Colloques & Conferences de l'Universite Lyon 2, "Rewriting / Reprising" - La reprise en litterature

"Metafictional Reprising in Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid"

pierre schaeffer

Dernière modification: 2007-07-02


Malcolm Lowry was heavily influenced by his reading of J.W. Dunne's An Experiment with Time (1927) dealing with the concepts of ''serial time'' and ''the serial universe.'' According to Dunne, our individual consciousness is but part of a series of consciousnesses encompassing one another in a serial order so that our experience of time and space, as indeed our knowledge of things, encapsulates others' previous spatio-temporal knowledge of things and will in turn be encapsulated within future time-observers' purview, with the possibility of an ultimate God-like super-observer absorbing everything within his infinite range of understanding. Dark As The Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid, inasmuch as it can be read as a reprise of Under the Volcano, puts Lowry-or his fictional alter ego Sigbj?rn Wilderness- in the position of serial super-observer of his own novel. Indeed, Lowry/Wilderness supplies the reader of Dark as the Grave with a metafictional text which throws retrospective light on the making of Under the Volcano (renamed The Valley of the Shadow of Death). The metafictional dimension of Dark as the Grave finds its starting point in Lowry's/Wilderness's return trip to Mexico after the completion of their as-yet-unpublished novel whose fictional setting is also Mexico. However, in the course of the narrative, the source-unearthing activity of the narrating agent is paralleled by the latter's increasing loss of control over the reality of his own self who, he feels, is being written rather than writing the sequel of his real life. His 'super-observer' position is thus challenged by life's own fiction-making tricks, so much so that existential turmoil often supersedes exegetical pursuits. Lowry's/Wilderness's reunion with 'infernal Mexico' leads to ontological disorientation and malaise as the borderline between fiction and reality becomes ever less manageable. He experiences a feeling of creative and existential dispossession as life's fiction-making potential turns into a serial trap in which he gets caught. The diegetic outcome of Dark as the Grave (with the painful discovery of a Mexican friend's death) enables Lowry/Wilderness to overcome-at least temporarily-his feeling of existential confusion, but this ''meta-Volcano''- which, in many ways, also turns out to be a ''sub-Volcano'' or, to pick up Lowry's own phrase, an ''under-Under the Volcano''-shows up the anguish of the creative artist struggling with life's 'fictionality' which he comes to see as a fiendishly alienating reprise of his own creative pursuits.

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