Atrocity and Amnesia: The Political Novel since 1945

Atrocity and Amnesia: The Political Novel since 1945

Atrocity and Amnesia: The Political Novel since 1945

Atrocity and Amnesia: The Political Novel since 1945

Synopsis

Working deliberately against the grain of assumptions dominant in the contemporary literary academy, Boyers examines novels by Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milan Kundera and others, arguing that it is necessary to speak of character, ethics, and philosophic purpose if one is to understand these works. A penetrating study, Atrocity and Amnesia illuminates some of the major fiction of our time and makes an important contribution to contemporary political thought.

Excerpt

Ever since I read Irving Howe's Politics and the Novel twenty years ago, I have wanted to write a book of my own on the subject. Not for a moment did I wish to compete with or displace a book I continue to regard as one of the most valuable works of criticism that I know. I did, however, wish to consider for myself whether there is such a thing as the political novel and to ask why books of a certain kind generally appeal to me more than others. There was much I wanted to say about the classic works of Stendhal, Conrad, Dostoevski, Malraux, and others to whom Howe devoted such scrupulous attention in his book, but I decided in the end to write about novels published in my own lifetime. Around some of this literature a considerable body of scholarly and critical commentary has been built up, but until now there has been no sustained attempt to treat the post-World War II political novel as an important literary phenomenon. Not that the best writers of this period constitute a movement or have in common a political ideology; what is important is that a great many successful and demanding political novels have been produced in this period, a post modern era often considered resistant to the political content of art. My study testifies predominantly to the quality and variety of recent political fictions and to their capacity to alter the way we think.

I imagined when I began to work on this study that I would be very much assisted by recent developments in literary theory, and so, despite my aversion to la nouvelle critique , I dutifully read many of the texts so highly esteemed in the American literary academy. I found, alas, that they helped me very little and that with few exceptions my instructors continue to be the critics and thinkers who shaped my understanding of literature and culture when I was a student in the early sixties. These are critics for whom theory is a noble but not sufficient end, for whom philosophy and . . .

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