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Kahane, C. (2012). On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2007, 203 pp.. Fort Da, 18(1):88-100.

(2012). Fort Da, 18(1):88-100

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2007, 203 pp.

Review by:
Claire Kahane, Ph.D.

Bad Timing: The Problematics of Intimacy in on Chesil Beach

Hans Loewald (1980) once noted that in psychoanalysis temporality involves a reciprocal relationship between past, present, and future. This reciprocity, which undermines the more conventional linear notion of time as a continuum moving in succession from past through present to future, is as characteristic of modern fiction as it is of psychoanalysis. It certainly characterizes time in the fiction of Ian McEwan, which often foregrounds the protagonist's relation to temporality as a major theme. More particularly, McEwan exploits psychoanalytic understandings of the effects of trauma on time by representing the ways in which temporal relations are disrupted and perverted by traumatic contingencies. Consider, for example, The Child in Time, Enduring Love, and Saturday: each is structured by the complex temporality of what Freud called Nachträglichkeit (initially translated as “deferred action,” but more recently by the Laplanche-inspired neologism, the nominative “afterward”), in which a traumatic event in present time compels a character's obsessional return to a past enigmatic moment that itself becomes traumatic by being understood retrospectively through this linkage, forming a kind of perverse temporal knot of reciprocal relations that shapes the character's future. In this sense, timing is all.

On Chesil Beach takes the question of time and timing very literally, concretizing that concern in the novel's very structure as well as central action.

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