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This article is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

Beyond Lukacs David Forgacs

PIERRE MACHEREY'S work has been familiar to left wing literary circles in Britain for some years now. He was invited to speak at the sociology of literature conference held at Essex University in 1976, and Terry Eagleton's theoretical work, Criticism and Ideology, drew extensively on his ideas. Now in an English version which preserves rather than breaks down its stylistic tortuosity, can Macherey's major work, Pour une théorie de la production littéraire (1966), become as widely known as it deserves? Ten years after writing it, Macherey himself called the book 'enigmatic': 'it needs to be deciphered or translated'. More than this, it needs to be questioned. In Macherey's own hands his theory of literature is too beautiful a Galatea who dazzles him by the harmony of her parts. She should be put out on the streets and sullied.

A Theory of Literary Production (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978) is one of the few Marxist works to confront major problems of critical method-interpretation, evaluation, description of the text-with the kind of rigour they deserve. It asks questions such as these: Is the literary work a knowledge of reality or something else: an experience, a transformation? Can the realism of a work be in conflict with the author's political prejudices (the famous 'Balzac question' raised by Engels), and, if so, how might this come about? Should a work be judged in accordance with the limits of the author's view of the world or against those limits, from a partisan ...


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