26 ago. 2010

Here are some ideas I've sometimes believed:

20th Century poetry written in Spanish is much more interesting than French poetry of the same period. In particular, Spanish pseudo-surrealist poets like Lorca, Aleixandre, Neruda, are more interesting than the French surrealists.

The Latin American "boom" novelists are far better than peninsular Spanish novelists of the same period, like Goytisolo and Benet.

The boom in Latin American narrative is more interesting that Latin American poetry after Paz, Parra, and Lezama Lima. The energy of avant-garde poetry (Neruda and Vallejo, Borges's essays) flows into narrative--not lyric poetry, which settled into a kind of dull conversational mode during this same period.

These beliefs seem to depend on an unexamined premise: that there is a kind of imaginative energy that is present in really interesting literary movements and absent in others. There is an "it" that moves about from country to country, from genre to genre. Whole swaths of literature can be boring because they don't have it.

I'm questioning this kind of thinking, not because all these judgments are necessarily mistaken, but because they make reality seem too simple and rely on cultural stereotypes. For example, I'm sure I've accepted judgments about French surrealism without having read the French poets in question.