Spoiling suspense? Anticipatory structures as creative narrative devices in Tabish Khair’s diasporic fiction
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Narrative texts often aim to generate suspense, or similar type of involvement, in order to enhance plot developments through the delay or withdrawal of explicit information, or the use of unreliable characters. There are also cases, however, in which the flow of narrative progression is deliberately broken and punctuated by anticipatory elements that introduce, hint at or suggest future events, situations, and characters. My aim in this paper is to examine how a wide range of proleptic, cataphoric and other elements can function as creative anticipatory structures for the construction of fictional discourse, and I will focus on a recent diasporic novel, How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position by Tabish Khair (2012), which extensively, almost obsessively, employs such devices. Functioning as clues that intersect narratorial levels and call for attention paradoxically à rebours, anticipatory structures are often realised via the use of different items such as mental process verbs, deictic shifts and split selves. The textual effects they generate significantly contribute to the presentation of the narrator’s point of view, but also allow the author to address loaded questions, for example the ideological mixing of the ‘threat’ and the ‘token’ of otherness in our anxious postmodern age. From a methodological point of view, I will adopt and adapt a range of different tools from the fields of postcolonial studies, stylistics, narratology and pragmatics to investigate Khair’s novel.