Friday, December 22, 2006

In this Season of Too Many Contents

I am loath to recommend books without reservation, for reading forays are never really collective enterprises. The individual choice and the individuated voice of any book worth its weight in grain, salt, or gold are for the person within the person to decide. However, in this season, in this suffocating atmosphere of crass commercialism and Christian consumerism (buy your loved ones off with piddly products of mass production), I would recommend the recent translation of the first volume of Peter Weiss's proletarian bildungsroman, THE AESTHETICS OF RESISTANCE.
One of the most powerful books of contemporary German literature, this sprawling, sprited work is a novel masquerading as history masquerading as a novel as...
It is a fiction that surveys the lives and landscapes of German leftist radicals during the rise of thirties fascism. Weiss, who is best known for his play, MARAT/SADE, spent the last stage of his writing career on this opus. The working-class narrator discusses the various trials and terrors of his family's life under this fascist threat and the radical tradition that lead them, that bred them. The story, magnficently translated by Joachim Neugroschel, is splendid, experimental, and absolutely gripping. Here, we confront a materialist vision of history that, unlike the rampant materialism of consumerist society, shows how collective action, decision, indecision, contradiction, and conviction, can lead us to fight for a better world. It's published by Duke University Press with a solid preface by Frederic Jameson. Seek it out and stick it under your Christmas tree, capped by a portrait of Marx and not some effete, glass angel.