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296 Reviews Maria Kakavoulia, Interior Monologue and its Discursive Formation in Melpo Axioti's Δϕσκολες νϕχτες. Miscellanea Byzantina Monacensia 35. Munich: Institut für Byzantinistik und Neugriechische Philologie. 1992. Pp. xi + 386. Kakavoulia sets out to do two jobs, both of which could make worthy contributions to literary studies in general and to Modern Greek letters in particular. Her first self-assigned task is to survey theories of the notoriously fuzzy narratological concept called the "interior monologue" and its related techniques for rendering thought processes in narrative fiction; her second is to analyze the first and perhaps greatest literary work of Mélpo Axióti (1905-1973), Δϕσκολες νϕχτες (Difficult Nights, 1938), with regard to the aforementioned narratological discussion. While Kakavoulia comes closer to accomplishing her second goal than her first, this reviewer sorely laments that she ultimately misses the mark on both accounts. These failures are not owing to lack of erudition. The book includes references to the most important narratologists in the French, German, Russian, American, and Israeli traditions, and its author demonstrates an intimate knowledge not only of Δϕσκολες νϕχτες but also of Axioti's entire oeuvre, a familiarity that allows her to make insightful connections between the author's early poetry, her prose fiction, and her later autobiographical reflections. Dissatisfaction results, rather, from the autiior's inability to order and synthesize adequately the myriad elements that fall within the book's overly ambitious scope. Furthermore, indecision mars this study. Kakavoulia both criticizes existing descriptions of interior monologue, arguing that none is accurate, and relies on previous terminologies (without significant modifications) to conduct her analysis. Similarly, she argues that Axioti's novel has no precursors, that it is sui generis; yet she places Δϕσκολες νϕχτες within the heart of Greek and European Modernism. Contradictory urges such as these lead to murkiness in the overall argument of her book. The first chapter, "Interior Monologue: Criticism and Problems of Definitions ," is the murkiest of all. Anyone who has tried to initiate students into narratology can have sympathy with Kakavoulia here. The current plethora of terms to describe essentially the same phenomena and distinctions in the area of narrative technique is maddening. Kakavoulia tries to navigate her way through the dark and difficult nights of narrative theory—through, to cite three examples, distinctions between "stream of consciousness" and "interior monologue ," debates about the phenomenology of diought, and competing typologies of fictional discourse. Her refusal to rely on literary history, perhaps tiie only clear map available, leads her and die reader into a dead end. She rejects Transparent Minds (1978), Dorrit Cohn's illuminating guidebook to the rendering of consciousness in fiction, owing to its lack of "a general theory of literary dynamics which would be adequate to explain the historical developments she observes" (69). The reader can only wonder at this logic since Kakavoulia neither offers such a general theory herself nor does she supersede Cohn's terminology by offering her own. Radier, she turns again and again to Cohn and Cohn's categories over the course of her literary analyses. Reviews 297 Fortunately, Kakavoulia's close readings of passages in the novel provide the reader with a more satisfying continuation of the journey. She is at her best when she maps a specific characteristic of Axiotean territory. In tiie third chapter, for example, she describes two patterns of repetition: verbatim repetition and repetition with variation (which she also terms "interruption-resumption "). The pervasive use of both types of repetition "makes die original order of occurrence [of events in the 'story'] irretrievable" (135). Kakavoulia thereby proclaims Axióti to be a Modernist par excellence on die basis of her profound rejection of temporality. Other astute observations concern novelistic devices such as reliance on die imperfect tense, profuse use of dashes, and frequent transcription of sounds. But how each of these devices supports Kakavoulia's contention that Δϕσκολες νϕχτες is a "memory monologue" is obscured by the surfeit of compiled evidence. To offer another illustration of the author's difficulty in syntiiesizing textual features by means of an overall argument: Kakavoulia's detailed knowledge of Δϕσκολες νϕχτες yields the intriguing discovery that although the novel is obsessed with the function of memory, metacommentary about memory always proceeds from secondary characters and never from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 296-297
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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