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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Dr Daniel Hartley

Hartley, Daniel (2020). 'Dead Letters': Impersonality and the Mourning of World Literature in Ivan Vladislavić's Double Negative. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 22(2): 195-211.

Author(s) from Durham


In his 2010 novel, Double Negative, South African author Ivan Vladislavić undertakes an ethico-political and literary project of impersonality. Impersonality is understood in four interrelated ways: as an ethos characterized by a paradoxically passionate indifference; as an operation of depersonalisation transforming individuated persons into eventalized singularities; as a poetics, employing such literary techniques as affectless prose or the deconstruction of realist regimes of character; and as an ontological indeterminacy, whereby something is simultaneously posited and subtracted or in which binaries are rendered indeterminate. These general features of impersonality become accentuated and frustrated under historical conditions of postcolonialism. In the case of Double Negative, impersonality falls prey to two dilemmas: the dilemma of postcolonial publicity and that of postcolonial mourning under conditions of rampant neoliberalism. The essay explores the novel's (partial) solutions to these dilemmas and concludes by suggesting that world literature might itself be conceived as a work – and object – of mourning.

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