Taking this quotation as the starting point, this book invites the reader to examine Coe’s fictional production since 1987 and assess the extent to which it shares the features described above. A ‘novelist who loves (traditional) novels’ (2004b, 7), Coe proudly belongs to that category of writers who, like Salman Rushdie, Jeanette Winterson or Graham Swift, still believe in the powerful drive of story-telling. Just as stories continue to be ‘the bedrock of the novel’, for Coe, ‘narrative curiosity … remains the centrifugal force which draws readers back to the novel’ (2004b, 6). Rather surprisingly, although Coe considers England as ‘a nation of narrators’ and stories as ‘the Englishman’s preferred method of making sense of the world’ (2003), his novels are better received in France and Italy than in England. And yet Coe feels few affinities for such representatives of the French Nouveau Roman as Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute or Claude Simon, or for radical modernist or postmodernist writers (with the notable exception of B.S. Johnson), and asserts his attachment to such supposedly outmoded devices as plot, characterization and suspension of disbelief. When he was at university, he felt bewildered and confused by some of the experimental writers he was reading and saw ‘the high modernism of Joyce and Beckett as a straightjacket the novel had to break out of’ (2004b, 6): ‘Someone had instilled at the back of my mind a quaint notion that novels should have an emotional as well as a cerebral impact, that they should contain characters with whom the reader was made to sympathise, that they should carry the reader, buoyed by curiosity, on a propulsive narrative journey’ (2013d).
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