A.D., my Palestinian friend, questioned me this week of the novel I propose to write in Berlin. He asked what it was about. My response was inadequate for A.D. and it led him to ask more. He wanted to know not of the structure, but of the impact, the ideas and the thematic direction. I said this was not my responsibility and that I would leave this work to him as an academic. I have not yet sent him an excerpt but will do so tonight; this preempts that as a limited, open response.
This was a provocation however that led me to locate the Badiou book that I began reading some weeks ago (before I had a job) but have since drifted away from. In the spirit of The Century, which uses the century and its artistic output to examine the century itself, I decided to use the text to examine my own work, noting in the margins applications of the text to my infantile novel. In reading Badiou’s philosophy, I hoped to uncover some of my own, unknown, intentions. At least they are intentions now I have noted them.
Badiou’s notions that the last century was one in which history was confronted, and attempts were made to master it is an interesting one. Novels where characters are political masters of narrative fascinate me, and I suppose that my characters will seek to attempt this. Faced with a story that unfolds before them, they will attempt to subjugate the happenings around them, they will attempt to influence the narrative unfolding before their, and our, eyes.
(A current thought – one hatched on the train to Sunderland – is to set each of the five sections in a different city, with the same character appearing in mutually exclusive locations).
In this way, I suppose (A.D. please forgive these qualifiers) each section will draw on work I have covered in my academia; post-modern detective stories (the narrative is the crime, what was its motives?); notions of unheimlich & displacement; fascination with memory and forgetting and the performance of narrative both within and without this.
There will be incongruity between the sections – the same character dying and reappearing and occurring within separate decades belies the possibility of coexistence. Badiou recognises that a poem is never obliged to be dialectical, this too applies to the novel – in fact this is the very beauty of the artform for me; created worlds with accepted impossibilities. This is as far as I am willing to go.