«We accept the reality of the world with which we're presented»: The Truman Show Effect

  • Biancamaria Rizzardi Università di Pisa, Dipartimento di Filologia, Letteratura e Linguistica
Keywords: Julian Barnes, Peer Carey, Model town, Non-places, Supermodernity, Simulacra


«Fantasy is like jam: you have to spread it on a solid slice of bread»: this observation by Italo Calvino is perfectly in line with all those narratives that are based on the construction of imaginary worlds, nonexistent or invisible cities, landscape dreams, and simulacra.

In this regard, a short story by the Australian writer Peter Carey, American Dreams (1974), and Julian Barnes’s novel England, England, (1998) seem extremely interesting. In both texts, it is a question of being able to invent lies capable of convincing readers, of substituting real places with false but plausible and narratively credible spaces.

In the first case, the story showcases a point of conjunction between postmodern and postcolonial views thanks to Carey’s way of dealing with the theme of simulation. The text presents two dimensions of simulation: a postmodern field of simulacra in which all meaning implodes and about which nothing can be done, and a postcolonial field of representation in which simulation and performativity become the strategies of a cultural struggle.

In the second case, the protagonist's theme park aims to encompass all the life-size tourist and cultural attractions across England, appropriately selected through a survey. This is not a miniature England, therefore, but an "England, England", a replica truer than the truth to the point of replacing the original, which is doomed to an irreversible decline, in a perfect depiction of the supermodernity theorised by Augè. Both the theme park and the model town reproduce the ideal space of those who, too accustomed to images, no longer know how to appreciate reality or, differently put, the postmodern world, reduced to a succession of empty images, entirely spectacularised. It is a world where things happen as in a dream. We could call this situation the Truman Show effect, referring to the famous 1998 film by Australian director Peter Weir.


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How to Cite
Rizzardi, B. (2022). «We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented»: The Truman Show Effect. Between, 12(24), 423-439. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/5135