I am back to regular writing. There is no structure in my life that would normally provide a human being with motivation to work on meaningful projects, but I find that negative motivation (you cannot do X until you have completed Y, as opposed to doing something for its own sake) is effective as long as the tasks are small. Hopefully this simply turns into habit after a while. Once I get a job I don't hate and a place of my own in a livable city, my zeal for life will hopefully return.
Speaking of which, I have a pending job offer to teach English at a university in Xi'an. I'm worried by elements in the teaching contract, especially the fact that they have the right to dismiss me at will, and then make ME pay THEM several thousand US dollars. I haven't rejected the contract outright only because I think this is relatively normal for jobs in China, and that I can't expect much better if I want to work there... But there is a real possibility that I sperg out in my first teaching sessions and fuck it all up, leading to my dismissal, and the thought that doing so could cost me thousands of dollars would only make it more likely.
In fact, I'd probably reject the job out of hand if this hadn't been set up through a personal connection that I don't want to sever. I'm at the point where I'm willing to go teach English in any random country in Asia as long as I don't have to sign a parasitic contract, regardless of pay, so saying no to China isn't necessarily condemning myself to more meaningless shambling in America.
...on the other hand, I'd really like to experience life in modern China, and I'd especially like to see Xi'an. The Song dynasty is objectively the best, but Xi'an and the surrounding Guanzhong region are really the cradle of the Chinese state, and it'd tickle my historical autism to live in the place that the Qin and the Han and the Tang ruled from. Plus, there are loads of museums and historical sites in the area.>>20556
>I just never really cared about French literature.
I don't think it's productive to think in terms of national literatures. Even where national literary characteristics indisputably exist, it's better to look at each author's work independently. Dismissing (or putting far down on a mental to-do list) an author because of their nation of origin is a big mistake.
I've read Celine, Voltaire, and Camus at book length. Each seemed more a product of their particular literary movement or individual artistic genius than of their nation, and each satisfied a completely different literary craving, to the extent that they satisfied one at all. Voltaire and Camus in particular are shallow to a modern reader; Voltaire's Enlightened cynicism seems childish to someone raised on chans, and Camus, while a good high school read, just doesn't have much depth. The Stranger mystifies you with haughty existentialist musings, but it's ultimately just the ramblings of a murderer over-philosophizing about his impending death. The only thing that still remains with me from the book is how well Camus was able to gussy up nothing.
Celine is... not very good in the English translation I read, but I think that he would be quite enjoyable to read in French, or in the hands of a better translator. Heavy on the nihilism, but despite his well known reactionary politics, even Trotsky raved about what a good writer he was. To paraphrase, he captured the post-WW1 Western cultural moment with an unsparing critical eye.
Dickens I can't recommend; he's barely readable at best. Certainly not enjoyable. However, V.S. Naipaul - despite being from Trinidad - was a naturalized Brit, and was raised in and aimed to be a part of British literary culture. He's one of the great authors, without qualification, and definitely worth looking into.