Tragic Realism and Modern Society: Studies in the Sociology by John Orr

By John Orr

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The Blanchotesque 'absence' in The Outsider is seen as the anti-eschatological consummation of modern fiction-an absurd assumption when one remembers the main theme of the novel. The hero, Mersault, a pied nair resident in colonial Algiers, impulsively murders an Arab without any moral compunction or subsequent remorse. 18 In reality the neutral style does not successfully eliminate the signified qualities of the historical setting, but actually gives them a sociological significance which Camus himself did not realise.

Yet great fiction transforms them into something more than mere biographical passage through life. It fulfils them. This is what Faulkner meant when he said his task was creating out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. Figural realism works in the novel in two ways-the transposition of the figure from life into the text, and the subsequent development of the character within the narrative of the text. In the political novel, Bakunin has been the model for a variety of fictional portraits, but the character in the text who initially resembles him thereafter takes on a life of his own.

This becomes evident in his remarks on the evolution of literary form. Here Barthes stands Lukacs's historicism on its head and regards 1848 not as the beginning of the end for the novel, but its true beginning in a literature of pure form. The modern historical era is one in which the writer denies history. But unfortunately for Barthes 'the Flaubertisation of writing' only makes sense because history-and bourgeois societyactually exist, and continue to exist despite the increasing absence of any reference to them in the literature which Barthes admires.

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