In a recent online lecture, the acclaimed novelist Amit Chaudhuri responded to an accusation that has greeted his fiction since the start of his literary career: that since, as he openly admits, his novels contain people and events that are drawn from his own life, they are better thought of as thinly disguised memoirs—as not really novels at all. In this paper, I discuss this charge by drawing on an account by the philosopher Stephen Mulhall of the work of another distinguished novelist—J.M. Coetzee (more specifically, that work which features the character Elizabeth Costello). In particular, I want to establish the pertinence to Chaudhuri’s lecture of Mulhall’s analogy between aspects of that work and the work of the influential art historian and critic Michael Fried on the history of modernist painting. In so doing, I aim to show that the commitment to the projects of literary modernism and realism which Mulhall sees in Coetzee (and Costello), can also be seen in Chaudhuri’s understanding of the sense in which his novels both are, and are not, autobiographical.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics
|Published - 4 Jan 2022