self-abnegating vessels


Sometimes it happens that an author can live long enough to see this fate befall his own work, and to bear witness to that special form of powerlessness which authorship eventually invites. Viktor Shklovsky’s Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar and Energy of Delusion — two works of literary theory recently translated and published for the first time in English by the Dalkey Archive Press — are remarkable demonstrations of this kind of melancholy self-awareness. Written in Shklovsky’s old age, they sketch a theory of literary history at a time when his ideas had grown unfashionable. Thrown into the light of the present, these books are more than mere artifacts of time: they are also self-conscious reflections on literature’s relation to its past, and on the way literary forms (genres, plots, tropes) become, as Shklovsky puts it, the “self-abnegating” vessels of their own untimeliness.

more from Jnathan Foltz at the LA Review of Books here.