Anachronism, Ekphrasis and the ‘Shape of Time’ in The Great Fire
Readers of Shirley Hazzard's fiction have long been familiar with the ways her densely allusive prose embeds her stories and her characters in European art and writing. While the plots of her novels follow the political and social dramas of the decades following the Second World War, their narrative detail is largely taken up with references to works of art and literature from centuries past, recalled, as it were, into the press of modem life. This signature practice—of combining the figures of an imagined present with the forms of an inherited past—constitutes a certain anachronism that underpins the structure and reach of Hazzard's novels. It signals an emphatic retention of European humanist values and forms across the sweeps of modernity that engulf and engage her protagonists, and marks with time the larger question of human volition in matters of fate and faith.
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