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Framing of text. Film narration and focalization in Alessandro Baricco’s novel City

The author of the text wants to get closer to answering a seemingly general question — in age of a twist towards the visual, can the analysis of literary works as visual contents gain a self-explanatory legitimacy or is it necessary to develop new analytical methods that will strengthen the visual dimension within the default textual dimension of literary works? In order to make his ideas concrete, the author wants to show a possible manner in which the novel City written by the contemporary Italian author Alessandro Baricco can be read from semiotical and narratological aspects of film theory. The author first discusses the relationship between linguistics and semiotics and their amalgamation in Christian Metz’s structuralist film theory, then Seymour Chatman’s film narratology, as well as Gérard Genett’s analysis of narrative structures, and finally Mieke Bal’s specific »visual« interpretation of literary and theoretical terms. Although the text provides few direct allusions to concrete films, the subject of this analysis — the novel City — was selected because it is a postmodern paradigmatic visual text, written in 1999, and marked with numerous strategies comparable first of all to motion pictures of our time. Among other things, the article also shows that Baricco’s narrative structuring is not only evidently inspired by the possibilities of the film camera, first of all by non-verbal switching from one scene to another and then by kinematic movements in space (in his case we recognize this in the exchange of situational scenes without usual author’s explanations and breaks in the text), but also that the »speed« of Baricco’s kinematic text supersedes the speed of the classical narrative film. Unexpected focal twists in the novel, and specific literary use of film’s long shot, are described through a comparison with same directing techniques used in John Wright’s film Atonement. After all, the iconic quality of City does not arise only from the subversion of the canonically deduced relationship between »visual« and »textual« narration that Genette and Chatman refer to, but first of all from the current omnipresence of the film medium and the need to speak the language of images.

Krešimir Purgar

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