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Straight to the multiplex

This is textbook post-traumatic territory, and textbook literary alienation. The necessity — and impossibility — of watching yourself from the outside is what drives The Picture of Dorian Gray, or Frankenstein, or the films of David Lynch. To watch yourself from outside is, according to the textbook, to watch yourself as dead — and both Hall and his hero understand this all too well.

To a large extent, Men in Space is an allegory of failed transcendence, as is Remainder: this is what the two books really have in common deep down. Transcendence fails – but some radical transformation takes place. I wouldn’t call my disposition in them ‘optimistic’, and, to borrow a great line from Lacan, I never speak of freedom – but in both books disintegration induces dynamic and exhilarating states, sends people somewhere extreme: to the limits of the self, the world, the whole symbolic order. That’s where literature should take you, its proper territory.

The angles of prague

The ending is a tribute to Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy, as the fevered writer continues to emit while anticipating his own (resisted) end (”Soon I will stop. Soon . . .”). Like Beckett’s “unnameable”, he remains suspended between two worlds, hovering over the abyss. Tom McCarthy has drawn intelligently on his literary antecedent; but Men in Space is an original work in its own right, a confident and intelligent meditation on failed flights of transcendence.