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Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks

The Paradigms of Fiction


Katarzyna Pisarska

This book offers a detailed analysis of all mainstream novels of Iain Banks. It explores the question of mediation, the process of a semiotic (re)construction of the world on the part of Banks’s characters, with reference to the four directions of fictional worldmodelling, i.e. the four types of relationship between the individual and the world established by the author’s first novel, The Wasp Factory. In order to give justice to the extremely eclectic novelistic production of Iain Banks, the analysis of fifteen of his novels contained in the present study employs diverse interpretative «tools», fusing elements of various methodologies: structural-semiotic analysis supplemented by a mythographic approach along with psychological and gender specific theories.
Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks: The Paradigms of Fiction thus develops a critical paradigm capable of uniting the extremely versatile mainstream production of this Scottish writer.
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Chapter 1. Ab Ovo: The Wasp Factory as the Blueprint of Fictional Worlds

← 32 | 33 → CHAPTER 1


When The Wasp Factory appeared in 1984 under the imprint of Macmillan, it was after four years of its maturation period interrupted by occasional rejections from several publishing houses. Already at its appearance the novel generated a great deal of controversy, its reception ranging from utter delight to deep indignation. Hailed as “a minor master-piece” (Punch) and “a truly remarkable novel” (Daily Telegraph), The Wasp Factory was praised for its “curdling power and originality” (Cosmopolitan), “control and assurance” (The Financial Times) as well as “brilliant dialogue,” and “cruel humour” (Irish Times). At the same time the novel was condemned as “no masterpiece and one of the most disagreeable pieces of reading” (Sunday Telegraph), “just the lurid literary equivalent of a video nasty” (Sunday Express), and “a joke, meant to fool literary London into respect for rubbish” (The Times). “You can’t laugh and throw up at the same time,” went a line in The Factory’s review in The Scotsman, raising the importance of comic relief in disarming the charge of the book’s sickening violence. This half-mocking observation seems to draw the very essence from the mass of the contradictory responses: either you like the book or you abhor it, there is no room for half measures.1

In spite of – or perhaps thanks to – the initial polemic, three decades after its first publication, The Wasp Factory still remains the most popular ← 33 | 34 → among Iain Banks’s novels, both mainstream and SF. It has been translated into more than twenty languages,...

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