The fiction of Dorothee Elmiger combines formal experimentation with political engagement. Her first novel, Einladung an die Waghalsigen (2010), depicts an isolated, stagnant territory which, as in the parables of Max Frisch or Friedrich Dürrenmatt, stands at an allegorical remove from Switzerland. By contrast, the formally starker and thematically bleaker Schlafgänger (2014) engages with disturbing conditions in actual places within or in relation to a Switzerland which is clearly inseparable from the rest of the world. Elmiger's representation of a transnationally connected, porous Switzerland can be interpreted as a response to the recent political swing to the right and to escalating controversies about migration, asylum seekers and foreign policy, and located within the literary discourse of ‘critical patriotism’. In opposing the exclusionist insularity of the ‘Schweizerische Volkspartei’ (SVP), which remains rooted in the popular convictions and propaganda symbols of the Second World War, Elmiger envisages a pluralistic, inclusive country. This imagined community is evoked through an innovative form which has evolved from Elmiger's experimental text, ‘Die Anwesenden’: in polyphonic collaboration, her characters voice an emergent, collective consciousness that registers subtle shifts in sensibility and public discourses and explores complex issues of collective responsibility, complicity or guilt.
Interest in the narrative representation of the past, in both historiography and
historical fiction, has mushroomed since the 1960s. But discussions among historians and literary scholars have often produced more heat than light. To remedy this situation, this study clarifies theoretical and methodological issues in making sense of the past which all forms of historical narrative share, tracing systematic connections between historiography, historical novels and life-writing.
It differs from other criticism of historical fiction, which usually divides the genre into thematic or formal categories, in focusing on the explicit or implicit historiographical assumptions of historical novelists. In other words, it approaches historical fiction as a form of history in its own right, which confronts similar cognitive and imaginative challenges to those faced by historians. This innovative framework underpins substantial new interpretations of significant recent novels (including works by Pat Barker, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, John Fowles, A.S. Byatt and Sarah Waters) and broader discussion of a range of related fiction.
Lawrence Norfolk's historical novel In the Shape of a Boar explores truth and authenticity in representations of the past by incorporating a postmodernist, epistemological scepticism which regards the past as inaccessible or un-narratable. Its plot turns on analogies conveyed by intertextual and intratextual allusions: between events in ancient and Nazi-occupied Greece, and between its protagonist, Samuel Memel, and Paul Celan. This article highlights the novel's overlooked German dimension, assesses the cogency of Norfolk's asserted likenesses and metaphorical correspondences, and considers problematical aspects of counterfactual invention in what masquerades, in Part ii, as a realistic roman-à-clef