Publication Details

McKinnon, C. (2015). Translit as thought-events: Cloud Atlas and Storyland. In G. Pittaway, A. Lodge and L. Smithies (Eds.), The Minding The Gap: Writing Across Thresholds And Fault Lines Papers – The Refereed Proceedings Of The 19th Conference Of The Australasian Association Of Writing Programs, 2014, Wellington NZ (pp. 1-26). Australia: Australian Association of Writing Programs.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Australian Association of Writing Programs

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780980757385


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in (and publication of) multi-narration novels that surf time, genre hop and shift geographical location. In 2012, novelist and critic, Dougles Coupland, coined the term 'translit' to describe such novels (11). If we accept Couopland's term, david Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (2003), Steve Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming (2009), Jennette Winterson's The Stone Gods (2007), and Michael Cunningham's, the Hours (1998) and Specimen Day (2005), might all be called translit, so too Virginia Woolf's not so recent Orlando (1928). By choosing to travel across time, space and genre boundaries, what might a translit author be attempting to do? what might such a novel offer the reader? Through an analysis of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and by comparison with my own creative work, a novel Storyland (unpubl.), this paper argues that throught multiple narrations and space-tinme leaps a translit novel might be what Hannah Arendt call a 'thought-event' (1961 : 10). Thought-events are defined by Arendt as a particular kind of thinking or writing that defies traditional currents of thought in response to unique cultural and political circumstances (3-15). In order to make my arguments I consider the ways temporality and multiplicity interact in two translit novels, and examine how a narrative schema, that juxtaposes an uncertain present with the imagined future and the historical past, might hitch singularity with collectivey to offer a difference way of paying attention to the world and to the construction of our individual and cultural identity.