Through the dust and In the driver’s seat: decoding the narrative style of Muriel Spark
Zapsu Watt, Hande Gaye
Zapsu, Hande Gaye
Through the Dust is a novel that takes place in the city of my birth: Istanbul. Using an earthquake as a driving force, the novel explores several the: the ability to ‘know’ fictional characters and by extension real people, the role memory plays in how we view the world and each other, fate vs. free will, and isolation. Book One entitled ‘The Failure of Ali’ takes place before the earthquake and tells the story of Ali Toz who has hyperthymesia, a condition which prevents him from forgetting and often pulls him into the past. Each chapter alternates between the past and present, allowing us to follow Ali’s youth, his strained relationship with his mother, his time at the ‘school for the gifted’ and his marriage to Mina, while watching his present self wander through Istanbul. It is only when the past catches up with the present that we understand why Ali has come back to Istanbul after 20 years even after vowing never to do so, and why he is so desperate to find five old schoolmates. Book Two entitled ‘The 24th of July’ follows Ali’s five schoolmates through the twenty-four hours before the earthquake happens. Kerim is a surgeon who is having a particularly bad day. Elif is a telemarketer who has been played by her boss and is hated by everyone in her office. Ayse is cheating on her husband in an effort to find the love he promised her she would feel. Omer is going to propose to the love of his life and Didem is stuck in a bar-tending job so she can be with an emotionally destructive man. As the characters go through their day, completely immersed in their own problems, the earthquake strikes the city. Book Three entitled ‘Mary Was Here’ takes place the day after the earthquake and tells the story of Mary, a young woman who has a fatal brain tumor that is making her forget everything. In a parallel voyage to Ali’s, Mary arrives in Istanbul by hitching a ride on an aid bus coming in from Bulgaria. We don’t know why she has come to the city or who she is looking for, but she seems to believe that whoever it is may be able to help her. Early into her arrival, Mary loses her belongings and finds herself alone in the city. One by one, she encounters the five characters from Part Two. It is with Kerim that she creates a real bond and in the midst of all the chaos Mary gets swept along and ends up working as a nurse in a make-shift burn unit by the Golden Horn. The critical element of the thesis, entitled “In The Driver’s Seat: Decoding the Narrative Style of Muriel Spark” focuses on the narrative style of Muriel Spark in the eeriest of her novels. Through an investigation of The Driver’s Seat, I will endeavor to show the narrative and thematic complexity that lies within this seemingly simple and much overlooked novel, and how her techniques influenced my own work.