Julián BARNES- A History Of The World In Ten 1/2 Chapters, 1989
The French Lieutenant Woman is a metafictional novel and its narrator claims the invention of the story. Like all metaficitions it questions the representations of reality although it doesn’t deny the existence of reality. The novel History of the world in 10 is a historiographic metafiction; it’s a collection of stories that are loosely connected by a central metaphor of sea voyage and survival and recurring themes and motives. It starts with the biblical story of Noah’s Arch and ends with a dream of life after death in heaven. Many of the stories are fragmented episodes and don’t even follow a chronological order. SHIPWRECK. The chapter is divided into two parts and includes a picture of the Scene of Shipwreck by Gericault. The first part is a direct narrative of an historical event, the wreck of the Medusa, and the difficult situation of the 15 passengers that managed to survive on a raft made while the ship was sinking. Third person narrator who gives an impartial account of what happened. Heterodiegetic narrator (not a character in the story) but he seems to be seen what he is telling because of his detailed report (talks about the metes of the ship and the centimetres it went under water) and the authority of his statement and his valuable judgements. Sometimes the narrator clearly relies on the witness of survivors (when he talks about the other saying that the15 year-old boy was a strong swimmer) and other times on generally held opinions that are supposed to be grounded on well-known facts (e.G. The fact that the women of Saint Croix urged the Frenchmen to enter, being confident that the monks could cure their husbands jealousy. This behaviour of the Frenchmen is passed on to the Saint Croix women through the appeal of well-known facts like that the southern sun has effect on morals. The mention to the Inquisition reinforces even more the women’s moral licentiousness). All these strategies held to support the feeling of truthfulness. Sincé the historian, or the narrator, was not there himself he has to rely on other people’s accounts. We have also got access to his didactic purpose and the credible nature of the explanation he provides for the women’s behaviour, which is product of the social discourse of his time. We must bear in mind that historians have a direct access to the events through oral and sometimes written report. Following the American historian Hayden White historical narratives must be considered verbal fiction, which doesn’t mean that we cannot study the past or that certain tragic events did not happen. One of the fundamental questions addressed by postmodernist historians and novelists in a similar way is how can we represent history when the only médium we have to do so is language and we have lost he certainty of its transparency. Regarding of crisis of representation which is a main issue of postmodernism, we find that it is very difficult to represent reality because it is subjective and it depends on the person who is telling the story as we find in this novel the narrator must rely on the other people’s stories. We must bear in mind that the writer or artist will be influence by the period s/he lives in. The same thing happens to readers Sincé their interpretation depends on external influences (for example it is not the same reading a novel from Victorianism nowadays than in that concrete period). This lack of objectivity when a story is narrated is what postmodernist called the crisis of representation.
In shipwreck we find some examples: the incident never took place as was depicted the narrator cannot know that the water had changed colour. The numbers the narrator deals with like the amount of the people who could go on the raft, the metres and centimetres the raft went underwater isn’t possible because in those circumstances even if they had the appropriate tools they would have never measured these things. The second night is depicted as even more terrible than the first, stating that the seas were mountainous which made impossible for the people to survive on the raft in those conditions. Another account is how Dominique is saved in the night from the water. The 15 survivors could not have lived on the raft in those conditions. The painting is supposed to recreate the shipwreck as faithfully as possible. Its author Gericault talks to the survivors and asks the carpenter to build him a scale model of the raft, but in the picture we can appreciate things that are done for aesthetical reasons, like for example the sail and the men’s clothes would never be in those conditions after what happened to them and the look of their bodies does not correspond to the events either because they look too healthy to have undergone that catastrophe. Thus, the picture represents the crisis of representation because it is not faithful to the facts.