Chance, Narrative, and the Logic of the Cold War

Steven Belletto

in No Accident, Comrade

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199826889
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932382 | DOI:
Chance, Narrative, and the Logic of the Cold War

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This chapter has two main goals: 1) to demonstrate that chance became a complex and politically-loaded cultural signifier because of the Cold War; and 2) to explain, in light of the first point, the problems that chance poses for fictional narratives. Through readings and discussions of influential authors such as novelist Jerzy Kosinski, sociologist Daniel Bell, and biologist Jacques Monod, the first part of the chapter explains how chance functioned in the Cold War as a signifier of “objective reality.” From there, the chapter looks at the problem of chance in narrative fiction: namely that any inclusion of a chance event—a car accident, for example—is always inherently disingenuous because it is in fact part of an author’s design. While fiction writers prior to the Cold War of course noticed this phenomenon, it was with the attachment of chance to “objective reality” and non-chance to “totalitarian regime” that it became a source of sustained interest. I discuss this interest, and the idea of “narrative chance” (chance that occurs in narrative fiction) as being distinct from “absolute chance” (chance events that occur in real life). As shown in the subsequent chapters, this distinction became crucial to many Cold War writers committed to anti-totalitarianism even as they criticized the realities behind claims of American democratic freedom.

Keywords: Marxism in popular culture; chance during the Cold War; chance and narrative theory; narrative chance

Chapter.  15905 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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