Rarely … has a writer so cruelly studied his own sluggishness, nor cast it in such bleak existential terms, as in The Unquiet Grave. Connolly wrote the first of many drafts in three small notebooks between the autumns of 1942 and 1943; it was, he said, “inevitably a war book”. In her essay “Notes on Failure”, Joyce Carol Oates calls The Unquiet Grave “a journal in perpetual metamorphosis, a lyric assemblage”. In places, sometimes for several pages at a time, it’s no more than a high-toned commonplace book, corralling quotations from Connolly’s mid-war reading: Chamfort, Pascal, Nerval, Baudelaire, Sainte-Beuve. An atmosphere of disabused, ironic alienation pervades the passages he selects, and quotes for the most part in their original French. When the author’s own voice is heard it is by turns languid, styptic, childish and self-lacerating. The Unquiet Grave is notorious for certain passages of intense self-pity, which Connolly would like to elevate to essayistic grandeur.
Friday, June 09, 2017
… Cyril Connolly and the literature of depression – TheTLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)