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3. The staging of characters in different literatures


b) The theatre of the protagonist

The staging of the protagonist represents the concomitant and opposite aspect to the narrative view. In fact, it determines the way in which the character is observed and defined within the context of the time-space narrative. The two types of staging are centripetal and centrifugal:
1) In centripetal staging, the writer defines the character as the centre of the story. Moving around him are the other characters who can consequently become distorted by his character traits and habits. Dickens’s Mr. Pickwick is not only an odd philanthropist, but even makes the places in which the story unfolds seem strange. In this case the author attempts a clear echo play towards the literary genre from which the centripetal view originates, and namely the picaresque novel. Quevedo’s Il Lazzarillo del Tormes and La Vita del Pitocco have a grotesque and sneering humanity, akin, in painting, to the Goyescas. In such a scenario, the historical aspect and the reliability of the reconstruction are of no importance. The centripetal view shatters one of the myths of the bourgeois novel (i.e., that established by Defoe with Moll Flanders): the verisimilitude pact between the author and the reader. For a translator, centripetal staging is a challenge against total identification with the imagination of a fictitious character, resulting in the need for a writing experience in the first person.

2) Centrifugal staging lends itself to misunderstandings. Proust’s Recherche is an extreme case: apart from the coincidence between the Narrator’s perspective and that of the reader, Marcel is really a mirror in which the events of all the characters around him are reflected. Thus he is only a ‘protagonist’ in the sense of a ‘translation’ on his part, and inside his own imagination, of the experiences of which he, as the witness of an entire epoch, is merely a spectator. In this sense, an unexpected ‘epigone’ of Proust is Céline, the author of Death on Credit, except that here, the centrifugal aspect is neolinguistic as well as mythopoetic. In Céline, inventing a language is inventing a world. In the abstract, the centrifugal view of the staging proceeds from an objective to an aesthetic level, to finally reach a mythical reinvention of reality that also becomes the elaboration of a new language. Gadda, the author of Pasticciaccio, is the highest example of this literary ‘fourth level’.