Story, Discourse, and Hallucinating Time

[ the southern-most point in Africa – one of my favorite places for a “hallucinatory” wander ]

In his short (and quite dense) “Six Walks in the Fictional Woods“, Umberto Eco describes different methods of representing time in literature.  “Story time is part of the content of the story.  If the text says ‘a thousand years pass’, the story time is a thousand years. But at the level of linguistic expression, which is at the level of fictional discourse, the time to write (and read) the utterance is very short.  This is why a rapid discourse time may express a very long story time.” (pg 54)

Later, in describing Georges Perec’s fantastic “An Attempt At Exhausting a Place in Paris“, Eco describes the short book as being able to “be read in half an hour.  That is, if the reader doesn’t savor it slowly for a couple of days, trying to imagine every scene described”.

Eco goes on to suggest that this slower, non-realtime reading could be called hallucinating time.  “In the same way we can use a map to imagine trips and extraordinary adventures through unknown lands and seas, but in such a case the map has become merely a stimulus and the reader has become the narrator.  Whenever I’m asked what book I would take with me to a desert island, I reply, ‘The phone book: with all those characters, I could invent an infinite number of stories.'” (pg 60)

Image via: Google Maps

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