In 1953 I was five and the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II of England was the main event. There was a surge in TV buying as the ceremony was relayed live and someone on our street got one and soon after we got our own black and white set and I was watching Bill & Ben the Flowerpot Men and Andy Pandy and Hopalong Cassidy. Meanwhile over in Paris the renegade critic Roland Barthes had his first book of essays printed - Writing Degree Zero. These essays contained startling and brilliant insight into the nature of Western European writing and language. I only recently read this book and it made me think a lot about my patchy experience of literature - my affinity with science fiction and then experimental writing from William Burroughs and Brion Gysin's cut-ups to Bob Cobbing's sound poetry. From Joyce and Beckett to the Fluxus instructions. Throughout the book Barthes refers to 'classical writing'. Classical writing is defined as the writing that appears as the national languages are standardised and codified by way of dictionaries and grammars. This collection of essays is a classic and still fresh and relevant after all these years. detailed summary on my blog: http://stefan-szczelkun.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/writing-degree-zero-roland-barthes-1953.html
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Not for the faint-hearted, but if you are a student of literary criticism you'll value this work. Barthes is uncompromising in his approach to literary theory. A stimulating read which prokes much thought and much debate