DOI: 10.5176/2251-3566_L313.108

Authors: Pamela Mansutti

Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s latest novel The Writing on the Wall (hereafter WW) represents an “ethical narrative” for the type of perspective it adopts on the tragedy of 9/11. Similarly to other New York novels on the topic (Foer, DeLillo’s), Schwarz believes that the event enabled the aggregation of a community of New Yorkers that reaches beyond the confines of the city but that ultimately finds its grounds in the particular historical site. The positive tension between locality and transnationality and between private and public dimensions of the tragedy marks the ethical constructions of this traumatic historical event. Despite its multiple violations (the terrorist attacks, the physical disfigurement and the ideological use of the wounded city as a casus belli for military retaliation), New York in Schwartz’s novel still proves to be an open space where various kinds of traumata can converge and find ethical significance. Furthermore, WW transforms the shocking events of 9/11 into a catalyst that unearths old private traumata, whose emergence helps making sense of the public present. On this note, the linguistic play that Schwartz mobilizes in the novel is one of openness and connection, whereby official rhetoric is dismissed, if not relegated to background noise, and exotic languages constitute an alternative canvas onto which the characters (and the reader) are invited to project a new communal pluralism.

September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks, ethics, trauma, community, linguistic pluralism


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