Times Online
September 1, 2007

Diary of a Bad Year

By J. M. Coetzee


THE ABILITY TO SAY two things simultaneously and be comprehended is unique to music and, therefore, to the human ear. That is a strict definition of counterpoint. To extend this principle to fiction, where a different sensory organ – the eye – is involved, is a radical act.

Take the 34th chapter of Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch in which two narratives alternate, one in the odd-numbered lines, the other in the even. Or Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, in which the poem, commentary and index demand to be read together in a constant shuffling between pages, their interaction a gradual enlightening.

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