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Historiographic Metafictional Portraits of Twentieth Century Scientists in Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World
The paper critically analyses Benjamín Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World (2020) as a work of Historiographic Metafiction aiming to undermine the authority and veracity of scientific discourses hailing the individuals featured in the novel as men possessing an unparalleled genius unattainable for normal human beings, along with heaping praise on the scientific achievements. Labatut brings out their humanness, pulling no punches in his prose. Not stopping at that, he sheds light on the sinister side of scientific advancement, exposing all that these geniuses, knowingly or unknowingly, unleashed upon the world, the terrible price that science exacted from them. With some of the most significant leaps in the fields of science during the twentieth century at its nucleus, the novel views them from the atomic orbits around the nucleus. These individuals revolve like electrons around the nucleus of science. As the distance between the nucleus and the electron decreases, escaping the nucleus becomes harder and harder. The novel is structured similar to the concentric circles of an atom, with reality becoming more and more uncertain as one reaches deeper. The nucleus eventually proves to be Schwarzchild’s singularity, an abyss impossible to escape. Labatut exposes science to be a god less benevolent and infallible than it appears to be, making his work relative in the present context of a global pandemic.
Dr. Aamer Shaheen
Assistant Professor, Department of English Literature, Government College University, Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan
BS (Hons), Department of English Literature, Government College University, Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan
Lecturer, Department of English Literature, Government College University, Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan
Benjamin Labatut, Historiographic Metafiction, Postmodernism, Science, When We Cease to Understand the World