Walker Percy: Novelist and Philosopher

Walker Percy: Novelist and Philosopher

Walker Percy: Novelist and Philosopher

Walker Percy: Novelist and Philosopher

Excerpt

In a 1966 interview Walker Percy explained his position as novelist and philosopher: "I think of myself as being more in the European group than the American or Southern. I use the fiction form as a vehicle for incarnating ideas, as did Jean-Paul Sartre and Gabriel Marcel. I long ago decided that my philosophy is in the vein of the existentialist, as theirs were. Both said that fiction is not just recreation. In my case, it is the embodiment of ideas of both philosophy and psychiatry into a form through which the reader can see a concept which otherwise might not be recognized" (Con., 9). To the two fields of knowledge mentioned by Percy himself we must add his medical education and his extended studies in language acquisition and general linguistics. Percy discussed his convictions both in his scholarly essays and in the many interviews he gave, but they are most imaginatively fleshed out in the protagonists of his novels. His characters are wayfarers on a quest for the true self which can be reached only by suffering the throes of indirection.

Percy's decision to present his philosophical ideas not only in scholarly treatises but as integral parts of his novels accounts for the high level of learning and complexity in his fiction. Walker Percy's philosophical fiction has puzzled many readers, who have found his writings a sometimes excruciating challenge. The present volume is a comprehensive contribution to a deeper understanding of Percy's work and will be of help to the scholar and the general reader alike. Contributors from the United States and Europe approach Walker Percy from many different angles and bring the most recent results of their research to bear upon the multifaceted Percy universe. The essays contained in this volume deal with Percy's entire oeuvre, including his last novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, and such recent nonfiction as Lost in the Cosmos. None of the essays has been published before.

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