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The Writing of Terrorism: Contemporary American Fiction and Maurice Blanchot

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Christian Klöckner

Terrorism has long been a popular subject for American fiction writers. This book argues that terrorism in 1990s novels by Paul Auster, Philip Roth, and Bret Easton Ellis serves as a key trope to interrogate the limits of writing and the power of literature. Based on the complex literary and philosophical thought of Maurice Blanchot, this study deals with the writer’s terrorist temptation, language’s investment in violence, and literature’s negotiation of radical alterity. Auster’s, Roth’s, and Ellis’s novels elucidate contemporary political and economic developments as well as our cultural fear of, and fascination with, terrorism. The writing of terrorism can thus become the foundation of a different politics where, according to Maurice Blanchot, «there is no explosion except a book.»

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III. Ruptures (I): The Double Games Of Leviathan

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III.   Ruptures (I): The Double Games Of Leviathan

On the surface, Auster’s novel progresses very smoothly. It is divided into five chapters reminiscent of the structure of a classic Greek drama: The exposition defines the problem and gives an introduction to Benjamin Sachs’s politics and writings, to the narrator Peter Aaron, and to the significance of the Statue of Liberty (1–50). The second chapter introduces additional players that will play crucial, if unwitting roles in deciding Sachs’s fate: the photographer/artist Maria Turner; her schoolmate Lillian Stern with whom Turner switches roles; Sachs’s wife Fanny with whom the narrator will begin an affair (51–103). The third chapter represents the turning-point in many ways, as we learn about Sachs’s fall from a fire escape during Independence Day celebrations in 1986, his ensuing deep crisis and decision not to write anymore; Maria Turner’s art project “Thursdays with Ben”; and Sachs’s disappearance, leaving unfinished a manuscript entitled “Leviathan” (104–42). The fourth chapter, or falling action, to speak in doubly poignant terms, relates the circumstances of Sachs’s disappearance: the disorientation in the Vermont woods during a break from writing; Sachs’s unintended manslaughter of Reed Dimaggio, Lillian Stern’s ex-husband; lastly, his short-lived affair with Lillian (143–214). Finally, the fifth chapter tells us about Sachs as the terrorist Phantom of Liberty, his last encounter with Aaron, how and why Sachs has become the double of Dimaggio (and Aaron); and how the FBI has solved the mystery of...

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