Compass-enardHal Hlavinka at the Quarterly Conversation:

Compass’s scope and erudition are astonishing—particularly when Énard drops any pretext of plot and shifts into a more essayistic voice—and the novel is simply riddled with barn burners. To wit: “[There] was graffiti here and there, I said anti-Semitism? He replied no, love”; “The terrifying nationalism of corpses”; “Music is time domesticated, reproducible time, time shaped”; “Tuberculars and syphilitics, there’s the history of art in Europe.” Said makes his own appearance as “the Great Name,” akin to “invoking the Devil in a Carmelite convent.” Like Mann, Énard balances his speaker’s arguments on an equilibrium between civilization (art, music, poetry, life) and chaos (war, greed, famine, death). We get an early glimpse of Ritter’s own theory of Orientalism through his musings on musicology. Figures like Beethoven and Liszt owe their innovations to the Romantic period’s fascination with the Orient’s alterity, smuggled into their art as a means of undermining “the dictatorship of church chant and harmony.” But the Orient’s influence on Western art isn’t direct; rather, artists are always caught in a tangle of influence upon influence, mistaken origins, smoke and mirrors, in a word, misrepresentations:

Berlioz never travelled to the Orient, but was, at the height of his twenty-five years, fascinated with Hugo’s Les Orientales. So there might be a secondOrient, that of Goethe or Hugo, of people who know neither Oriental languages, nor the countries where they are spoken, but who rely on the works of Orientalists and travellers like Hammer-Purgstall, and even a third Orient, a Third-Orient, that of Berlioz or Wagner, which feeds on these works that are themselves indirect.

It’s only fitting, then, that when Flaubert enters Cairo, he also enters the music of Beethoven—a Third-Orient of its own.

more here.