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Jenseitsreise und Labyrinth. ‚L’Emploi du temps‘ und die obskurantistischen Monster der Diffusion

Matthias Hennig

Pages 295 - 313

In his novel ‚L’Emploi du Temps‘, Michel Butor depicts the industrial-city Bleston as a labyrinth that is delimited, infinite and a-centric. Due to the instability of the urban landscape, the first person narrator himself becomes unstable as: the space that enwraps him mutates into an autonomous, dominating agent. Butor fuses the topoi of city, labyrinth, and underworld and in the process knots them indirectly together to Dante’s travels into the Inferno, also invoking his encyclopedic approach to the world as evinced in the ‚Commedia‘. Just as the labyrinth of the city eludes capture, the complex semiotic texture of the city in its entirety refuses to be comprehended – a difficulty best exemplified in the confrontation between the novel’s protagonist Revel with the hybrid figure of the chimera. On the one hand, the chimera personifies the iridescent inability to grasp the city, and on the other hand it replaces the demonic, superhuman monster, represented in the antique myth of the labyrinth by the Minotaur.


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