- Experiments in Life-Writing: Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction ed. by Lucia Boldrini and Julia Novak
Lucia Boldrini and Julia Novak, editors
Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, vi + 298 pp. ISBN 978-3319554136, $119.99 hardcover.
Lucia Boldrini and Julia Novak's edited collection Experiments in Life-Writing: Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction explores texts that contest, highlight, or blur the distinction between the modes of fiction and auto/biography, in so doing departing from traditional genre conventions and conceptions of subjectivity, identity (both personal and collective), and truth. The book brings together lifewriting scholars and practicing biographers, who engage with innovative lifewriting texts from the UK, Italy, Austria, and Spain. The aim of the collection is to trace how writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have extended the parameters of auto/biography. [End Page 381]
The introduction offers a theoretical foundation by sketching how the distinction between factual and fictional narration has been conceptualized in auto/biography theory and narratology. Julia Novak draws attention to the fact that experimental life writing frequently challenges distinctions between factual and fictional narration, and genre categories based on such a division. Novak also helpfully describes the different levels on which experiments in life writing take place: the subject of auto/biography (experiments with who or what is the focus of the auto/ biographical account); generic composites (combination of auto/biographical and fictional material, merging, for instance, auto/biography and classical tragedy or magic realism); style (experimental use of syntax or tense, for instance); structure (nonlinear narration, multiple perspectives, frame narratives); intertextuality and metalepsis (crossings between real world and fictional world or between the auto/ biographical text and an author's other works); play with names and pronouns (challenges to conceptions of wholeness and unity of identity, subverting the autobiographical pact as defined by Philippe Lejeune); and media (multimodal narratives or experiments in terms of layout and typography).
The book is organized into four sections. The first part, "(Dis)Solving the Self: Methods and Modes," includes three essays that offer insights into narratives constituting or inspired by the respective authors' personal memories, but complicated through experimental narrative strategies. Max Saunders discusses Ford Maddox Ford's Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance as an example of "postmodernism within modernism" (53), Andy Wimbush analyzes B. S. Johnson's Trawl as indebted to Samuel Beckett, and Eveline Kilian gives an account of Christine Brooke-Rose's autobiographical works Remake and Life, End of in relation to her fiction and the nouveau roman. The second section, entitled "Genre B(l)ending: Self, Family, and the Nation," describes a selection of auto/biographical narratives experimental in their treatment of identity as collective and relational. The section begins with Pietra Palazzolo's analysis of Jackie Kay's Red Dust Road and Fiere, in which we find a layered, relational, and dialogic notion of self. Gunnthorunn Gudmundsdottir reads Jordi Soler's trilogy La guerra perdida as an account of the author's personal and family history, as an exploration of cultural and national identity, and as an account of the Spanish Civil War. In the third chapter in this section, Vanessa Hannesschläger situates Austrian author Peter Handke's stage text Storm Still (Immer noch Sturm) in the context of Carinthian Slovene resistance during World War II. She describes how Handke uses biographies of members of his own family and fictionalizes them in ascribing to them experiences of resistance fighters, thus creating a text at the boundaries of biography, historiography, and fiction. The collection then turns to texts innovative in their use of different media. The chapters in the third section—"Intermedial Experiments in Life-Writing"—explore texts that draw on photography and film. Antonio Lunardi elucidates how photography is integrated into Lalla Romano's Romanzo di figure by focusing on the relation between image and text in different editions from 1975, 1986, and 1997. María Alhambra Díaz gives an account of filmic references to The Three Caballeros in Dark Back of Time (Negra espalda del tiempo) by Javier Marías. She shows that the [End Page 382] author's experiments with mediality...