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Department of English, NTNU


The present analysis of strategic narrative empathy in Rushdie’s life narrative Joseph Anton: A Memoir (2012) is rooted in cultural narratology and complemented by the explanatory tools provided by the Girardian theory of violence as the outcome of a vicious circle set off by mimetic desire. René Girard’s theory has been confirmed by the latest neuron system research findings. Bakhtinian dialogical hermeneutics linguistically frames the former accounts in terms of both successful empathic human communication and its failure when the right conditions for it are not met. The relevant textual and contextual aspects of Rushdie’s life narrative—including the fatwa affair as thematized in Joseph Anton—are included in the present analysis with a view to explaining the causes for Rushdie’s defense of parrhesia. Parrhesia, as defined by Foucault, explains Rushdie’s central concerns after the fatwa, and the defense of free speech becomes a central empathic strategy deployed in Rushdie’s memoir. Joseph Anton’s highly empathic textuality is shown to rely heavily on Rushdie’s intertextual exploration of The Moor’s Last Sigh in the memoir. Rushdie's life narrative adds empathetic momentum by means of a very apt use of this and other relevant intertextual allusions, especially to Ernest Hemingway’s theory of literary truth.