"To Love Beyond Breath, Beyond Reason": A. L. Kennedy's So I Am Glad.
A.L. Kennedy--Alison Louise Kennedy--(b. 1965, Dundee) has become a key figure in contemporary Scottish literature. One of the hallmarks of Kennedy's writing is her dark and humorous style as well as the skillful juxtaposition of realism and the everyday with fantasy and the surreal. The banal and the extraordinary frequently come together in her narratives about fascinating common individuals struggling with their unstable identities--whether individual, gendered, national, or political--which Kennedy treats as narrative constructions in constant negotiation across the axes of gender, nationality, and politics.
This fragility of the narratives of the self is one of the central leitmotifs of contemporary Scottish fiction, and it has often been read as "an examination of identity crisis, pertaining to that Scottish experience (although of course not a uniquely Scottish experience) of 'having no identity'" (Mitchell 44). This interpretation seems to be reinforced by some of Kennedy's statements about Scotland: "I think the cultural history of Scotland has been a lot about having no identity, not knowing your history, not being taught your history at school" (March 102). However, her preoccupations and interests exceed national boundaries, as is shown by the fact that her work has been published in more than a dozen languages.
In 1991, Kennedy was featured in Granta Magazine's "Twenty Best Young Novelists," which constituted the beginning of a promising career. Since then she has published several novels: Looking for the Possible Dance (1993), Everything You Need (1999), So I am Glad (1995), Paradise (2004), Day (2007)--winner of the 2007 Costa Book of the Year Award--The Blue Book (2011) and Serious Sweet (2016); several collections of short stories, including Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains (1990)--which has won, among others, the Saltire Award for the Best First Book--Now that You're Back (1994), Original Bliss (1997), Indelible Acts (2002), What Becomes (2009), All the Rage (2014); and non-fiction books such as On Writing (2013), as well as scripts for television series, radio dramas, film screenplays, and theatrical dramas. She is also a regular contributor to The Guardian and other newspapers and performs stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and comedy clubs.
Her performance skills helped Kennedy in her literary explorations of characters who are faced with the need to investigate the possibilities of communication and confront the failures of various forms of language, as they sometimes have problems with verbal and/or emotional interaction. For example, we encounter linguistic breakdown in the short stories "The Moving House" or in "Translations," both included in Night Geometry (1990), and a deep self-awareness of possible miscommunication and error (Mitchell 53), as well as very significant "physical communication" acts that are "as expressive as verbal communication" (56). In the stories included in Indelible Acts (2002) "we witness again and again this anxiety about miscommunication, a pressing awareness that the intended meaning can always go awry and the desired intimacy can fail to occur" (Mitchell 96). As Mitchell has pointed out, Kennedy's fragmentary narratives often mimic "the workings of traumatised consciousness, where the memories are initially repressed" (52).
Moreover, her texts often demand a metanarrative perspective, as the narrators, who could often be regarded as unreliable, are frequently aware of the processes of storytelling and often address themselves to the reader to ask for patience and understanding. The novel Paradise (2004) comprises a first-person narrative of a young alcoholic, Hannah, "where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are blurred--both in her experience and her narration of that experience" (Mitchell 102-103). Alcoholic intoxication alters Hannah's perception of both her inner and outer world. "Fantasy is reality to her" (103), and readers understand that this distortion of reality is precisely the "truth" in this story about alcoholism. As we shall see, this use of fantasy as revealing some subjective truth or reality is also present in other novels by Kennedy, such as So I Am Glad (1995).
Helen Stoddart has noted that Kennedy's self-conscious writing, which may bring to mind the "Romantic desire for the word/signifier to embody the thing signified," is foregrounded in a "modern" way, whereby the particular frustrations or pains of articulation are framed within a broader social and political context (137). Articulation of identities has been (and still is) a problem for many Scottish writers, as the social and political contexts of Scotland since 1707 are interwoven with issues of linguistic and cultural self-expression.
The dominant aspects of the Scottish post-Union culture have been fragmentariness and plural identities. Ethnic, linguistic, religious, political, and geographic fractures prevented the formation of a unitary and homogenous national self-image. As Carla Sassi states, the illusion of national cohesion has been unattainable in Scotland, which has seemed "'doomed' to a permanent status of ethnic and linguistic fragmentation" (4). The lack of historical and political cohesion of the many Scotlands of the past and the present also made it almost impossible to construct a neat central unifying myth. This fracture being indelible, the past of Scotland became fictionalized through literary falsification. Referring to Walter Scott's historical novels, Cairns Craig explains that "[t]here is a moment in Scottish cultural experience when Scottish history and Scottish literature are deeply and creatively interwoven" ("The Fratricidal Twins" 19). As Craig further states, the exchange between the two disciplines, history and literature, had never before been so intense and productive. Many critics have seen this interplay of history and fiction as a potentially destructive force in Scottish culture (20). As Marinell Ash points out, the influence of Sir Walter Scott in Scotland was totally different from his influence in Europe. The reason, she explains, is the nature of Scottish society itself:
Many historians have remarked on the change in the middle decades of the nineteenth century from a distinctively Scottish society to one (or several) societies with a British or even imperial orientation. Yet the time that Scotland was ceasing to be distinctively and confidently herself was also the period when there grew an increasing emphasis on the emotional trappings of the Scottish past. (10)
As Craig further notes, these emotional trappings of the Scottish past "are substituted for real Scottish history, and the reality of the Scottish past is undermined by its fictional representation by generations of Scottish novelists" ("The Fratricidal Twins" 20). According to him, the "real" past and the romanticized past were fused, and, since Scottish history no longer existed as such, it "had ceased" (21), it could not work as the medium through which the nation could rediscover and remake its identity. (2) As suggested by literary works such as those by James Hogg or Robert Louis Stevenson, however, the fusion between the real and the fantastic and between the realistic and the experimental could provide ample opportunities to explore identity issues. Altered states of mind, such as schizophrenia and trauma, or intoxicated states, such as the above-mentioned drunkenness, have been explored by writers in relation to social, cultural and even political identity constructions. These transitional or liminal states where contrasts and contradictions dwell are, according to Gregory Smith, essential to the Scottish literary mood:
There is more in the Scottish antithesis of the real and the fantastic than is to be explained by the familiar rules of rhetoric. The sudden jostling of contraries seems to preclude any relationship by literary suggestion. The one invades the other without warning. They are the "polar twins" of the Scottish Muse. (20)
This "individual and alien" mood seems to have slipped into "the plain tale of experience" (22), and the fluctuating world between the fantastic and the real finds its expression in the in-between, in the contrast. As Smith remarks,
The [Scottish] poet seems to say: "here is fantasy strange enough; if you, drunkard of facts, must explain it, do so in the only way open to you. [...] Be satisfied, if you think it is we who are drunk. As for us, let the contrast be unexplained, and let us make merry in this clash of strange worlds and mood." (23) (3)
Thus, Scottish fiction dwells in the in-between, and it has also been characterized as focusing on social pessimism and personal trauma. As Gifford, Dunnigan, and MacGillivray explained, however, "Scottish fiction began in the closing decades of the century to move from bleakness and trauma to regeneration" (Scottish Literature 933-34). According to these critics, Scottish writing became more optimistic and self-assured after the 1990s, when "the moods and possibilities of the fiction had changed profoundly. An eclectic restlessness was linked to the need to find a fresh starting point, or to find different aspects of Scottish tradition as inspiration" (937).
A.L. Kennedy's novel So I Am Glad (1995) can be regarded as one of these fresh starting points anchored in the Scottish tradition. Her novel, winner of the Encore Award, is neither a "postmodern fairy tale," as some critics have argued (Carruthers 129), nor fantasy fiction or magic realism (Gifford, Dunnigan, and MacGillivray, Scottish Literature 959), nor an allegory (Watson 270); it is rather a contemporary story of some traumatic experiences following the line of the imaginative and "fantastic" (4) fictions by Hogg, Stevenson, or Alasdair Gray, as Roderick Watson has noted (269).
The story is told by the homodiegetic narrator, Jennifer Wilson, an emotionally-anesthetized radio announcer who has serious difficulties engaging with people. Jennifer lacks "romantic enthusiasm" and is "unable to share in the emotional payoff, to feel the benefits of close company and sex," as the narrator-character puts it (Kennedy, SIAG 4). What is more, she does not know how to react to things: "I am not calm, I am unspontaneous. When something happens to me, I don't know how to feel" (5). As she confesses, "[n]aturally, I have lived more than enough to guess at an appropriate emotion for almost all occasions that arise" (5). Thus, she appears to be normal through acting, role-playing, or pretending. This lack of feeling of the main character could be interpreted by readers as a symptom of dissociation, defined as "the lack of normal integration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences into the stream of consciousness and memory" (Bernstein and Putnam 727). Dissociation includes, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, derealization, depersonalization and psychogenic amnesia (American Psychiatric Association n.p.), and it has been said to be a primary defense mechanism to cope with the physiological overload produced, for example, by a traumatic experience (Bloom 200). Amnesia, mood swings, or trance states or other hysterical symptoms can also be an effect of a traumatic event. Therefore, it could be conceived that the main character's behavior is determined by an overwhelming experience.
As the story advances, it is revealed that Jennifer experienced a form of abuse as a child: she was allowed to watch her parents having sex. At the beginning of the novel, however, the narrator-character insists that this did not affect her and that nothing bad had happened:
As I write this, I can see extremely clear that nothing terribly bad has ever happened to me. I can't recall a single moment of damage that could have turned me out to be who I am today. I can dig down as deep as there is to dig inside me and there truly is nothing there, not a squeak. For no good reason, no reason at all, I am empty. (6-7)
The fact that the main character cannot recall an overwhelming event that may have caused her mental distress does not imply that nothing happened. As Freud and Joseph Breuer explained in the groundbreaking "On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysteric Phenomena," published in 1883:
a psychical trauma is something that enters the psyche that is so unprecedented or overwhelming that it cannot be processed or assimilated by usual mental processes. We have, as it were, nowhere to put it and so it falls out of our conscious memory, yet it is still present in the mind like an intruder or a ghost. (qtd. in Onega and Ganteau 10)
In literature, trauma is expressed by representing these mental processes using techniques of disruption or "slippages between stories and between realities" (Mitchell 112). In Kennedy's novel Day (2007)--whose main character, Alfred Day, relives his own traumatic experience when making a film about a POW camp--the structure of the narrative dovetails with the structure of psychological trauma. Alfred's work on his film determines his revisiting of the past by means of fiction. As Mitchell has pointed out, in a sense, the novel's character and the novel's implied author "are thus in analogous positions, in the remembering and revisiting of the past, so Kennedy's question (about what the purpose might be of this reliving of trauma) has consequences for her own text, and for all historical novels which focus on traumatic events and experiences" (113). This reliving of trauma by means of fiction could also be interpreted in relation to the mind's coping with traumatic experiences in other Kennedy novels that deal with trauma.
At a certain point, expressing herself through writing becomes for Jennifer a means of dealing with those repressed traumatic experiences: "I would like to take a part of my past in the past and set it down so it will stay. I will let it go from me and keep this record here because I wish to. Here I will understand this thing and then I will put it down" (SIAG 70). Her words bring to mind Suzette Henke's concept of "scriptotherapy," or the healing capacity of life-writing. Henke argues that, through writing, one can come to understand repressed traumatic memories. Similarly, Jennifer Freyd, in Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, explains that, by talking or writing about traumatic memories, an individual "spontaneously creates an episodic interpretation and integration of previously disjointed sensory and affective memories" and that may help the traumatized individual to work through his or her traumatic memories (170). Nonetheless, expressing those memories is not a simple task--as illustrated by Kennedy's narrators--especially when there is a deep affective attachment that complicates the whole thing even more. According to Freyd, "betrayal trauma" occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person's trust or well-being ("Betrayal Trauma" 76). In So I Am Glad, Jennifer, as a victim of emotional abuse perpetrated by her parents, experienced betrayal trauma as a child. Moreover, when psychological trauma involves betrayal, the victim may be less able to recall the traumatic experience, since to do so will likely lead to confrontation or withdrawal by the betraying caregiver, threatening a necessary attachment relationship. In Jennifer's case, both parents are dead, and this attachment is no longer necessary. In more abstract terms, however, the confrontation with caregivers--whether they are the parents, the State, school or close friends--is always painful, since this strong conflict implies the questioning of safe and trustworthy attachment relationships.
Dori Laub has also elaborated on the imperative need to tell one's story to others; as she argues in "Truth and Testimony," "no amount of telling seems ever to do justice to this inner compulsion. There are never enough words or the right words" (63). In So I am Glad, we can find a cryptic and broken style in the narrator's voice, a voice that seems to look for self-assurance as well as question its own reality and worth, and that has been defined by Sarah M. Dunnigan as a kind of "ghost writing" that shows the combined presence of desire, memory, and loss ("A.L. Kennedy's Longer Fiction" 145).
In a sense, language fails to capture the essence of the story, since the traumatic event is evasive--"ghostly"--and the story cannot be fully captured in thought, memory and speech (Laub 63); nevertheless, characters like Jennifer seem to show an "inner compulsion" to tell. Discussing "life testimony," Felman argues that writing can allow its author--or narrator of the story, in this case--to envisage a sympathetic audience and imagine a public validation of his or her life testimony (14). Therefore, writing a means is not only of delivering meaning to others but also of expressing something to oneself.
But writing, like remembering, is not an easy and straightforward process; rather, it is a tortuous means to achieve a certain coherence of the self. The narrator attempts to tell the story of her life, but her
life had always been fairly incomprehensible [...]. I didn't understand my father or my mother. I didn't understand my country, its past, its present or the sense of its national anthem and flag. When I was young I didn't understand the other children and the adults were just as bad. Then I became an adult and nothing had changed. I didn't understand Steven, or anyone else in my intimate acquaintance, up to and of course including me. I never did really understand me. (Kennedy, SIAG 66)
Nonetheless, this defensive attitude, her not-knowing, makes her feel safe, as "[t]his frightening lack of comprehension is balanced by a wonderful absence of fear and I go on, just as capably as many more apparently normal people do" (66). Appearance can thus hide and cover, protect her from feeling. This would explain the above-mentioned unreliability of her narration, which in fact "tells" something important about Jennifer, helping readers to understand her as a character with a complex psychological life. It also serves to raise awareness about the fact that there is only a certain amount of reality that one's mind can bear, especially if the circumstances are too distressing.
Besides, the narrator seems to lack the appropriate tools to communicate effectively--"I had no appropriate form of action or speech" (36)--since she does not feel any empathy towards others, with the sole exception of Martin/Savinien, as we shall see. And when straightforward communication fails, deviation--which could be interpreted as experimentation when talking about literature--may help, since "if there is a failure of language resulting in silence or mutism, then no working through, no catharsis, is possible" (Hartman 258). In this line of thought, we could say that Jennifer's storytelling is not just a compulsion but also a tool to make the wound visible--to herself at least--and thus healable.
Hence, it should not surprise us that we find in So I Am Glad a highly self-conscious narration, a complex story-web that unfolds itself by means of prolepsis and analepsis. Actually, the fragmentary style of the narration mirrors the narrator-character's state of mind and her psychological processes: "This story will, among other things, form a record of various cuts" (Kennedy, SIAG 10). As she tells the reader, "You'll have realised by this time that we have started. We're up and running, albeit in a retrospective kind of way" (10). She is thus very much aware of her role as a narrator and of the importance of how one tells a story to achieve a certain effect she calls truth, which is not always something one can see or reasonably believe in, but something much more complex.
Later, readers discover that the "depressing" and unpleasant experiences (83) Jennifer interpreted as being the product of "insanity" (102) reached a peak when the family was driving home one night, apparently feeling safe, with a young Jennifer sleeping in the back seat (103): "a cry in my dream pulled me awake. [...] There was a great deal of light. [...] In the centre of the curve of vehicles and men, one woman sat up straight, her coat and the snow hidden in the darkness of her own blood" (102-03). Their car continued accelerating into the dark, and, as the narrator-character recounts, "The car rocked and slipped while Father finished with Mother's breasts. I saw the shadow of him slip under her tensed arms as he dragged up her skirt and then dropped his head against her thighs." (104). Her parents die in the accident, and Jennifer survives, although, as she puts it, "[t]here is a little of myself I may have left there" (71).
She appears to have reconciled herself with what happened that terrible night, as suggested by the following words: "they accelerated me from a condition of terror into one of stillness and the dumb assumption that I would die [...], anything else would always be more doubtful, disappointing" (104-05). As she further recounts, she had "found out the beginning of a whole Philosophy [...], if I was going to die, they were, too. [...] I looked forward to that" (105). Therefore, it could be said that this traumatic event caused her numbness, her lack of feeling, her lack of involvement.
So Jennifer continues with her calm and "safe" life until the sudden arrival of Martin, a man who has lost his memory and suffers from agoraphobia. Martin does not remember how he came to Jennifer's home--"First I walked to the window and found that I was on the first floor of a house" (20). It must be noted here that among the examples of the Dissociative Experiences Scale used to measure symptoms of dissociation we can find the following item: "Some people have the experience of finding themselves in a place and having no idea of how they got there" (Bernstein and Putnam 210). Therefore, it could be inferred that Martin, who is later revealed as being an ex-soldier--"I can say I was a soldier for some time. [...] It's a very secret place [on the edge of the battle], to be with men there, their lives burning away into moments" (Kennedy, SIAG58)--may also have experienced some traumatic experiences that may have caused his dissociation and amnesia. In a sense, Martin is like Balzac's Colonel Chabert, (5) the ghostly presence of history in its eternal recurrence. That he experiences dissociation and identity confusion is reinforced when, in the first instance, she confuses him with somebody else she is expecting. (6)
At first, Jennifer is unable to get close to Martin, as she is stuck in a state of emotional paralysis: "He's crying and it has nothing to do with me. Safe." (12). The strangeness of their encounter is, at the same time, quite disturbing: "But also not safe because a peculiar thing is happening" (12). The fantastic (7) qualities of the newcomer, Martin, force her to reshape or readapt her rigid psychological coping mechanisms:
When he opens his mouth for any length of time there is a pale gleam which reminds me insanely of the light from a self-sealing envelope if you peel it apart in the dark. An unnatural, static blue flash. His hands and face are simply burning. [...W]ith a silver burning, a chemical flame, fluctuating in and out of colour, running like mercury and then disappearing into air. (12-13)
As mentioned before, Martin does not remember anything about his life: "Even to remember it makes me numb--here--in my fingers, there is still a little blindness" (16). And "I don't like to sleep. I lie on the bed and I am afraid I will go to that place again and not come back. I am like a child with more than a child's fear of the dark" (16). This lack of sleep and his refusal to remember mirrors Jennifer's own symptoms, as many of her nights "would turn into something quite incomprehensible," and she is unable to rest or sleep (1). Furthermore, the connections between both characters and their intimacy become stronger as the story develops.
This fantastic presence becomes even more improbable, however, when Martin begins to recover some of his lost memories. At a certain point he remembers who he was before, and he makes a striking confession to Jennifer: "I was Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac and I was true" (59). So Martin also happens to be seventeenth-century Cyrano de Bergerac, and readers are kept wondering if he is some kind of ghost of the historical figure, a soldier who comes from among the dead, or a lunatic who has escaped from an asylum, the latter emphasized by many of the character's words and actions. (8) Readers could also conclude that he is the product of Jennifer's damaged psyche and thus an imaginary friend--for it is Jennifer who baptizes Martin and gives him his name, (9) and so she is, metaphorically speaking, his "mother" (10) or mentor. Martin/Savinien could also be Jennifer's Doppelganger, since their similarities and parallelisms are progressively emphasized as their connection becomes stronger and more intimate. All these interpretations undermine the possibility of a real and realistic encounter between Jennifer and Martin. Even their communication should be impossible, since Savinien is a Frenchman--"'I am French.' 'Then why aren't you speaking French?' 'I am.'" (81)--but they do communicate, in spite of such odds.
Thus, it is difficult to decide whether Martin/Savinien is alive or dead, real or unreal, possible or impossible. In any case, for Jennifer, Martin/Savinien is very real in his unreality, and she progressively begins to feel emotionally attached to this surreal character: "Before I turned on the light, I could see the last shine of Martin, still on my hands and deep in the cloth of my shirt. There was something not altogether unpleasant about that" (33). As Martin becomes Savinien, her feeling for him could be said to have taken the definite shape of love: "I let Martin turn into Savinien in my heart while time lets him be happy now" (84). Consequently, it could be argued that he is transformed or made real by her act of faith and that she recovers through their relation what she lost as a child: empathy and the capacity to establish an emotional bond with another being. A line from Edmond Rostand's play, Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), may seem to express Jennifer's love as an experience beyond reason or logic: "I love beyond breath, and beyond reason, beyond and above love's own limits!" (1.128).
Through her relation to Savinien, Jennifer is able to enter into a dialogue with herself (selves), and she learns to re-establish links with the world and with others:
I am showing you one of my ego's earliest, tenderest lines of defence--my mind is not built to support the cultivation of friends, because friendship is a source of pain. Today I know that pain is infectious, or to be more exact, contagious--it requires a certain contact, a closeness to slip in. If I feel, if I care, if I love, then life can kick me in the heart at any time it chooses. I am opened like a fish to hurt with one simple movement, one deep touch. (174)
Besides, through her love for him, she dares to believe in dreams again and recovers hope. As she explains, in the past, hope for the impossible was painful to her:
All the years I spent with my parents made me despair, but I still had hope. Certain other times in my life have had much the same effect, creating pain alongside hope. [...] Hope ruins the future, fills it with clumsily balanced disappointments, every one ready to fall. Which means I do not want hope, I want peace. No impossible things, no believing. But I believed him. (83)
And this absolute faith in love and the impossible, along with her empathy towards Savinien, makes healing possible:
that single moment when you truly touch another person. You reach them with a word, a thought, a gesture [...]. And within the point which is a very brief thing (not enough time for your heart to beat) two human beings are one. The speaker and the listener, the writer and the reader, the man who bleeds and the man who makes him, they are the same thing. We are the same thing. You, when you say my name--there--that's the point. (78)
Jennifer recognizes that these points "sound uncomfortable" because they are alive, "touched by life" (78). And when eventually she feels truly alive, Savinien dies, like the figure of the Double (11) or the alterego in the Scottish tradition. Once inner conflict has disappeared, so does the Double.
It could be said that it is precisely Savinien's impossible existence and the possibilities of love and hope that allow Jennifer to tell her story, to work through her traumatic experiences and break her cocoon of isolation and coldness. Her true and difficult communicative act makes it possible for her to regain a new empathic force that will allow her to re-establish her bond with the world and with herself. Therefore, A.L. Kennedy's So I am Glad could be read as a rich and complex contemporary Scottish novel of working-through and regeneration, as a fantastic story of an impossible encounter between two individuals who, paradoxically, establish a real and deep connection.
And how can this connection between the two characters be interpreted in the light of the writing and reading of fiction? Readers of the novel are compelled to piece together Jennifer's story taking into account that she is an unreliable narrator with a complex personality, as if we were psychoanalysists who had to interpret the gaps and slips. Nevertheless, besides the complexity of both the characters and the narration, which mimics the structure of a traumatized recounting of past events, the point is that the narration reflects on the subjectivity and subtlety of the novel's truth. Absolute self-knowledge might be impossible, just as absolute knowledge of others is impossible, too. However, despite this, empathy and the capacity to establish an emotional bond with another being are still possible. And the healing capacity of fiction resides precisely in the fact that the writing and reading of fiction allow for a negotiation of meanings and the creation of an emotional bond. In the mirror of fiction, readers can observe a reality they can bear.
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I would like to acknowledge the support of the research projects "Palimpsestic Knowledge: A Transmodern Literary Paradigm" (FFI2015-65775-P) and "Literature in the Transmodern Era: Celebration, Limits and Transgression" (FFI2017-84258-P), financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the European Fund.
(1) When asked about her inclusion in a Glasgow school of writing, alongside Gray and Kelman, Kennedy replied:
I don't think I got so much tacked on with Jim and Alasdair but with the younger Scottish authors, but that's really because they're all published by the same publisher and it's easier for them to market five people all at once. But it is about marketing. [...] Basically we all know each other, but there isn't that much of a scene where everybody meets. And you know, I suppose we read each other but not that much. (Everything 112)
(2) This erasure has been said to have terrible consequences for cultural production: if history had become so distorted that it could not sustain "a literature adequate to the requirements of a full national identity and, as a consequence, literature had failed to come to grips with the realities of the nation's history" (Craig, "The Fratricidal Twins" 21), then, of course, Scotland would be an "artistic wasteland," as many critics argued (Muir 2-3; Dunnigan, "The Return" 12; Craig, The Modern 16; Craig, "The Fratricidal Twins" 21; Gifford, The Dear 5).
(3) Alan Bold notes, "During the making of A Drunk Man [Looks at the Thistle, a long poem by Hugh MacDiarmid written in Scots and published in 1926] MacDiarmid must have recalled that passage to support his plan to create a modernistic work that yet had precedents in a distinctive Scottish tradition" (McDaiarmid 88-89).
(4) "Fantastic" is used here following Tzvetan Todorov's definition of the concept: "The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature confronting an apparently supernatural event" (25).
(5) The main character, in the eponymous novel published by Balzac in 1832, is a soldier who is known to have died in battle and who most improbably and unexpectedly returns to the office of a lawyer to reclaim his property. As Bold has noted, this ghostly return of the soldier echoes the historic repetitions that were taking place in post-Revolutionary France during the Restoration ("The Claims" 419).
(6) The topic of confused identities and that of role-playing--"Slowly, we all started to get used to the person everyone still referred to as Martin. [...] He had a remarked adaptability" (Kennedy, SIAG 95)--is also present in one of the novel's main inter-texts: the popular play by Edmond Rostand Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). Again, the mutability of identity is emphasized in this hall of mirrors.
(7) In Todorov's use of the term.
(8) "You could ask almost anyone who knew me and they would bear witness to my close association with all varieties of lunacy" (40).
(9) As Martin explains,
"when I landed, I was not supplied with any clothing. [...] I dressed as best I could and opened the door. [...] The next door I opened was this one here, for the kitchen, and you were sitting at the table, reading aloud" (20). And she remembers what she first said to him: "'You must be Martin'. 'Exactly. You told me that I must be Martin.' 'That wasn't an order, it was an assumption.' 'I know that now. But you can appreciate that I was quite happy to agree with any kind of likely proposition that morning. Even a name.'" (20-21)
(10) As Martin observes, "So there you are. That really would make you my mother, eh? The first woman I hear" (19).
(11) The haunting classical topos of the Double, associated in Scotland with the Dr-Jekyll- and-Mr-Hyde figure, has traditionally been interpreted as the dramatization of Scottish linguistic and identitarian disunity (or plurality). According to this negative vision of Scottish identity as the damaged product of adverse historical circumstances, polarity and fragmentation appear as characteristics to be avoided.
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
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|Publication:||Papers on Language & Literature|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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