‘Fragmented Music, Fragmented Minds: Janet Frame's Faces in the Water (1961)’

da Sousa Correa, Delia (2021). ‘Fragmented Music, Fragmented Minds: Janet Frame's Faces in the Water (1961)’. In: Bernhart, Walter and Englund, Axel eds. Arts of Incompletion: Fragments in Words and Music. Word and Music Studies (18). Amsterdam: Brill.

URL: https://brill.com/view/title/60484?rskey=JuCloq&re...


Janet Frame’s 1961 novel Faces in the Water is an asylum novel in which fragments of music are connected with a variety of inmates of a mental institution. Their attachment to particular songs conveys the patients’ derangement, whilst also serving as an important marker of their individuality and humanity. On occasion it offers their last remaining form of resistance to authority and is put to comically disruptive use. Formally, Frame’s fragmented quotations from the lyrics of hymns, film music and folk tunes contribute to the stream of consciousness style through which she creates what Anita Brookner hailed as ‘one of the most impressive accounts of madness to be found in literature’. The novel also contains elements of unsparingly lucid reportage. Its devastating account of the destruction of a gifted musician held in the asylum means that joyous formal exploitation of the musical fragment within its prose is balanced by sober contemplation of the wholeness required for artistic production.

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