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The Death of the Author.

The Death of the Author, is a brief, brilliant novel identifying the pitfalls of living one double life, if not two at the same time. Professor Leopold Sfax, a literary theorist in New Harbor University, America, conceals in his past two causes of bitter humiliation. One is the expose of his father as a German collaborator in Paris, before and during the German occupation; the other, his own treachery in having written, under a pseudonym, a long series of articles in support of Hitler, at the instigation of Alain Laubreaux, when it seemed to preserve his safety whilst still in France. Expediency was all. But his subsequent fame as an authority of theories of language, even the originator of what came to be lauded as 'The Theory', bring him the public acclaim he dreads.

Inevitably Sfax's new, contrived life is doubly at risk when an aspiring post-graduate girl student decides to research his past in order to write a biography. He knows then the game is up. The ensuing murders make this fast-moving tale macabre in the extreme because, unlike an orthodox whodunnit, it brings home the contrast between the ordinary, rounded lives of characters already familiar and the suddenness of their plunge into tragedy. The economy and precision of Adair's language form an impressive lead-up to the final twist. Throughout the text he makes agile, witty references to post-modernist language theory: even the names Sfax and Laubreaux could be names in a Morality Play. His often expressed concern about conceptual problems raised in modernist terms is well known, most recently through books like The Post-Modernist Always Rings Twice. This novel is, too, a reminder of the similar case of Paul de Mann, an eminent language theorist, who was exposed five years after his death in 1982 as the former writer of an enormous number of pro-Nazi articles published under an assumed name.
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Author:Abel, Anita
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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