By Robert Boyers
Operating intentionally opposed to the grain of assumptions dominant within the modern literary academy, Boyers examines novels through Günter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Milan Kundera and others, arguing that it will be significant to talk of personality, ethics, and philosophic goal if one is to appreciate those works. A penetrating examine, Atrocity and Amnesia illuminates the various significant fiction of our time and makes a huge contribution to modern political suggestion.
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Additional info for Atrocity and Amnesia: The Political Novel since 1945
There has been development, but it has taken the form of refinement, not enlargement of scope or feeling. The prose, from the first a sharp instrument wielded with scrupulous restraint, has nicely accommodated itself to more brutal uses but is still the rather spare and self-limiting tool it always was. The writer who could do the portrait of Mr. Biswas in 1961, a portrait alternately satirical and forgiving, has never done a richer portrait, though he has found ways of placing his characters in more complex circumstances and, therefore, of motivating them more variously.
To call it into question is not the first step on the way to dismissing or repudiating it, but a necessary condition of discrimination and evaluation. 13 But once you have discovered substantial grounds for separating them, separate they are likely to stay. And what more can we want, finally, than to keep them separate, to regard our theorizings and generalizings as approaches to singular works that have a life of their own? William Gass speaks of "critics who have thought they had jaws hinged like snakes, and could swallow masterpieces like small pigs .
A novel that concerns itself with change, or the prospect of change, on a broad scale will always find it hard to underscore ethical imperatives that are generated far from the immediate scene of the novelistic action. But those ethical imperatives 25 ATROCITY AND AMNESIA: The Political Novel Since 1945 would seem to be the only kind of ethics to which political novelists are typically drawn. Though political novels should, given the nature of their task, prefer a situation ethics growing out of single encounters and having no binding force outside of those encounters, writers like Grass and Kundera and Alejo Carpentier are generally not embarrassed to work from more or less stable ethical presuppositions.