I’m reading Robertson Davies’ The Deptford Trilogy because a friend of mine said he was reading it. I never get to see him, so this was a way to connect with him.
After reading the first 100 pages, I’m happy to report that there is, in fact, such a thing as Canadian literature, which is very good news. I get the feeling that the entirety of Canadian literature happened in the 1970s but it’s better than nothing.
Another piece of good news is that the first novel in the trilogy is a male Bildungsroman and I don’t detest it. It’s a dead genre but Davies did great things with it just as it was expiring.
It’s beautifully written, very Freudian but in unobtrusive ways, so if you aren’t into Freud you won’t notice. And did I say it was beautifully written? If you love the English language, forget the plot, the pleasure of the beautiful text alone makes it worth it.
It’s amazing that the sixth book in a row I’m reading on this vacation is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a pretty long stretch.
4 thoughts on “Canadian Literature Exists”
If you’re enjoying the Deptford Trilogy, allow me to recommend Davies’ The Rebel Angels. An academic satire, no less. My only complaint about Davies is that I think he has a limited range in the way he writes his characters. Their inner voices all seem to sound like that of a well settled middle aged bachelor.
Academic satire, another genre I detest. 🙂 Let’s see if he can redeem it for me, as well.
Why is the male bildungsroman dead?
The genre has existed for a while. It has a very predictable formula, for obvious reasons. It’s always the same thing: parents, friends, sexual awakening, a journey away from home, a journey back. After 200 years of describing the process that doesn’t have much variety, there’s really not much more to say about boys growing up.
Female Bildungsroman is a bit more interesting because there have been big changes in the way girls grow up. But this genre fizzled into an eternal replay of women resisting the need to grow up and self-infantilizing ad nauseam. If in the 19th century female Bildungsroman was all about women resenting the patriarchal structures that didn’t let them grow up, now it’s all about women resenting the need to grow up. After reading dozens of such novels, I can’t look at them without horror. They are so repetitive.
This was the subject of my first book, hence the oversaturation with Bildungsromane.