Advanced Thought

William Empson

  • Genesis of Secrecy by Frank Kermode
    Harvard, 169 pp, £5.50, June 1979, ISBN 0 674 34525 8

Frank Kermode’s new book contains a great deal of graceful and dignified prose, especially in the last chapter, and many of the examples are of great interest. It seems to argue that no history or biography can be believed, but must be regarded as a kind of novel. Any narrative is necessarily incomplete, and the details left out may for some readers be the important ones – what is taken for granted may become the crucial question. Such is the justification for the title. The chief theme of the book, or source for its examples, is the Gospel of St Mark, and it attends to many recent works on this subject, mostly in French or German. A tone of yearning sorrow is often present, but Kermode’s theory must be applied to his own work: this tone should be part of his novelistic technique.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in