The oracle night

The oracle night

Realistic, modernist and postmodern fiction each necessitate different narrative techniques. Realistic novels sometimes represented multiple points of position, but these different voices ne’er challenged the all-knowing storyteller who was in complete control of the fictional existence. The novelist used literary conventions for bring forthing a life-like semblance. Time was additive and linguistic communication transparent. Modernist fiction, no longer comfy with the important voice of an omniscient storyteller, resorted to the consciousness of a 3rd individual. Stream of consciousness and indirect free discourse were narrative techniques used often to demo the altering attitude. Postmodernist fiction undermined all realistic and modernist representative techniques by a complete displacement in position. The reflected existence of the predating periods became a jutting universe in which none of the certainties about ego, linguistic communication and the existence existed. This displacement which McHale sees as happening from the epistemic to the ontological ( 1993, 6-11 ) entails the usage of new narrative techniques. Through the usage of techniques like infixing composing within authorship, intertexuaality, heterotopia, Chinese box construction and mise en-abyme postmodern authors make the reader think about things other than the semantic significance. Meaning is deferred and the jutting universe becomes a disconnected universe giving no hope of a significance or truth. In this paper I will seek to demo how Auster uses these narrative techniques in two novels from his late period- Oracle Night and Man in the Dark_how the usage of these techniques problematizes the reader ‘s sense of the existent.

Oracle Night is a disconnected narrative in which many narratives are interwoven. Inspired by Dashiel Hammet ‘s The Maltese Falcon, Sydney Orr who has recovered from a fatal unwellness starts to compose a narrative in a bluish ‘cloth-bound ‘ Lusitanian notebook. This narrative is about an editor called Nick Bowen who decides to go forth his household and place town because of an accident which could hold left him dead, a determination similar to Hammet ‘s character. Nick ‘s narrative does n’t travel on swimmingly, as it is interrupted by events from the chief narrative, Orr ‘s life. The Chinese box construction Auster uses distracts the reader ‘s attending from both narrations. Although the frame narrative could be said to hold come to something of a conclusion- Trause and Jacob dice and the twosome reunite happily_ the narrative within the narrative is left unfinished. Orr has Nick imprisoned in Ed ‘s Bureau of Historical Preservation, a windowless subterranean hideaway. Eva, his married woman, and Rosa, Silvia Maxwell ‘s granddaughter, are seeking urgently to happen him. The reader keeps thinking about his fate. But Orr ( or Auster? ) leaves Nick entrapped in the enclosure and ne’er references Eva and Rosa once more. It is non merely Auster ‘s usage of the Chinese Box construction that confuses the reader about the existent nature of the narratives. Auster uses mise-en-abyme to increase the confusion and nonsense that dominate the narrative. Sylvia Maxwell ‘s book which is brought to Nick is entitled Oracle Night, mirroring the rubric of the book. Although there are no similarities between Maxwell ‘s narrative and Auster ‘s novel, the usage of indistinguishable rubrics intensifies the ambiguities of the novel. There is another illustration of mise-en-abyme in the novel when Grace ‘s dream in the frame narrative ( 132-35 ) turns out to be similar to the narrative Sydney has written in the bluish note book. Grace ‘s dream is an exact reproduction of the subterraneous enclosure but has turned into an titillating lair.

Episodes which would be considered irrelevant in a realistic or modernist fresh attention deficit disorder to the novel ‘s deficiency of intent and way. John tells Sydney a narrative his brother in jurisprudence, Richard, has told him. ( 32-40 ) Judged by the criterions of unfavorable judgment before postmodernism, this episode is a defect, a error on the portion of the author because it is neither related to the frame narrative nor the narrative within the narrative. So are Orr ‘s unusual brushs with M.R. Chang. From a modernist point of they seem rather irrelevant. And there is besides Orr ‘s screenplay of Time Machine ( 123-26 ) . These episodes do n’t add anything to the significance of the novel and their skip from the novel creates no loss in the significance or the construction of the novel. The narratives within narratives and the irrelevant episodes merely point to deficiency of integrity, coherency and significance in the fictional universe and accordingly the universe of the reader.

In Oracle Night, Auster besides foregrounds the materiality of the text. By invariably portraying Orr in the procedure of authorship, Auster emphasizes the fact that the text the reader confronts is an ruse, non world. Throughout the book the reader reads about composing. The book is about a author who is composing a narrative about an editor, a narrative which is left unfinished. This is an illustration of what Sukenick, quoted by Herman et Al calls “ the truth of the page ” . ( 2005,459 ) The writer is no longer conceal behind the text, as was usual in realistic novels, but appears at his or her desk composing the text at manus. All semblances of world are shattered and the text seems to sabotage any sort of world. The “ world ” of the author composing the text and making fictional characters is penetrated by the “ world ” of the fictional characters. Both worlds are fragmented and in both significance is deferred as each is interrupted by the other. The reader of such a postmodern novel will likely ne’er experience as safe and secure as the reader of a realistic novel.

Narrative techniques like Chinese Box construction and mise-en-abyme are non the privileges of the postmodern epoch. Correcting McHale who considers these techniques postmodern, Waugh gives assorted illustrations of the usage of these techniques in Pre-Enlightenment literature: Chinese Box construction in the poesy of Spencer, ontological complexnesss in Paradise Lost, degrees of ruse in Restoration comedy, the drama within the drama in Hamlet and dianoetic voices in the novels of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte which are incorporated within the chief frame of the narrative in a short piece. But Waugh adds that whereas these techniques were used in the pre or station Enlightenment literature to corroborate a sense of the existent, they are used in postmodern literature to interrupt the impression of world ( 1992,55 ) Indeed postmodern novels like Oracle Night seem non to be addressed to the coherent topic of realistic novel who has a definite individuality, but to a distorted and fragmented topic who has no semblance of an individuality.

In Man in the Dark Auster disrupts the reader ‘s sense of world by making two parallel worlds- a fictional universe created by a character in the existent universe and the existent universe which the Godhead of the narrative inhabits. The sleepless August Brill tells himself the narrative of Owen Brick who wakes up in a cylindrical hole 12 pess in diameter in another America. This America is enduring from a civil war. Owen discovers bit by bit this waste universe which is on occasion bombarded and in which there are no TVs and few autos. But the most hard undertaking for Owen is his mission. He is given direct waies by the federal authorities to return to the analogue America to kill August Brill, the adult male who has caused the civil war by conceive ofing it. The universes convergence and the reader admirations about the world of a existent universe which could be penetrated by a fictional character. Auster ‘s fictional universe is layered, go forthing the reader confused about the grade of its constructedness. Like Oracle Night in which the narrative within the narrative is left unfinished, Brill ( or Auster? ) leaves Owen ‘s narrative unfinished.

Like Oracle Night, Man in the Dark is full of seemingly irrelevant narratives or episodes. Katya ‘s cinematic theory of inanimate objects ( 15-22 ) , the Tokyo Story ( 73-79 ) , the narrative about “ the worst race public violences in American history ” ( 79-87 ) and the thoroughly irrelevant war narratives that “ come rushing in on you, one by one by one… ” : the narrative Jean-Luc Tells Brill and Sonia about the executing of his instructor by the Germans, the narrative Alec Foyle tells Brill and Sonia about his miss friend ‘s grandma _the unusual love of a German soldier for a Judaic miss. And eventually there is the narrative Sonia ‘s nephew, Bertrand, tells about Francois Declos, the cellist. These narratives are non related to each other. Nor are they related to the frame narrative and the fictional universe inside it and parallel with it. Although these narratives are about war, there is nil that links them to each other and to the chief narrative ( s ) . Furthermore, these narratives are non are non first manus narratives of things that have happened to or been observed by the storytellers but are experienced by other people and so narrated by the storytellers of these narratives to the storyteller of Man in the Dark. The reader will be likely excessively removed from the existent events to be affected or impressed by them or even to believe their truth.

In Man in the Dark, Auster undermines the world of a historical event by making a fictional option for it. August Brill lives in the Actual America which is involved in the war in Iraq, but his fictional character Owen Brick lives in a parallel America sing a civil war. By the creative activity of this parallel fictional universe Ausetr non merely suggests that America is responsible for the war in Iraq and could see a civil war as a consequence of its war policies, but besides creates his ain version of history. This reading of Auster ‘s political attitude is once more stressed in Brill ‘s remarks about the war and the tragic executing of Titus. The revising of a historical event puts Man in the Dark, along with a assortment of other postmodern novels in Hutcheon ‘s class of “ historiographic metafiction ” which she defines every bit, those well-known and popular novels which are both intensely self-reflexive and yet paradoxically besides lay claim to historical events and personages… In most of the critical work on postmodernism, it is the narrative-be it in literature, history or theory-that has ever been the focal point of attending. Historiographic metafiction incorporates all three of these spheres: that is, its theoretical self-awareness of history and fiction as human concepts ( historiographic metafiction ) is made the evidences for its rethinking and reworking of the signifiers and contents of the yesteryear. ( 1988,5 )

How is the reader ‘s experience to be accounted for in postmodern fiction?

When the reader is confronted with a non linear, forking way text how is s/he supposed to experience? Enraged? Betrayed? Or flattered? McHale sees the consequence as “ the good one of interrupting the learned responses of the modernist reader… , of deconditioning the reader. ” ( 1992,81 ) Spanos as quoted by Waugh has a similar sentiment. He believes that even before the postmodern epoch Western authors have been loath in supplying clear cut replies for experiential inquiries and cites literature every bit early as Euripides ‘s Oretes and Shakespeare ‘s job dramas. In these plants, he observes, what he calls the “ ontological invasion ” is so powerful that the author is forced to divert Aristotelean norms. It was merely when the postmodern philosophers suggested that the impression of the existence as a well-made concept is a prevarication that postmodern authors abandoned cliche narrative techniques and started seeking for a new poetics. Spanos has a exhaustively positive attitude towards this aesthetic decomposition because he thinks that the apprehension it arouses consequences non in desperation but in hope. Although this Kierkegaardian and Heideggarian dread deprives the reader of the house grounds upon which s/he used to stand, it however equips her/him with an consciousness which consequences in the “ epiphanic minute of transcendency. “ ( 1992,78-86 )

Like McHale and Spanos, Cobley besides sees this alteration as a positive 1, a welcome going from the “ rupturing consequence ” of former narrations, but relates the inquiring of narrative techniques to a broader context in which narrations of all sort were questioned. What is clear is that the devices witnessed in postmodern narrative fiction appeared at a clip when there was a broader inquiring of the maps of narrative, non merely in narrative fiction but in the much wider field of cognition. Thus the inquiries presupposed in the execution of such devices made Postmodernist narrative fiction different in quality from old manifestations of ‘rupturing ‘ consequence. In the pattern of history, particularly, there were arguments over the ability of narrative to supply a warrant of the veracity of that which it re-presented. These arguments took topographic point during the same period in which the impression that narration was a self-perpetuating phenomenon publicizing its ain truth was undermined in fiction. Coincident with both, scientific cognition was called into inquiry for the manner in which it relied on a ‘grand narrative’ which no longer spoke to the localized, ‘little ‘ narrations of personal pleasances, individuality and fortunes. ( 2001,188 )

Postmodern narrative techniques, so, are non merely toies in the custodies of capricious authors who are bored with traditional narrative techniques. These techniques stem of course out of a new acknowledgment of the nature of being, a acknowledgment that entails non merely the author but besides the reader.


  • Auster, Paul 2003.Oracle Night. New York: Henry Holt and Comnany.
  • __________.2008. Man in the Dark. New. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Cobley, Paul 2001. Narrative. London: Routledge. Herman, David, et Al, eds 2005. Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Oxfordshire: Routledge.
  • Hutcheon, Linda 1992. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. 5th erectile dysfunction. London: Routledge. Mc Hale, Brian 1992. Constructing Postmodernism. London: Routledge.
  • McHale, Brian 1993. Postmodernist Fiction. 4th Ed. London: Methuen.
  • Spanos William 1972. From “ The Detective and the Boundry: Some Notes on the Postmodern Literary Imagination ” in Postmodernism: A Reader. Ed. Patricia Waugh. London: Edward Arnold, 1992.
  • Waugh, Patricia 1992. Practicing Postmodernism, Reading Modernism. London: Edward Arnold.