Broken or unnatural?

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The question of what Dorrit Cohn famously called the distinction of fiction holds a peculiar place, occasionally taking center stage, but mostly lying dormant in or beyond the margins of the discussions of narrative study. What difference does it make whether a narrative is fictive or not? Recently, scholars in different subfields of narrative study have reaffirmed earlier claims that even though fictive and non-fictive narratives can be said, on one level, to serve fairly dissimilar cultural functions, on other levels they exhibit similarities that are more fundamental than these differences with regard to their status as narratives. The article sets out to question this position. Comparing and elaborating on results from unnatural narratology and from work done on non-coherent or broken narratives, the article aims at bringing forth what are argued to be important and in some cases incommensurable differences between the invitations offered by non-conventional narrative forms in fiction and in non-fiction. The cases are Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (2009) and interview-sessions with former inmates of German concentration camps.


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