The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son

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The Psalter Benaki 34.3. An unpublished illuminated manuscript from the family 2400

Perhaps this is due to the fact that the wise man was a paragon of modesty and that on his deathbed he ordered his son Israel to print any one of his manuscripts, or better yet, not print any of them. In all of this, more than the echo, one finds the source itself of the literary activity of Franz Kafka and his final decision, plea or order given to Max Brod to burn his work. Of course, Kafka is a pilpulist so extreme that he seems a heretic to the tradition that he takes up and rewrites. My favorite was thus Sosa, the real man of tango.

While my father was sleeping I identified secretly with his tastes, and put in my extra hours as a small Argentine listener playing his tangos, to feel I was a man like him. Surely this anecdote is false, an invention by the bands of fanatical Gardelians to diminish the image of their rival. My father had asked me to accompany him to visit a manufacturer of refrigerators, and on the return from the excursion, tedious and full of speculations about the economic growth of the country, he attempted to keep up a broader dialogue, moving from adult to preadolescent territory, which included the topic of my future sexual life.

But once the necessary prolegomena had been discussed preventive medicine, risks, desired and undesired pregnancies , perhaps driven by the memory of his years of youth, perhaps by the desire to get closer to me by communicating something of his experience, he mentioned a girlfriend of his from adolescence. For him, to name her was to live the experience again. He said that this woman had been his great love and that he had lost her due to a misunderstanding. The malice of their parents, a dark design. He remained in silence, both of us contemplated the successive ugliness of the neighborhoods we passed through, then suddenly, giving a sharp blow to the wheel, he said that one had to pick whom one marries very carefully.

In this case, opera. If in the past Noelia had been his great love, one therefore deduced that my mother had not been to the same degree.

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And if this were so, I asked, what had led them to get married and what united them in the present? Your mother is a good companion.

Transformations, cycles, advances, setbacks of matrimony. My father had invited me to accompany him to sound out my reaction to certain decisions linked to his future. The astonishment of my father, his laughter at the apparent absurdity of my comment, lasted for hardly a second. And at the same time, the only thing that exists is family. The fact is, this paternal sentence about the end of love ruined, in a completely unexpected way and from the start, the possibility that I would develop full, complex, and adult sentimental relationships.

Maybe because his own father, my grandfather Ernesto, abstained prudently from advancing him that sort of sinister knowledge about the fleeting nature of all emotion and the end of all hope. Pure pilpul. She asks him his age, his date of birth, the day and year in which we are currently living.

What am I to you?

The Death of Hamnet and the Making of Hamlet

At bottom, what is there to show? The world closed like an umbrella and there only remains to me the politics of resistance before the spectacle of a growing incapacity. Virgil tells how Aeneas, son of Anchises and Aphrodite, flees from a defeated Troy that burns in tall Achaean flames. His destiny is not to die defending his native city but to raise one greater and more glorious. During the flight he must carry his father, who can no longer hold himself up. Anchises will die and be buried in Drepana.

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As long as he could, he asked me to show him the originals of my books and returned them to me with corrections. Attentive to detail, the general sense of the narrative escaped him. But this, which at the time irritated me, did not cease to move me. He also watches over the correct placement of the tube. A will to survive at all cost. He twists the tube. I bump into my aunt Alicia, his sister-in-law, who watched the scene. Say sorry. When he says goodbye to me I give him a kiss on each cheek. The next day, in the afternoon, I go to see him. With that Book,'' Zuckerman's brother tells him.

It's one thing, God damn you, to entrust your imagination to your instincts, it's another, Nathan, to entrust your own family. In ''Zuckerman Unbound,'' Mr. Roth delineates the generational conflict between fathers and sons as well as the palpable effects of art, but he also instills them with a mythic quality that is missing in real life. Like Nathan Zuckerman, many writers do place the demands of their vocation before the feelings of their loved ones, and they echo William Faulkner, who once declared, ''If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies.

In the case of Mr. Roth's own parents, for instance, ''Portnoy's Complaint,'' however alarming, was still the work of their son, and they were proud of his success. In fact, many authors who have incurred the indignation of the world at large have done so with unwavering support from home: Louis Ginsberg, for one,used to give joint readings with his son, Allen, the author of ''Howl,'' and Jack Kerouac wrote most of ''On the Road'' while living at home with his mother. Although Miss Jong says she suspects that her mother was afraid to read the book - ''All she said was, 'Why don't you be more like Graham Greene, dear' '' - both her father and grandfather seemed to enjoy it, and they were inspired by its intimacy to reveal secrets of their own.

Certainly that reaction must have come as something of a relief to Miss Jong. Having previously established herself as a poet and a university teacher, she says she was ''terrified that writing about sex and fantasies and so-called family secrets might be misunderstood,'' and she considered withdrawing the book from publication.

The book was aggressive and sexual - all the things good girls aren't supposed to be - and I felt it was an outrageous social act to produce it. View all New York Times newsletters. That belief, she says, conferred a kind of freedom, for it meant that she didn't have to consider what her parents - or for that matter, any reader - would think.

Established novelists, of course, do not share this luxury, and some concede that the knowledge their parents and friends will read their work has the effect of unconscious censorship. My work is in no way a rebellion against their values.

The Death of Hamnet and the Making of Hamlet | by Stephen Greenblatt | The New York Review of Books

Knowles, his mother remains ''out of sympathy with a great deal of my work. After reading ''A Separate Peace,'' Mr. Knowles says his mother turned to him and said, ''If I'd known you were so unhappy at Exeter I'd never have let you stay there,'' and many parents similarly assume that their children's novels are transcripts of experience, rather than acts of invention. Not only do they tend to identify the protagonist with their son or daughter, they also tend to look for fictional images of themselves. Sometimes their suspicions are confirmed. Lawrence in ''Sons and Lovers. As far as their families were concerned, however, neither of these authors was faced with the full consequences of his work: Lawrence's novel did not appear until after his mother's death his father, say biographers, could not read well enough to appreciate its harsh irony ; and O'Neill left specific instructions that his play not be published until 25 years after his death, which occured in His widow Carlotta actually published it in No doubt a similar desire to spare his family needless embarrassment and pain accounts for John Cheever's decision to refrain from publishing his first novel ''The Wapshot Chronicle'' until , the year his father died.

The book recounts the decline in fortunes - both material and spiritual - of a New England family quite similar to his own, and he later acknowledged that it was, in fact, an ''attempt to make peace with my father's ghosts. Marilyn French, who is currently working on a novel based on her mother's life, says she too wanted to ''come to terms'' with her family's past, particularly her mother's. She wanted to tell the story of a mother and daughter, the story of an immigrant woman who came to America, worked in a Williamsburg sweatshop and who raised a family in the New World.

Although her mother had had certain reservations about her previous books - ''She wasn't too crazy about the sex scenes,'' recalls Miss French, ''she thinks such things should be private'' - she had never criticized her daughter's poetic license, and she agreed to sit down with a tape recorder and recount the story of her life. As for Miss French herself, she says she worried about internal censorship but decided that, since she felt ashamed of nothing in her parents' lives or her own, she saw no reason not to tell the truth.

While I was asking her questions about her life, she kept saying, 'I'm nothing, I'm not important,' and I think there's a part of her that was touched that someone bothered to write about her. I think she'd like to have it published while she's alive. It's not a satiric portrayal or a vengeful one. It's a loving attempt to understand my parents, and I think they accept that. Indeed the desire to comprehend his parents or his parents' world is frequently an animating force in a writer's fiction.

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In some cases, there is a need for parental approval; in others, a simple autobiographical impulse that is particularly accentuated when an author is starting out. One of Bernard Malamud's very first stories, for instance, concerned a couple who, much like his own parents, owned a grocery store, and he proudly mailed off a copy to his father.

Some time later, he received a note from his father, signed ''Sam'' - the name of the fictional grocer. In my case I would say yes - mostly out of respect and appreciation for the fact his life was so hard.

Ludwig van Beethoven

In a sense, I honor him. We didn't talk much about it, but when I sent him that story, it was a way of getting close to him, to show him what I could do. I think he appreciated it - writing to him was an act of the new land, it was a good thing, a kind of accomplishment. John Updike's parents, it seems, were also solicitous of his fiction. Although his mother cherished literary ambitions of her own - ''Frankly, Johnny, I'd rather it had been me,'' she once said, referring to his success - she was gratified by his achievement, as was his father, who was portrayed as the well-meaning schoolteacher in ''The Centaur.

One morning, shortly after ''The Centaur'' appeared, father and son were standing outside the local church. A Sunday school student approached and assailed the younger Updike's portrait of his parent.

The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son
The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son
The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son
The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son
The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son
The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son
The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son The Manuscript: Once again, Ode to Father and Son

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