The Narrative Shape of Truth

Veridiction in Modern European Literature

By (author) Ilya Kliger

Hardback - £69.95

Publication date:

18 April 2011

Length of book:

256 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271037981

Its champions—and its detractors—have often understood the novel as the genre par excellence of truthlessness. The Narrative Shape of Truth counters this widely accepted view. It argues instead that the novel has found new, historically specific configurations of truth and narrative. The nineteenth-century novel, in particular, can be understood as responding to the emerging tendency to view truth as inseparable from, rather than opposed to, time. Ilya Kliger offers a nonreductive way of reading the histories of philosophy and the novel side by side. He identifies the crucial moment in the epistemological history of narrative when, at the end of the eighteenth century, a new structural affiliation between truth and time emerged.

This book examines novels by four authors—Balzac, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy—as well as the writings of leading European intellectuals and philosophers. Kliger argues that the “realist” novel can be conceived as prompting us (and giving us the means) to think of truth differently, as immanent in a temporal shape rather than transcendent in a principle, a fact, or a higher order.

“In this investigation of the ‘veridictory mutation’ in the modern European novel Ilya Kliger positions the genre’s rise amidst a broader shift in European thought (moving from Kant to Hegel) towards a conception of truth as embodied in a mediating and productive temporality. . . . Kliger’s compelling account of truth and narrative in the realist novel offers rich insights into the relationship between modernity’s shifting perceptions of time and truth, and the depictive power of the novel.”

—Mark Pettus, Modern Language Review