Inventions of a Present

Inventions of a Present:The Novel in its Crisis of Globalization

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The giant of literary theory analyses the novel: Conrad, James, Atwood, Oe, Mailer, Grass, Grossman, Garcia Marquez, Gibson, Knausgaard and more!

A novel is an act, an intervention, which, most often, the naïve reader takes as a representation. The novel intervenes to modify or correct our conventional notions of a situation, and, in the best and most intense cases, to propose a wholly new idea of what constitutes an event or of the very experience of living. The most interesting contemporary novels are those which try – and sometimes succeed – in awakening our sense of a collectivity behind individual experience; opening up a relationship between the isolated subjectivity and class or community. But even if this happens (rarely!), one must go on to find traces of collective praxis hidden away within the mere awakening of a feeling of multitude. And, since it is in the sense of the nation and nationality that collectivity is most often expressed, it is urgent to disengage the possibilities of genuine action within these nationalisms. This sweeping collection of essays ranges from the elusive politicality of North American literature to the sometimes frozen narrative experiences of the eastern countries and the old Soviet Union; from East Germany to Japan, Latin America and the Nordic countries. Like any such voyage, it is an arbitrary movement across the world of historical situations which, however, seeks to dramatize their common kinship in late capitalism itself.


  • Fredric Jameson is America's leading Marxist critic. A prodigiously energetic thinker whose writings sweep majestically from Sophocles to science fiction.

    Terry Eagleton
  • Jameson has long been the most alluring American literary theorist, the only one to match the French in style and depth.

    Angela WoodwardLos Angeles Review of Books
  • Not often in American writing since Henry James can there have been a mind displaying at once such tentativeness and force. The best of Jameson’s work has felt mind-blowing in the way of LSD or mushrooms.

    Benjamin KunkelLondon Review of Books