Paul Auster: On "Testimony"

Testimony: The United States (1885-1915) Recitative is perhaps Reznikoff's most important achievement as a poet. A quietly astonishing work, so deceptive in its making that it would be easy to misread it as a document rather than as a piece of art, it is at once a kaleidoscopic vision of American life and the ultimate test of Reznikoff’s poetic principles. Composed of small, self-contained fragments, each the distillation of an actual court case, the overall effect is nevertheless extremely coherent. Reznikoff has no lesson to teach, no axe to grind, no ideology to defend: he merely wants to present the facts.

[. . . .]

It would be difficult for a poet to make himself more invisible than Reznikoff does in this book. To find a comparable approach to the real, one would have to go back to the great prose writers of the turn of the century. As in Chekov or in early Joyce, the desire is to allow events to speak for themselves, to choose the exact detail that will say everything and thereby allow as much as possible to remain unsaid. This kind of restraint paradoxically requires an openness of spirit that is available to very few: an ability to accept the given, to remain a witness of human behavior and not succumb to the temptation of becoming a judge.


Title Paul Auster: On "Testimony" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Milton Hindus Criticism Target Charles Reznikoff
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 24 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "Reznikoff and His Sources"
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