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This article is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

Playing Havoc Cristopher Nash

Play is the name of the game. How playful it is - is another story. Anti-Realism has brought forth an idea about writing so simple that it is very difficult to apprehend at once just how powerful it is and how revolutionary it may turn out to be in the history of literature. And then, it depends on what we mean by revolution.

If narratives are really only made of language, then there is no reason why the events initiating what 'happens' in a narrative may not take place not in the world but in the words of its telling. What we call 'the story', then, may be a narrative not of material or of mental events, but may spring instead from occurrences at the level of the most basic units of language itself. In the idea of writing now at hand - theory purged (by writers like Barthes and Derrida) of conventional notions of some finite 'author behind the work', and buoyed by the confluence of psychological, historical and political arguments (Lacan, Foucault, Althusser) against traditional Realist conceptions of the individual as discrete psychological 'subject' - we can conceive of narrated 'character', too, of anything denoting 'personal being', as instantly constituted by the mere flow of marks on the page, and just as swiftly dissolved by it.

Writers such as Sollers, Federman, Cortázar, Pinget, Rühm, Baudry, Roche, and Brooke-Rose in her iridescently layered parodic mode - following theories from Max Müller to Noam Chomsky ...


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