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Josipovici, Gabriel


JOSIPOVICI, GABRIEL (1940– ), English novelist, playwright, and literary critic. Born in Nice, France, Josipovici was educated at Victoria College, Cairo, and at Oxford University. From 1963 he taught at the University of Sussex where he became a professor of English Literature. In 1981 he was made the Northcliffe Lecturer at University College, London. His first novel, The Inventory, was published in 1968 and his outstanding work of literary criticism, The World and the Book: A Study of Modern Fiction, appeared in 1971. He also wrote The Lessons of Modernism and Other Essays (1977) and edited The Modern English Novels. The Reader, The Writer, and the Work (1976). As well as his acclaimed literary criticism, Josipovici published Four Stories (1977), a collection of short stories, and ten stage and radio plays. Mobius the Stripper: Stories and Short Plays (1974) contains an important selection of this work.

Josipovici is a consciously postmodernist writer who has rejected the tradition of 19th-century realism. Instead, his literary tradition is made up of Marcel *Proust, Franz *Kafka, Rainer Maria Rilke, T.S. Eliot and, more recently, Samuel Beckett, Alaine Robbe-Grillet, Jorge Luis Borges and George *Perec. All of these writers transcend a too easy identification with a national culture. Their "rootlessly self-contained" art, in the words of one critic, corresponds to Josipovici's own abstract, vulnerable, inconclusive short novels. Much of his fiction, such as The Inventory, Words (1971), and Conversations in Another Room (1984), juxtaposes the lightness and musicality of the author's dialogue with a series of haunting, unanswered questions. Migrations, on the other hand, lacks a narrative thread as it moves between nameless, displaced individuals who are related only by the author's recurring images.

Josipovici's disdain for fiction which is based on large historical questions means that his novels do not deal explicitly with Jewish themes. The Jewish writers which interest him the most are, therefore, those that write outside of a defined Jewish tradition – such as Saul *Bellow, Bernard *Malamud, and, of course, Kafka and Proust – and not such "insiders," in Josipovici's terms, as Isaac Bashevis *Singer and S.Y. *Agnon. It was only after the Six-Day War that Josipovici began to explore his Jewishness with considerable interest. He wrote the introduction to the English edition of Aharon *Appelfeld's The Retreat (1985), and he was a regular contributor to European Judaism and The Jewish Quarterly.


J. Vinson (ed.), Contemporary Novelists, (1982) 356–357; The Jewish Quarterly, 32 (1985). add. bibliography: M. Fludermik, Echoes and Mirrorings: Gabriel Josipovici's Creative Oeuvre (2001).

[Bryan Cheyette]

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