<i>In limine primo:</i> The difficulty of reality in Paul Ricoeur and JM Coetzee

  • Michael Deckard Lenoire-Rhyne University, North Carolina, USA
Keywords: death, narrative identity, self, mourning


Two works were published the same year: Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Coetzee’s Age of Iron (1990). One is philosophy and one is fiction. Both attempt to heal wounds, personal and political. Eschewing purely biographical narratives, their authors attempted to deal meaningfully with death and the work of mourning. What might these works say about symbols, narrative identity and the liminality between life and death, fact and fiction, history and character? I argue that the female narrative of Coetzee’s works are in limine primo – in a place that is no-place – a kind of haunting ground of liminal subjects with no real existence. This form of storytelling approaches the real by means of shocks or intimations that provide an opening onto another world. Both works, Age of Iron and Oneself as Another, can be read together as attempts at a work of mourning and at reconciliation with the past and loss.
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