A few notes on the novel after September 11, 2001


  • Dr. Michal Sýkora Palacký University Olomouc, Department of Theater, Film and Media Studies Univerzitní 3, 771 47 Olomouc, Czech Republic




September 11, 2001 and the novel, Contemporary American fiction, Contemporary British fiction, Theory of the novel, Writers and society


For the specific category of novels after September 11, 2001, the contemporary Anglo-American literary theory has created the term post-9/11 novel. Naturally it is a general model which applies to a select group of novels only. As the name suggests, it is a novel responding to the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. From the aspect of literary theory this definition of the novel is an obvious return to the conception of literature reflecting the spirit of the day. Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (and in British literature also the terrorist attacks against public transport in London on 7 July, 2005) thus create a new historical experience which must be reflected in the aesthetic experience.  The principal problem: Post-9/11 novel has not yet been anchored methodologically in any theoretical conception. The result is that simply those novels are included that reflect the event. As a methodological key could serve for instance the application of some theses of Georg Lukács, of course without their ideological connotations. One of his principal theses is that “the greater complexity of social relations requires new means for the new poetry.” From this aspect the majority of the novels on the theme of September 11 do not represent any change, the “pre-September” means are sufficient. Still there is a group of novels which reflect the change of social relations and are real representatives of the post-9/11 novel, because they reflect the spirit of the new times in its totality. They express the totality of the times and the totality of the connections. The change is the better apparent that the authors of these works of prose are successful writers and their books represent a smaller or greater turn in their work. Although the novels are quite different, they share several features: the date of their origin, the response to the “new world” after September 11, the seeking of roots and causes of the present social situation, and the clear formulation of the author’s standpoint, which makes it a committed novel.