The Overlooked Autofiction of Yuko Tsushima — The New Yorker

by Abhrajyoti Chakraborty

At times, autofiction can seem to refer not so much to a genre as to our desire, collectively, to seek the author in a text. We group together novels by Rachel Cusk, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Jenny Offill because they make it easy to presume that the writer is the protagonist. This freedom feels new, so we assume that autofiction must be new, too. For precedent, we reach for “Reality Hunger,” David Shields’s manifesto, from 2010, in which he called for a “deliberate unartiness.” We forget Flaubert, who declared “Madame Bovary, c’est moi”; or Virginia Woolf, who rejected the fictions of her predecessors because “on or about December 1910 human character changed”; or even J. M. Coetzee, who published three novels about a writer named John Coetzee at the turn of this century. We overlook not just history but intent. James Baldwin, for instance, is still characterized by his themes (blackness, America) and tones (“prophetic,” “angry”) but rarely recognized for the self-implicating imagination of his early novels. A character named Manto might show up repeatedly in the Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories, but the author’s reputation is still that of a chronicler of Bombay and the partition of the Indian subcontinent. With some writers, it is precisely their biography that gets in the way of a full literary reckoning. We can only deal with them in terms of what they are writing about…

Read more at The New Yorker

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

April 09, 2019

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