I understand that this is a work that has been somewhat neglected by the Anglophonic literary establishment. I hate to break from popular wisdom, but I feel this is an oversight, partially based out of snobbery. Twilight is a fine piece of writing, displaying the author’s capability to deal with poetic imagery and high romantic themes with aplomb. So why the relative lack of respect?
That the writer, and indeed the work specifically, deal with super- or praeter-natural themes is most likely the first reason for the well-read population turning their nose up in the direction of Twilight. But this elitism displayed towards an artist concerning themselves with fantastic situations is a relatively recent intellectual development – did not Homer operate in the transcendant realm? Is the Divine Comedy not metaphysically abnormal?
Perhaps it is the effect of the Enlightenment: rationalism and empiricism are our gods, now, and we tell ourselves that anything outside of that limited sphere of directly-observed existence is not worth the time of day. White, middle-class writers like Ian McEwan, writing almost solely about the banalities of everyday existence, are decorated with praise and awards, whilst a far superior stylist and imagination like Samuel R. Delany is, at best, patronised as being “good for a science fiction writer”. The idea that fantastic fiction cannot be relevant is one we must shed if our literature is not to turn stale.
The second cause for Twilight’s relative lack of acclaim in the literary world, as far as I can identify, is that it has been tainted by association with a completely seperate work. I need not name the book I mean, as the reader will no doubt be familiar with the scandalous coverage of its publication.
Rather than pure snobbery, the problem here is an older, virulent strain of puritanism. If fantasy and science fiction are excluded from the literary canon, then erotica is exiled, outcast, treated with nothing more polite than utter disdain. Of course, this novel wasn’t merely guilty of describing (gasp!) sex, but sex again external to the white, middle class norm. The fact that this puts it in a tradition extending back through the Marquis de Sade to Rabelais, writers that no serious critic would dare to doubt the greatness of, has fallen on deaf ears.
What I am saying is these works consisting of vampirism and sado-masochism make them transgressive to the modern establishment as surely as De Sade was to the Ancien Regime. This transgressive nature is the sole reason why they have not been widely accepted, the sole reason why those who have read them don’t seem to have understood their power.
I say we must end this snobbery, this sophism, this soporific and sycophantic appraisal of literature that doesn’t dare to venture beyond the norm at the expense of genuinely imaginative works. Twilight, no matter what you may have heard, is one of Guillaume Apollinaire’s finest poems, a highlight of Alcools, and his Eleven Thousand Rods is the equal at least of Rétif, de Nerciat or even Aretino as a piece of literate pornography. We do ourselves a disservice not to recognise them.