Atrocity and Amnesia: The Political Novel since 1945 by Robert Boyers

By Robert Boyers

Operating intentionally opposed to the grain of assumptions dominant within the modern literary academy, Boyers examines novels by way of Günter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Milan Kundera and others, arguing that it can be crucial to talk of personality, ethics, and philosophic goal if one is to appreciate those works. A penetrating research, Atrocity and Amnesia illuminates a few of the significant fiction of our time and makes an enormous contribution to modern political proposal.

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Either way, it tells a story in the course of which 21 ATROCITY AND AMNESIA: The Political Novel Since 1945 certain human activities are accounted for. Those activities, along with the thoughts and intentions and cultural assumptions of those who perform them, are made to seem necessary—not predictable, perhaps, but necessary. They are what they are because they can be no other. As we seek to explain them, to determine for ourselves what constitutes the source of our conviction that they can be no other, we find ourselves resorting to secondary explanations.

And though the ethic may in part be formidable as an abstraction, we know as we utter the abstract formula that it will not do, that we are not giving a satisfactory account of the novel's ethical code. That code, we must insist, is in the political novel based on stable assumptions, but it is in the end not possible truly to know it apart from its relation to the narrative. There is, of course, no such thing as an ethical position that is characteristic of political novels. " is likely to seem an intolerable outrage.

We want answers to these questions as we read The Mimic Men, and find that there is no way to come up with them. No one demands that Naipaul speak in his own voice, that he commit himself absolutely on every issue. We ask only that he furnish a point of view to which we can respond more or less consistently. If Singh were the only narrative presence in the novel, we would know how to establish a consistent relation to him. If there were an alternative presence, or several narrative sources, we should similarly decide—by playing oft one stress against another—what Naipaul intended.

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