Francesca Duranti and Metafiction

Shirley Smith
Metafiction as a term seems to have been first used by Lionel Abel (1963) in a discussion of the play-within-a-play. Clearly, however, it has been a part of literary critical discussions for a much longer time. Widely considered in its various configurations by literary critics, metafiction takes diversified forms and titles, including introversion, anti-novel and surfiction.' All of these ru-brics have in common the general formulation of a fiction that self-consciously reflects upon its own
more » ... ructure as language. The terms of a metafictional text have changes over time. In the modernist context the concern was largely consciousness. The first-person telling of a story by a character informs us, the readers, of his/her development to a point which has enabled him/her to compose the novel we are about to read. From the outset the ability to recreate reality, as was presupposed by the nineteenth-century realist tradition, was put on alert. Only fiction could be created. In the epistemologica! sense reality floated away on the winds of individual existence. The idealist Hegelian formula and a quantifiable artistic aesthetic were abandoned in favor of Heidegger and discussion of what it feels like to be alive. Existence became the primary focus. True history became humankind's ability to face the Angst of being and a sense of nothingness in preparation for death. In the postmodern development of metafiction the concern is first and foremost with fictionality, that is, with the construction and destruction of illusion. The traditional figure of the author as a trancendental imagination, as the god who through an ultimately monologic discourse weaves a tale on a plot, is once again démodé. Now the presence of the author is made to resonate for the reader at a relatively high number of decibels. The postmodern metafictional narrator's presence is claimed and foregrounded, and the reader is made aware of it in more or less subtle ways depending on the type and degree of meta-fiction. This narrator establishes a rapport and collaborative discourse with the reader, while at the same time setting up another dialogic with an embedded text. The metafictional narrator alternately sends the ball to the left or right side of the court, once to the reader and once to the embedded text. Duranti in the four novels mentioned here, the last to of which are discussed at length, adds a new spin to the literary-critical historical line of events.