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Why bad things happen to good people

July 2, 2011

“[Conspiracy theories] are variations on the theme of an ever-less-graspable political and social reality that seems to constantly withdraw from our grip.  They seem to offer plausible explanations as to why, as Dieter Groh put it, ‘bad things happen to good people,’ by simplistically indicating one supreme secretly operating agency.”[1]

In Bernard Beckett’s Genesis, the protagonist Anaxamander disbelieves conspiracy theories – and then turns out to have been the ‘victim’ of one. The reader experiences the shock of this discovery with her, having very much ‘joined her side’ through the course of the novel.  It is similar in Robert Cormier’s I am the Cheese – the reader is not aware of the danger that the protagonist is ‘in’ as this story is told, but absolutely empathises with him and feels strongly about the novel’s final twist as a result…

The novels are different in many ways, but to me, they share a lot of similarities – they are especially strongly united by the reader’s experience of the conspiracies operating behind these texts; it is not until the end of either novel that we uncover the conspiracy and so, unlike in other novels, where the reader is the privileged recipient of insider information (through the narrator or other characters), the reader of these novels is absolutely not ‘in on’ the secret.

For the reader, this experience of exclusion (guided very much in each novel by a tightly thought out narrative structure) is very much a part of the story being told.

[1] P6 Horn, E. and A. Rabinbach (2008). “Introduction.” New German Critique 35(1): 1-8.

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