Can literature make it possible to represent histories that are otherwise ineffable? In The Power of the False, named after Gilles Deleuze’s concept, Dr Doro Wiese offers readings of three novels that deal with the Shoah, with colonialism, and with racialized identities.
Wiese argues that Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish, and Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing are novels in which a space for unvoiced, silent, or silenced difference is created. Seen through the lens of Deleuze and his collaborators’ philosophy, literature is a means for mediating knowledge and affects about historical events. Going beyond any simple dichotomy between true and untrue accounts of what ‘really’ happened in the past, literature’s powers of the false incite readers to long for a narrative space in which painful or shameful stories can be included.
“The Powers of the False is undeniably brilliant, rich in its suggestiveness, fertile in its theoretical apparatus, perspicuous in the readings of the three novels it offers in support of its central Deleuzian hypothesis: namely, that in literary writing in our time, there is utilised a kind ‘falsity’ or ‘falseness’ which, going beyond the distinction between truth and fiction, summon or call up a virtual audience comprised of the descendants of all of those persons and things of the past who have been ignored, oppressed, or simply eliminated (as in the Holocaust) without benefit even of the registration of their existence.”- Hayden White
Doro Wiese is a lecturer in gender studies and comparative literature at Utrecht University. She was a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher in the EU FP6 PhD programme GenderGraduates and graduated cum laude in 2011 at Utrecht University.
Title: The Power of the False
Author(s): Doro Wiese
Publisher: 2014, Northwestern University Press