Louis Esterhuizen. Bloosparade van die literêre kritiek

 

Via ‘n skakel op De Contrabas beland ek op ‘n omvattende artikel deur William Logan wat onlangs op New Criterion se webblad verskyn het; ‘n artikel wat in wese handel oor die verleentheid van literêre kritici wie se aanvanklike (negatiewe) oordeel met die agternakyk van jare later as ‘n totale mistasting beskou word: “When critics play parlor games, they imagine how they would have reviewed the controversial books of the past. Critics are later judged, not by the book they failed to pan, but by the book they failed to praise. Most are certain that, given the chance, they would have recognized the genius of Lyrical Ballads, or Leaves of Grass, or The Waste Land. We pour bile on the heads of the dolts of 1798 and 1855 and 1922 who didn’t realize what was on the desk before them.”

Met bogenoemde as inleidende paragraaf, ondersoek Logan dan pertinent die ontvangs wat bogenoemde drie bundels in hul tyd gehad het en hoe die kritici gewoon nie in staat was om dié drie digters – Whitman (foto), Wordsworth en Eliot – na waarde te skat nie. Fassinerende leesstof, inderdaad. En besonder amusant, terselfdertyd.

Neem byvoorbeeld die volgende oordeel wat Charles A. Dana, hoofredakteur van die New York Daily Tribune, oor Whitman se Leaves of Grass gevel het: “From the unique effigies of the anonymous author of this volume which graces the frontispiece, we may infer that he belongs to the exemplary class of society sometimes irreverently styled “loafers.” He is therein represented in a garb, half sailor’s, half workman’s, with no superfluous appendage of coat or waistcoat, a “wide-awake” perched jauntily on his head, one hand in his pocket and the other on his hip, with a certain air of mild defiance […] His language is too frequently reckless and indecent. . . . His words might have passed between Adam and Eve in Paradise, before the want of fig-leaves brought no shame; but they are quite out of place amid the decorum of modern society, and will justly prevent his volume from free circulation in scrupulous circles. . . . The Leaves of Grass . . . are full of bold, stirring thoughts . . . but so disfigured with eccentric fancies as to prevent a consecutive perusal without offense.”

Sjoe. Ook Charles Eliot Norton, wat in latere jare hoofredakteur van die North American Review, sou word, het Charles Dana se oordeel ge-eggo met sy verwysings na “… a curious and lawless collection of poems, called Leaves of Grass, and issued in a thin quarto without the name of publisher or author. The poems, twelve in number, are neither in rhyme nor blank verse, but in a sort of excited prose broken into lines without any attempt at measure or regularity, and, as many readers will perhaps think, without any idea of sense or reason. The writer’s scorn for the wonted usages of good writing, extends to the vocabulary he adopts; words usually banished from polite society are here employed without reserve and with perfect indifference to their effect on the reader’s mind; . . . the introduction of terms, never before heard or seen, and of slang expressions, often renders an otherwise striking passage altogether laughable.”

Natuurlik staan die kritikus weerloos voor die ongenaakbare oordeel van die tyd; iets wat Logan duidelik stel in opmerking waarmee hy sdy omvattende artikel sluit: “The critics who got it wrong remind us that poets in whom we now see only virtues once seemed full of vices, and that, though we may value those vices differently, sometimes it is their presence that makes the virtues virtues.”

Gaan lees gerus; veral die mistastings rondom Eliot se The Waste Land was skrikwekkend; dog verstaanbaar … Of juis nié?!

En natuurlik kan ‘n mens nie verhelp om te wonder oor plaaslike voorbeelde nie … Kan iemand dalk help? Indien ek dit nie mis het nie, was DJ Opperman se oordeel van Peter Blum byvoorbeeld minder gunstig? Of het ek dit mis?

Nietemin, vir jou leesplesier plaas ek ‘n voorbeeld van die taalgebruik uit Whitman se Leaves of Grass wat volgens William Logan bykans al die kritici die harnas ingejaag het.

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Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous . . . . quivering jelly of love . . .

white-blow and delirious juice,
Bridegroom-night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweetfleshed day.

 

© Walt Whitman

 

 

 

 

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