Techniques / Literary Precedents

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The five chapters of the text, which are "found" by the anonymous narrator on Simon LeCoeur's desk, are narrated in the present indicative tense, as if what is being described were indeed happening at the moment of the reading. A similar narrative technique was employed in Jealousy (1959; La Jalousie, 1957), which begins with the word "now." Chapter six of Djinn is partially narrated in the past tense by a third person who seems to have limited omniscience, but shifts back to the first person, present tense towards the end, a mode which continues into chapter seven. About a third of the way through that chapter, the narration shifts inexplicably back to third person, past tense. Chapter eight is first person, past tense, but the narrator is no longer Simon; it is now a girl, presumably Djinn, telling her version of the events. After her "vertiginous fall" the narration shifts again to a first person narrator, past tense. He begins to tell the story of going to the hangar at six thirty, as if the previous pages of the novel did not exist, but he gets no further than the point at which he steps forward to recite the coded message. Then the anonymous narrator steps forth, in the epilogue, to tell the reader that Simon LeCoeur's story has ended. These shifts in person and tense keep the novel as fluid as time seems to be in Simon's story; past and present become meaningless terms. The young boy "dreams the future," but the events he dreams have already been described, which suggests that they are past, the same events that take place with Simon and the young Jean and Marie are repeated later with an older Jean and Djinn/Marie, as if past, present, and future are, in some sense, synchronous. This kind of disordering of time is common among writers of "the New Novel," such as Claude Simon, Michel Butor,...

(The entire section contains 467 words.)

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