What does it matter who speaks?" asks Samuel Beckett via Michel.
asks the burned Englishman in Michael Ondaatje's novel The English.
Patient, in response to Caravaggio's attempts to reveal his past.
as the cartographer/spy Alma sy. Both questions are germane to.
a central tension in the novel: What are the implications (for.
texts) of an absent/anonymous narrative creator? In this novel,.
the issue of "who speaks" is not an innocent one. The English.
patient would like, for various reasons, to absolve himself of.
authorial responsibility for his narrative. The most apparent.
of these reasons is certainly to avoid the repercussions of his.
being identified as Alma sy. Yet the "black body" of this "despairing.
saint" gives no clue to his identity, and therefore to the "origin".
of the discourse of which he is the source. He is an unreadable.
enigma, with "all identification consumed in a fire" (3), whom.
the inhabitants of the villa must nonetheless translate into.
their own narratives. .
This absence of locating identification poses a problem for anyone.
who seeks to "read" the English patient in the terms of what.
Foucault names in his essay the "Author Function," which (among.
other things) demands that we name the writer in order to understand.
the text. An anonymous narrative is problematic, since it stands.
outside the framing operation which for the modern reader provides.
a comfortable (if voyeuristic) view into the mind of the writer.
According to Foucault, however, the operation of author construction.
also serves to limit/constrict/confine the discourse which it.
frames. In various ways, then, Ondaatje's novel offers the reader.
an enigma who is filing for divorce from his narrative, yet cannot.
leave the uneasy relationship behind. .
Why should a discourse become confined, limited, or otherwise.
handicapped by the Author Function? According to Foucault, the.
need to inscribe texts with the name of an author derives from.
a particular set of historical and cultural circumstances, variously.