If Netherland is a novel only partially aware of the ideas that underpin it, Tom McCarthy’sRemainder is fully conscious of its own. But how to write about it? Immediately an obstacle presents itself. When we write about lyrical Realism our great tool is the quote, so richly patterned. But Remainder is not filled with pretty quotes; it works by accumulation and repetition, closing in on its subject in ever-decreasing revolutions, like a trauma victim circling the blank horror of the traumatic event. It plays a long, meticulous game, opening with a deadpan paragraph of comic simplicity:

About the accident itself I can say very little. Almost nothing. It involved something falling from the sky. Technology Parts, bits. That’s it, really: all I can divulge. Not much, I know.

It’s not that I’m being shy. It’s just that—well, for one, I don’t even remember the event. It’s a blank: a white slate, a black hole. I have vague images, half-impressions: of being, or having been—or, more precisely, being about to be—hit; blue light; railings; lights of other colours; being held above some kind of tray or bed.

Two Paths for the Novel, Zadie Smith

* the way of the future the way of the future the way of the future the way of the future the way of the future the way of the future the way of the future, or… The Future is a Place We Cannot Quote

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