Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Perhaps the most revealing tack to take with a novel such as The Ruined Map is to see in which ways it parodies certain received themes and genres. Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939), for example, portrays a world just as confusing and labyrinthine as that of The Ruined Map; moreover, Chandler’s detective, like Abe’s, seems curiously ineffectual in his attempts to find a solution to the mystery, though there is one provided at the end of the novel. Yet, despite this, Marlowe still acts as a kind of moral agent in a corrupt world: He may not be able to change that world, but neither is he wholly complicit with it. For the narrator of The Ruined Map, there is no solution to the mystery; instead, as character or agent, he vanishes into the world of mystery he originally set out to explore, map, and explain. In the end, he is an antidetective as he makes the choice to disappear, rather than to discover himself or the victim of a crime. In terms of genre, Abe has written an “antinovel” which explores and explodes the assumptions of the mystery genre, which assumes either that there is a rational explanation for the world’s mysteries or that rationality (“detection”) can somehow come to terms with irrational motives and desires, even if it acts only as a moral counteragent to these. Like Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Les Gommes (1953; The Erasers, 1964) or John Hawkes’s The Lime Twig (1961), The...

(The entire section is 527 words.)