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Autobiographical Preface to 'The Angel of Luxury and Sadness' by Ian Irvine

Autobiographical Preface to 'The Angel of Luxury and Sadness' by Ian Irvine

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Published by Ian Irvine (Hobson)
This short preface to 'The Angel of Luxury and Sadness' a non-fiction book on chronic ennui/boredom and modernity, published in 2000, provides a short personal context for the project. The author discusses his late adolescent change of direction in terms of the role played by his love of literature - particularly Modernist literature - and the creative arts.
This short preface to 'The Angel of Luxury and Sadness' a non-fiction book on chronic ennui/boredom and modernity, published in 2000, provides a short personal context for the project. The author discusses his late adolescent change of direction in terms of the role played by his love of literature - particularly Modernist literature - and the creative arts.

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Published by: Ian Irvine (Hobson) on May 05, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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09/10/2013

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Autobiographical Preface to
The Angel of Luxury and Sadness 
The Emergence of thNormative Ennui Cycle
 
By Ian Irvine (Hobson)
copyright Ian Irvine (Hobson) 2000 all rights reserved.[This edited version published by Mercurius Press, Australia, 2013]
 NB: A slightly different version of this piece appeared at the beginning of the print version of 
The Angel of Luxury and Sadness
(Booksurge [no Amazon] publishing, USA, 2000).
 
This work was conceived many years ago
 — 
in 1982 to be exact
 — 
as I sat down in theAuckland University library to read a peculiar little book called
The Castle
 by FranzKafka. At that time I was eighteen and had an apparently bright future ahead of me in professional cricket. I was also studying commerce and it was assumed that this would bemy back-up career if the sports option failed.
In retrospect it was not Kafka’s classic work that wrecked my commitment to the
idyllic life mapped out for me. A subversive force had been pushing me to attendliterature lectures in the Arts faculty for months. Likewise, I was inexorably drawn to thefortnightly student poetry evenings hosted by a pub close to the University. I was alsoundergoing a number of typical late-
teenage ‘life
-
crises’: relationship problems, lack of a
decent income, plucking up the courage to leave home, etc .On top of all this there was my involvement in politics. At that time there was alot going on in New Zealand: controversy over whether to allow US nuclear ships intoAuckland Harbour; concern over the insidious anti-democratic stance of Robert
Muldoon’s conservative administration; ongoing debate over whether to allow the All
Blacks to play Rugby against the South African Springboks, and the ever-present feelingamong many young New Zealanders that a nuclear or environmental conflagration was just around the corner. Perhaps it was my involvement with the New Zealand Labour Party which made me feel these issues more strongly than many of my friends.Alternatively, perhaps it was the writer in me stirring even before I knew of his existence.
I read a lot during that period of my life: Ken Keysey’s
One Flew Over the
Cuckoo’s Nest 
; Thomas Pynchon’s
Gravity’s Rainbow
; Robert Graves’
The WhiteGoddess.
I was also getting into New Zealand poets and writers such as Sam Hunt,Alistair Campbell and Frank Sargeson. Likewise, this was the period in which I first
encountered Orwell, Jung, Freud, Laing, Janov, Reich, and many other ‘canonical’
writers and thinkers from any number of disciplines. I was also studying mythology inmy spare time and had the usual late-teenage addiction to Tolkien
’s work 
.
In a sense then, the epiphany that came with reading Kafka’s dark little book was
clearly the end-point of a long process. During the four hours it took me to read
TheCastle
the darkness of the world around me converged with the darkness of the world
within
me and I had a series of realizations which in retrospect had probably been comingfor quite some time.From the perspective of this current book this was the moment when the problem
of ‘disenchantment’ first struck me. I noticed that there was something peculiarly dark 
and pessimistic about much of the best modern literature. This mood was especiallyobvious when I compared the works of Eliot, Kafka, Camus, Orwell, Sartre, Beckett,Dostoyevsky and Pychon with the general mood of traditional literatures from virtuallyanywhere in the world: Maori, Aboriginal Australia, Hindu, Celtic, Ancient Greek, etc..Such an observation would have been a merely intellectual problem except thatsomething in those works spoke to me about the truth of my own condition. There was noignoring it, the themes of modernity were
my
themes, and one of those themes was the
ubiquitous problem of ‘alienation’ (in its most general sense). A question struck me:
Whywere so many modern writers and poets obsessed with this phenomenon?This question eventually led me down strange pathways
 — 
 pathways far from theworld of international cricket and conformist wealth accumulation. Suffice to say that bythe age of twenty-three I was a University drop-out living in a caravan park in a foreign

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