Review 31 interview Lars Iyer.
My manifesto was written in a spirit of provocation. The novel, as a form, has been subject to a devaluation in recent years – it has been marginalised within contemporary culture. True cultural life is elsewhere. How, then, to reclaim the novel with this marginality in mind? How to mark a kind of crisis of transmissibility when it comes to the relationship between the novel of today and what has gone before? For me, Vila-Matas, Bolaño and Bernhard have some answers, and that was the point of my manifesto.
W. and Lars, the central characters in the Spurious trilogy, are fascinated with the literature and philosophy of what they call ‘Old Europe’. Much of the comedy of the trilogy follows from the distance between ‘Old Europe’ and the contemporary Britain of the characters. There is something ridiculous about the importance W. and Lars give to their own endeavours, which is patterned after the writers and thinkers they admire, in a world completely indifferent to their concerns. But I hope there is something admirable about W. and Lars, too – something that moves the reader in the characters’ vehement attempts to think in the tradition of their masters. The plight of W. and Lars is derisory but also, perhaps, inspiring. More broadly, my characters’ predicament is a way of marking the problem of the contemporary novel in my novels. How ridiculous to try to do something new in a British novel today! The task becomes one of evidencing that ridiculousness, that sense of imposture. I seek to do so laughingly, lightly, remembering what Chesterton said: ‘solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light’. Here, Vila-Matas, Bolaño and Bernhard are inspirations, fellow travellers. They understand the situation we’re in.