Life as Intertext: Distance, Deception and Intentionality in Marek Hlasko's Killing the Second Dog

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This article analyzes a number of strategies of representing the scriptive “I” voice in Marek Hłasko’s Killing the Second Dog, an exilic novel set in Israel but written in Western Europe, and based to a certain extent on the author’s own experiences as a down-and-out expatriate. Following a short theoretical discussion on the nature of autobiographic novels and the problems with transparency of any speaking subject within a text, I suggest a middle way of reading fictional(ized) autobiographies, one balanced between, on the one hand, the study of autonomous textuality in which the centrality of the historical author is displaced and, on the other, more traditional “persona criticism” in which the biographical and the textual are intimately related. After tracing Hłasko’s own well-publicized maneuvers in self-creation and mythopoeia in both the literary and the public sphere—maneuvers which greatly problematized the links between what we know of this author as an individual in space and time and his textual persona which reflects (in certain individualized ways) this space and this time—I focus specifically on the relationship between the two protagonists in the novel. Jacob and Robert, I suggest, emerge as a reflection of the broader authorial dilemma between revealing the self in a text and concealing it. The two protagonists, I argue, function as a synecdoche of the problematics of textual self-expression and storytelling in general: one of them, Jacob, becomes a sort of emptied signified and a vessel to be filled with a narration; the other, Robert, directs and authorizes Jacob’s identity, invests his role with signification and legitimates it as a discourse, as a text. By highlighting the dynamic established between the two characters in their struggle to create a persuasive narrative of their own (specifically, a confidence game which involves the seduction o f a tourist) the real author, Hłasko, in a sense allows himself to “disappear” into an anonymous space made available by the narrative’s centering of these two textual “creators”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-37
Number of pages19
JournalCanadian Slavonic Papers
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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