THE FICTION ONE IS IN
Notes on the Late Twentieth Century British Novel
“ … we are not personalities, but personages.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Postmodernism consists in essence of the view that nothing would ever again happen for the first time.”
I. A BIRD’S EYE VIEW: NOTES ON BRITISH FICTION AT THE TURN OF THE MILLENNIUM
At the beginning of the third millennium, when even the post-modernist trend seems to have exhausted its possibilities, the question that has haunted writer and reader alike ever since the middle of the 20th century, whether the novel has any future and, if it does, where is it headed, seems as irrelevant and preposterous as Barthes’s overrated theory of the ‘death of the author’. Not only has this question been asked so frequently that its reiteration today makes any sensible reader or writer shrug and continue to read/write novels, but it has also become quite obvious that the novel is not going anywhere in particular, that it has chosen to dwell in the same old spheres of human interest and to stay faithful to its old allegiances. The postmodernist poetics of the novel, to the extent that it exists, has had a considerable contribution to the coming back in force of fiction, having countered many of the potentially destructive aesthetic tenets of high modernism, among which its banishment of traditional literary conventions, its elitist stance, its propensity towards high-blown experimentalism. Linda Hutcheon shows that postmodernism does not oust modernism completely, that “the modern is ineluctably embedded in the postmodern, but the relation is a complex one, of consequence, difference and dependence.” Postmodernism has been tolerant, democratic and ironic and, rather than operate a clean break with tradition – as the spirit of high modernism required –, it has been concerned with salvaging anything that can be re-used from that tradition, and also from the tradition of modernism. Hence a new...