Kevin O’Farrell, ‘In search of lost selves: Aidan Higgins’ Scenes from a Receding Past’, in Irish Studies Review (Oct 2013), pp.461-69

[Note: Available at Taylor & Francis publishers - online; accessed 12.08.2017.]

Abstract: This essay makes the case for a fresh evaluation of Aidan Higgins’ long-neglected autobiographical novel Scenes from a Receding Past. It argues that it is most fruitfully understood as a contribution to the phenomenology of personal identity and that many of its formal idiosyncrasies, especially its deviations from the standard formula for Künstlerroman, are a direct result of its preoccupation with general concepts of selfhood rather than a concern with society, or with the artist’s role. I trace the genealogy of Higgins’ innovative and unique form of realism in this work, and in the novel to which it forms a prequel, Balcony of Europe, to his attempts to escape the influence of James Joyce; and using the work of, amongst others, Paul Ricoeur, demonstrate how his fiction contributes to a new understanding of the relations between narrative, memory, imagination, and consciousness. Keywords: Aidan Higgins, autobiographical fiction, narrative, personal identity, memory, imagination, influences, realism.

First published in 1977, Aidan Higgins’ Scenes from a Receding Past was a prequel to his second novel Balcony of Europe (1972), the author taking the highly unusual step of going back to write his own idiosyncratic version of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man after a bold attempt at the big experimental novel. Yet, whilst within the temporal realm established in the fictional world of the texts Scenes is a retreat further back into the past, it deepens and complicates many of the issues explored in Balcony and therefore artistically constitutes an advance; Higgins taking one step backwards to move two steps forward as it were. The comparisons with Joyce and Proust, if inevitable and justified when dealing with this work, are nevertheless misleading in some respects, as I shall demonstrate below in my discussion of how Higgins operates outside of, even subverts, the traditional novel of formation paradigm, partly as the result of a third important influence, Edmund Husserl. Like his great modernist models, Higgins writes out of the details of his own life, but an overemphasis on this, not least by Higgins himself in his three volumes of memoirs and in an author’s note to Scenes, can only lead to some rather uninteresting speculation about the intersection of autobiography and fiction; whereas his novel’s primary appeal lies in the ingenuity and originality of its phenomenological interrogation of identity, as we will see. John Banville, another novelist operating outside the mainstream of Irish writing in the 1960s and 1970s, reflects endlessly in his narcissistic metafictions upon art, but Higgins’ solipsistic work has its eyes firmly on our being in the world, even if it can never quite transcend introspection and its self-imposed limitations. His is a very unique form of realism, which, even if it constitutes only a minor achievement, is of enduring interest nonetheless.

Identity: life as story told
In Balcony of Europe, the entire body of the novel (besides the correspondence) is the recollection of the protagonist it shares with Scenes, Dan Ruttle. It is only with Scenes that the threat of forgetting, that force which “remains the disturbing threat that lurks in the background of the phenomenology of memory”, [1] comes more to the fore and memory’s veracity is comprehensively interrogated. The “re-living” that takes place in recollection is obviously affected by the erosion that forgetting brings about, and thus as Dan examines his childhood experiences memory alone proves insufficient. Scenes presents the active struggle against forgetting, and memory’s ally in that struggle is the imagination, the role of which now comes to prominence in the consciousness of one’s past or, more precisely, of one’s past selves.

Whereas in Balcony we are simply immersed in the recollection itself, in Scenes we are directly presented with the activity of recollection. In the latter, Dan’s present consciousness (his remembering self) occasionally interjects into his reminiscences of childhood (remembered self). For instance, he recalls a trip to the circus and at the end of the memory singles out one particular performer: “The bare-back rider! the bare-back rider! Where would you find her equal in tights today?” [2] What is meant by the activity of recollection here should be stated at this point. Paul Ricoeur clarifies the notion succinctly:

remembering is not only welcoming, receiving an image of the past, it is also searching for it, “doing” something. The verb “to remember” stands in for the substantive “memory.” What the verb designates is the fact that memory is “exercised.” [3]

Hence at one point Ruttle struggles, “Unable to begin …” (SRP, 97), later, like Beckett’s Unnamable, he urges himself to “Go on” (SRP, 168, 184). These interruptions of the remembering self into the text contribute to the far greater sense in this novel that Dan is narrating, consciously struggling to fit a story together, something bolstered by the relative continuity and more linear structure of the work. By opening with Dan writing his name, and through the sustained focus on him as a creatively-minded youth, this sense is reinforced.

At one point the remembering self reflects on a river which dominates his childhood memories and classifies it as “[a]n old reality, a recurring dream” (SRP, 35). Reality, dream: placed side by side in this manner in relation to the past they inevitably suggest the dual nature of our negotiation with it through the combined forces of memory (with its truth claim to reality) and fantasy. What Scenes suggests is that their entanglement is so closely interwoven that they are ultimately inseparable. Dan’s chimerical nature truly comes to the fore in Scenes; we continually find him writing compositions deemed “[v]ery imaginative” (SRP, 15), whilst his propensity for daydreaming is such that he calls himself “the Garavogue dreamer” (SRP, 39). Whereas his inclination towards writing seems to wane as the text progresses, his susceptibility to flights of fancy has certainly not abated. The novel renders questionable any easy assumptions about the onset of maturity bringing a concomitant common sense and thus ensuring the subordination of imagination within a consciousness capable of clear delineation between fact and fiction. To illustrate this, let us take chapter XXII in Part II, when Dan is a young man. In it, he recalls following W.B. Yeats to the cinema. The believability of this improbable scenario will be stretched to breaking point on closer inspection. For, unusually, the chapter opening is quite specific as to chronology, “It was the dead part of that year” (SRP, 138, my emphasis). As no year is given in the chapter, this must therefore be a reference to the previous chapter which ended in 1945. Since Dan is clearly a fan of Yeats’s work (Balcony contains several quotes from his poems), knows his brother Jack B. Yeats by sight, and is knowledgeable about the deaths of other major Irish writers (SRP, 179–80), he must know his fellow Sligoman died in 1939. This then would therefore appear to be one of those instances in which “we believe that our own autobiographical memories are true even when we know from independent evidence that they are not.” [4] Dan is fond of this “memory” – in Balcony he brings it up with his friends the Baylesses as soon as the conversation turns to film. [5] Clearly a problem he identified in his youth has never been adequately resolved: “[m]y useless dreams adhere to me, fix me, I cannot escape” (SRP, 40–1). This exemplifies the constant danger of confusing memory and imagination due to the similarity of their operations; for what ultimately distinguishes the “re-living” of memory from our lives in “the gulf of dreams” (SRP, 52)? The problem is ultimately irresolvable since “we have nothing better than memory to guarantee that something has taken place before we call to mind a memory of it”. [6]

The chapters concerning the childhood of Dan’s wife, Olivia (when, suggestively, she was known by the boyish name of Billy Grieve), are obviously pertinent to a greater understanding of her underdeveloped character in Balcony, but is the author merely righting old wrongs or does this section have relevance within Scenes itself? They have certainly proved contentious: the novelist Dermot Healy, for instance, believes Scenes is “a flawed book, because of the Billy Grieve chapters”. [7] John O’Brien, in the only scholarly article devoted solely to this novel, is not as harsh as Healy, but is nevertheless obviously uncertain about the development:

Olivia now begins to dominate the book. Her past is recorded. Is this a mistake? Dan reconstructs her past even to the smallest details. The writing is as strong as ever, but whose past is this? Dan’s? Olivia’s? [8]

Dan makes no secret of the questionable nature of his construction of Olivia’s past, though he fails to mention the obvious role that his imagination plays: “From my own imperfect memory, from no notes, from distractions and places, from my love of her, from her own re-tellings, emerges this rigmarole: her past that is more real than my own” (SRP, 156). O’Brien’s puzzlement (whose past is this?) is wholly understandable. The account of her childhood is strewn with echoes of Dan’s. To take a minor but nonetheless telling example, Olivia gets her hair cut “at Woolf’s hairdressers” (SRP, 158) whilst Dan was a customer at Prost’s. The similarity between Prost and Proust in this context is tantalisingly close; however, a hinted connection is all we are allowed. It is symptomatic of the technique throughout chapter XXVI: parallels abound but defy easy identification, a definitive distinction between Dan’s imagination fuelled by his own past and Olivia’s actual past is impossible. [9]
The question remains whether this focus on Olivia is indeed a mistake. To answer this charge we must return to Dan’s assertion that Olivia’s past “is more real than [his] own” (SRP, 156). The significance of this oblique statement relates to his multiple past selves. The end of the novel’s first half is marked by its briefest chapter (XV); a short paragraph, it is entitled “The End of Innocence”. It pointedly concludes with images of decay: “The dying goldfish in the cloudy bowl, a dead rabbit in a snare set by me, the lifeless goldfish with its entrails out, hanging head-down” (SRP, 102). We are witnessing a metaphoric version of the death of his younger self. Entry into the novel’s second half is marked by a telling epigraph from Montaigne: “Thus do I dissolve and take leave of myself” (SRP, 104). Past selves are as remote and difficult to fathom as other people are, hence it is not only his parents and servants but also himself as a child that the title of the first chapter refers to; they are all equally “Distant Figures” (SRP, 11).

The central importance of the Billy Grieve chapters is the light they shed on Dan’s recollection; in his formation of a narrative of her past we can see how he has analogously come to terms with an equally remote Figure (his former self) in Part I, and infer the prominent role of imagination therein. In Balcony we saw Dan’s characterisation of others, but here we see his characterisation of himself, the building of his own identity. Just as he forms a narrative of Olivia’s past from disparate shards of information, he has accumulated and synthesised his own heterogeneous fragments (or diverse selves) into a coherent life-story. In Balcony Dan effortlessly re-lived his past selves, whereas in Scenes we see their re-creation: both novels, particularly the latter, point to the multiplicity of identities within each individual, and as Paul John Eakin observes, “[t]his experiential truth points to the fact that our sense of continuous identity is a fiction, the primary fiction of all self-narration”. [10]
What guarantees Dan’s sense of continuous identity is narrative. Characterisation, as a process taken alone, could simply lead to his characterising his multiple past selves individually – it is narrative that ensures he is the same person (or character) rather than a cast of characters. Towards the close of the novel, in a passage of paramount importance (to which we will need to return), this sentence appears: “Do as I tell you and you will find out my shape” (SRP, 200, my emphasis). The text addresses the reader (you) directly. This is not one of those instances, cited above, where Dan interrupts his recollection. Rather, here, it is the text, the narrative itself, that addresses the reader. This reading is supported by the reference to shape; what else but the narrative could be said to have shape? And yet what is the narrative but the formation of Dan’s identity (or character)? Ricoeur’s masterly study of “The Self and Narrative Identity” pithily explicates the novel’s profound insight regarding its protagonist:

The person [in this case, Dan], understood as a character in a story, is not an entity distinct from his or her “experiences.” Quite the opposite: the person shares the condition of dynamic identity peculiar to the story recounted. The narrative constructs the identity of the character, what can be called his or her narrative identity, in constructing that of the story told. It is the identity of the story that makes the identity of the character. [11]


Know thyself
The primary importance of the chapters centred on Olivia’s past is what they show the reader about Dan’s own past, but there is still something more to be learnt from them. Paul John Eakin notes of his own investigations that “pursuit of the origins of self […] has led us not inward, as one might expect, into some cul-de-sac of solipsism but always outward into a social dimension, to others”. [12]

In its final chapter, Dan and Olivia travel in a taxi side by side. They are about to embark for Europe and their marriage is disintegrating. A seemingly trivial anecdote Dan remembers about Olivia learning mathematics from Emmett (her dead brother) has greater resonances regarding the relational aspect within the novel: “You can take 1 away from 2 but where is it? […] it still exists somewhere in some form or other. (Nothing ever disappears …)” (SRP, 204). Dan’s life story is inextricably caught up in Olivia’s; in this sense she will never disappear for him even if they were to part. She will always be a principal character in his narrative. To return to the pivotal passage in which the reader is addressed, we can now see the truth of the observations that follow that first (my shape) sentence: “There are no pure substances in nature. Each is contained in each” (SRP, 200). Hence, watching another important woman in his life, his mother, on her deathbed in Balcony, Dan sorrowfully reflects that “[s]omething of me would die with her; I was watching part of my own death. It did not seem to belong to me, yet it was mine” (BOE, 60).

I would suggest that it is this very focus on the relational aspect of Dan’s life that has dismayed critics of Scenes. Dermot Healy never criticises the content of the Billy Grieve chapters and we can infer that it is their very inclusion (on principle) that earns his condemnation. Similarly, John O’Brien concedes that “the writing is as fine as ever” in them yet cannot help but wonder whether their very presence is “a mistake”. O’Brien, like most commentators, explicitly parallels the novel with Joyce’s A Portrait, drawing numerous comparisons between the Ruttles and the Dedaluses. Healy does not do so but it is not unlikely that his ire (and O’Brien’s doubt) originates in the subversion of the traditional Bildungsroman or Künstlerroman structure, A Portrait being the inevitable paradigm of that tradition for any Irish writer after Joyce. One of the main changes Joyce made in transforming the earlier Stephen Hero into A Portrait was to eliminate Stephen’s brother Maurice (based on Stanislaus Joyce) in order to increase his protagonist’s aloofness and alienation. In striking contrast, in Scenes, Dan’s brother Wally, a rather peripheral figure in the first part of Balcony, is one of the central characters.

The taciturn Wally suffers a nervous breakdown. The reasons for it are never explicitly mentioned, though the text does provide enough material to invite diagnoses. Wally’s childhood is unremarkable enough but secondary school is a turning point; he becomes alienated and it is in this period that he begins “retiring into silence” (SRP, 120). After the Ruttles have left school Dan reflects on his brother: “I had not for some years enjoyed much of his confidences; he had withdrawn into himself, kept his own counsel. Pared his nails” (SRP, 124). Dan’s recounting of Olivia’s past is based on her oral testimonies and this is made obvious by the fact that he reproduces several of her own phrases (e.g. SRP, 157, 159, 161) during the narrative. One needs to narrate one’s past in a social context as Olivia has done lest one becomes, like Dan’s father in Balcony, “inundated with the past, and no one to share it with” (BOE, 162). In fact, an inability to do so “inhibits a coherent sense of self”. [13] Eddie Finch, a colourful character from Balcony, who “had an importunate way of filling one up with his past” (BOE, 190), exemplifies this need. A converted Catholic, he regularly confesses but is often expelled by enraged priests who realise that he is not expressing contrition but using the sacrament as an outlet for the human need to relate one’s experiences. The profession of psychiatry is based upon the narrative impulse: together patient and analyst seek to construct a coherent story or case history. It is little wonder, then, that Wally is incarcerated in an institution, for he has destroyed the lines of communication with those around him; “Now that he wanted to speak, he found it was too late; he could not” (SRP, 127).

Scenes and Balcony show not only an awareness of the importance of the relational aspects of sharing one’s past but also of the need to internally build identity through self-narration (Scenes as a whole is a demonstration of Dan doing just that). Wally’s meticulous attention to his nails inevitably recalls Stephen Dedalus’ famous description of the artist in A Portrait, who “like the God of the creation, remains within or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails”. [14] It is not his art that Wally is detached from, however, but his own life. An antinomy is deliberately established between the Ruttle brothers. Whilst Wally excels academically at history, Dan leads the class in creative subjects like art and English. Dan as a child is an unfocused daydreamer. Wally is studious, scrupulous and obsessed with facts. His lack of imaginative power or creative impulses is manifested in his “meticulously accurate copy of Gainsborough’s Boy with the Rabbit. As a copy it was fair, as a painting dead” (SRP, 123). He is obsessed with arranging his life into a particular pattern, “any deviation from [which] would be intolerable to him” (SRP, 123). This consuming desire for order is epitomised by his constant record-keeping throughout his life. It is insufficient, however; he is merely a chronicler, rather than the author of his own past. The narrative function is necessary to order the mass of facts, and thus construct identity. As we saw earlier, “characters […] are themselves plots”. [15]

Wally’s utter lack of imagination (so necessary, as we saw with Dan, to identity formation) is one factor inhibiting him from applying the emplotment necessary to make his life meaningful. He suffers from what Eakin calls “dysnarrativia”. [16] Standing above or beyond the events of his own life (his handiwork), yet paradoxically within them since they are inescapably his, he can find nothing meaningful therein (he is indifferent to them); his past selves as remote from him as God from his creations. Hence, many of the diaries (and records) he kept as a youth are left behind when he goes into exile in a special room set aside for the purpose of storing them (BOE, 55), a mausoleum of former selves. The opening sentence of Higgins’ memoir Donkey’s Years: Memories of a Life as Story Told is suggestive regarding what Wally’s remembrance of his past may be lacking: “I am consumed by memories and they form the life of me; stories that make up my life and lend it whatever veracity and purpose it may have.” [17]
Wally’s inability to narrate is directly and inextricably tied to his failure to assess his past. This relationship between narration and assessment is mutual and overlapping: in psychiatry the patient examines (or assesses) his or her experiences and thus can form a narrative of them, or rather through constructing a narrative is forced to analyse the experiences that make up their story. It is insufficient to merely accumulate data (as Wally does); one must assess it: as Higgins put it forcefully elsewhere: “How many facts does a life story require? What is fact and what life story? No, it is not enough to live; you need to know as well.” [18]

Wally’s failure to self-examine (and thus failure to self-narrate) is epitomised by his attitude towards the boarding school he and Dan attended. He shows an inordinate and unreciprocated interest in the activities of his former classmates and, moreover, still subscribes to the college yearbook – facts which Dan, remembering the circumstances of their education and particularly Wally’s complete lack of friends, finds incomprehensible. We see little enough of Wally during the boarding school chapters (being older he was presumably in a different class than Dan), but considering his academic excellence, exemption from corporal punishment, and deep unpopularity on the sports field due to his idiosyncratic manner of playing cricket, it is not difficult to surmise that he would have been a primary target for the bullying which is rife in such institutions. Wally’s attachment to the school suggests a failure in the realm of self-analysis; Dan at least can classify that part of his past as “not a time I myself look back upon with any pleasure” (SRP, 132) and incorporate it into his story as such. That he cannot do the same is the crux of Wally’s dilemma:

If it is true that […] life cannot be understood other than through stories we tell about it, then we are led to say that a life examined, in the sense borrowed from Socrates [“know thyself”], is a life narrated. [19]

Phenomenology and form
When George Russell, AE, remarked of Yeats’s first volume of autobiography, covering the poet’s childhood, that the boy in it could as well have become a grocer as a poet, he did not mean this as a compliment. What makes Higgins’ autobiographical novel of formation so refreshingly different from others is his concern with the human need for self-narrative, rather than simply the artist’s evolution. Scenes, of course, recalls In Search of Lost Time in its depiction of a man striving to re-create his past, the crucial difference, of course, is that, pointedly, Dan never experiences a revelatory moment in which he decides to write his life story. It is this very fact that makes Scenes so unique amongst twentieth-century novels, particularly other self-reflexive works, and is the main source of its power. In this concern with the essential features of consciousness, shared by artists and grocers alike, Higgins shows the continued influence of the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl upon his fiction. [20] His novel seeks to capture reality rather than taking the seemingly radical but ultimately facile route of merely questioning representation.

Dan’s creative nature is continually stressed in Scenes. He is constantly writing in the book’s opening chapters, and this, taken together with his curiosity about language and some other unmistakable echoes of A Portrait, along with our foreknowledge that Dan has become an artist in Balcony, naturally lead one to assume that this novel is a Künstlerroman. That is, “the narrative account of the formation, development, education, psychology of an artist, as a special type of individual”. [21]

However, our beliefs about the novel’s genre are dissipated as the text proceeds. Dan’s main activity gradually changes from writing to masturbation. Moreover, the two activities are explicitly linked; he refers to his immersion in onanistic activity as the foundation of the “Hand and Flower Press” (SRP, 79). In this context writing, traditionally associated with paternity and virility (especially by Stephen Dedalus), is connected with sterility and a failure to create. Dan’s love of water (representative of life’s flux as against art’s stasis) is surely not insignificant considering Stephen’s intense fear of it.

The subversion of the Künstlerroman paradigm is most obvious in what the text does not contain: namely, the essential conversion scene in which the protagonist realises his vocation as artist. The two most obvious models for Scenes, In Search of Lost Time and A Portrait, “provide a specific scene of artistic awakening and self-analysis in an apparently accidental manner: the scene at the Guermantes matinee and the scene at the Bull, respectively”. [22] The failure of Scenes to provide a similar set piece has led Eve Patten to complain that “[i]n Higgins’s portrait of the artist, a mannered literary intensity never amounts to a credible aesthetic agenda”. [23] I would argue that this is deliberate; the author aims to depict the narrative (or creative) impulse within human consciousness generally and thus rejects the Künstlerroman with its portrayal of the artist “as a special type of individual”.

Since Higgins deliberately sabotages the artistic element we must be content to classify Scenes as a Bildungsroman, though it is radically divergent from those of his less experimental Irish contemporaries whose contributions to the genre form “a tradition which reinforces the cultural identification of self and nation”. [24] With Higgins, on the other hand, “the possibility of the author providing any kind of historical or social cipher is blown”. [25]

The problem that Patten has identified is best understood through Harold Bloom’s famous theory of the anxiety of influence. Stephen Dedalus, the representative of Higgins’ dominant precursor, Joyce, and of the Irish Artist, sets forth “to forge in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race”. [26] As many critics have argued, though he exalts art above all else he can still be read as “the embodiment of a social – and by extension national – personality”. [27] But Higgins rejects Joyce’s relentless focus on Ireland, specifically Dublin, for a wider canvas (London, Spain), though ultimately a more relentlessly inward gaze: “To appropriate the precursor’s landscape for himself, the ephebe must estrange it further from himself. To attain a self yet more inward than the precursor’s, the ephebe becomes necessarily more solipsistic.” [28] Dan simply cannot be identified with his society; faced with Joyce’s domination of Dublin (the difficulty of describing it in his wake), Higgins the ephebe helplessly evades the national question, (unconvincingly) affecting a sophisticated cosmopolitanism and rather desperately gesturing to a time “when Great Britain and Ireland were one with Europe in one great land mass”, “[w]hen you could walk from Sligo over to Paris, down to Vienna” (SRP, 56). The move away from Ireland in Balcony, and in Higgins’ fiction as a whole besides Langrishe, bespeaks more a failure to write meaningfully about his homeland than any genuine engagement with life in Europe. [29] The problematic question of conscience, with its religious and moral overtones, never arises. Moral, political and social questions (as well as aesthetic) are, to adopt Husserlian terminology, “bracketed” in this novel. In this impressionistic, fractured reverie on the continuous process of self-formation, Dan is simply never considered as a product of the greater forces beyond himself and his interrelationships with others – that is the price paid for the idealist turn Higgins’ work took with Balcony.

To conclude, let us return, for a third time, to that key passage in which the reader is addressed, specifically its final sentence: “A philosopher without any philosophy is retrieving an unidentified object from dark scummy water with a grappling hook” (SRP, 200). The sentence is ostensibly about a man doing just that, but in the context in which it is placed (directly after the advice to the reader) a more metaphoric reading seems justified. After all, is the entire novel not the process of retrieving an object (“shape”, or narrative) from the murky depths of the abyss of forgetting? Higgins’ self-reflexive fiction may be unavoidably solipsistic, but it does much more than just reflect the novelist and his art; for through its phenomenological focus it also illuminates that work in progress we are all engaged in: the Self. For better or for worse, Scenes from a Receding Past is truly self-centred.

1. Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting, trans. Kathleen Blarney & David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2004), p.412.
2. Aidan Higgins, Scenes from a Receding Past (Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press 2005) p.64. Henceforth cited parenthetically in the text as SRP.
3. Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting, p.56.
4. Rubin, David C., ed., Remembering Our Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1996), “Introduction”, p.4.
5. Aidan Higgins, Balcony of Europe (London: Calder & Boyars 1972), p.311. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text as BOE.
6. Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting, p.7.
7. Dermot Healy, ‘Towards Bornholm Night-Ferry and Texts for the Air: A Rereading of Aidan Higgins’, in Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 1983): 181–192; 190.
8. O’Brien, John. ‘Scenes from a Receding Past.’ Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 1983): 164–166; 165, my underlining. Neil Murphy, on the other hand, in his detailed discussion of Scenes, does not question or condemn the inclusion of these chapters; though he does unconvincingly claim of them that “through Olivia, the assumptions of traditional realism are exposed”, as part of a general attempt to dissociate Higgins from his narrow conception of the realist novel: see “Aidan Higgins,” Murphy, Neil. “Aidan Higgins.” Review of Contemporary Fiction (Fall 2003): 49–84; 65.
9. Other parallels include: Olivia’s mother’s excessive grief over the loss of her son, which inevitably recalls Dan’s mother’s relationship with his brother Wally; and the depiction of Olivia’s early life as fuelled by thoughts of escape (“one constantly delayed departure” (SRP, 166)), which seems more applicable to the young Dan and his thoughts that “the things of life seem far away and quite beyond my reach, not in the country at all perhaps, not in Ireland” (SRP, 39).
10. Paul John Eakin, Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1985), p.93.
11. Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, trans. Kathleen Blarney (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1992), p.147. “The Self and Narrative Identity” is the book’s sixth study.
12. Eakin, Fictions in Autobiography, p.209.
13. Rubin, Remembering Our Past, p.7.
14. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (London: Penguin 2000), p.233.
15. Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 143.
16. Paul John Eakin, How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1999), p.137.
17. Aidan Higgins, Donkey’s Years: Memories of a Life as Story Told (London: Secker & Warburg 1995), p.3.
18. Aidan Higgins, Dog Days: A Sequel to Donkey’s Years (London: Secker & Warburg 1998), p.104.
19. Paul Ricoeur, “Life: A Story in Search of a Narrator”, in A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination, ed. Mario J.Valdés (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf 1991), pp.425–437; p.435.
20. See my “Phenomenological Fiction: Aidan Higgins via Edmund Husserl”, in Irish University Review, 43, no. 2 (2013), pp.163–180 for a fuller discussion of this influence, especially on Balcony.
21. Evy Varsamopoulou, The Poetics of the Künstlerinroman and the Aesthetics of the Sublime (Aldershot: Ashgate 2002), p.xi.
22. Susan Nalbantian, Aesthetic Autobiography: From Life to Art in Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Anaïs Nin (London: Macmillan 1997), p.7.
23. Eve Patten, “‘Life Purified and Reprojected’: Autobiography and the Modern Irish Novel”, in Modern Irish Autobiography: Self, Nation and Society, ed. Liam Harte (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2004), pp.51–69; p.62.
24. Ibid., p.68.
25. Ibid., p.62.
26. Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist, p.276.
27. Patten, “‘Life Purified and Reprojected,’” p.58.
28. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press 1973), p.105.
29. The fact that much of the Spanish liberally strewn across Balcony is inaccurate, and that the novel is far more concerned with the expatriate community than with the native one, and indeed with America rather than with the political situation in Franco’s Spain at the time, supports this contention.

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