Study Guide

Major Arguments

Major Arguments

I lived a long life, and I lived it with gusto. I was unafraid of changing my mind, or of fleeing with my tail between my legs from yet another of Stalin's atrocities. I meant what I said and said what I meant except when I didn't, which was often, but only sometimes.

When it comes to Marxist aesthetics, my name should be the first to come to your mind. You should also think of me when people talk about the importance of the Realist novel, or when they talk about what a comedown life in the modern world is. Oh, and for all of those lovers of Joyce, Woolf, or Kafka: take your positions, because I'm ready to put up my dukes when it comes to that nutty avant-garde stuff.

People in Hungary still dig me, which is cool because not many old Marxists still have cred anywhere. Even people who criticized me could not deny how important my work was—and as you know, I was the first to criticize my own work, so in a sense they were copying me, anyway. I've had fans ranging from Theodor Adorno to Alfred Kazin. Not bad, eh?

By way of conclusion, allow me to quote the preface I wrote to a new edition of The Theory of the Novel:

The Theory of the Novel is not conservative but subversive in nature, even if based on a highly naive and totally unfounded utopianism — the hope that a natural life worthy of man can spring from the disintegration of capitalism and the destruction, seen as identical with that disintegration, of the lifeless and life-denying social and economic categories. (Source.)

I composed this preface in 1962—almost half a century after I wrote the book. As you can see, I realized that some of my ideas were too optimistic, but hey, I meant well. I never deviated from the hope that man could get out from under the crushing heel of capitalism—and that literature was one way of making that happen.