On the Road to Nowhere
Chapter Seven: "It's an imaginary place, but it's also realistic": The Music of Chance 159
CHAPTER SEVEN "It's an imaginary place, but it's also realistic": The Music of Chance Chance is an inherently ambiguous concept. It conflates diametrically opposed notions: hazard and destiny, good fortune and bad luck. 1 Yet, as noted by Derrida, among the multiple and contradictory associations of chance-unpredictability, haphazardness, adventure-there is one privileged sense: the fall. We tend to intuitively associate chance with a downward movement. This intuition is encoded in language: the English words "chance" and "case" originates in the Latin cadere, which signifies "to fall"; their derivations can be found in "occasion," "coincidence" and "decadence." Chance has the implication of that which we fall into, or which befalls us by surprise-the incident, the accident, the final throw of the dice. It embraces the interplay between indeterminacy and inevitability, between fortuity and fate. To believe in chance, concludes Derrida, "can just as well indicate that one believes in the existence of chance and that one does not, above all, believe in chance, since one looks for and finds a hidden meaning at all costs" ("My Chances/ Mes Chances, " p. 4 ). None of Auster's novels displays this ambiguity more starkly and more tragically than The Music of Chance ( 1990). The dual nature of chance is metaphorically conveyed through the setting of the road-tra- ditionally associated with the unpredictability of accident-juxtaposed with that of the castle and the wall, which suggest the finality of destiny. The shift from the road to the castle, the turning point of the story, is the poker...
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