About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

V. nears an end

The ending to the penultimate chapter of V. - though it's the last chapter that deals with events in the novel's mid-1950s "present".

Later, out in the street, mear the sea steps she inexplicably took his hand and began to run. The buildings in this part of Valletta, eleven years after the war's end, had not been rebuilt. The street, however, was level and clear. Hand in hand with Brenda whom he'd met yesterday, Profane ran down the street. Presently, sudden and in silence, all illumination in Valletta, houselight and streetlight, was extinguished. Profane and Brenda continued to run through the abruptly absolute night, momentum alone carrying them toward the edge of Malta, and the Mediterranean beyond.

Anyone want to discuss this? It's a very rich piece of prose, but I wish I had a clearer response to it. If you read it in the context of Profane's conversation with Brenda immediately before, in which she reads him a prose poem that sums up much of the tone and imagery of the book, and he confesses that all his experiences haven't taught him "a goddamn thing", it becomes even richer, but again even more resistant to a clear response, at least from me.

This is, of course, one of the most famous not-quite-endings in contemporary fiction, if "contemporary" means something like "written in the last 50 years", and there are many similar endings (usually real ones actually at the end of books) both before and after, which give it resonance as part of the classically American fictional mega-text. The ending of Huck Finn is a good example. Still, how exactly should one feel as Benny Profane and his new girlfriend run hand-in-hand through the streets of Malta, in total darkness, and after the chaotic, often surreal, experiences that have driven Benny along for the previous 450 page?


Blake Stacey said...

It's sorta nice that Benny Profane, the human yo-yo, has a consistent direction of momentum for a while.

Russell Blackford said...

As long as he doesn't fall in the water that he's running towards. :)

Roger said...

"As long as he doesn't fall in the water that he's running towards"...but the implication is that he will. One sdpect of V is that the alternatives are swing like a yo-yo or disaster.