Anne-Sophie at UEA

Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.

Remainder by Tom McCarthy


Remainder is one of these novels that you cannot put down until you’ve finished it. It’s one of these books that you devour in two days and after the final sentence, a little “Wow” escapes from your mouth. McCarthy’s book certainly will haunt me for a while. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said it that Remainder is the best novel I’ve read in a long time! It is everything I needed: weird, crazy, hermetic. It would make an incredible film and, in fact, I think one by Omer Fast came out a few months ago. 

But it was a re-enactment. That’s the beauty of it. It became real while it was going on.”

Remainder the story of an unnamed narrator who has suffered a traumatic experience we know very little about: “it involved something falling from the sky”, he tells us in the first lines. As a compensation for his trauma, he gets 8.5 million pounds. He cannot tell us more about this incident and could not tell us more anyway, because he suffers from amnesia. “But who’s to say these are genuine memories? Who’s to say my traumatized mind didn’t just make them up?”.

“The waiter leant across me as he took the tablecloth away. She took the table away too. There wasn’t any table. The truth is, I’ve been making all this up.”

In this novel, McCarthy plays with memories, understanding, and the very concept of “the real” is unstable. The narrator is deeply concerned with artificiality, actions, copying and performance. But it is also a novel that deals with philosophy, worship, art, surplus and waste — which become recurring motifs. 


Things get a bit strange when the narrator decides to re-enact the most mundane scene: a day in his flat, with his neighbour playing piano, an old lady cooking liver and a boring couple hoovering. This first re-enactment sets in motion the whole story and the narrator becomes unstoppable, stuck within his endless repetitions and loops… Until everything gets out of control — a bit too real —  and reach a point of no return.

“In one sense, the actions we’d decided to perform had all happened already. They’d happened countless times […]. They’d never stopped happening, intermittently, everywhere, and our repetition of them here in Chiswick on this sunny autumn afternoon was no more than an echo — an echo of an echo of an echo… In another sense, though, it had never happened and, this being not a real event but a staged one, albeit one staged in a real venue, it never would… I and the other re-enactors were like a set of devotees to a religion not yet founded.” 

I am not sure I can do justice to this wonderful mesmerizing novel… but trust me on this one! I still can’t believe what I just read. Contemporary Ficiton is definitely a module worth taking! I’ve discovered so many great authors thanks to it. 


8: loop of infinity

“Eventually, the sun would set for ever — burn out, pop, extinguish — and the universe would run down like a Fisher Price toy whose spring has unwound to its very end. Then there’d be no more music, no more loops. Or maybe, before that, we’d just run out of fuel.”


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