Literature | Some Fictional Arts From Novel


Is the Frankfurt Book Fair the better Art Basel? Time and again, novelists have invented great artists, paintings, sculptures, and conceptual spinning. Writers are inventors of worlds – and sometimes they also create visual arts using best paint brushes for trim. When artist characters appear in novels, they also need work. This can be shamelessly copied from existing people, completely redesigned, or even impossible in reality.

Are the authors then artists? Is the invisible image that is created only from letters the most consistent conceptual art? At least describing these fictional works is a double challenge: first imagining art and then finding words for it. And the work of visualization has to be done by the readers anyway.

Homer – “Iliad” (approx. 7th – 8th century BC)

Yes, it has to be: Even when it comes to literarily imagined works of art, there is no getting past antiquity. No less a person than Homer “invented” this rhetorical form. In the 18th book of the Iliad, he uses several stanzas and very vividly depicts the decorations on the shield that the “art-famous” god Hephaestus forges for the warrior Achilles.

Haruki Murakami: “The Assassination of Commendatore” (2018)

In contrast to Homer, the literary works of art by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami are quite fresh, even when it comes to traditional painting. In his two-volume novel “The Murder of Commendatore”, Murakami tells of a painter who has been betrayed by his wife and flees into the solitude of the mountains. There he lives and works in the abandoned studio of an old painter prince who still worked in the tradition of Japanese Nihonga painting.

Oscar Wilde: “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” (1891)

Speaking of living images: the portrait of the beautiful Dorian Gray, who ages instead of the person, is arguably one of the most famous works of art in literature. The question seems justified here as to whether the painting, which is becoming increasingly wrinkled and uglier, is not the actual protagonist of the story, and not at all the figure of the always young Dorian.

Jan Peter Bremer: “The Young Doctoral Candidate” (2019)

The painter Greilich is convinced that the young man, who has announced his visit, plans to honor his life’s work with a catalog raisonné. He has no doubts about his own immense importance, and always thinks up new exams, delays and lectures for the silt in the hoodie, whom he persistently calls “the young doctoral student”, in order to delay the encounter with his works and the whole thing more To give duration and weight. With unbearable pathos and vanity, he rags about the hardship of making art. ” Like dwarfs, we stand before the greatness of our work, and our endeavors are never more than what we can still grasp.” In addition, he treats his wife, a benevolent pain in the ass, with downright sadistic condescension.

Siri Hustvedt: “What I loved” (2003) and “Die Gleißende Welt” (2015)

The American writer Siri Hustvedt has written two novels in which works of art are fabricated. And probably couldn’t exist at all because they are so complex and absurd. In any case, they would be a challenge for any artist production team. In Hustvedt’s novels, one immerses himself in the studios of the protagonists and retraces the complicated development processes of their installations and performances.

Rachel Kushner: “Flamethrower” (2015)

Rachel Kushner’s great novel from the art scene in New York in the 70s is populated by recognizable characters: Donald Judd (polished aluminum boxes), Dan Flavin (fluorescent tubes), William Eggleston (photos from the ceiling), even if they have different names. The main character, the art college graduate Reno, tries to translate her passion for speed into film and fails: Her photographs of the scene of the accident during a high-speed race on a salt lake convey nothing, and she does not get anywhere with her film project.

Han Kang: “The Vegetarian” (2007)

The thin ribbon that at first sounds like a flowery nutrition guide is an almost unbearable book. The main character Yeong-Hye stops eating animal products – and then slowly disappears from a world that she has never really seen and has only made demands on her. In between, she becomes the model of her brother-in-law. He is an artist and mostly produces socially critical video collages that hardly anyone is interested in. Then he is suddenly seized by the vision of painting Yeong-Hye’s naked, emaciated body with flowers and filming it.

Michel Houellebecq: “Map and Territory” (2010)

The chronically self-doubting artist Jed Martin has applied to the Paris Art School with the series “Three hundred photos of objects from the hardware store”. Very conceptual, very readymade, but unfortunately no breakthrough. It only comes with a little help from the Michelin tire company, where his lover works. His series, in which he juxtaposes sections of Michelin maps with satellite images of the corresponding area, is a success – and is a prototype for art that is compatible with the market: With PR skills, you can interpret a lot into the work – or find it completely empty.




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