Thursday, June 20, 2024

Self-Help from Ancient Times


Self-Help Books from Ancient Times



Infinite Narrative


Literary Labyrinths: Five Novels with Infinite Narrative Layers

Mise en abyme in Gide, Luiselli, Nabokov, Huxley and O’Brien

Gayle Kennedy
Counter Arts
OpenAI draws my mind

In his 1939 essay, ‘When Fiction Lives in Fiction’, Argentinian writer, poet and critic Jorge Luis Borges surveys literary works that feature ’the interpolation of a fiction within another fiction’, including the short novel within Don Quixote and the fable of Cupid and Psyche within The Golden Ass.

Borges argues that these examples of a narrative-within-a-narrative are ‘banal’ as ‘The two planes — the actual and the idea — do not intermingle’ — they merely serve as separate and isolated narratives within a single text.

For Borges, interpolating fictions should disrupt how the reader views each narrative, or ‘gradate realities’, as well as suggest an uncanny spiral into infinity.

Works that achieve this for Borges include Hamlet, where the play-within-the-play ‘mirrors the primary play…[and suggests] the possibility of infinite evolutions’, while Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem (1915) is ‘the story of a dream; with this dream there are dreams; and within those dreams (I believe) are other dreams’. The novel At-Swim-Two-Birds by Irish writer Flann O’Brien is Borges’s ultimate ‘verbal labyrinth’ as it suggests ‘the possibility of infinite evolutions’.

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Gayle Kennedy
Counter Arts

I write about writing, finding inspriation from novels and art, and how to fit writing into busy lives. Copywriter by day. PT PhD student. @fledglingwriter