The landscape of trauma, pain and hope in Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse

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Abstract

Jim Crace likes to refer to himself as a “landscape writer” and indeed, in each of his eleven novels he has created a distinct yet recognizable imaginary landscape or cityscape. This has led critics to coin the term “Craceland” to describe the idiosyncratic milieux he creates, which, through his remarkably authentic and poetic rendering of geography and topography, appear to be both other and familiar at the same time. In The Pesthouse 2007, the milieu is the devastated America of an imagined future, a country which has deteriorated into a pre-modern and pre-industrial wasteland so hostile to sustainable existence that most of its inhabitants have become refugees travelling eastwards to sail to a new life on another continent. Franklin and Margaret, two such refugees, are leaving their homes not only to flee misery and destitution, but also the trauma and pain occasioned by the loss of their relatives. Using geocriticism as a practice and theoretical point of departure, this article presents and analyses the various ways in which Crace’s novel renders and explores its spaces, landscapes and places, as well as how it links them with the transformation of the protagonists’ psyches and mental worlds.

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