The Baroque Emptiness of Jonathan Buckley: On “The Great Concert of the Night”

Jonathan Buckley cover

When we think of the baroque, we tend to think of complexity wedded to fineness. Images of darkened ballrooms extending indefinitely into the distance, mirrors framed elaborately in gold, and candle-bearing chandeliers as spindly and diffuse as ancient jellyfish come to mind. Fiction-wise, though, there’s not really an immediate image to latch onto, mostly because the novel as we understand it today (especially in English) didn’t crystallize as a form until the eighteenth century. There are, however, plenty of books being written today that could comfortably be classified as baroque, works by writers like Javier Marías and W.G. Sebald that have in common a respect for antiquity and an elegant, unfolding prose style, as well as a certain covetousness, as though the world were constantly slipping away and needed to woven together again by language. 

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