Shifting Narrative Strategies: Ambiguity in the Novels of Arturo Perez-Reverte
The novels of the popular Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte are variously classified as mysteries, adventure stories, and serious historical fiction. Some critics consider them significant philosophical reflections; others see his novels as thrillers that are “sophisticated” or “erudite”. To clarify this ambiguity I will look at the narrative strategies and the use of mystery genre conventions in three of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novels: The Flanders Panel (1990), The Club Dumas (1993), and The Seville Communion (1995). This paper is based on theoretical assumptions about the novel loosely derived from Lukács’ Theory of the Novel and Bakhtine’s The Dialogic Imagination, that see this literary genre emerging with modernity as a mode of representation of the world. This fictional world has its own structures including multiple perspectives allowing for self reflexivity as well as reflection on the world. For Bakhtine, this polyphony subverts the dominant discourse or ideology of officialdom, exposing the lies and hypocrisy of the world. This notion seems closely linked to Lukács’ view of the novel as the portrayal of the search for meaning in a meaningless world, exposing the gap between ideals and degraded reality. Conflicting values, explicit or implied, are confronted with one another. This is achieved by the interplay of formal characteristics such as characterization, plot, and one key novelistic structure, irony. The thriller, as one major subgenre of the novel also concerns the search, here for truth and justice; it uses the same narrative techniques as the so-called “serious” novel. However, since its main objective is to entertain rather than disturb the reader, it often ends up reaffirming the dominant discourse of officialdom. Where do we situate Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novels? How does he create ambiguity about the status of his fiction: thriller or serious novel?
Keywords: Literature, Theory of the Novel, Entertainment Literature, Mystery
Dr. Anne-Marie Feenberg-Dibon
Associate Professor of Humanities, Department of Humanities, Simon Fraser University