Representing the city in literature.

The city has always been a dominant theme, setting, and field of signification in the novel, particularly in contemporary novels that engage with modernist and postmodernist traditions. This interview/essay presents recent findings in both literary theory and novelistic practice that explore how the city can be represented in literary form. In it novelist Anthony Macris and theorist Anthony Uhlmann use a methodological framework informed by perception, sensation and the real in a discussion of Macris’ Capital novels. 

 

Keywords: cities - novel - capitalism - perception - representation - love


Introduction

In this interview/essay, the literary scholar Anthony Uhlmann poses a series of questions to the Australian writer Anthony Macris about how cities are represented in his Capital novels, Capital, Volume One (1997, 2013) and Great Western Highway (Capital, Volume One, Part Two) (2012). Using as their departure point conceptual frameworks from Uhlmann’s most recent book, Thinking in Literature (2011), they explore the manner in which modernist art works, both in literature and painting, represent the city and the real in the modes of thinking and sensation.1 Macris reflects on his own novelistic practice as it relates to the representation of the city and reality in the Capital novels. Throughout the discussion that follows, Macris specifically engages with a range of Uhlmann’s findings, and focuses on how conceptual methods can be incorporated in novelistic form. In his Capital novels Macris attempts to create an aesthetics of embodiment that challenges novelistic form, and that captures the operation of market forces in everyday life. Drawing on a number of diverse approaches, including the chosisme of the nouveau roman, and Marx’s theory of the commodity, Macris’ novels transform cities into textual artefacts animated by a structural dynamism that draws on the subjective lived experience of a resurgent contemporary capitalism.

 

Anthony Uhlmann: I’m interested in role that cities play in the Capital novels, particularly Great Western Highway. On the surface that seems like it should be pretty simple: the book is set in a city, a key motif is the highway along which many of the events take place. Yet there is a different network of relations that intervenes from a kind of media ether: the world of advertising, but the world of TV as well. This brings entire worlds and worldviews with it that form and deform the more or less simple mutable space of the highway. What does that kind of other space do to an otherwise physical space like the city?

Anthony Macris: One part of my initial idea with the Capital novels – at least in compositional terms – was to engage with a series of cities and embed them into one another, so to speak. The departure point for both novels was a major arterial road: in Capital Volume 1 (CV1) Stafford Road, Brisbane; in Great Western Highway (GWH) Parramatta Road, Sydney. And the work as a whole spirals out from these settings, layer after layer, working up from the brute materialism of substances like rubber and bitumen, to screens traversed by ephemeral digital images. Throughout the novel series as a whole I wanted to create a kind of galaxy of cities, of coexisting worlds: Brisbane, Sydney, London and Baghdad. This way of experiencing cities is to some degree symptomatic of my generation, I think. To speak very generally, from the 1970s onwards you get cities overlaid with different orders of communication technologies, culminating in the internet in the late 1990s. And from the 1970s you also have the rise of cheap air travel, tourism, a new accessibility to the great cities that are hubs of culture. You also have this notion of spending extended periods of time in these networked cities as a rite of passage to make you a truly global citizen. These tendencies have already been happening for hundreds of years, to a significant degree as a part of capitalism, but I think it has reached a critical tipping point in our lifetime, where integrated global markets have become a reality. It’s these kinds of networked, globalised cities that many of us now experience as human subjects, and that I wanted to explore as a novelist.

AU: So how does this play out in terms of the novel? How are these new kinds of experience overlaid on one another and what does this palimpsestic experience do to the form of the novel?

AM: There’s a sense in which these recent developments in what cities have become, and how we experience them, make possible a kind of progression on the ‘traditional’ modernist novel of the city. Let’s take two examples, Joyce’s Ulysses, and Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. They’re very much about how a given individual consciousness relates to a given metropolis: for Joyce Dublin, for Woolf London. They’re very much grounded in single cities, and involve a series of consciousnesses confronting a single city. I’d argue that they have a tendency to be grounded in an existential paradigm that, for me at any rate, privileges an idealist/materialist binary, one where mind is somehow transcendental to the material. Sure, sensation and cognition together form a kind of bridge, a kind of membrane that constitutes an aesthetic field that mediates the material. But I think it’s safe to say that, in the classic modernist novel, or at least according to the way we’ve come to interpret it, the balance is tipped towards consciousness, thought, processes of thinking, how mind shapes experience.2 In your book Thinking in Literature, this problematic is framed in interesting ways.

Thought is tied to perception, but perception is not simply understood as being subjective or ‘internal’ in the manner of consciousness: rather […] it is ‘external,’ or more properly it offers a surface that is folded so the internal and external become complex, or inter-involved. (Uhlmann: 3)

If I understand these observations correctly, by understanding perception as external to the subject, we can find an inroad into classic modernism that points to the kind of materialist emphasis I’m interested in. It seems a really useful way to understand how we experience, how we sense, cities. And it’s this external quality of perception that is useful as a departure point for thinking about how I’ve set about trying to get beyond the mind-oriented dualism. The process is one in which I convert perceptions into signifiers, the physical embodiment of signs. As a novelist, the signifiers are words. A sentence for me is a concrete entity. What I found in the chosisme 3  of the nouveau roman, which is a style that heavily influenced the Capital novels, is a kind of naïve epistemology, this notion that there can be an isomorphism between words and things. This is of course impossible in any rigorous sense, but chosisme could give me the closest thing to it. In purely practical terms, I needed a base element to build the primary blocs of sensation, and stylistically chosisme could do that.4

There is a more distant tradition that the primacy of the rendering of sensation goes back to: you can see aspects of it in Longinus’ On the Sublime. There’s an interesting passage where he discusses the role of the visual, undoubtedly a major aspect of sensation, in writing.

Weight, grandeur, and urgency in writing are very largely produced […] by the use of ‘visualisations’ (phantasia). That at least is what I call them; others call them ‘image productions.’ For the term phantasia is applied in general to an idea which enters the mind from any source and engenders speech, but the word has now come to be used predominantly of passages where, inspired by strong emotion, you seem to see what you describe and bring it vividly to life before the eyes of your audience. (Longinus 1995: 215)

Once again, we see an emphasis on links between mind (and by implication thought), perception (bringing to life what you see) and images or visualisations that form a literary text. I particularly like this term ‘visualisation’: it places an emphasis on mind actively engaging with materiality. And, in the instance of the Capital novels, the ‘what you see’ is largely sense data from cities like Sydney, London and Baghdad. Interestingly, Longinus also mentions ‘strong emotion’. Of late there has been a lot of discussion about affect or emotion in literary studies and beyond, but we can see how far back in literary history its centrality goes. And there is of course this affective dimension in the Capital novels, although it plays out in ways that you don’t always expect in the novel form.

AU: We can come back to this notion of emotion, or more specifically, ‘love’, later in this interview. For the moment, I’ll turn to another question. There seems to be some kind of, for want of a better term, materialist aesthetic at work here. Could you expand on this a little more?

AM: That’s a good way of putting it. I’ve often wondered where my tendency to see words as concrete came from. I suppose it comes from my first artistic endeavours in visual arts, where you’re usually making an object. Perhaps the best way to explain it is as follows. The creating of an artistic objectification that in any way involves an attempt at representation of the ‘real’ world, involves a doubling. You’re making an object that is a representation of the world, but also adds to the world. And this is very much emphasised when you’re making a painting or a sculpture. But is goes further than that, because it’s also an interpretation of the world. (A tripling, perhaps.) In your book you speak to this process in your discussion of Cezanne’s work, and you present a quote by Cezanne that provides a very useful observation on these aspects of creating an artwork.

The landscape is reflected, humanized, rationalized within me. I objectivize it, fix it on my canvas […] It may sound like nonsense, but I would see myself as the subjective consciousness of that landscape, and my canvas as its objective consciousness.” (Cezanne in Uhlmann 2011: 16)

Here we can see an interpenetration of subject and object that is grounded in an attempt at mimesis, a desire to render what lies before us. In the Capital novels the use of words is often mimetic and avoids metaphoricity, at least on the sentence level in standard belletrist terms.5 I often concentrate more on metonymy and synecdoche: substitutions of parts for whole, and the interchangeability that can ensue. So that’s one way I try to address the manner in which you describe the way the internal and external become inter-involved. Sure, I’m interested in the internal play of signs and signifiers within the text. But I’m also very much interested in the reference function of language, how it points to, and also might embody, aspects of the real world, particularly those to do with economic forces. So I think I’m trying to get beyond an implied dualism of classic modernism altogether, to achieve a literary text that’s not just a mediation of the consciousness and external world, but also a flow of enunciation that is an object in itself. When I think about writing a book, I usually think of myself sectioning off from the great flow of images and sensation that I am a part of a subset that I corral into a composition of my own making that is designed to create a certain set of meanings. I think of some vast river full of all sorts of detritus: I pull things from it, make new assemblages, a rebus, a composition, whatever you might want to call it, that re-embodies according to interpretative paradigms the totality in which we live.

AU: So how does this notion of ‘sectioning/assemblage’ and so on relate to the representation of the city? Or more specifically for the particular understanding of the city you develop in the novel?

AM: In the Capital novels, one aspect of this process of ‘sectioning’ has already been done for me: my settings, the fields of perception, have already been organised into cities. Isn’t that also what a city is? A kind of sectioning of existence? A sectioning effected, in our era, according to the logic of markets? Sure, we live in mixed economies, where the state plays a role. But our cities are overwhelmingly capitalist cities, where we feed off one another in system of market relations. And this is another element I add to the mix. Social and economic processes affect how we experience and perceive the world. The cities of Joyce and Woolf aren’t explored with any great emphasis on political economy. There’s no reason they should they be. But this is what I wanted to do, to take the modernist novel of the city and do something with it that reflected what is new to our times in terms of how economic and social aspects impact on individuals.

AU: So, this is the flow of capital, but there are other flows. What are the implications of time for the representation of the city?

AM: I think in my own imagination there’s always been this tension, this fascination, with the relations between the synchronic and diachronic aspect of cities. There is a Joycean tradition of this: we can see it in his reference in Ulysses to the nebeneinander (which translates from German as ‘side by side’) and nacheinander (‘one after another’). 6 After all, isn’t that what makes them the grand, epic entities they are? Cities are bigger than what you can encompass in one moment, they can’t be taken in at a glance in any meaningful subjective sense, they’re too dense, too variegated. Yet cities are aggregated under one proper noun, with a plethora of proper nouns swarming beneath them that can only be worked through diachronically to build a picture of the synchronic: they’re too large to take in at once glance. I’m led to think of villages I saw in Greece when I visited my mother’s island of Kythera. In a tiny village would be a small church, a small graveyard, a smattering of houses, an orchard, some livestock, all visible at the same time. You could see the whole lifecycle in a glance, in a moment. Nothing could have been more different to the sprawling urban constructs I’ve spent most of my life in.

This notion speaks to a temporal aspect of cities as subjectively experienced. But I’ll now return to an issue I raised earlier: this compositional decision to embed cities in one another in the Capital novels. In CV1 you have a fairly simply conceit: a young man has lived in two cities, and his different experiences in each, centred on some thematic aspect of capital, are played out in alternating chapters: Brisbane, London, Brisbane, London. These discrete frames are eroded by various devices: recurring motifs, mirror situations, and so on. That’s the basic structure. GWH is more complex, I think. Its design is less neat. Sydney is the main setting, but embedded into it is London, and embedded into London is Baghdad, the Baghdad of the first Gulf War.7 Roughly speaking, that’s the novel’s macrostructure. The micro-settings – the living room, the workplace, the particular street or shop, and the screens within them, either television or computer monitors – are embedded in similar ways. So its like a giant honeycomb, one where scales are relative. But there’s also this notion of flattening, of creating a single plane on which the whole of the real co-exists, and where its constituting elements all affect one another.8 The image of two star-crossed lovers lying naked in bed is flattened on to the same plane as the bombing of Baghdad. A cramped living room with its antique television is on the same plane as a thundering highway. They are all connected as manifestations of capital with their different functions. These settings are criss-crossed by two main networking devices, at least in corporeal terms: the highway, and the televisual/digital pathway. The latter I conceive of as corporeal, rejecting that Baudrillard’s (1983) notion of simulation, of the hyperreal. As I said earlier, signs for me are as much signifier as signified, as much physical embodiment as bearer of concept and symbol. And the relations these settings bear to one another are typified by relations of capital.

AU: So capital is understood as a ‘thing’ or a collection of things as much as an idea. Does this thing have a particular nature at a particular time and place? What is the importance of the precise settings in time and place in the novel?

AM: Capital of course manifests itself in things, sure, but it is, above all, a dynamic force, and nowhere is this force better exemplified than in the city. GWH is set mainly in Sydney during the mid-1990s. Economically, this was an interesting time. Australia was emerging from a painful recession that had made my generation quite fatalistic. What we didn’t know then is that we were about to enter into a boom that would yield enormous prosperity, at least for those who were either lucky or played their cards right. What are the existential implications of this, to live in an entity such as city that is caught between bust and boom? How does it affect our subjective experience of the world? I wanted to use Nick and Penny, GWH’s main characters, to explore this notion. The situation confuses them: they’re caught like rabbits in spotlight. All this urban bounty surrounds them, but they’re unsure they want to make the ethical compromises necessary to benefit from it. So they get stuck in the great equivocal moment of casualised employment, which becomes a trap as full-award jobs become more and more scarce. That’s one aspect of their existential dilemma.

AU: Yet Sydney, however far away it might seem, sits within a greater world. What are the implications of this?

AM: This is something I very much wanted to do: show how Australia was part of the wider world. Let’s look at another city that figures in the novel, and at a different type of experience a city can undergo at the whim of the dynamism of market forces. In the late 1980s/early 1990s Baghdad is a city that becomes embroiled in a grab for energy dominance, and in the process becomes the test site for the first mature deployment of digital warfare. It becomes a city crippled, not by the brute force of an atomic bomb, but by ‘surgical strikes’ that are made possible by the computerised military systems peculiar to a networked war machine.

I wanted to contrast these existential aspects of cities. I wanted to explore these relations of capital at various levels. Also, it interested me how cities are linked in a highly globalised economy, and the ethical and political questions this can pose. For example: Sydney’s cars are full of Arab oil. Australian and British taxpayers foot the bill for military interventions that make sure we continue to guzzle it down, supplied to us by our preferred partners. I was also intrigued by these two faces of the (then emergent) digital revolution: the one that enables an entire country to be put under surveillance and destroyed at will, and another based on putting as many screens in as many forms in as many places as possible, and continually streaming signs that, to a large but not exclusive extent, enforce capitalist hegemony in the form of the stimulation of consumption, or, put somewhat differently, advertising and marketing.

AU: Yet how do people exist within this Leviathan?

AM: Well, it’s definitely a curious kind of existence. It’s a kind of double-edged sword. We exist in this regime of signs we simultaneously create and consume.  But I suppose the central question that arises out of it for me is: what do human subjects want from the gleaming new networked metropolises of a resurgent capitalism? And I don’t think we know any more. This creation of image-value (to riff on Marx’s use-value and exchange-value) has become a kind of end in itself. I’d argue that the contemporary booming first-world capitalist city of the new millennium is an entity we haven’t quite explored yet. It’s an entity of layers of markets, labour markets, information markets, image markets, health markets, energy markets, transport markets, education markets, Oedipal markets, erotic markets. And at every level we do our deals, make our calculations, but above all we compete, compete, compete. Poor Nick and Penny. In the mid 1990s it was all a bit new, and all a bit too much for them.   

AU: Great Western Highway has a subtitle, ‘A love story’, which balances two distinct elements. I know you were not so sure about that subtitle, that it was suggested by the publisher, but now, in hindsight, can you see how that title offers two quite different vistas, which are both there in the work? On the one hand the organising spine of Parramatta Road connecting and dividing the city as the same time, and on the other hand a series of parallel inner worlds that don’t quite match to begin: Penny and Nick, Nick and Christina, but which in the end with Penny and Nick might just somehow manage to come back into sync. It’s like a graph with intersecting lines of outer and inner space. Is this something you thought about?

AM: When my publishers suggested adding ‘a love story’ to the title I did baulk somewhat, but now I’m glad they did: it gives a more balanced indication of my concerns. After all, it’s still a novel, not a treatise on political economy. Now, a book I have read and re-read since my teens is Flaubert’s Sentimental Education (1982), Madame Bovary’s largely ignored, at least these days, younger sibling. At Sentimental Education’s core is a story of unrequited love. A rich young provincial dandy, Frederic Moreau, falls for a married older woman, the dark-haired, doe-eyed beauty Madame Arnoux, the wife of a philandering art dealer. This romance is played out over no less than about 400 pages of meticulously wrought prose, largely in the city of Paris, and against the background of the 1848 democratising revolutions that shook Europe to the core. Now, I’m not sure if I did this consciously, but I can see parallels with GWH. There’s this notion of the weight of a city, of a whole society, of a larger historical context, bearing down on two figures whose love story is, in a way, rather slight. And I say slight intentionally. Sentimental Education isn’t in the same key as, say, Dr Zhivago, where there’s an epic quality to the moral characters of the main players. And it’s precisely this ordinariness of both Moreau and Arnoux that lends their dilemma a certain irony, given the novel’s epic backdrop.

Similarly, GWH has at its core a love story between Nick and Penny. Nick is damaged goods, on the rebound from Christina, and is unable to commit to Penny, with whom he’s had an on-again, off-again relationship. Penny, on the other hand, is ready to commit to Nick, but has to cope with the unenviable position of having to wait out his conflicted feelings. The city of Sydney bears down on them in all its commodified glory, a city that has also been swept up in a revolution transforming the globe, the neo-liberal revolution, or what Chomsky (2011) likes to gloomily term the ‘neo-liberal assault on the population’, and what Francis Fukuyama (1992), with considerably more optimism, termed ‘the end of history’ (because, in a blend of capitalism and democracy, we’d found the best of all possible worlds). Anyway, from a novelist’s dramatic perspective, I liked the gross distortion of elements here: the fragility of feelings between two people against a massive backdrop, and the anti-epic irony that ensues, because, as characters, Nick and Penny are pitched in that Flaubertian mode of the ordinary.

AU: Yet all of this turns on the ways in which the thing that is capital acts on them. How does this play out?

AM: The neo-liberal revolution we’ve recently undergone has played itself out in a variety of ways, ways peculiar to our time, and some are easier to discern than others. Things like changes to labour markets that favour business, or cyclical financial crises, are easy to see, and there’s a sub-genre of novel that deals how these situations affect individuals, usually in the social realist mode: Australian writer Eliot Perlman’s (1998) Three Dollars and, more recently in Britain, John Lancaster’s Capital (2013), are just two examples. But certain, more insidious aspects, have been harder to grasp. One of these is the rise of commodified media field, or the proliferation of image capital. Market transformations have been playing out in the extended media field, across the network of screens, large and small, that dominate our lives. The post-WW2 paradigm of advertising gives way to the more integrated system of marketing, with its sophisticated articulation of messages, media platforms, segmentation of publics, and so on.9 We’ve been encouraged to greet these innovations with a sort of naïve utopian optimism as each new improvement in technology arrives on the scene and is touted as making our lives better. And of course in many ways they are better, at least for some of us. But underlying this is what we could describe as a total system we’ve not quite seen before, and one that is growing increasingly influential as image capital and networking of individuals takes hold: never before have we seen such a blurring of public and private enacted across a semiotic field that so willingly brings together millions of ‘end-users’ with implications they don’t fully understand. Now, GWH is set at a tipping point between the old and new media, the analogue and the digital, so to speak. It’s set during a time I’d say is at the beginning of the ‘mature’ development of the integration of image capital with older forms of capital.

But what has all of this got to do with love? I think we have to be careful not to lose sight of one of the main drivers of all this frenetic activity, which, to a large extent, is love. Buried under these ‘big picture’ layers I’ve been discussing are the individual consciousnesses on which all this depends, with their passions, their desires, their need to belong, to be valued, to be praised when they achieve, to be consoled when they fail, and so on. What interests me, particularly in GWH, is how these drives, these basic features of what is to be human, have been harnessed by the economic system in general, and absorbed into the regime of the signs of image capital in particular (Macris 2008). A lot of advertising is based around feelings, emotions: Coke is happiness, home loans are the pleasure of raising a family, banks are helping hands that lead you to prosperity. Here we see how affective states, ‘inner’ states, are transformed into ‘outer’ states, for want of a better term. Nick and Penny are exemplars of this tension between ‘inner-’ and ‘outer worlds’.

This process speaks to a certain level of abstraction that the Capital novels operate at in general. But there’s also a more straightforward novelistic level. In depicting Nick and Penny’s emotional words, I did of course want to achieve the type of intimacy you expect when dealing with deep feelings. Nick’s emotional narrative is a classic ‘the one that got away’ story, and Penny’s is a ‘can anybody find me someone to love?’ story. So the core of the book has this traditional narrative movement of conflict, of an obstacle to be overcome: will they or won’t they get together? But I also wanted to subvert that narrative movement; I wanted them to be stuck like insects in amber, to some degree immobilised by the overwhelming nature of the environment they’re immersed in.

AU: Parramatta Road is famed for its ugliness, much as you and I and no doubt others think of it fondly. What attracted you to it in this book?

AM: I used it as the central unifying setting for GWH for a number of reasons: it’s overwhelmingly material (six thundering lanes of traffic); it’s a setting traversed by flows (cars, people, goods); it’s flanked by shops for kilometre after kilometre; and it’s encrusted with advertising of every description. I could go on, but you get the picture: it’s a richly dense site for my central theme: the dominance of market forces. But I also wanted to show how, despite it brutalism, its chaos, it could be a setting for a love story. Nick and Penny, my equivocal lovers, conduct their pursuit of one another up and down its extent. I wanted this most fragile of feelings, a tentative love that hasn’t quite worked itself out yet, to rise up out of this petrol-and-dust choked canyon. The distortions in scale, and the effects of the juxtaposition, attracted me a great deal.

AU: Love is also a major theme in your first novel Capital, Volume One. How does this theme change between the first and second novels?

AM: CV1 does very much speak to the theme of love, but perhaps in more oblique ways than GWH. CV1 was written when I was much younger, and in some ways is a bildungsroman, although I don’t think it quite fits that category. It’s very much a ‘lone figure in landscape’ type of work: a young man undergoes a series of ‘adventures’, or incidents, none of them directly engaged with his emotional life, but more based on what I think of as moments from political economy. The ‘lone figure in landscape’ trope was intentional. I wanted to build up this novel series from a near ex nihilo fit position. The opening of Wim Wenders’ (1984) Paris, Texas comes to mind. It opens with a middle-aged man, in a battered state, walking in a dusty suit aimlessly across a desert. There it is, the first salvo in a creation myth, all in one image. What’s so resonant is the absence. Is there anything worse than being totally alone in a hostile environment, directionless, unloved? Similarly the young man in CV1 is adrift in the London Tube system of the late 1980s, adrift in the 1960/1970s late modernity/early postmodernity of his Brisbane childhood. But he isn't as badly off as our tragic hero in the desert; he has meaningful connections, even if they are somewhat at an angle, offstage in their dramatic treatment, so to speak. He’s young, he’s yet to choose the relationships that will form the basis of his emotional life. And the increasingly market-driven world he’s entering into is a menacing, unstable place, one that unsettles him.

GWH takes the same character but has him in his early 30s, in what I think of as his pre-re-oedipalisation stage, that stage between leaving your own family and having a family of your own; at various points in the narrative the question of whether Nick or Penny want to have a child is raised. So through this character I’m trying to build up an image of a total life cycle. And the question of family is a critical one. It’s still the main way we keep humanity going. Overall, I think that’s what the Capital project is trying to do: present a series of tableaux that describe how the human subject, at particular points in history, in particular milieus, with given social organisations and technologies, goes about its own self-reproduction. Stylistically, the novels are an odd hybrid, to some degree drawing on the sensibility of social realism,10 but without using its particular formal literary realism, and also drawing on the late modern/postmodern novel, but without its tendency to a l’art pour l’art self-reflexivity.

 

Endnotes

1.Uhlmann’s analyses deal with the novelists James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Vladimir Nabokov, and the painter Paul Cezanne.

2.In Thinking in Literature Uhlmann addresses this nature of this binary, and how it can be levelled, via Cezanne: ‘[T]here are two things in the painter, the eye and the mind: each of them should aid the other.’ (Cezanne in Uhlmann 2011: 16)

3.Chosisme is a difficult word to translate, and in literal terms, comes out as ‘thing-ism’. Stylistically it involves an extreme form of showing, where objects are put to the fore of the narration. My own take on Simon’s use of chosisme is that he attempts to narrate the process of perception itself, the manner in which consciousness and the objective world collide, interpenetrate.

4.Another limit of chosisme is that it is pitched in the impersonal, at what Genette calls ‘zero focalisation’ (1980: 189), even when, paradoxically as in Claude Simon’s Les corps conducteurs, it’s filtered through an individual consciousness.

5.The influence of Robbe-Grillet (1964) can clearly be seen here in the rejection of metaphor, as he famously declared in his Towards a New Novel. Still, this does need to be qualified. The Capital novels do play with style in the Joycean tradition, and there are some parts that intentionally use metaphor as a stylistic device.

6.The tension between the synchronic and diachronic is a classic high modernist trope, as exemplified in Joyce’s Ulysess. ‘You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. A very short space of time through very short times of space. Five, six: the nacheinander. Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o'er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably! I am getting on nicely in the dark. My ash sword hangs at my side. Tap with it: they do. My two feet in his boots are at the ends of his legs, nebeneinander.’ (45)

7.So we can say that, in macrostructural terms, CV1 tends more to parataxis, while GWH tends more to hypotaxis.

8.This notion, or at least its articulation, is clearly inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts ‘the plane of consistency’ and the ‘plane of immanence’, which they articulate in their most developed form in A Thousand Plateaus (1987).

9.The famous opening of Marx’s Capital, Volume One, ‘The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an “immense collection of commodities”’ (1990:125) refers to a world dominated by the commodity form, but Marx tends to use concrete objects as examples: cotton, cloth, and so on. What interests me to a large degree in my Capital novels is the rise of what we can call image capital: the regime of signifiers found in advertising and so on, and that circulate as part of the valorisation process at all levels of the media field. This is Baudrillardian territory to some degree, but the economic aspects are unresolved in his overall analysis. Also, the rise of social media in the last decade has seen this phenomenon take on new proportions.

10.See Lukacs’ The Meaning of Contemporary Realism for a defining debate between ‘socialist realism’ and what he scathingly called ‘bourgeois modernism’. While ‘social realism’ and ‘socialist realism’ do have to be distinguished, they share this desire to capture ‘totality’, particularly the way the individual is affected by the larger forces of history and society. So, while my Capital novels emerge from a modernist tradition, they do, paradoxically, share this concern for depicting ‘totality’.

 

 

Works cited: 

Baudrillard, J 1983. ‘The Precession of Simulacra’ in Simulations. New York, NY: Semiotext(e)

Chomsky, N 2011 Profit over People, New York: Seven Stories Press

Deleuze, G, Guattari, F 1987 A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Flaubert, G 1982 Sentimental Education, trans. Robert Baldick, Harmondsworth: Penguin

Fukuyama, F 1992 The End of History, New York: The Free Press, Macmillan Inc.

Genette, G 1980 Narrative Discourse, trans. Jane E. Lewin, Ithaca: Cornell University Press

Joyce, J 1960 Ulysses, London: Bodley Head

Lukacs, G 1963 The Meaning of Contemporary Realism, trans. John and Necke Mander, London: Merlin Press

Lancaster, J 2013 Capital, London: Faber

Longinus 1995 On the Sublime, trans. W. H. Fyfe, Harvard: Loeb Classical Library

Macris, A 2013 Capital, Volume One, Crawley WA: University of Western Australia Publishing

Macris, A 2012 Great Western Highway, Crawley WA: University of Western Australia Publishing

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