The early fiction of J.G.Farrell as influenced by the writing of Albert Camus, with special reference to L'Étranger

Gwilliams, Fay Lesley (2006). The early fiction of J.G.Farrell as influenced by the writing of Albert Camus, with special reference to L'Étranger. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e984

Abstract

The task of this study has been to show how French existentialist writing, in particular the novels and essays of Albert Camus, contributed to the early development of the unique voice of the writer J.G.Farrell, and provided themes, imagery and characterisation which eventually transferred to, and grew within his Empire fiction. By doing this, it also attempts to review the place of the early fiction in Farrell's work, and to draw that and the later novels towards a coherent whole.

The first chapter examines the links established by critics between Farrell and modern French writers, including Camus. Existentialist features found in his work, especially those from Camus' L'Étranger, are identified in Chapter 2. It is argued that, from these, Farrell derived elements central to all his work. Amongst such elements are the siege-metaphor, the pervading tone of comic irony and the figure of the outsider-protagonist.

Chapter 3 examines Farrell's 'outsiders', makes comparisons between these characters and the protagonist in L'Étranger, and shows how the 'outsider' develops in the early novels and is carried forward into the Empire fiction.

Death and disease as metaphors are discussed in Chapter 4, with particular reference to Camus' La Peste and L'Étranger. Some sources in Camus' work are suggested for the symbolical use of dogs in Farrell's novels, and for the doctor-figure featuring importantly in nearly all his work.

A specific type of death is dealt with in Chapter 5, where the central murder episode in L'Étranger, and its connection with both Farrell's life and his preoccupation with kinds of death on beaches, is explored.

In conclusion, this study argues that Farrell's early fiction and Camusian existentialist writing are very close, that concerns from both sources form a significant part of his Empire novels, and that a consideration of Camus' influence is a key to viewing Farrell's work as a single, developing entity rather than as two separate units.

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