Hollow auguries
Eccentric genealogies in The Folding Star and The Spell
in Alan Hollinghurst
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The use of genealogies in Hollinghurst’s narratives evokes the influence of the past on his characters, and proposes an explanation of their actions. But Hollinghurst’s genealogical stories are paradoxical and eccentric. They evoke origins in order to reject them. In The Folding Star the search for origins, or any reliance on their claim to be explanatory, becomes a wild goose chase. In The Spell the characters cling to their histories, yet they need to let them go. The necessity, shown in both novels, is fraught because what must be rejected is the gay genealogy of the present. The gay present consequently faces a future unmoored from its past. Hollinghurst’s work is caught up in a conflict similar to his characters.’ His novels evoke the influence of A. E. Housman, Ronald Firbank, Thomas Hardy, and Gordon Bottomley—an eccentric grouping of modernist era writers. They constitute a genealogical origin and explanation of Hollinghurst’s place in literary history. Yet the content or the form of the work of those authors implies the need for dissociation from generative origins. They are hollow auguries of what is to come. It is the hollowness of history that genealogies in Hollinghurst’s novels emphasize most.

Alan Hollinghurst

Writing under the influence

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