Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann
Sylvie Mikowski Nomadic Artists, Smooth Spaces and Lines of Flight
: Reading Colum McCann through Joyce, and Deleuze and Guattari From his first collection of short stories Fishing the Sloe-Black River in 1994, up to Zoli, released in 2007, the foci of Colum McCann’s writings has been emigration; nomadism; the diasporic condition; the crossing of frontiers; and the blending of cultures and languages. If the fictional Stephen Dedalus did manage to create a new conscience for his race by evoking the irresistible attraction of f light and exile, it is perhaps indeed in such a re-imagining of the relation between art and nationality as exempli- fied by McCann’s books that the continuing inf luence of that conscience is to be felt. An Irishman living in New York for many years, who has lately made himself famous for writing about a Russian dancer or a Gypsy poetess, McCann’s work embodies the type of dialectic between Irishness and cosmopolitanism that Joyce’s works pioneered. Simply they display at once an acute awareness of historical determinism and the utmost desire to transmute these binding forces of history into the liberating power of the imagination. We find in McCann’s fictions the substance of Joycean ethics and aesthetics: the figure of the wanderer whose fate overcomes the limits of individuality; the transformation through the creativity of language of the most down-to-earth reality into poetic material; the recourse to myth, whether Irish or otherwise, to transcend and escape the entrapments of his- tory; and most of all, the substitution of time – the traditional provider of causality and meaning...
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