Novelists and Terrorists in Contemporary Fiction
Publication Year: 2001
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Table of Contents
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In the wake of the Second World War, as our Japanese and West German enemies turned into model citizens working economic miracles, the fear and loathing that fascism had so recently inspired were channeled into Communism. Some forty years later, the collapse of the...
Part I: The Terrorist Rival
Chapter 1: Don DeLillo’s Mao II and the Rushdie Affair
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Terror, like a toxic airborne event, floats across the deceptively shiny surfaces of Don DeLillo’s fiction, turning the reassuring rituals of even suburban life—filling up at the self-service pump or playing golf—into desperate acts. The intersecting planes of that world...
Chapter 2: Eoin McNamee’s Resurrection Man
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Lurking behind Bill Gray’s encounter with terrorism is the possibility that writers are so powerless, their books so seldom read, as to render the question of their political influence moot. In Resurrection Man, a 1994 novel about the Northern Irish Troubles, Eoin...
Part II: Displaced Causes
Chapter 3: Mary McCarthy’s Cannibals and Missionaries
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Both DeLillo and McNamee observe the mass media closely; DeLillo emphasizes the novelist’s waning political influence, McNamee the possibility of the writer’s complicity with terrorism. The career of Mary McCarthy illustrates how a writer’s past political activism...
Chapter 4: Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist
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Like Mary McCarthy, Doris Lessing had a long history of Leftist activism; unlike McCarthy, she joined the Communist Party and remained a member until the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Like McCarthy, she is a keen satirist of the personal shortcomings of political...
Part III: Novelist as Terrorist: Terrorism as Fiction
Chapter 5: J. M. Coetzee’s The Master of Petersburg
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In violent times, some novelists abandon literature altogether, taking to the streets or barricades; others, of course, bring the streets and barricades into their fiction, exposing suffering and injustice, arguing, pleading, and persuading. Those who do neither will stand accused...
Chapter 6: Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Assignment
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Throughout the twentieth century, most terrorist fiction, even that critical of popular beliefs about terrorism, continued to follow the conventions of nineteenth-century realism. For their part, government officials and the press still construct terrorism much as popular...
Part IV: Is Terrorism Dead?
Chapter 7: Philip Roth’s and Robert Stone’s Jerusalem Novels
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Dürrenmatt’s suspicion of realism takes to one extreme that loss of confidence that we have already seen: a failure of belief in the power of art, and in particular of the realistic novel, to bring about meaningful change in the world. But is terrorism really more...
Chapter 8: Volodine’s Lisbonne Dernière Marge
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Throughout this study, we have noted variations on the terrorist as the writer’s rival, double, and secret sharer, tracing their origins from the romantic conviction of the writer’s originality and power through a century of political, social, and technological developments...
Epilogue: Conrad and the Unabomber
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In an apocryphal story, taught as fact to American schoolchildren for a century, Abraham Lincoln is introduced to Harriet Beecher Stowe. “Ah,” remarks the melancholy president, “so this is the little woman who made the great war.” Tiresomely, Stowe’s biographer points out...
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Page Count: 199
Publication Year: 2001