Paris as ‘unreal city’ : modernist conceptions in Michiel Heyns’s Invisible Furies

Access full-text article here


Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 11
  • SDG 10
  • Abstract:

    Michiel Heyns’s sixth novel, Invisible Furies (2012) is deeply inscribed in the author’s profound engagement in and knowledge of the grand modernist tradition. The article aims to illuminate and discuss this underrated novel in terms of some of its modernist attributes by relating the work conceptually to the works of great modernist writers, particularly T. S. Eliot and E. M. Forster, in order to demonstrate its impressive literary scope and density of meaning. While there are direct allusions to Eliot’s poetry in the text, it is a certain sensibility and perspective that reminds the reader forcibly of Eliot’s vision, particularly in The Waste Land (1922) and The Hollow Men (1925). Eliot’s image of the “Unreal city”, derived from Baudelaire’s Les sept veillards, is particularly pertinent. A number of modernist concerns or themes are addressed in this context, in particular the ambiguous merits and value of the aesthetic, social alienation, the city and the concept of Forster’s “eternal moment” (his equivalent to Joyce’s “epiphany”, Virginia Woolf’s “moment of being” and Eliot’s “moment in and out of time”) as a possible means of salvation in the face of the meaninglessness of a spiritually and emotionally arid, modern existence.