``Make it new'' was Ezra Pound's advice to aspiring writers. In this spin-off from a British TV series, novelist-critic Bradbury shows how James Joyce's experimentalism, Kafka's allegories of the spirit, Pirandello's unmasking of personal illusions, Virginia Woolf's lyrical novels and Proust's autobiography of human sensation all provoked shock and surprise with innovative approaches to contemporary experience. Bradbury ( The History Man , Rates of Exchange ) intriguingly views Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain as a historical novel: the record of our tormented age. The other modernists considered here are Conrad, Eliot and two precursorsDostoyevski and Ibsen. Despite its occasional hyperbole and its assumption of the reader's general unfamiliarity with the writers discussed, this skillful meld of biography, history and literary criticism is a coherent, even exciting reappraisal of the modernist movement. Facing the cultural bankruptcy of the secular state and the fragmented language of our time, modernists sought ways to go beyond inner anguish and dislocation. Bradbury charts 10 representative modernist trajectories with empathetic insight and flair. (Jan.)
This book treats Dostoevsky, Ibsen, Conrad, Mann, Joyce, Proust, Eliot, Pirandello, Woolf, and Kafka, discussing ``their achievement, their interconnections, their influence, and their perception of the modern world.'' A brief essay on each author deals with biography and oeuvre, focusing on one major work. In the process, Bradbury highlights various qualities or themes of modernism such as exile, the city, naturalism, symbolism, tragicomedy, fragmentation, etc. There is little exploration of these concepts, however, and much use of the word great. A companion to a British television series, this book is a readable if very basic introduction for the general reader to European modernism in the novel, drama, and poetry. Richard Kuczkowski, Dominican Coll., Blauvelt, N.Y.