The “Knowing Narrator” returns from the postmodern portal

The “Knowing Narrator” returns from the postmodern portal

His return is an insult to Sartre and the modernists, and a resurrection to the writer

Sunday – 7 Rabi’ al-Awwal 1444 AH – 02 October 2022 AD Issue No. [

Dr.. Mubarak Al-Khalidi

In writing “Facebook”, Kuwaiti novelist Talib Al-Rifai expresses his surprise at the narrator who takes note of everything, and misses no incoming and outgoing things related to the imaginary worlds he narrates, including characters, events , facts and actions. ; Meanwhile, nobody knows anything about him: “In many novels, both Arabic and foreign, I find that the narrator knows everything about everything! While no one knows anything about him: neither his age, nor his name, nor his whereabouts, nor his relation to what he tells! I wonder: How does one narrate a novel with which he has nothing to do?!”
It is clear that Al-Rifai is talking about the expert narrator; The thing that I don’t think needs confirmation is Al-Rifai’s knowledge that this is my gender and from the narrations in the novel and even in the “challenges” of the grandmothers, and therefore his question is what concluded his writing just a rhetorical question it does not require an answer because the answer is in the “stomach” of the questioner! Perhaps the purpose of his writing was to say unequivocally that he does not like or even dislike the expert narrator; Or indirectly, his preference for the narrator is hinted at in the first person who participates in imaginary worlds. Perhaps this preference is hidden behind Al-Rifai’s employment of not just one internal narrator, but of, for example, a group of narrators in his latest novel, “The Kidnapping of the Beloved”. But what caught my attention was the comment of the Iraqi novelist Awad Ali, in which he regretted using an external narrator, as he understood his words, in his novel “The Washington Palm” instead of an internal narrator. Regarding what Al-Rifai said, he says: “I completely agree with you, Professor Taleb. Personally, I did this in my novel (The Washington Palm) and I regretted it after I published it. The narrator must be a character within the novel.
No remorse?! Why limit it to “must”?! In the house of fiction there are many windows that look out on life, so the writer only has to choose the appropriate window. I don’t remember the number of windows in the allegorical story house that Henry James built. It doesn’t matter that I don’t remember. I also won’t regret forgetting their number, nor will I say that I have to remember the number accurately. Most importantly, I remembered the idea.
It can be said that James, like Al-Rifai, was not inclined to the omniscient narrator. The development of James’ style of fiction writing reflects his gradation from the use of this narrator and then to the limited knowledge, or the limited third person narrator. . James stripped the omniscient narrator of his absolute knowledge, his absolute presence, and the ability to navigate and appear in many places, by associating him with what the personality called central consciousness, central intelligence, or reflective; A technique invented by James himself and the first to use it, as in his novel “The Ambassadors”, where Lambert Struther is the central consciousness, or the central intelligence, or the reflector through which the reader perceives situations and events.
In contrast to James who expresses his distance from the expert narrator in writing and in practice, Jean-Paul Sartre expressed his dislike of the expert narrator, or rather his rejection, by denying that The End of the Night is a novel, and that François Mauriac is a novelist. Mauriac is no longer a novelist, and his novel is not a novel either, as Sartre says in his review of “The End of the Night”. The reason for Sartre’s metaphorical and moral violence against Mauriac and his novel is briefly the latter’s use of the expert narrator: “[Einde van die nag]is not a novel….Mr. Mauriac is not a novelist…. Like most of our writers, he tried to ignore the fact that the theory of relativity is entirely applicable to The world of imagination, and that there is no more room for ‘ a privileged observer in a real novel, let alone the world of Einstein. …Mr. Mauriac put himself first. He chose omnipotence and divine power…” (François Mauriac and Liberty, 24-25).
James, Sartre, and other modernists belonged to a movement that rejected the expert narrator as an extension of their rejection or lack of faith in “absolutes.” Knowledge is relative, and this narrator denies it. Therefore, the expert narrator was absent from the modernist novel at the height of modernity, replaced by the narrator who is limited in his knowledge and movement, techniques of the stream of consciousness and the inner monologue. His refusal continues for some to this day, as Eugene Goodhart stated in 2004 that “the expert narrator is obsolete, and must be accepted when found in works of the past, or scorned when it appears in a contemporary work . Absolute science is no longer truly a novelist.” As Timothy Aubry says in 2008: “An original modernist innovation, the rejection of omniscience has become a constant, especially within what is often referred to as midcultural fiction.”
But despite the denials and disappearances practiced against him, the expert narrator has returned with force through, for example, the contemporary American and British novel, especially during the nineties of the last century and the beginning of the third millennium. His return and its causes and implications were the subject of Paul Dawson’s book, The Return of the Knowing Narrator: Composition and Power in Fictional Literature in the Twenty-1st Century. The expert narrator, says Dawson, has returned in the novels of distinguished, award-winning and new novelists: Zadie Smith, Adam Thirwell, Nicola Parker, Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, Tom Wolfe, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Don DeLillo , Gail Jones and others.
Remarkably, the expert narrator returned through the hysterical and “maximum” realistic novels. Stefano Ercolino explains one of the reasons for the presence of the omniscient narrator in the ultimate narrative, or superior omniscience, as defined by Don DeLillo: “The ultimate knowing narrator is not dictated or dictated by the need for the abundance of only narrative information, but can be considered part of a galaxy of The rhetorical strategies that have flourished in recent years in an attempt to reclaim the role of the author within the realm of literary communication after Roland Barthes announced his death” (The Maximum Novel, 103).
The return of the expert narrator is one of the efforts of the contemporary novelist to regain his voice, to restore the cultural authority of the novelist, which is currently facing various challenges since the beginning of the twentieth century, from television, film, to recycle new technologies. and media…etc. These growing and successive challenges brought with them a sense of anxiety of neglect and a sense of an existential crisis of marginalization and the loss of cultural authority and prestige enjoyed by the novelist in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, according to Kathleen Fitzpatrick in her book entitled “Anxiety of neglect: the novel in the age of television.”
James, Sartre and Bart are dead, and the omniscient narrator who “knows everything about everything!” is not dead! While nobody knows anything about him,” says Al-Rifai!

Saudi writer and academic

Saudi Arabia


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