Saturday, August 05, 2006

The possibility of narrative

The ongoing misconstrual of the critical response to John Updike's Terrorist has highlighted the schism in the church of fiction. There are those for whom the lucid economy of Updike's prose provides "a frail bulwark against the larger and more furious passions that threaten the world" and those who are not entirely convinced by the detail of this particular rampart. Yet both are manning the church doors. Outside, in the graveyard, beside the freshly disturbed earth, stand those unwilling to mark the spot with fragrant flowers in elegant vases and then move indoors.
Blanchot's récits ... do not recount historical events, even when those events correspond to crucial turning points in modern history, like the ill-fated signature of the Munich accords that forms the political backdrop to Death Sentence, or the bombing of the synagogue in the rue de la Victoire in Paris in October 1941, recalled almost exactly half-way through When the Time Comes. Such events are nevertheless present in the margins of Blanchot's texts, but not as episodes in a completed narrative sequence. Events like these are not just crises in history, Blanchot suggests; they are crises of history, and they challenge the possibility of narrative itself.
(Leslie Hill in the TLS, 1999).

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