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Metafiction on Postmodern Literary Works

After the Second World War, a new literature movement called

postmodernism initiated. It is characterized by narrative techniques such as
intertextuality, fragmentation and paradox. Metafiction is an important feature
that subverts the authority of the author. A great example of postmodern
literature is Paul Auster´s novel ‘City of Glass’; also, it is necessary to cite
Barthes’s work, called ‘Death of the Author’. Moreover, J.L. Borges wrote ‘Pierre
Menard, author del Quijote’ which dealt with this feature as well. This essay will
try to demonstrate why these writings are connected in terms of metafiction.

Metafiction means ‘beyond fiction’ and tends to obscure the relationship

between reality and fiction. ‘City of Glass’ is a detective novel. Its main
character is Quinn who has problems with his identity; throughout the entire
novel, he assumes different personalities. It all begins with a wrong call asking
for the private detective Paul Auster. After several calls, Quinn assumes to be
Paul Auster and faces a case. When making some investigation he
encountered Paul Auster, which is a writer, not a detective. Therefore, in this
part of the novel, readers are confused because the writer introduces himself in
the story. In the first paragraph, it says: ‘The question is the story itself, and
whether or not means something is not for the story to tell.’ The author is
pointing that all the questions that can emerge from this novel are the novel
itself, but the ones who give meaning to it are the reader. So here the author is
disengaging of the authorship and the fact that he is the only one who gives
meaning to the story,

Secondly, Barthes wrote an essay in which he stated that the author is a new
concept of the western world. Roland Barthes argues that literary pieces should
not be analyzed together with the biography and context of the writer; the
reader must interpret the meaning of that piece of writing. Previous experiences
will also help to the understanding of a text. In addition, he says that writers are
like musicians, they only put together a series of pre-existing chords or notes.

Finally, J.L. Borges wrote the short story, which appears in ‘Ficciones’,
called Pierre Menard, author del Quijote. The story is about Pierre Menard who
wrote his own exact version of The Quixote. Borges wants to highlight the idea
that no matter how identical the works can be if two different people utter the
same words, the meaning will not be the same. The narrator of the story also
emphasizes that the question of authorship is not something to worry about
“Menard, acaso sin quererlo, ha enriquecido . . . el arte detenido y rudimentario
de la lectura”13 (Borges 59). Thus, the reader is the one who gives sense to a
text; a reader from the eighteenth century did not have the same experiences of
a contemporary reader while reading The Quixote.

To conclude, the literary works presented are fair representatives of

postmodernism. From Paul Auster´s novel, Barthes´ essay and Borges´ short
story, the conclusion is that the writers wanted to demonstrate how important is
the reader interpretation, not in terms of the author biography but in terms of
personal experiences. Metafiction crosses the three writings, making of them
fantastic and quite philosophical works.

Barthes, Roland. “Le mort de l‟auteur.” Oeuvres Complètes. Tome II. Ed. Éric Marty. Paris:
Éditions du Seuil, 1993.


Brandon, M. (n.d.). Whose words?: Text and Autorship in Pierre Menard: Autor del Quijote.
Open Journal Systems. York University.

Lamos, I." The Death of The Author: Roland Barthes and The Collapse of Meaning". Filmslie.
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