Borislav Pekić’s New textuality in the light of Bakhtin's concept of the open text of the polyphonic novel

In: The Dostoevsky Journal

In this paper I analyze two of Pekić’s novels in the light of Bakhtin’s concept of the open text of the polyphonic novel which Pekić develops by means of a new Narrator Figure and a new poetics based on an encyclopedic embedded text structure. Among several literary techniques developed from the beginnings of Pekić’s writing, crucial importance belongs to what I call the Explicit Narrator Figure (for instance, in The Time of Miracles, 1965), who speaks in his own voice as interpreter of found texts, and the Implicit Narrator Figure, who adopts the literary and non-literary voices of (many) others, to whose diction and style he assimilates his own voice (for example, in Pilgrimage of Arsenije Njegovan, 1970). This new (postmodern) narrator figure, both explicit and implicit, acts as an interpreter of «found» texts. What connects these two types of Narrator Figures is the document and related Embedded Narration: both narrators thus deal with the pre-texts as well as texts-in-texts, levels and layers of texts, proto-texts and meta-texts – various types of Framed/Embedded Narratives. The Implicit Narrator Figure deals with Biblical witnessed texts and the Explicit Narrator Figure uses personal testamentary texts. In such a way, both Implicit and Explicit Narrator Figures become the researchers of different types of literary and non-literary documents. These complex inter-textual explorations of the “library” of culture are “encyclopedic” in magnitude and reveal, in combination with the new Narrator Figure’s status as Editor and Interpreter, a new type of narrative text, constituted in the encyclopedic open novel structure. Pekić thus introduces a new form of inter-textuality into Serbian literature, implicitly extending Bakhtin’s (and Dostoevsky’s) legacy by drawing on the Serbian national literary canon and the entire Western cultural “library”.

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  • 8

    Published in 1944, this Borges story even has a similar motif of heresy, which is recycled in Pekič’s story. However, the heretic motif has the function of explaining the attitudes of one of the fictional scriptwriters about Judas (whose name is Nils Runeberg) in the imaginary work Kristus och Judas [Christ or Judas] – a fictional scholarly work attributed to Antiquity. Borges references Axel Borelijus’ analysis and explanation of the same theme of heresy. According to this explanation, Runeberg was accused by “Axel Borelius, of rekindling the Docetic heresy which denied Jesus’ humanity”. (See: Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges, Andrew Hurley trans, www.posthegemony.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/borges_collected-fictions.pdf, Accessed, 24/10/2014).

  • 10

    Ibid, p. 43.

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