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A Short Introduction to Free Indirect Style

Free indirect style, alternatively known as free indirect speech or free indirect discourse, is a narrative style which requires some explanation and unpicking, since it is subtle and sometimes difficult to spot in a work of fiction. However, it is one of the most powerful tools a writer possesses, and has been used to great effect by writers as diverse as Jane Austen, James Joyce, and D. H. Lawrence.

What is free indirect style (free indirect speech/free indirect discourse)? Put simply, free indirect style is when the voice of a third-person narrator takes on the style and ‘voice’ of one of the characters within the story or novel. It is, if you will, as if a detached third-person narrator has begun to turn into a first-person narrator, i.e. one of the characters within the story (or novel). The objectivity and detachment we associate with third-person narrators dissolves into the subjective and personal style of a character. Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Read the rest of this entry


A Short Introduction to the Haiku

An overview of haiku as a poetic form

Many of the things we think we know about the Japanese poetic form of the haiku are inaccurate, if not downright incorrect. The common perception, or understanding, of haiku might be summarised as follows: ‘The haiku is a short Japanese poem containing 17 syllables, following a tradition, and a name, that remains unchanged after centuries.’ There are, however, several problems with such a definition of the haiku, which this short introduction aims to address and make clear.

Although the haiku as a verse form is centuries old, the word ‘haiku’ isn’t. Indeed, it was only surprisingly recently – as recently as the end of the nineteenth century, in fact – that people started referring to these miniature Japanese poems as haiku (never ‘haikus’: the plural is the same as the singular), when Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) began referring to them as haiku as opposed to the older term hokku. Read the rest of this entry

Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge: Notes Towards an Analysis

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses Rainer Maria Rilke’s innovative novel

Published in 1910, Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge is a rather experimental novel: a more or less plotless, meandering account of one man’s everyday experiences in Paris in the early twentieth century, interspersed with personal memories and reveries, which are often highly mysterious or only partly explained. The title The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge says it all: this is no novel in the conventional sense but rather fictionalised ‘notebooks’, diary entries, or journal fragments from one of the most innovative poets of the early twentieth century. Read the rest of this entry