--Aidan Higgins, Helsingor Station and Other Departures
More than thirty years ago Aidan Higgins indicated that all of his work followed his life, "like slug trails ... all the fiction happened" (Higgins, "Writer in Profile" 13), a comment that implies much more than autobiographical admission. In his earliest fictions, Felo de Se and Langrishe, Go Down, his birthplace, Springfield House, Celbridge, is a recurring setting, and Higgins was also to later acknowledge in his trio of autobiographies that the sisters in Langrishe were actually he and his brothers in fictional drag. Balcony of Europe is largely based in Andalucian Spain, where Higgins lived in the 1970s. Scenes from a Receding Past's fictionalized setting of Sligo seems suspiciously like the Celbridge of his youth, and Bornholm Night-Ferry and Lions of the Grunewald revisit the northern European landscapes where Higgins lived during the early 1980s, partly under the benefice of Deutsch Akademischer Austauschdienst (Berlin). The fascination with autobiographical detail is obviously more overt in his travel writing and autobiographies as well as in the numerous short autobiographical sketches that he has penned throughout his career. The travel book Images of Africa recounts his journeys in South Africa with a marionette theater company, while the twin texts Helsingor Station and Other Departures and Rhonda Gorge and Other Precipices gather together many short fictions and straight autobiographical pieces. More recently, the author, still "consumed by memories" (Higgins, Donkey's Years 3), embarked on a trilogy of autobiographies: Donkey's Years: Memories of a Life as Story Told, Dog Days, and The Whole Hog. Everywhere in the work Higgins's life finds expression, but in such a way that the distinction between autobiography and fiction gradually grows to mean less and less, and in some respects the final part of the autobiographical trilogy, The Whole Hog, reads like a fiction. This is because the traditional demarcations between fiction and reality are constantly confronted in Higgins's work, and much of the significance of his writing finally rests on his deeply troubled response to the means with which we grapple with a life that so often refuses to be named, either in writing or in living.
When viewed in retrospect, the work of many writers reveals characteristic interests that are revisited throughout their writing lives. One of Aidan Higgins's primary recurring epistemological concerns has always been with how the past is reshaped by memory and imagination, ensuring that the events recounted in his texts are rarely as poignant as their aftermaths. Furthermore, the fascination with the autobiographical past repeatedly takes thematic shape in dissolved or dissolving love affairs, absent or lost lovers, and a persistent struggle to make sense of the meaning of love. Hence, the defining thematic concerns of love and the past are never absent in Higgins's fictions and are usually present in his travel writing and autobiographies. More significant perhaps are the formal implications that emerge as a result of his fascination with love and memory, both of which, as exemplified by Higgins's various heroes, are intricately related to a range of epistemological issues that are the defining components of his work. The past in Higgins's fictional universe is a deeply problematic concept, replete with puzzlement at its inaccuracy and dismay at its irrevocable passing and the essentially dreamlike status that he finally accords to it. The pastness of the accounts of his narrators' various love affairs have a resounding impact, so much so that most of Higgins's mature fiction seems consumed with the problem of how to locate a form to accommodate the strangeness of a life that is frequently incomprehensible, forever on the point of departure, but always somehow anchored by bright moments of love, however brief. Thus Scenes from a Receding Past and Balcony of Europe initiate Higgins's lifelong defiance of linear narrative and use instead spatial narratives, more familiar to the visual arts, in the hope that some sense can be communicated by building extraordinary images from which networks of binding associations can emerge. Similarly so with Bornholm Night-Ferry, in which Higgins maximizes the particular advantages of the epistolary novel to evade the limits of sequential narrative and conventional characterization. This persistent desire to locate some kind of narrative structure that manages to contain, without distorting, the author's vision of life is what is most intriguing about Higgins's work on a formal level. His most recent novel, Lions of the Grunewald, revisits familiar subject matter, but fashions it in a way that is reminiscent of, though not as extensive as, the self-reflexivity of Calvino or Nabokov. In addition, the novel is structured around a series of seemingly disparate elements, like dream sequences, historical detail, digressions, and imagined conversations with real figures, all of which are tentatively held in place by the narrator's troubled, but playful, consciousness. Ultimately, Higgins appears intent on exploring what consciousness means in terms of its relationship to the events we call life. The extraordinary factor that underpins all of Higgins's work, finally, is the belief that his own reality is already an elaborate fiction, and thus the traditional distinction between fiction and reality is itself a ruse, a polarized game with which most writers seem to be engaged. If reality is already a fiction, a fluid, extraordinary one, how does the artist respond? This seems to be the defining question in all of Higgins's work, and the pitch of the question intensifies as the work matures.
The primary focus of this essay is Aidan Higgins's fiction, an aim that is complicated somewhat by the enormously significant contribution to his work that his autobiographical writing represents. In addition, Higgins has reissued, relocated, and revised much of his writing in several ways, something that poses significant difficulties to serious readers of his work. For example, the first collection of stories, Felo de Se, was originally published in the U.S. as Killachter Meadow and later reprinted as Asylum and Other Stories. Some of the material from Felo de Se is included in Helsingor Station and Other Departures (most notably the stories "Killachter Meadow" and "Lebensraum") and in the collected fiction and prose, Flotsam and Jetsam. Ronda Gorge and Other Precipices contains many autobiographical echoes of Bornholm Night-Ferry and also includes a reprint of Images of Africa, the early travel book. Many of the short fictions and prose pieces of Helsingor and Ronda Gorge are reprinted in Flotsam and Jetsam, and the stories of Felo de Se again reappear, though they are renamed and revised. Almost all of the material in Helsingor and Ronda continually echoes the novels. All of this is not to suggest that Higgins simply recycles his work. He has continually revised, added new material, and even renamed some of the shorter fictions and has, as he says in the Apologia to Lions of the Grunewald, tended to transplant "fugitive Ur-fiction" into its "proper context, relocated from embryonic themes" (vi). The process appears to be all to Higgins.
Forced by necessity to choose one of the "versions" above the others, I have selected those that appear in their "proper context," which generally means in the final versions of the novels, though in the interest of mapping development I have focused on the earliest versions of the stories that appear in Felo de Se. No doubt, however, a certain degree of revisitation is inevitable in work as integrated as Higgins's. For this reason, I do not offer close analysis of Helsingor and Ronda, both of which are almost entirely comprised of work, or versions of it, that is found elsewhere in the novels and stories. Similarly with Flotsam and Jetsam, which is essentially a collection of short fictions and prose pieces that have all appeared elsewhere, though again, many have been revised.
Felo de Se
Aidan Higgins's first work of fiction, Felo de Se, depicts a series of characters that are variously situated in Ireland, England, South Africa, and Germany. While the plots are relatively plausible, and place names and indigenous factual detail locate the events in recognizable landscapes, there are numerous factors that undercut the illusion of realism. Translated as felons of ourselves, Felo de Se details episodes of struggle in a world that always evades comprehension, revealing Higgins's deep epistemological uneasiness from the outset of his fictional oeuvre. Eddie Brazill, the main protagonist of "Asylum," is an emigrant laborer and factory worker in a world indifferent to his toils, so indifferent that it nudges him toward destitution. Mr. Vaschel, of "Nightfall on Cape Piscator," an unsuccessful antiquea dealer, suffers from an advanced state of lethargy that utterly confounds him: "By the sea Mr. Vaschel walked alone with his troubles, though what these troubles were he could not say" (Felo de Se 183). The recurrent refusal to accept the "responsibility of feeling" (43) is the characters' outstanding felony.
The stories of Felo de Se generally use the conventions of realism. Higgins creates recognizable, if not well-defined, characters that suffer from credible human shortcomings, and he constructs familiar social and historical landscapes. However, chronological sequence is subverted by the construction of spatial narratives in order to painstakingly focus on vibrant moments, which might radiate meaning in a nontemporal sense. Hence, Higgins's creations frequently appear to exist in a static vacuum. Patrick O'Neill claims that Higgins's characters typically "emerge abruptly out of nowhere, are subjected to a portrait painter's penetrating scrutiny, and disappear again into the darkness from which they came" (95). O' Neill's assertion implies that Higgins's creations are instances of the author's art rather than realistic characters. The primary motivation behind O'Neill's view is the density of language used by Higgins. Unlike O'Neill, Roger Garfitt views this as a narrative weakness: "the external world of experience is accurately perceived, but it is rendered into a dense, highly subjective linguistic structure which becomes finally a bulwark against the experience itself. Reality is internalised" (225). He proceeds to contrast Higgins's "linguistic structure" with John McGahern's "bare style," asserting that McGahern's approach is more courageous because it allows "experience" to have the last word. Or the illusion of experience perhaps? Because Higgins wishes to imprison his readers, as well as his characters, in moments of inertia, he creates dense, linguistic constructs, much as Conrad does in Heart of Darkness in his efforts to emphasize Marlow's problems with comprehending his unfamiliar landscape.
The stories of Felo de Se represent barren, passive conditions by presenting dreamlike, linguistically dense fictional worlds. The foregrounding of such elaborate, subjective language reveals that the plots themselves, although obviously important constituent parts, are subservient to the act of telling, and thus reality is knowable only insofar as it is possible to express it. This is a central epistemological concern with which each succeeding Higgins novel has since grappled. In fact, it can be argued that much of Higgins's fictional direction is hereafter energized by a crisis of knowing, and much of his technical innovation is directly related to this crisis.
Higgins's "realist" Felo de Se is also subverted by an implicit artificiality in some of the short stories. For example, one of the four sisters of "Killachter Meadow" is absent from the narrative. The narrator refuses to inform us of her whereabouts, instead tersely stating that "She is not in this story" (13). Effectively, the illusion of reality is disturbed. She is not of relevance to the narratorial emphasis of the text and is simply omitted, rendering the fictional ontology superior to any imagined "reality." Similarly, Fraulein Sevi Klein of "Lebensraum" actually fades out of existence once her function within the narrative is complete: "He watched her evaporating, crawling into her background, not declining it, deliberately seeking it, lurching away from him to stumble into a new medium (a way she had), beating down the foreshore.... [F]or an instant longer she remained in sight, contracting and expanding in the gloom, and then was gone" (50). This deliberate assertion of narratorial authority and affirmation of the primary significance of the fiction over a potential mirrored reality is reminiscent of Nabokovian or Beckettian postmodern fictional play, but Higgins retains more than a passing embrace of realism, a characteristic of his writing that never disappears. The strangeness, the overwhelming sense of transience that he discovers everywhere about him, is very much a condition of life itself, and hence his work remains in perpetual argument with the ways in which one tries to know the world. The stories contain the genesis of his later work in that the characters evoke the author's vision of transience. Irwin Pastern, the primary figure of "Tower and Angels" informs us, "Perhaps nothing ends, he suggested,--only changes" (167). Higgins's characters fade in and out of his stories and resurface again and again in different guises. That his characters may have a basis in reality is secondary to their relevance for his artistic intent.
Higgins's short fictions, especially "Killachter Meadow" and "Lebensraum," suffer from the sheer weight of their own ambition, because the medium is simply too brief to embrace the range of themes with which he grapples. Sam Baneham has suggested, with good reason, that the stories cannot contain their characters: "Indeed it is a feature of Mr. Higgins' short stories that, while all of the characters compel attention, some through their originality burst from the constraints of the form and seem in search of a novel" (171). In fact this is what transpired with at least two of the stories, "Killachter Meadow" and "Lebensraum." Anticipating Images of Africa, Higgins's first travel work, "Lebensraum" explores the theme of travel through the character of Sevi Klein, who "had travelled all her life and would probably continue to do so until the day of her death ... so that she would always be out of reach" (Felo de Se 39). "Killachter Meadow" also prompts further development and finds greater expression in Higgins's first and most critically acclaimed novel, Langrishe, Go Down.
Langrishe, Go Down
As with the embryonic story, Langrishe, Go Down retains the big-house themes of decay and inertia, and much of the imagery powerfully evokes the collapse of a class. The brief love affair between Imogen and Otto in "Killachter Meadow" is now a tempestuous relationship that stands at the center of the novel and radiates much of the text's significance. Higgins also constructs a tragic tale of the dissolution of a culture, depicting the anguished passing of Ascendancy values into the modern world. In fact, Higgins's attempt to evoke the plight of the Langrishe family gains some of its impetus from this traditional genre of decay. However, he avails of the genre only in a formal sense. There are many layers of significance in the novel that resonate far beyond the traditional theme of decay, as Vera Kreilkamp has convincingly argued by suggesting that Higgins redefines the form and reinvents it. Kreilkamp also accurately suggests that the author is ultimately concerned not just with his own birthplace, but with history itself: "In its most painful moments Langrishe, Go Down is about the loss of historical memory, and even more painfully, about living in a world where history itself has been transmuted into the debris of civilisation. For Stephen Dedalus, 'history is a nightmare,' for Helen Langrishe, history consists of the dead monuments of a dead culture" (30).
The big-house genre, a powerful symbol of transience, is used by Higgins as an extended metaphor that reaches beyond the social and historical. For example, Helen's memory constructs an ordered movement that leads to her present situation, a movement in which little changes, "variations apart (the passing of her parents, the death of Emily), in the immutable order of events" (23). This is the source of her ultimate tragic disintegration. Her memories are sterile, and thus she has almost nothing with which she can sustain herself. Imogen's musings on Helen, after she dies, elucidate the sad condition of her life: "And is it not strange, most strange, that a life which can be so positive, so placed, going on for years, seemingly endless, can one day go; and, which is strangest of all, leave little or no trace?" (259-60). Thus Higgins's positioning of his characters within the big-house framework allows him to approach the deeper epistemological concerns that always inform his work: the significance and unreliability of memory, the difficulty of knowing one's existence, and the flood of transience that challenges such attempts to know one's life.
Higgins's fascination with the nature of memory and transience is mirrored in the novel's structure, begun in medias res and followed by an analeptic account of Imogen and Otto's doomed and torturous love affair, allowing us to witness the grim reality of a fading life, half-lived-out through clinging to frail memories. Again, this emphasizes the centrality in Higgins's work of the relationship between memory and the historical past. Richard Kearney, in analyzing what he calls the postcritical novel, a tradition to which he asserts Higgins belongs, registers the problematic nature of this relationship: "Once this distinction between word and thing was deconstructed by Joyce and Beckett, the distance between the narrator's subjective consciousness and the historical world-which motivates the narrator's quest for meaning in the first place--was greatly diminished" (Transitions 98). Higgins registers the "distance between subjective consciousness and the historical world" throughout Langrishe, Go Down and in doing so creates the tension that lingers at the core of the novel: "The memory of things--are they better than the things themselves?" (70). Imogen believes so: "Of that time, what do I remember now? What can I recall if I try? Was he good to me? Yes. He was good to me; good for me; kind and considerate" (58). In part 2, when Imogen's narration is superseded by an anonymous narrator, the more objective rendition of Otto's behavior indicates quite a different tale, revealing that Imogen's subjective consciousness has greatly refashioned historical actuality. During one of Otto's typically sensitive moments, he addresses Imogen: "You're so soft, Otto said, staring before him with a vindictive face. Some soft spineless insect that's been trodden on. I can feel you beginning to curl up at the sides" (227). The memory of things for Imogen is surely better than the things themselves. By depicting the difference between the actuality and the mind's conception of it, Higgins implies the necessary consolatory nature of memory, which functions as a kind of automated panacea for human consciousness. Reality is relativized by the human imagination not simply in the act of telling, but in the act of self-preservation.
The past in Higgins's novel is an evasive entity. It may affect the present, but it cannot be captured, and thus the lessons it can teach are indistinct at best. Patrick O'Neill incisively evaluates Higgins's approach: "However, for Higgins, the big house theme is clearly not just a realist portrayal of the decline of a passing age of grace, beauty and culture--though it certainly is that--but also a symbol of the inevitable dissolution of all order, all form" (98). O'Neill's analysis contains the kernel of Higgins's endeavors. Langrishe, Go Down acknowledges that the lines of communication are down between word and thing, between the individual and his or her past, between perception and reality. It also accepts the artificial nature of human ordering systems and registers Higgins's allegiance to flux. O'Neill extends his view of Langrishe, Go Down to include such matters: "This suggestion of the immutability and indifference of things, the essential existential irrelevance of human beings and their concerns, is repeated through the narrative in the attitudes of the Langrishe sisters" (99). The bleakness of Higgins's vision finds utterance in the meaningless lives of most of his characters, who plod desperately onward. They exist on the periphery in a modernist, Godless, loveless universe, where all those things with which humanity comforts itself are absent, except memory, to which they cling tenaciously.
Langrishe, Go Down acknowledges the inheritance of Beckett and Joyce, and it accepts the frailty and transience of human ordering systems, but ultimately it evokes a message of hope, however meagre, for humanity and its ability to communicate. All of these aspects are constituent parts to a multifaceted fiction that always retains a power to generate discourse. Its value lies in the fact that it has the power to communicate the demise of a major cultural occasion and tells a moving and often sympathetic account of the lives of the Langrishe girls, Helen and Imogen in particular, while also acknowledging that order and the act of recapturing the past are problematic concepts. As such, the text attempts to fuse two seemingly paradoxical arguments. It accepts and assimilates the critical heritage of Joyce and Beckett while attempting to retain the act of representing the world. The central significance of such an approach is that the limitations of knowledge and communication must be named, but history cannot be discarded, flawed though it may be as a representative act. Higgins, all too aware of Beckett's reductionist tendencies, refuses to abandon an engagement with reality despite his foregrounding of the intellectual modes and communicative methods with which we construct that engagement. Thus with Langrishe, Higgins still maintains dialogue with his world and yet takes as his primary emphasis the instability of reality, both in terms of human consciousness and in the forms we construct to contain our experience.
Balcony of Europe
Balcony of Europe represents a crucial moment for Higgins's literary reputation. A novel that the author refuses to allow to return to print, Balcony has commanded much respect while also attracting quite severe criticism, largely fixed on the rather tired cliche of highly promising artist turned profligate. For this reason and because it represents seven years of the author's work at a time when much was expected, the novel requires close attention. In the sprawling fiction, we are presented with a complex tapestry of moments that are repeatedly submitted to the narrator's, Dan Ruttle's, interrogative eye. Beginning in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, in 1961, we observe Ruttle's parents in the bitter throes of social decline. After his mother's drawn-out demise, Ruttle and his wife Olivia relocate to Andalucia, where much of the novel is situated and where we are swiftly informed of the author's extramarital affair with Charlotte Bayless, a young married American Jew.
Balcony of Europe is a reconstruction of Dan Ruttle's experiences, largely in Andalucia, and thus the problems of memory and communication are foregrounded from the outset of the narrative retelling. Of his early life, Dan is uncertain: "All that seems to have happened, if it ever happened, long ago, belonging to someone else's past, not mine" (43). Dan's awareness of his essential separation from the past is clear, but he is, like all of Higgins's protagonists, ineluctably drawn to past events, which proves to be the source of much grief in the novel: "That which is past is past; that which is wished for may not (cannot) come again. Certain scents imply: a longing for what cannot come again" (160). The closest one can be to one's past, it is implied, is through the incidental things: scents and longings.
Ruttle's elusive past is but a part of his difficulty. His ability to communicate is also tenuous: "I had no means to describe it, the world, myself, the world before myself' (45). The linguistic medium is problematized, and this, added to his difficulty with memory, conspires to form a very uncertain base from which to reconstruct his past. Dan's response to this essentially modernist epistemological problem is to conflate memory and imagination. The past, as he sees it, is a fiction and hence can only be knowable as such. Reconsidering his early difficulties, Dan grows to understand that memory is not actually lost; rather it is transformed, inevitably and necessarily so. Richard Kearney isolates the central theme of Balcony of Europe as "the attempt to wrest imagination from the vortex of memory" ("Crisis" 401). The text thus does not simply represent an account of Ruttle's experiences, rather it probes the very condition of their creation. Memory is initially questioned and then accepted, but only as a fluid entity forged from imagination. Crucially, the reality from which the memories originally spring is also offered up as an imagined construct. The nature of this primary thematic concern has obvious implications for the way in which the narrator's account is structured, giving rise to what Joseph Frank among others (Vidan) has termed spatial fiction, or the "simultaneity of perception" (Frank 87).
The form of Balcony of Europe has been the focus of much negative criticism. Many have hastened to dismiss it unconditionally, with one critic rejecting it as "an intelligent tourist's notebook jottings" (Lubbers 242). Similarly, John Banville asserts that the form of Balcony of Europe is its major flaw: "So much fine writing is blurred and even lost in the formlessness of the book.... Mr. Higgins has no sense of form" (18). Banville is, however, cautious enough to admit that form is an "elusive quality," citing Joyce's Ulysses as the famous precedent. Alternatively, Rudiger Imhof, comparing Higgins's writing to that of Proust, is clearly impressed: "its curious collage form is not least the result of its fundamental raison d'etre: a ruminating narratorial consciousness trying to come to grips with the past, one that in the process of recollecting makes use of everything that comes to hand--impressions of people, places, events, biographical detail, Epiphanies; semantic play ..." (258-59). Imhof proceeds to suggest that the aim of such an approach may be to transcend the Proustian recherche heritage "in the direction of what may be termed a 'total book'" (259). Robin Skelton too claims that there is a cohesive power in Balcony of Europe that lends to the novel an intricate unity: "Higgins creates connections and correspondences, a web of echo and allusion which run underneath his novels. They are part of the sensibility of the narrator, whose mind, whose mirroring mind is composed of so many fragments of myth, of poetry, of learning, and of experience; they are also, however, the mind, the consciousness of the novel itself" (35). If Skelton's evaluation of Higgins's novel is even relatively accurate, then there is something of rare quality in Balcony of Europe. What Skelton names the "consciousness of the novel itself" suggests that Higgins has achieved what Imhof calls the "total book," but how well this consciousness adapts to the possible psychosis when imagination blends with reality, or the reality of memory, is central to the success of Higgins's endeavors.
Higgins claims of the novel, "I wanted to dispense with plot, do it that way: tenuous associations that would ramify, could be built upon, would stay in the mind better than the plotted thing--all lies anyway" (qtd. in Beja 163). So the author, rejecting sequential plotted narrative for spatial narrative, defined by Vidan as "a composition dominated by the recurrence and juxtaposition of verbal motifs, operative words, and key themes" (437), refuses chronological order in an attempt to surpass the intrinsic inaccuracy of that order. From an early age, Dan Ruttle is aware that the remembered past, or reality itself, cannot be an ordered structure: "the Jesuit fiction of the world's order and essential goodness, stretching out ahead like the white guide lines. No" (43). Higgins's fiction strives to a form, but not to an order. One of the hidden epigraphs to Balcony, by Edmund Husserl, provides an indication of intent:
This world now present to me, and every waking "now" obviously so, has its temporal horizon, infinite in both directions, its known and unknown, its intimately alive and its unalive past and future. Moving freely with the movement of experience which brings what is present into my intuitional grasp, I can follow up these connections of the reality which immediately surrounds me, I can shift my standpoint in space and time, look this way and that, turn temporarily forward and backwards; I can provide for myself constantly new and more or less clear and meaningful perceptions and representations, and images more or less clear, in which I make intuitable to myself whatever can possibly exist really or supposedly in the steadfast order of space and time. In this way, when consciously awake, I find myself at all times, and without ever being unable to change this, set in relation to a world which, though its constants change, remains one and ever the same. 460-61)
Higgins's spatial narrative aims to realize Husserl's state of perception, and Dan's lover, Charlotte Bayless, acts as a focal point for many of the associations and implications generated in the novel. That she is an American Jew is central to the spatialization of the text. Dan, caught up in the throes of his obsession, allows his imagination to roam freely through history. Within a few lines of initially mentioning her, Dan likens Charlotte to the American gangster Dillinger (because of her childhood nickname, Dilly), refers to her Jewishness, and observes that she has high Slav cheekbones and a Byzantine nose. These flashes of experience coalesce in Charlotte, who "comes from the dark plains of American sexual experience where the bison still roam" (77). Dan, of tired "forty-six Christian Old World years," marvels at Charlotte's "bright twenty-four Jewish New World years" (78). In her, many moments of history meet. Dan's imagination tries to visualize Charlotte's past by dreaming up many scenarios: "She might have ended her days as a Jewess in Auschwitz. As a child holding on to her mother's skirt, an actress from an old silent movie" (289). He proceeds to juxtapose history, the present, and film to form a vibrant image of her. Her character, salvaged from Jewish and Polish heritage, Auschwitz, America, and Spain, becomes for Ruttle a symbol of historical reality itself. In her the past converges, and he imagines that he can witness her as such: "She speaks from the back of the throat, the epiglottis, a complex human being's speech, made up of all her ancestors and past" (78). The narrator conjures up a kind of history by gathering diverse fragments from many areas. He imagines a past life for Charlotte and in doing so creates her: "I dreamed her as she dreamed me ..." (390). Charlotte exists in the novel only in this way, not as a character in conventional terms. All her movements and dialogue, filtered through Dan's imagining memory, are imbued with associations that generate a kind of superreality throbbing in his consciousness.
The collage of history that emerges in Dan's account of Charlotte resonates in other ways throughout the novel. For example, the figure of Baron von Gerhar, an ex-Nazi with whom Dan drinks on one occasion, powerfully lingers in the fiction as a constant reminder of the atrocities committed against the Jews. Although not a central figure in the narrative, the Baron symbolizes a whole era by his presence. Dan's direct discussion about the Jews, concentration camps, and Hitler and his choice of imagery do much to charge the incident with significance: "fixing me with his red-rimmed killer's eyes, he put it point-blank" (110). All this occurs while U.S. fighter aircraft slice the skies over Andalucia, Ruttle's mind acting as a focal point for past and present. From the aptly named Balcon de Europa bar, Dan's vision emerges. There are numerous other incidents that contain associations that knit the fiction together without availing of temporal sequence or a recognizable arrangement of cause and effect, so much so that many of Higgins's critics are unable to perceive a form to the text. The only real constant in the fiction is Ruttle's mind, which eagerly brings these strands of meaning together, and his mind does not always work in familiar patterns. Imagination, it is implied, generates its own order and has little in common with conventional ordering systems.
Dan's love for Charlotte forms the central plotted impetus of the novel. She initially rejuvenates him, and this is the part of their relationship that matters most: "Being with her, I felt lifted out of my lethargy and sloth, from the banality that encumbered my life; this small bright-faced person had that effect on me" (126). Because of this new enthusiasm, Dan's imagination is freed to re-create her in the context of his dreams and impressions. Through the very process of recollection, however, he realizes she is utterly lost to him: "Two dead actors, a cinema that no longer existed in a narrow street so changed I hardly knew it, as dead and non-existent as my own youth. Non-existent as any touch I ever had with her ..." (120). In the realm that is Ruttle's mind, the past is transformed into a vague image, directly informed by cinema and dead actors. The past may be reclaimed, recollected, vivified by imagination, but essentially it is nonexistent. It remains like the blurred images on a cinema screen, remote and unreal despite what it might whisper to us in moments of nostalgia or longing. Dan learns that once those images are accepted as images, transformations, then one's epistemological grasp of actuality is forever altered. Primarily through Charlotte, Dan responds to this understanding: "She had pale Polish eyes. She is there. She is my opposite, yet part of me. She who appears so permanent, is transitory--a souvenir" (290). The past teaches us that living is transitory as are all the moments that contribute to that life. Dan learns that there are no constants, only impermanent flux. Armed with the lessons of his youth, he realizes even when the affair is being conducted that Charlotte is not a fixed shape: "So she would always escape me, changing shapes, changing clothes as she changed her lovers, changing her style as she changed her admirers ..." (203). The imaginative power of his account of Spain is powerful, but ironically, late in the text, everything of that time has evaporated: "I thought of the time in Spain: those transient friends which events bring and events take away" (455). The former intimacy of those dissolved days is cast aside by the passing of time, just as with all his past. Life, then, is emphatically shown to be a volatile construct, a narrative mediated through one's imagining consciousness, and as such the spatial narrative constructed by Higgins represents an attempt to achieve an accommodation with the very fluidity that he presents as life.
Life is not an ordered construct for Dan, but a fluid series of beginnings. He finally realizes that his experiences exist only in his mind, claiming of Charlotte, "You had existed as a part of the seminal substance of the universe that is always becoming and never is: and now had disappeared into that which produced you" (239). Life, Dan tells us, must be accepted as such: "There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our globe seen by God is a transparent law, not a mass of facts" (352). Balcony of Europe registers the essentially chaotic nature of humanity through its amassing of historical detail and impending wars, coupled with the account of Dan's failed love and acute awareness of his own transience; it is ultimately a lament for what Higgins sees as the unavoidable disintegration of order. However, although a lament, Balcony of Europe suggests, in its optimistic moments, that impermanence is not necessarily a destructive element. If one accepts transience and the true nature of memory, then our present lives may become bearable or at least comprehensible. During a meditative moment near the close of his account, Dan considers the folklore of Aran: "Aran, it is said, is the strangest place on earth. Sometimes for an hour you are, the rest is history; sometimes the two floods culminate in a dream" (446). The present and the past converge, and the dream born from such a union constitutes life in its fullest sense. The past is knowable only through our present discourses, and it is from this perpetually shifting vantage point that we inevitably reconstruct our pasts. This is the vision of existence that Balcony of Europe, as a textual reconstruction, strives to be.
The complex patterns of association woven into Balcony of Europe combine to evoke Higgins's major themes: the transience of living and the chaotic state of human existence. But these very themes contain intrinsic implications on another level. Patrick O'Neill suggests that the novel operates on two levels: "it is also, and overtly, a highly modernist text, a way of presenting that world and a way of presenting its own discourse" (101). Any account of past events that raises the problematic issue of memory invariably challenges the validity of its own writing. Higgins's particular response to memory directly conditions the nature of his fictions. If the universe is in a state of flux, if life is ephemeral and refuses to be imprisoned by humans' powers of communication, then the act of writing must respond accordingly. Not only do events alter in one's memory, but so too does the mind that remembers. Dan informs us that "Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered" (239). Thus if both the present and the past are in flux, then how is it possible to transcribe events or states of feeling? Higgins's fiction insists that it is not possible to transcribe life: "To seek to paint that which cannot be painted--the Deity's human form--was considered by the wise Ancients to be human imbecility" (166-67). This is the artistic principle upon which this text is built. Dan's recollections accept, as part of their process, the true nature of memory and in doing so refrain from realist portrayals. His account assumes, as a constituent part of its process, the flux that he believes to be a condition of memory. Therefore, the text must be constructed in a way that implicitly rejects the traditional realist novel. Higgins declares his attitude toward realistic fiction openly in the novel: "The rule of desire for realistic possession: to hold a great power within a small volume" (325). The role of realism in fiction is a possessive one, a diminishing of life. Balcony of Europe seeks to redress that situation in its formal construction of a fictionalized landscape whose order is, arguably, defined by the ever-shifting actuality of existence that the author sees all about him. Thus the author constructs an image of the world that evades all such attempts to name the world with certainty.
Balcony of Europe registers a connection with the real world, even if not in the same way as realist fiction. The novel attempts to invent a new type of discourse, within which the author can speak of human existence. One of the ways he does so is by rendering the novel self-reflexive. Richard Kearney views the epigraphs to be of major significance in this regard: "they render the novel 'self-reflexive': the epigraphs turn the writing back on itself, they mirror the attempt of the novel itself to write back itself, against time" ("Crisis" 401). The rejected epigraphs are especially significant because, although discarded, they are printed at the rear of the novel and thus form part of the available text. Already quoted is Husserl's visionary epigraph, which mirrors Higgins formal aim. Here is Kafka's epigraph on the past: "Nothing is granted to me, everything has to be earned, not only the present and the future, but the past too--something after all which perhaps every human being has inherited, this too must be earned, and it is perhaps the hardest work. When the Earth turns to the right--I'm not sure that it does--I would have to turn to the left to make up for the past (461-62). Kafka's sentiments translate directly into the forging of Balcony of Europe, and in its most despairing moments, when Dan grapples with the ghosts of his past in an effort to reclaim them or earn them, Kafka's words ring through. The sentiments that the epigraphs contain, writerly or historical, turn the writing back on itself and render it self-reflexive, and in doing so, Higgins earns his own past; he learns to comprehend the meaning of his past. By foregrounding the textual nature of his account, partly through the use of the epigraphs and partly by dwelling on the epistemological issues of memory, language, and human modes of perception, the author emphasizes that the intellectual comprehension of one's own past must be accompanied by a transfiguration of the events that make up that past.
Balcony of Europe is a composite of many associated elements. It questions communication, history, the transience of living, memory, and the meaning of human perception. Combined with these powerful elements, it questions the process of its own formation. Its own discourse becomes one of the primary subjects of the text itself. This doesn't destabilize the fiction, except perhaps to subtly alter the reader's perspective. There are no overt statements concerning the nature of art in the novel, which remains, as with all of Higgins's work, essentially about life. The nature of the medium simply demands that some response must be made to the problem of memory and what it means. Higgins allows his artistic motivation to unfold within the narrative itself and in doing so creates a novel that addresses the condition of living which is echoed in the formal design of the text. Each aspect complements and reinforces the other, and it is for this reason that Balcony of Europe is a truly important novel. It insists on working on two levels, refusing to operate in the highly problematic realm of the mimetic novel and refraining from the excesses of some extreme postmodern novels which deconstruct their universes of dialogue to the point of nihilism. Hence, in Balcony of Europe the seemingly intractable epistemological problems that beset postmodern fiction are rendered into suitable material for fiction, rather than being the reason for endless prevarication.
Scenes from a Receding Past
With Scenes from a Receding Past, the autobiographical web spins backward in time to the pre-Balcony of Europe years, on occasion even to prenatal times. Dan Ruttle is resurrected, as are his parents, siblings, and wife, as is Molly Cushen, with whom Otto Beck has an affair in Langrishe. Not only do fiction and autobiography collide, so too do fictional worlds themselves. In Scenes from a Receding Past the treatment of the past is similar to that in Balcony of Europe, and the author also returns to the big-house genre. In many ways Scenes from a Receding Past regroups many of Higgins's previous concerns, particularly memory, and expresses them in another way. The epigraph from Richard Brautigan is a telling foretaste of things to come:
I do not long for the world as it was when I was a child. I do not long for the person I was in that world. I do not want to be the person I am now in that world then. I've been examining half-scraps of my childhood. They are pieces of distant life that have no form or meaning. They are things that just happened like lint. (10)
In an attempt to understand the nature of transience, Dan attempts to reconstruct his youth by means of spatial narrative, recreating images of the past via a selection of ostensibly random vignettes. This reconstruction hinges on generating resonant images, like the chilling account of his brother Wally in a mental institution, a fate shared by his mother. What emerges through this kind of arrangement is a profound sense of despair, dissolution, indicating a deep sense of pathos in the face of human suffering, and, above all, the gradual drift of time. Later, when Dan meets Olivia, the reality of his lost youth is clearly expressed in contrast with his sense of her life: "Her past, obscure enough, had become more real than my own" (192). However, through his desire to possess his wife Olivia, he learns the insurmountable difficulties of communicating past events: "From my own imperfect memory, from no notes, from distractions and places, from my love of her, from her own retellings, emerges this rigmarole: her past that is more real than my own" (156). Or so it seems, and yet it too is a fabrication synthesized from all the means he has available to him. Through Olivia, the assumptions of traditional realism are exposed: "That was her past, part of it, as she told it to me, as I remember it, or what I remember of it" (167-68). Olivia's past is qualified three times, questioned three times. Her version is a qualification, as is his memory, as is the selective nature of his memory. The inability to locate the past is a cause of grief to Dan, but nevertheless he continues piecing together the hazardous shreds of memory. In doing so, he demonstrates how his attempt to write her biography is essentially a work of imagination. The veracity of Dan's account is thrown into disarray by his insistence on re-creating exacting landscapes from Olivia's Past: "That place, your home, I can't imagine it. You lived there in a house I cannot quite see, walking in an overgrown garden in the heat" (157). He can't imagine it, yet proceeds to build elaborate scenarios. The implications that such a pursuit have for the reconstruction of his own receding past are clear. From the author's opening note, which refers to, "those gentle times, those guileless gossoons, [which] are now consigned to oblivion" (10), the realistic aims of the narrative are intentionally deflated. Furthermore, the nature of the narrative itself, first-person present, creates the possibility of unreliability. Does an eleven-year-old boy think in terms as exotic as those espoused by the child Dan?: "Overhead huge white clouds are piled up, vasty citadels, white castles loom" (37). But Scenes from a Receding Past, like Balcony of Europe, is not a realist novel, rejecting as it does temporal sequence and causal logic in its attempt to say the past.
For example, when Dan is first absent from his home, Nullamore, he imagines it to be a source of unchanging order: "I miss Nullamore. I think: The place that never changes" (107). However, as with much else in the text, time dismantles the cosy certainties of his home: "It's vacation. Nullamore seems to have shrunk" (107). Dan's education begins here. That first certainty, familial security, fades, or rather Dan's imagining mind dreams Nullamore into a kind of superreality that the actuality cannot match. His desire for certainty is frequently evident in the text, as is his dismay when he cannot achieve it. Discovering a fixed reality in a photograph, in the midst of change, he is astonished: "Nothing can change or disturb her. She is perfect, naked and coolly regarding me. Her expression does not change. She watches me" (77). This much-cherished certainty is not to be found in reality, but the desire for order finds its mirror image in an awareness of chaos. By the conclusion of the novel, acute awareness of disorder has forced Dan to an accommodation with impermanence:
Hold onto nothing; nothing lasts. Long ago I was this, was that, twisting and turning, incredulous, baffled, believing nothing, believing all. Now I am, what? I feel frightened, sometimes, but may be just tired. I feel depressed quite often, but may just be hungry. All but blind In his chambered hole Gropes for worms ... (204)
The closing image of a blind mole groping for worms suggests that Higgins's accommodation is far from joyous, and the bleakness of his vision is clear. The author burrows deep into the past in an effort to comprehend his life and in doing so confronts the opaque reality of memory. All but blind, he understands the volatility of life and records it as such.
Higgins's major themes of transience, memory, and decay emerge once again, although Scenes from a Receding Past responds to the issues of memory and transience in a more direct way than its predecessors, because it is less restrained by their concessions to form, however innovative. Fundamentally, Scenes from a Receding Past is a fictionalized autobiography that foregrounds and formally illustrates the essential problems associated with reconstructing the past. In formal terms it is less strictly literary than Balcony of Europe or Langrishe, Go Down in that the author seems less concerned with interweaving binding associations and images. Higgins presents much incidental detail, including lists of boarding-school requirements, cricket scores, and much particularized geographical data. The only binding force is the narrator himself and the images that emerge in the telling, like Proustian madeleines. George O'Brien also comments on these qualities in the novel:
All that Higgins unrhetorically intends to claim, it seems, is that certain materials insist on presenting themselves--memories, vignettes, moments, quotations, gossip, arcana, rage, pleasure, boredom, love.... Higgins seems to say there is only the world, the other; the writer, clerk-like (attentive rather than subservient), takes--rather than raises--its stock. He proceeds in the direction of that nakedness which is more familiarly the painter's objective. Simplicity and directness unveils while leaving intact.... (90-91)
The author allows the randomness of reality to reveal itself. Much is omitted from what might constitute a life story. Thus the form of the novel depends on the interrelation of the moments presented. The threads of association are not strong, and beyond Ruttle's selective consciousness, there is little in the way of unity--there are only "Impressions" which "offer themselves, focus, slip away" (200). Is this sufficient to bind a work of art? In a rare moment of overt self-reflexive advice, the narrator reveals himself: "Do as I tell you and you will find out my shape. There are no pure substances in nature. Each is contained in each" (200). The essential unity in nature, he implies, is the source of his shape. The artist who allows landscapes to reveal themselves, rather than attempt to interrogate their meaning, lets the chaos of the past life and the universe seep into the fiction. Freeing itself from the formal restraints of the novel genre, Scenes from a Receding Past aims to be just what its title suggests, scenes, and not a life bound together by illusory sequential narrative or the imposition of synthetic structures in search of order. In Scenes from a Receding Past Higgins begins to remove the frame from his pictures, a precarious activity, considering the essentially formal nature of fiction writing. He clearly attempts, in Scenes, an escape from the novelists' guild, from the technical strategies with which the world is transformed. It is of little surprise, therefore, that Higgins takes an even greater technical risk with the novel that immediately follows and writes an epistolary novel, hardly the genre of choice among late-twentieth-century novelists.
In Bornholm Night-Ferry love is again the central focus from which all else emanates. Elin, a Danish poet, and Fitzy, an Irish novelist, conduct an illicit five-year relationship (though they spend a total of just forty-seven days together) primarily through the medium of love letters, resulting in a highly charged linguistic universe in which the conditions of memory and language are consistently interrogated. The epistolary novel depicts both narrators roaming freely across almost limitless imaginative landscapes, declaring love, jealousy, rejuvenated love, interest, hatred, and ultimately rejection.
To suggest that Higgins turns the same literary sod each time is not altogether untrue, but his understanding of his piece of soil is more refined with each new visitation, and he continually experiments with new forms to house his concerns. In a fiction comprising sixty-five letters and a few short diary pieces, the issues of language, imagination, and remembrance form one sustained dismissal of traditional narrative and attempt to formulate a unique way of focusing on the world. Bornholm Night-Ferry is a highly self-reflexive fiction, because it directly informs us of the process of its creation, and what more forceful means are there than letters between lovers/writers who struggle to keep their love, an almost exclusively linguistic one, alive?
The love letters essentially map the progression of Elin's and Fitzy's responses to memory and language. Elin distinguishes between the words she uses and the actuality of their time together: "Not forgotten in words but in action. The sensual memory of you is going to disappear, replaced by reflections" (17). She knows that outside of the actuality, of her fading sensual memory, there are but "'figments of the imagination,' monologues" (18). Thus the epistolary love affair is conducted solely in their respective imaginative reactions to both memory and language. Furthermore, because they speak different languages, they grapple with each other's tongues in an effort to create a love-language. Initially, Elin responds to the barriers between them by gleefully pursuing her imaginative explorations: "We don't know each other, no. We exited to a high degree each others' dreams. We don't know each other, we are dreaming. Everything depends on if we are clever enough to dream. And believe in our dreams. And realize our dreams so fervently we are able to" (21). She plunges into a landscape of dreams wherein the constraints of time, language, and geography are diminished, but retained. Any other reaction is doomed to failure. However, the dreaming proves to be unsustainable because the actuality of their relationship must be registered. Elin pleads with Fitzy to confront this: "Please, my beloved let us save our dream by naming the reality, let us say awfull [sic] things so the rest can be true. The ghosts grow and grow when you never face them" (92). Fitzy responds to this plea by refusing to accept a distinction between the dreams and reality: "As to dream (perhaps the only word we cannot put quotation marks around) and 'reality,' whatever that may be, well they are for me one and the same" (93). The lines of communication for him provide only a dream reality. "Doesn't a child," Fitzy asks, "who knows nothing, invent the whole world?" (94). It is questionable whether Fitzy's vision of reality constitutes a separation of imagination and reason in favor of imagination or is a true marriage of both. The reality principle, however, must remain a constituent part of the imagination and vice versa in order for coherent dialogue to exist. Ultimately, Fitzy falters: "It has been going on for some time. I am dreaming it, or it is dreaming me, for some time, particulars forgotten" (174). Reality dissolves, the pure dream remains, and dialogue between the lovers ultimately ends, or at least the struggle to articulate the actuality of their affair ends. Fitzy falls silent and Elin is consigned to some out-of-reach, extralinguistic universe.
Elin refuses to dissolve her reality principle into pure imagination except in moments of extreme longing. She never loses sight of the rational, allowing herself to dream while constantly reminding herself that she is dreaming. She warns him, "I tell you Fitzy, I imagine you so you would die from it if you were here" (68). Her vision of him is excessive, but she knows that the actuality cannot compare to it, cannot hope to compare to it. This distinction prevails in Elin's letters, and her lack of sensual experience leads to her estrangement. The "unreal correspondence" (146) cannot satisfy her as it can Fitzy. She learns to see the difference between them from this perspective: "You never divide hope from reality, and you are not a happy person. I always divide hope from reality (try to) and am not a happy being. You refuse to see reality and I am hoping wrong hopes. This goes on: Wrong moves, failured [sic] gestures. Will it ever change?" (153). Conducted in a linguistic medium, their love cannot survive the rigors of two opposing visions. Being separated, writing in a love-language and imagining each other, they need hope. However, for Fitzy, hope, imagination, and reality all converge and express themselves in a linguistic dream world. Elin's last letter doesn't even conclude the relationship, meaning has long since been lost in a sea of imagination and language, and finality is a forgotten concept.
The alternate poles that Elin and Fitzy come to represent correspond to the self-reflexive discourse of the novel itself. Conveniently, the two narrators comment on each other's letters, and the novel itself becomes a commentary on the nature of fiction and the imaginative process. Initially, one experiences, with all the attendant difficulties, then remembers, and then transforms. The two lovers lose sensual memory and conjure up many desperate methods to regain it: "If I cannot have you all in one piece, mail me bits of you. Du" (73). Such ploys are little more than futile love games. Soon they grow to rely on memory with all its consequent vagaries and imaginings. Inherent in this is the suggestion that any attempt to apprehend life linguistically must conform to these principles. It is what one does with such knowledge, within a problematic linguistic structure, that is central to Bornholm Night-Ferry.
Bornholm Night-Ferry is one of Higgins's most overtly self-reflexive novels because it directly confronts its own medium and in doing so interrogates the meaning of memory and the limitations of language. Furthermore, it openly exposes the hazardous transformative process that is art. Elin and Fitzy create fictions forged from their imperfect memories, their language, and their different responses to these things. The presumption of a fixed reality vanishes in the creation of the letters. Elin registers the inadequacy of the reality principle in one of her letters: "Your memories of us are too full of 'unreliableness' but mostly more true than the reality" (65). Reality is expressed as a collage of moving surfaces rather than a static, empirically attainable actuality. The actual expression of this fact is the transformative agent. Thus reality is raised to the level of Fitzy's and Elin's imaginings via memory and language. In this way Bornholm Night-Ferry comments on its own formation and its own relationship to Higgins's "reality."
Despite his obvious acceptance of the artificial nature of man's linguistic medium, the author also acknowledges that a breakdown in dialogue is directly related to overreliance on imagination. The affair falters and dies because the "real," the sensual, is forsaken and replaced by a world comprising language, memory, and imagination. Humanity cannot survive in such a nonsensual ontology. Bornholm Night-Ferry accepts that human communication is at best problematic because there are many chasms which render communication hazardous: between word and thing, memory and actuality, thought and gesture. The linguistic lovers interrogate these chasms, but the gaps prove too great and communication ultimately falters. Communication is always difficult, perhaps even impossible, in absolute terms, but if the true nature of the web of human dialogue is comprehended then perhaps communication can evolve. For this reason, Higgins's self-reflexive epistolary novel is valuable. Life, it is implied, is a fiction that must be interpreted (or imagined) in conjunction with one's sensual experience and not a mass of exactitudes that we can simply name with synthetic modes of expression. The epistolary novel form allows Higgins to confront the primacy of experience without the formal constructs of linear narrative and narrated characterization. Elin and Fitzy instead emerge via their respective collages of recollection and expressions of love and loss, allowing the author to generate fictional ontologies that are limited by language, but not by time and space. In keeping with the technical achievements of Bornholm Night-Ferry, Lions of the Grunewald, Higgins's first full-length fiction in a decade, provides yet more evidence of the author's aim to develop an aesthetic shape that might accommodate the complexity of living.
Lions of the Grunewald
Lions of the Grunewald is situated on mainland Europe and peopled by Dallan Weaver, drunken writer, and his wife Nancy. Like Balcony of Europe's Dan Ruttle, Weaver conducts a dramatic extramarital affair that acts as the primary narrative movement in the novel. Weaver and Nancy live in Berlin at the expense of DILDO (Deutsche Internationale Literatur Dienst Organisation) and mingle with persons real and imaginary, including Peter Handke, Max Frisch, Sir Kenneth Clarke, and a host of others. Beckett gets a mention (and an unanswered telephone call), as do Jack Lynch and Gunter Grass, while Weaver drunkenly cavorts through Berlin days and nights, mostly oblivious, occasionally intensely sensitive, a potent recipe for disaster and heartache.
Lions raises some questions concerning Higgins's Berlin, where the author lived for a while. Is his besotted and bibulous hero a caustic self-portrait? Did the riot of events, situated circa 1968, really happen? It seems likely, but in the end it doesn't really matter. With Higgins there really is very little difference between the "Instant fictionalisation" technique that he reputedly used in the writing of Balcony of Europe (Share 162) and the "reality." The actuality of experience always lingers in his work, the only question being how he orders that experience. Within Higgins's ordering structure in Lions, the love triangle traced out among Weaver, Nancy, and his lover Lore is initially treated with much irreverence, but gradually, as the sequential plot dissolves, the author's voice surfaces to reveal Higgins's familiar themes: love and its transience, the pain of the past, and ultimately, how one apprehends and lives with such strangeness.
Higgins's epigraphs to Lions are indicative of his intent. The first, taken from John Cheever's Journals, tells of when the lions escaped from the zoo during the last days of the war. Not only does this indicate the relevance of the zoo imagery prevalent throughout, but it also tells of nightmarish days of a "world that has outstripped our nightmares,/our subconscious" (xiii), the kind of days that the novel maps. A sense of desolation pervades all, extending even to the frantic coupling of two homosexual lovers in subzero snow, prior to one of them leaping into the uninviting, freezing Spree River. Alice Munro's epigraph, from The Progress of Love, speaks of the obvious wrenches and slashing that accompany the parting of lovers, and this predicts the marital chaos about to ensue. The final epigraph, taken from Nabokov's Speak, Memory, Nabokov himself a habitual frequenter of Berlin, is especially telling: "In the evening there, in little cul de/sacs, the soul seems to dissolve" (xiii). Higgins's Weaver, the dominant character in Lions, does indeed seem to dissolve when confronted with the impasse of naming the life he has lived. Berlin, fittingly, becomes a ghostly presence in his, and the narrator's, consciousness, until ultimately, Weaver effectively merges with Higgins's own voice or that of a narratorial substitute. The dissolution is intensified by a disintegration of the linear narrative into a rush of half-memories, dreams, and random observations. At the core of this life is Lore, with her teasing name and symbolic role as metaphorical expression of love.
In this, Higgins's most complete fiction, love is an essential ingredient, not just for its thematic attractions, but for the associations it generates. It is the sense of impermanence that is dominant, rather than any sentimental cry from the heart of lost love. However, Weaver's painful awareness of transience is coaxed to a heightened peak because it is love that is lost, not just life. Love itself, with its frightful joys and acute pains, is presented as the central image of loss within which the author allows his other themes to take root. This is not to suggest that Lore is merely a functional image within which the author bemoans the loss of the past. Rather, love is presented as a way of seeing, so valuable and sacred that its loss is all the greater. Weaver, rephrasing Proust, claims that "love is time and space the heart can catch ..." (198). Love is a state from which one can witness existence outside of the mad swirl of life. Time spent with Lore is, for Weaver, like "a morning outside of Time" (196). As an extended epiphany, love becomes a means of comprehension, of consolation, a kind of imaginative intensity which allows him to redeem life from that state of ineffable confusion within which he is frequently lost.
Late in the novel, everything radiates from Weaver's, or by now Higgins's (the distinction grows increasingly unclear), memory of love, even the geography of Berlin: "The other day I was thinking of you; or rather of Nullgrab, that quartered city you love so much, which amounts to the same thing. When I recall Nullgrab I remember you, or vice versa. Go quietly, the ghosts are listening" (274). A part of the past cannot simply be recalled, unimpeded by the vastness of all else connected to it. It is saturated with people, none more pervasive than old lovers who, inevitably, are impossible to rescue from the past, a point not lost on Weaver: "Is it even possible to think of somebody in the past? Are the memories of things better than the things themselves? Chateaubriand seemed to think so; and now he too belongs to that past" (274). The past is Weaver's primary difficulty, yet he ultimately accepts its foibles with a kind of grace that comes only with an intimate understanding of its mesmerising transience. The only pain he expresses is in gentle moments of sadness at the loss of Lore, whom he places at the nucleus of all that is gone. Metaphorically, she finds powerful expression as the power of art, replete with its imaginative associations. Weaver somehow retains the essence of her in his poetic imagination, despite the onslaught of time: "I say things but I may mean times. I say things and times but I may mean persons and places, or may be just thinking of you. Your name at the end of the world" (274). Love, for Higgins, is the key to the past, possibly the only one. It doesn't gain power over the unassailable power of the past, but it does make it more manageable, more visible. Your name "at the end of the world," he tellingly writes. None of Higgins's best fiction functions without the presence of love and its complicated rituals, its communicative problems, its instability, beauty, and transience. A tragic note of lost love rings through, both as a lament for the loss of such a wonderful state and also as a celebration of that state, that way of seeing which, in its finest moments, releases the imagination from the burden of reason.
The sexual act is one of Weaver's overriding fascinations. Everyone, it seems, is coupling with someone. So insistent are Weaver's tales of sex, one feels the act itself emerges to symbolize Berlin in the author's imagination. Like a latter-day Sodom or Gomorrah (without moral overtones), Berlin's sexual permissiveness is presented as a frantic survival urge that, for Weaver and Lore, ultimately yields no child (Lore has an abortion). Furthermore, their frantic lovemaking grows steadily more frenetic as their parting becomes imminent. It clearly doesn't need the retrospective eye to confirm the passing of an extraordinary love. Weaver, because he recognizes the visionary nature of being in love with her, likens their separation to death: "So they sat together on the top step in the gloaming and sipped vodka and tasted the ice and fire and no doubt entertained (if that is the word) some considerations of those Final Things that must in time come to us all, to be recorded with all the ones who had gone before, all set down in the Great Book of Numbers" (235). He strikes up a connection between death and the passing of love, because love makes death remote and the passing of love is a chilling reminder of how quickly and mercilessly one hurtles to that final moment. "[L]ove is time and space the heart can catch ..." (198), Weaver tells us, but inherent in such a state is the reality of its transience and thus the tragic nature of the consciousness, which seems so dependent on love as a way of seeing. None of Higgins's love "stories" end in joy, and it is the sense of tragedy that this failure lends to the works that helps to create the profound sense of impermanence at the center of all his work. But these are no simple, tragic love stories. Lions tells not just of the passing of Weaver's one true love (his great love for Lore happens to coincide with the demise of his once great love for his wife, Nancy!). For Weaver, it is the sense of life that love affords him that is so valuable: "It was another language of another world; you took me there. I couldn't follow you; but I followed you" (276). Love is a way of defeating the undefeatable, a way of arresting time, of intimately knowing a place and finally knowing how to rediscover the gleam of one's past life. For Weaver the key to existence is love, Higgins's potent, enduring symbol for the imagined life, the poetic memory.
Love is the most powerful image in Higgins's Lions. It not only binds the narrative, but it acts as the focal point through which everything else radiates. Weaver doesn't simply inform us that love is a way of seeing, of apprehending, he allows us to sneak a glimpse at the world that he apprehends. In a sense, here the problems begin. Lions differs from its immediate predecessors because the narrator's overt concerns on the opening page are similar to those at the end. In short, there is a coherent plot that doesn't entirely disappear along the way. There are moments, of course, when Higgins's narrator digresses to trawl through Berlin's troubled history and places various historical events beside the microcosm of Weaver's own troubled life. The effect is dizzying and sometimes hazardous to the cohesion of the novel. However, within the philosophical framework of this particular text, this process justifies itself. Higgins expresses his understanding of history very clearly in one phrase that acts as a refrain in the novel: "All days are different; all days are the same" (175). Repeated several times, it emphatically communicates Higgins's perspective. Life, history, one's being--these things don't change, only the way we see them changes. Life is recurrent, events are basically the same, but the mind that apprehends can change, and thus everything changes.
In a sense, the plotted events that comprise Lions are secondary and yet deeply integrated with the most important and striking aspect of the novel, how the tale is told. Everything that happens is directed by the feasibility of Higgins's narrative form. Love, the most powerful image in the text, is likened to a way of seeing, a way of imaginative apprehension. Furthermore, the pastness of the tale means that the narrator must somehow create structures through which the past can be communicated. Like Joyce, Higgins crams his tale with topographical detail, allusions, historical references, and real people, but unlike Eliot's or Joyce's high modernist work, Lions does not possess a mythic order as the author struggles to allow chaos to define the form of the text.
Higgins uses many different techniques to articulate the mess of experience, which must be forced into coherent form and simultaneously evade such coherence. Initially, the narrator toys with overt self-reflexive play by using theatrical stage directions: =Quick curtain here to indicate the Passage of Time" (116). Such devices are more playful than disruptive. More technically familiar is the way that Nancy's character is constructed. As in Balcony o[Europe, Nancy's character is partly revealed by certain key phrases that she repeatedly uses. This type of characterization results not in any meaningful revelation, but contributes to Higgins's wraithlike two-dimensional characters. It is as though the narrator does not trust himself with any more expansive description.
Weaver is the only character who is fully realized in the novel. He is frequently liberated from chronological sequence when his imagination roams from Berlin to Russia (where he's never been) and to Dover and Hamburg. Anecdotes tumble forth from his imagination, suggestive of a life he shared with Nancy. Sequential narration is abandoned as insufficient, and the result, although disturbing, is a relatively intelligible passage through Weaver's troubled consciousness. As the novel progresses, this becomes increasingly erratic, and the third-person past tense, sequential narrative of part 1 grows more reliant on alternative methods to reveal the meaning of the past and, by implication, life itself. Although the plot is initially subverted by self-reflexive comments ("The truncated metropolis hereinafter designated Nullgrab is of course very much our own invention and figures and descriptions may be more aromatic than exact. An odour of pines pervades all" (12)), the basic sequential narrative remains intact until near the end of part 1, when the narrator presents fragmentary dreams by both Nancy and Lore as a chapter. Another chapter follows, which relates a tale about the Berlin poet Gottfried Benn, with little obvious connection to the plot. Part 2 develops into an increasingly anecdotal account and offers little in the way of significance to plot. The binding consciousness, Weaver, loses what few reservations he has, both in terms of his extramarital affair and his digressive consciousness. Part 3 confirms the radical disintegration of the sparse sequential narrative that existed at the beginning. Lore's and Weaver's relationship falters and they separate. This is the time of the Munich Olympic slaughter, and when Weaver's wandering mind tires of Munich, he recalls a trip to South Africa. The plot remains, but is no longer the dominant ontological base, the digressions now forming the authoritative center of the imaginative world.
The final stages of the novel reveal Weaver's consciousness via his reminiscences, especially of his relationship with Lore, in the collage chapter of past moments, "The Other Day I Was Thinking of You." Furthermore, the distinction between narrator and author dissolves, to be replaced by a series of letters and a short account of an imagined meeting between Gunter Grass and Max Frisch. Finally, the voice that remains has not resolved the meaning of his past life--acceptance perhaps, but this doesn't necessarily anaesthetize the knowledge that much of that life has evaporated. Nearing the end of this patchwork of memory, history, comedy, and above all imaginative apprehension, the disconnected voice asks, "Of all that remains, what residue is there, I ask you, trapped in vertiginous Time?" (301). Nothing remains except the author's telling exhortation: "Stir it up" (301). Just as he has done.
Higgins's sobering perspectives on time are supplemented by his commentary on dreams, offering a valuable insight to the novel: Kin dreams there is no time, no ages; just a seamless, tireless state of the sleeper's drifting fears. It had been a time of dire portents in Jo'burg.... To remember it or have it evoked in a nightmare was to make that heart bleed again ..." (258). He instinctively likens memory to the dream state, and his narrative structure clearly aspires to such a structure. With Lions, Higgins has finally found a narrative structure that will accommodate his vision of existence. Form and content rest easily together. The widely held desire for an ordered life, he suggests, is less important than the evoked memory, the dream state, and since memory, like dreams, operates in an unsystematic way, so too must his fictions.
Much of Higgins's energy is directed at creating powerful images, almost visual in their bright intensity, and these images seek to compensate for his abandonment of sequential narrative form. Dermot Healy recognizes this aspect in Higgins's writing: "The key to Higgins is the image--for him storytelling stopped there--If you told what was there visually the story would inevitably follow" ("Travel Guide" B10). This accounts for the narrator's reluctance to flesh out authentic characters. We are thrown a few morsels, probably "real," a few resonant phrases, and a kind of life must emanate from there. The surface must somehow radiate meaning, as it must in life. There are no cheap symbolic frameworks or rigid characterization in Higgins's Lions, because such things belong to the inventions of artistic form and not to life. The challenge, of course, is to allow the fiction to accommodate life.
Life is presented as a swirling mess of complexity, tenuously ordered only by the mind that perceives. And, of course, the order that Weaver's mind conjures up is itself a fiction, a vision of life that insists on remaining aloof. When Nancy, once an object of love and the mother of his child, can be expressed primarily by external utterances, how, then, can one ever know one's own life? Added to this is the author's retrospective telling, which complicates everything even more. As Aidan Matthews has succinctly put it: "So the fable becomes a fiction about fictions, about the fantasies of 30 years ago" (B12).
Since Langrishe, Go Down, Higgins's achievement is uneven. Although his works don't deserve the lack of critical attention they receive, Langrishe, Balcony, and Bornholm are, prior to Lions, his most complete works because, while operating within the novel form, the author has managed to confront the major dilemmas of the twentieth-century novelist. Higgins's works are never comfortable fictions; they never seek to ingratiate themselves with a public that demands the luxury of recognizable conventions. Higgins is clearly aware that all the mind apprehends is a fiction, and he has perpetually striven to articulate that knowledge in the way all great writers express their ideas, through stories. That his fictional journey has frequently drifted into autobiography is indicative of his aesthetic conceptions of art and life. Lions of the Grunewald adopts a poetic suggestion that life and art share much more than one might assume. Art is not simply a transformation of "reality," because, for Higgins, life is already story, lacking the complex ordering strategies of art, but story nonetheless. Higgins's life has been used as material for his art before, but in Lions his life isn't simply availed of as material for fiction, it is that fiction. It is apparent that the author believes that the life he led all those years ago in Berlin was as much a dream at the time as it is now. People and places merge with memory or Higgins's poetic imagination to suggest a story rather than to tell it as it was, itself a great literary fraud. The life described is itself as near to a "story" as a life can get with its endless complexity and contradictions, all of which evade order. The telling of events from one's life amounts to an act of possession. Unfortunately, in the act of possession life is transformed by the conventions of art. Higgins tries desperately to avoid this wilful possession. In losing a coherent narrative of his own life, he paradoxically claims it.
Although this essay is mainly a consideration of Higgins's fiction, the nature of his frequent conflation of fiction and autobiography demands that his trilogy of autobiographies is offered some brief consideration, because, as he says, "stories ... make up my life and lend it whatever veracity and purpose it may have" (Donkey's Years 3). In his trilogy of autobiographies, Donkey's Years, Dog Days, and The Whole Hog, Higgins effectively abandons the transformative conventions of the fictive mode and writes what Dermot Healy calls "a straight narrative" account of the first half of his life ("Donkey's" 46). Because Higgins has always blurred generic differences between the novel and autobiography, he knows, of course, that there are technical differences between the masking process of autobiographical fiction and his autobiography, in which certain events "have become my own stories again" (Donkey's Years 324). However, the author's subtitle to Donkey's Years reveals his continued unwillingness to render that difference absolute: Memories of a Life as Story Told. This implies much, as does his description of Donkey's Years: "this bogus autobiography, bogus as all honest autobiographies must be" (Donkey's Years 325). In fact, Higgins, having reclaimed his "own stories," seems gleefully unwilling to allow them conventional autobiographical status, embedding, as he frequently does, slyly subversive comments throughout the trilogy, as in Dog Days: "Reality is concretness rotating towards illusion, or vice versa, arsyversy; illusion rotating towards concreteness" (202). Again, of course, it is not as simple as a rejection of the possibility of representation. For Higgins, the story must be told, but as precisely that, a story. And it is all about stories: local folklore, private yarns that act as belief systems, rumors, "the greatest of all whores" (Donkey's Years 325), and how people are sustained throughout their lives not by accurate and true versions of reality, but by conceptions of themselves, stories of themselves. People live in narrative, play out their public and private conceptions of themselves in various narrative models. For example, the Bowsy Murray, local hero, is here described by Higgins with irony and humor: "The act of throwing a stumpy-booted and gaitered leg athwart the low saddle was a grave gesture both ceremonial and heraldic, man and machine (wrapped in symbolic flame, suggesting Mercury) emblazoned on some obscure escutcheon invoking Subordinacy, Humility, Obeisance, Homage, Destiny, Victualler!" (Donkey's Years 47). The world and its inhabitants come to us as creatures who live by their own conceptions of themselves, often informed by ready-made models, like the heroic Bowsy, and Higgins's ever-discerning eye witnesses a kind of prolonged story in the process of unfolding. It is his job to communicate a sense of the grand charade. And he does so with tenderness and sympathy.
Much of the material in the trilogy is familiar to readers of Higgins's fiction, though certainly not the same. The autobiographies sometimes elaborate on or explain incidents in the fictions, offer fresh nuances, and add further "real" detail. Higgins's youth, in various stages, throughout all three volumes, generates many connections with the early fictions, while The Whole Hog clarifies some of the events in Bornholm Night-Ferry and Balcony of Europe. Much of this is interesting to Higgins's readers, but doesn't really explain the curious power of the texts. The final volume in particular is immensely powerful, partly due to the delightful variety of writing styles, formal arrangements of material, and darkly comic undertow. The Whole Hog is a composite of intimate letters, lists, anecdotes, diary entries, imagined reconstructions ("Borges and I"), farewells to departed friends, inscriptions on cemetery headstones, observations on Karen Blixen and Djuna Barnes, among others, and a variety of curious takes on history. That the author manages to retain intelligibility is testament to his enormous gifts as a storyteller.
The curious texture of these most unconventional of autobiographies reminds one yet again of Higgins's uncompromising writing. Consumed by memories, Higgins has sought to offer up a powerful sustained gaze at the life of Rory, as he calls himself in the trilogy. Predictable in his insistence of writing it as he understands it, sees it, the autobiographies are no mere accompaniment to the fictions, no simple gesture of clarification. Instead, the trilogy, autobiographical in name, paradoxically convinces one of Higgins's masterful narrative craft and reminds one of his recurring insistence that life is already a fiction as one lives it. The implications for the genre of autobiography are clear.
Passing, as it does, through various developmental phases, Higgins's work inevitably challenges simplistic categorization. In Langrishe and Felo De Se he bears witness not simply to Irish history and his own experiences, but to the demise of a culture in Europe, informed as much by the world wars as by the decline of the Ascendancy in Ireland. It is all connected for Higgins. In addition, his writing has always responded to modernist epistemological problems, especially those of memory, language, and perception. No doubt he learned valuable lessons from the modernist identification of language with experience and has perpetually sought to locate a fictional medium to frame his vision. However, in his quest to discover a framing narrative, the author has sought to avoid the mythic structuring devices preferred by modernism and rarely uses archetypal framing stories in his work. He has also generally refrained from highly stylized linguistic constructions like the dramatic interior monologues of Joyce or the informing symbolism of Woolf. There is, of course, a cost when one seeks to dispense with recognizable narrative order. Gradually, his work has blurred the generic differences between the novel, autobiography, and travel writing to the extent that it challenges the view that narrative points of recognition are necessary for the preservation of human discourse.
Ultimately, Higgins's work suggests that one can write about one's experiences without freezing them in some fixed order. The human reception of experience is an intensely complex phenomenon, and literature must confront that fact. Reacting against Joyce's stylized example of Ulysses, Higgins is certainly influenced by Beckett's desire to accommodate the fragmentary nature of life, but again, Beckett's example is only partially accepted. Where the world is an apocalyptic memory to many of Beckett's heroes, Higgins's characters are always situated in recognizable social landscapes. His characters and plots almost always have corresponding "real" referents, while those of his illustrious predecessor don't.
However, Higgins's work does display some of the technical characteristics of postmodern fiction. His epigraphs, allusions, overt epistemological questioning, and direct addressing of writerly matters are all self-reflexive acts. The flaunting of artifice gradually increases in Higgins's work until in Lions the text draws attention to its own textual nature to such an extent that reality ostensibly becomes a product of the artistic mind, and while this represents Higgins's primary fascination, it is also the source of the doubts about his final worth as an artist.
Admired by writers as varied as Beckett, Dermot Healy, Annie Proulx, John Banville, Harold Pinter, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, and Thomas McGonigle, Higgins is also the winner of the James Tait Black Memorial prize (Langrishe, Go Down), the Berlin Residential Scholarship, the American-Irish Foundation Award, and the Irish Academy award, and he was short-listed for the Booker prize (Balcony of Europe), as well as being a member of Aosdana and a recipient of grants and bursaries from the Irish and British Arts Councils, all of which suggests a career that has been offered due recognition. Unfortunately, Higgins remains something of a peripheral figure in the literary world, or as Annie Proulx has observed, "Some pair him gingerly with Joyce and Beckett, some accuse him of not having yet written the Total Book, or of untidy endings, of density and melancholy, of abrupt stops and over-portrayal of frustration and accidie" (7). Higgins's uncompromising artistic adventures partly account for such floundering neglect, because while book reviewers frequently cannot but acknowledge the extraordinary beauty of his prose, many appear simultaneously puzzled by the abrupt shifts in time and space and the perpetual retreat from linear narrative. In addition, his reputation in Ireland has not been helped by the frequent abandonment of Irish landscapes, and it is unsurprising that Langrishe, with its deeply Irish landscapes, remains his best-known novel in Ireland, despite him having penned a dozen books since then. Even the grand master, Joyce, planted his experiments in an Irish setting.
In Higgins's writing human experience is already a fiction in the living (and remembering) of it. He does not, finally, differentiate between life and fiction, because life, once apprehended, is already a fiction. The question is how to communicate that apprehension. In refusing to avail of recognizable literary conventions in communicating his vision, Higgins effectively breaks the coded agreement between reader and writer, and in doing so, he erases many points of recognition necessary for the reader. In this, Higgins has always been uncompromising, illustrated by his chosen artistic direction after the commercially successful, and relatively accessible, Langrishe, Go Down. Above all, Langrishe proves that Higgins is, and has always been, more than capable of erecting formal structures. More important to the author is the need to construct a form that will accommodate his conception of a life that is characterized by fragmentation, transience, and unpredictability as much as it is by moments of illumination, love, and the residual effect of the past on people's lives. Traditional narrative forms generate too much order to accommodate such a vision, and modernist artistic order essentially replaces one system for another. Thus Higgins risks incoherence in his writing in order to speak of a fragmentary life. Ultimately, his success depends on one's conception of the purpose of art. Does art impose ordered structures upon human experience, metaphorical, social, or otherwise, as acts of consolation in the face of disorder? The very essence of narratology implicitly suggests this. If Higgins, like Beckett in this, refuses to construct consolatory narratives in the face of uncertainty, does it mean he has failed as an artist? I think not. In his effort to articulate what he sees as the essence of human life in narrative form, he does what all important writers have done: he finds a form that is appropriate to his vision. To berate Higgins's work for refusing a transformative ordering system neglects to value his efforts to strike up an honest and meaningful dialogue with his experiences, surely the mark of all important writing of integrity. The success of his formal arrangement of his material is dependent on the author's vision, and surely the act of reading is not simply an act of recognition--it is also an act of exploration during which we discover rather than simply recognize. Ultimately, this is the challenge that Higgins has offered us, a challenge to which, I suspect, many more readers will eventually rise.
Baneham, Sam. "Aidan Higgins: A Political Dimension." Review of Contemporary Fiction 3.1 (1983): 168-74.
Banville, John. "Colony of Expatriates." Hibernia 6 Oct. 1972: 18.
Beja, Morris. "Felons of Our Selves: The Fiction of Aidan Higgins." Irish University Review 3.2 (1973): 163-78.
Deane, Seamus. "The Literary Myths of the Revival: A Case for Their Abandonment." Myth and Reality in Irish Literature. Ed. Joseph Ronsley. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfred Laurier UP, 1977. 317-29.
Frank, Joseph. "Spatial Form in Modern Literature." Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Ed. Michael J. Hoffman and Patrick Murphy. Duke: Duke UP, 1995.85-100.
Garfitt, Roger. "Constants in Contemporary Irish Fiction." Two Decades of Irish Writing-A Critical Study. Cheshire: Carcanet, 1975. 207-41.
Healy, Dermot. "Donkey's Years: A Review." Asylum Arts Review 1.1 (1995): 45-46.
--. "A Travel Guide to the Imagination." Sunday Tribune 23 April 1989: B10.
Higgins, Aidan. Balcony of Europe. London: Calder & Boyers, 1972.
--. Bornholm Night-Ferry. London: Allison & Busby, 1983; London: Abacus, 1985.
--. Dog Days. London: Secker & Warburg, 1998.
--. Donkey's Years. London: Secker & Warburg, 1995.
--. Felo de Se. London: John Calder, 1960.
--. Langrishe, Go Down. London: Calder & Boyars, 1966.
--. Lions of the Grunewald. London: Secker & Warburg, 1993.
--. Scenes from a Receding Past. London: John Calder, 1977.
--. "Writer in Profile: Aidan Higgins." RTE Guide 5 February 1971: 13.
Imhof, Rudiger. "Proust and Contemporary Irish Fiction." The Internationalism of Irish Literature and Drama: Irish Literary Studies 41. Ed. Joseph McMinn, assisted by Anne McMaster and Angela Welch. Buckinghamshire: Colin Smythe, 1992. 255-60.
Kearney, Richard. "A Crisis of Imagination." Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies (1982): 390-401.
--. Transitions: Narratives in Irish Culture. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1988.
Kreilkamp, Vera. "Reinventing a Form: The Big House in Aidan Higgins's Langrishe, Go Down." Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 11.2 (1985): 27-38.
Lubbers, Klaus. "Balcony of Europe: The Trend towards Internationalization in Recent Irish Fiction." Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World. Tubingen: Gunter Narr, 1987. 235-44.
Matthews, Aidan. "A Rush through the Vagaries of Berlin Life: Review of Lions of the Grunewald." Sunday Tribune 21 Nov. 1993: B12.
O'Brien, George. "Goodbye to All That." Irish Review 7 (1989): 89-92.
O'Neill, Patrick. "Aidan Higgins." Contemporary Irish Novelists. Ed. Rudiger Imhof. Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1990.93-107.
Proulx, Annie. "Drift and Mastery." Rev. of Flotsam and Jetsam, by Aidan Higgins. Washington Post Book World 16 June 2002: 7.
Share, Bernard. "Down from the Balcony." Review of Contemporary Fiction 3.1 (1983): 162-63.
Skelton, Robin. "Aidan Higgins and the Total Book." Mosaic 10.1 (1976): 27-37.
Vidan, Ivo. "Time Sequence in Spatial Fiction." Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Ed. Michael J. Hoffman and Patrick Murphy. Duke: Duke UP, 1995. 434-56.
An Aidan Higgins Checklist
Fiction, Autobiography and Travel Writing
Felo de se. London: John Calder, 1960; rpt. as Asylum & Other Stories. London: Calendar & Boyars, 1978; Dallas: Riverrun Press 1978.
Langrishe, Go Down. London: Calder & Boyars, 1966; London: Paladin, 1987.
Images of Africa. London: Calder & Boyers, 1971.
Balcony of Europe. London: Calder & Boyers, 1972; New York: Delacorte, 1972.
Scenes from a receding Past. London: John Calder, 1977.
Bornholm Night-Ferry. London: Allison 7 Busby, 1983; London: Abacus, 1985.
Ronda Gorge & Other Departures. London: Secker & Warburg, 1989.
Helsingor Station & Other Departures. London: Secker & Warburg, 1989.
Lions of the Grunewald. London: Secker & Warburg, 1983.
Donkey's Years. London: Secker & Warburg, 1995.
Flotsam & Jetsam. London: Minerva, 1996; Normal, IL: Dalkey Archieve Press, 2002.
Dog Days. London: Secker & Warburg, 1988
The Whole Hog. London: Secker & Warburg, 2000
NEIL MURPHY has published articles, reviews, fiction, and interviews in the Irish Review, the Irish University Review, Graph, Asylum Arts Review, the Irish Literary Supplement, the Literary Review, and Force 10. His book, Irish Fiction and Postmodern Doubt, will be published by Edwin Mellen Press in January 2004. He is currently working on a comprehensive study of contemporary fiction and teaches twentieth-century literature at Nanyang Tech. University, Singapore.
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|Publication:||The Review of Contemporary Fiction|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2003|
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