel is a dystopian archetype. The women are his ideal and yet they are repugnant to him. Eroticism for the narrator is one of morbid loathing and ironically a state of ecstatic pleasure. I as a reader, I am totally ignorant how whores interact or behave. Of course I have had my chances but I have failed to follow upon them. Yes in the end, I feel whores are humane and can have genuine feelings.
Maxim Gorky was a Russian writer known for his adept handling the genre of short fiction. His fiction is hard-core realism.
Makar Chudra is a story of a gypsy who was billeting on the steppe and the protagonist listens to his tales of valor and courage about a youth who fell in love with a gypsy girl. The story is an interesting read.
Traveling companion is a story where the protagonist meets a man who has been cheated. They travel together to a place Batumin in search of him. The writer is remarkable in the portrayal of consciousness of the fiction writers. There’s a psychological depth which sparkles the soul. Throughout the journey they become inseparable friends.
Grandfather Arkhip and Lyonka
Grandfather Arkhip and Lyonka contemplate their journey of life. The grandfather is ageing fast and is worried about the future of his son, Lyonka. There’s a passionate rendition of character. One can contemplate the meaning of life in this story.
Lizergil is an old woman who narrates strange mythical tales to the protagonist. In one a maiden is carried by an eagle to a place beyond the sky. The story has moorings of a fairy tale.
Chelkash is a drunkard and a petty thief. He gets accused of stealing. In the rest of the story, he is on boat in the sea and is able to haul a mighty catch of fish. This story is an interesting one from the brewery of fiction. There’s considerable character depth.
The protagonist encounters a girl Natasha who is of the same age and their relationship becomes a romantic one. The protagonist is encountering a girl kissing him for the first time, and he bursts into clouds of happy catharsis.
Song of the Falcon
The protagonist encounters Ragim who is a devout Muslim. He tells him a mythical story of the snake and the falcon. The falcon is the master of the sky and the snake is the mistress of the ground. They converse with each other. Gorky anthromorphizes the snake and the falcon.
For want of something better to do
The story describes the scenery of moving trains and carries a narrative about people working in the railway station. For them life is an irony and they wonder about people traveling to different destinations.
The story starts with the suicide of Konovalov in prison. Then the story proceeds as a flashback narrating the life of Konovalov with the protagonist. The reason for the suicide is not clear. The story is rather ambiguous.
The Orlovs is a story of a quarreling husband and wife. The story is swapped in ironic humor.
There is a conversation with the protagonist and a man on the aims of literature. The aim of literature is to help a man better understand himself and develop his desire to see the truth, to fight meanness and pettiness in people and bring out the good to awaken in them a sense of anger, shame and courage.
Franz Kafka was Jew living as an exile in Germany. His writings ring a tone of queasy angst and he stimulates the philosophy of existentialism in his writing. Most of his writings were published after his death by his editor friend Max Brod who was strictly instructed by Kafka to destroy all his writing.
In the short story Metamorphosis—the protagonist of the story Gregor Samsa becomes transformed into a gigantic insect one morning. He is unable to go for work and is not able to do his routine activities. The family of Gregor Samsa becomes queasy about his plight. The metamorphosis is a story of existential trauma and guilt. It reveals the meaning of life to be nothingness. There is considerable depth in the psychological portrayal of Gregor Samsa. Samsa can be compared to Camus’ myth of the Sisyphus who becomes condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder uphill only to find to his angst it rolls down again. Sisyphus is forced to repeat this monotonous action. The insect is a motif that shows rebellion against parental authoritarianism. Kafka had a strained and troubled relationship with his father. The metamorphosis is escapism from the realities of life. Angst— the very core of being is a metaphor and occurs as a leitmotif throughout the story.
The judgment is a story of a man who has a friend in St. Peter’s Burg whose business has been going downhill. The protagonist is writing a letter of invitation asking him to attend the marriage. He also converses with his father about his friend. The story has no plot scheme.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a narrative about building the wall. The author comments on the magnificent loftiness of the wall and how it will counter the invasion by foes.
A Hunger Artist
The hunger artist is a story of a man who is placed in a cage and does a hunger fast. Throngs of people got to watch him and he becomes a spectacle for the people. One can’t get to the essence of this story as it is something which never takes place in real life. What is the message that Kafka wants to communicate? Is he thinking about the starving people of the world? I am not sure about the answer.
The Burrow is a strange and fascinating story of a person who constructs a burrow. He admires his construction with gaiety. Then there goes a long narrative on the ways in which the burrow could be put to use. The story-line is feebly thin. Is the burrow reminiscent of man’s inner angst? Is it a leitmotif of the human body which has no source to gratify pleasures? The burrow is a metaphoric machine dealing with the melancholia of being human.
Josephine the singer of the Mouse Folk
The story extols the virtues of Josephine’s melodious singing. Her singing is a passion for the human heart. The story is exaggerated and lacks the substance of a plot.
Fratricide is a story about a protagonist killing his own brother. The motives of the murder are not revealed. The killer experiences a bitter satisfaction, a gratification of the ego. The killer is caught up in the whirlwind of narcissistic solipsism.
The Next Village
The next village is a rumination by the author on the journey of life, its brevity.
The Bucket Rider
The Bucket Rider is a story of a man who begs for coal from the coal dealer. The coal dealer denies his request and treats him in the most unkind manner.
There are four legends concerning Prometheus—the first was he was chained to a rock for betraying the secrets of Gods to men and the Gods send an eagle to feed his liver. The second being, Prometheus overridden by pain pressed himself to the rock and became one with it. The third was the treachery of Prometheus was forgotten by the Gods. The fourth was Gods grew weary about the affair.
At the end of the Mechanical Age by Donald Barthelme
The protagonists of the story are Ralph and Ms Davis. The story portrays the contemporary age as being dull and boring. But the mechanical age has got its comfort zones. Ms Davis a widow gets married to Ralph. The marriage ceremony is witnessed by God who makes them take an oath: ‘you wedded husband and life promise to make whatever mutually satisfactory accommodations necessary to reduce tensions and arrive at previously agreed upon goals both parties have harmoniously set in the appropriate planning sessions’. The story is vague and lacks depth and form. It resembles an incongruous abstract painting.
Petition by John Barth
John Barth in the Petition writes an epistle to a renowned person from Thailand who is visiting America for a surgery. Barth is very much drawn to Eastern Mysticism and Eastern religions. He extols the virtues of the foreigner’s history. He also describes the contemporary culture of America in ironic terms. One can’t find the essence of a story in the petition by Barth.
Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon by Marquez
The Cage made by Balthazar is a fascinating and mysterious story about Balthazar who makes a cage and sells it for sixty pesos. As soon as he collects the money, he buys booze for his friends and gets inebriated. His wife waits patiently for him to come home. The story carries a moral about a person who doesn’t know to handle large sums of money.
The Shore by Grillet
The shore by Grillet describes the movement of three children on the beach. Grillet describes the motion of the waves, the flying sea gulls and the movement of the wind. The author has a lurking fascination for the three children, a strange eerie aura of attraction.
Like a Bad Dream by Heinrich Boll
In Like a Bad Dream, the protagonist invites the Zumpens for dinner. He was thinking of the prized contract that the Zumpen would make. But the Zumpens left without saying anything. Bertha the wife of the protagonist told her husband to visit the Zumpens. Mrs. Zumpen gives him an envelope and told him to raise the price as the price quoted by the next bidder was much higher. The story ends with a happy note with the protagonist being awarded the contract.
Axolotl by Cortazar
Axolotl describes a morbid fascination for them by the author. The author becomes ruminative about them. The story is Quixotic and has no meat of a plot.
In Dreams begin responsibilities by Schwartz
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities the author describes about the relationship of the father with the mother. The relationship is a long lasting and pleasing one.
Solipsist by Brown
In the story the Solipsist Walter Jehovah has an imaginary conversation with God. Solipsism is a philosophy that an individual alone exists. In the conversation Jehovah becomes seduced by the grandeur of thought—he alone exists as God.
Gogol’s Wife by Tomanso
In the story Nicolo’s wife is described as a balloon. As years pass by, Nicolo’s disgust for his wife increases.
The End by Beckett
In the End is a story that describes the solitary life of an unknown person. The description portrays his angst. The story has no proper beginning and end and the narrative is haphazard.
The Waiting by Borges
We find Vilari the protagonist settling down in his new lodgings. In the end of the story, a surprising one we find that Vilari is killed by a stranger.
Borges and I
The author differentiates the fictional Borges from the real Borges. The fictional Borges is acclaimed in the news and has a marvel for hourglasses, sixteenth century maps and labyrinths.
Everything and Nothing by Borges
Everything and Nothing by Borges is a fictional rendition of the biography of Shakespeare. He mentions Shakespeare having been initiated into the rite of sexuality by Ann Hathaway. In an imaginary conversation with God, Shakespeare is revealed by God that he is a theater, he is a mask, and he is everything and nothing.
James Joyce heralded the birth of the modern novel. He is known for bequeathing the genre of writing in Streams of Consciousness. Portrait of the artist as a young man shows the gestation of Joyce’s soul. Joyce’s literature is marked by anti-realism.
The novel bears the traces of impressionism. The novel belongs to the genre of the Bildungsroman which denotes the formative influences of artist’s life. However the novel is also a Kunstlerroman showing the artistic developments of the novelist. Joyce uses epiphany as a mode of narrative. For Joyce Epiphany is a spiritual manifestation. The novel is inclusive of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century political and cultural landscape of Ireland.
In the novel Joyce tries to link smells with ideas. His mother put an oil-sheet and it had a fetid odor. His mother had a nicer smell than his father. The sensation of smells is put into epiphanies of ideas. Using smells as a motif we get to understand the workings of the consciousness of the writer.
The novel begins with Stephen’s life in college and his saying goodbye to his father and mother. One incident that happened in school is worthwhile mentioning. Joyce gets caned for not doing his work. The excuse that he has lost his glasses does not bear convincing fruit with the Jesuit.
Again in the novel Stephen encounters the word ‘suck’. For him it is a queer word and he births it into a nourishing intellectual catharsis. Stephen is homesick in college and longs to be at home.
There’s an episode in the novel where his fellow colleagues end up teasing Stephen for having kissed his mother while going to bed. The kiss becomes a song of embarrassment for Stephen. On other hand like Proust, Stephen remembers the kiss of his mother with metaphoric fondness. Soft, tender and wet is the kiss for Stephen.
Stephen recollects the discussion on Politics which has taken place at his home. The discussion is about Parnell the Irish liberator who had to quit politics when he became accused of illicit promiscuity. Parnell becomes a shameful hero, an ugly toad of tempest brewing in the minds of Irish people.
There is a description about Stephen’s passionate encounter with a hustler. Her embrace was passionate as poetry. Going to bed with her was a honey of ecstasy. Stephen becomes confronted with Christian virtues and becomes confessional before a priest. Stephen writes a remarkable epiphany of guilt and passion. Probably this incident would have led to the generation of the artist in him.
There are some remarkable views on pity, terror, art and aesthetics in the novel. Let’s examine the Joyce’s narrative on pity and terror. ‘Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant human suffering and unites it with the sufferer. Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in whatsoever is grave and constant in human suffering and unites it with a secret cause’. Pity is treated on a lower dimension and resembles Aristotelian notion of catharsis. Terror on the other hand is deep rooted in angst and resembles the experience of nausea in existential philosophy.
Rhythm for Stephen is the ‘formal aesthetic relation of part to part in any aesthetic whole or of an aesthetic whole to its part’. Stephen’s idea of rhythm is similar to Nietzsche’s theory of art which speaks of the Dionysian element of rhythm.
‘Sound, Shape and color are the prison gates of our soul—an image of beauty we have come to understand that is art’. This is in tune with Ezra Pound’s definition poetic imagism as an ‘image which is an intellectual and aesthetic complex’.
‘Art’ said Stephen ‘is the human disposition of the sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end.’ For example the smile of Mona Liza is known for its aesthetic sense because of its mystic mysteriousness. ‘Beauty’ for Stephen ‘is the splendor of truth’; this can be familiarized with Keats’ dictum: ‘Truth is beauty: beauty truth’.
There are three forms of art for Stephen, the lyrical, the epic and the dramatic. A lyrical form is where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself’: the epical form is the one where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself and to others’: and the dramatic form is the one where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate to relation to others’.
Henry James is the master of realist fiction and the portrait of a Lady was published as serials in the magazines: Atlantic and Macmillan. Literary critics hail his work as one his best pieces of fiction.
The protagonist of the story Isabel Archer is invited by her maternal aunt Lydia to visit her uncle’s home in London. There Isabel meets her invalid cousin Ralph and a neighbor Warburton. Isabel declines the offer of marriage made by Warburton and also a gentleman named Casper Good Wood. Lydia’s uncle grows ill and leaves her with a large legacy which she uses to travel to Florence. There she meets Osmond an American expatriate and marries him. Their relationship becomes one of sour grapes due to genuine lack of affection to Lydia by Osmond. Lydia wants Pansy the daughter out of Osmond’s first marriage to marry an art collector. But Osmond is more interested in marrying her to Warburton. Isabel then hears the news that her uncle is dying and she also comes to know that Pansy is the daughter of Madam Merle who had an adulterous relationship with Osmond. The ending of the story is rather cryptic leaving the reader to figure out whether Isabel would return to Osmond and also rescue Pansy from his clutches.
The novel cannot be considered as a masterpiece of fiction. The art of realism fails to achieve its aesthetic touch. There are several flaws in the story-line. One can hardly imagine it to be a fitting story. Tropes are sparingly used. There is no depth of character in the protagonist Isabel. As a work of literature—the oeuvre of art tends to be limited to a sparing minimalism. The novel lacks in philosophical content. Is Isabel a caricature of wounded feminine? Is she an archetype of the 18th century womanhood? A Marxian critic would dismiss the novel as being related to the life of the bourgeoisie. Does Isabel as a character in the novel want to pursue an independent feminine life? Why does she reject the proposals of her suitors? Why does she finally accept Osmond as her suitor? The male characters in the novel are very effeminate. The novel is intensely subjective. The novel does not adhere to any school of philosophical thought. The prose of the novel is pedantic and stultifying. The novel signifies the fin de siècle of century. Looking at the novel through the Nietzsche’ prism of art, one encounters only the Apollonian elements of melody and not the Dionysian elements rhythm and beat. There is no Aristotelian sense of cathartic consciousness in the novel. The novel does not satisfy the literary analyst Bakhtin’s sense of the dialogic. The novelist is not versatile in the usage of prose. Isabel’s relationships with men in the novel can be traced to the Freudian Electra complex. Isabel was looking for father figures in her life. The contemporary culture of the 18th century is not very conducive for aesthetic development of the human psyche. The novel does not have any suitable endings. The story of the novel is warped in the consciousness of disunity. The novel is a fragmented piece of prose. The novel does not provoke the psyche of the reader. As a literary work of art, the novel lacks aesthetic merit.