Literary London Reading Group

Tom McCarthy’s Remainder (2005) and the Anxiety of Realism

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Tom McCarthy’s début novel Remainder, first published in 2005, turns London into a stage of sorts and thus re-enacts — albeit comically, anxiously — Shakespeare’s famous words in As You Like It: ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.’ The novel’s unnamed narrator is one such man. And by reducing his life to a series of reenactments, each one more complex than the one before, he builds a beautiful and messy web of theory and anxiety which is left to the reader to untangle — or perish in its endlessness. Remainder is a novel that ends on a loop and offers no resolution, no closure whatsoever. It just abandons us to our own contemporary and literary anxieties, almost cruelly so, with a blueprint of a stage in hands and a hopeful quote by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: ‘Anxiety,’ says Kierkegaard, ‘is the dizziness of freedom.’

A warm summer afternoon in Tübingen presents us with the perfect opportunity to tackle the question of anxiety, literary or otherwise, and to discuss: what is this novel trying to deconstruct? Why is it set in London of all places? Why doesn’t the narrator have a name? What does it say about “normalcy” and our hipster fetishisation of “authenticity”? Can our senses of reality and identity be tempered with by external agents? Is history repeating itself as a farce? Is this real life?

About the Speaker

Caio Yurgel holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. He is the recipient of the Mario Pedrosa Award for his research on Walter Benjamin (2010). He is also an award-winning fiction writer. He is currently a postdoc fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong within the DAAD-funded thematic network “Principles of Cultural Dynamics” (2017), where he is conducting research for a book project on 20th-century literature called “After the Apocalypse: A Latin-American Survival Guide.”


If you’re not familiar with the novel, please read Chapter 1,4, and 8. You may find the reading here:

Or at Brechtbau, in front of room 462a.

Caio also recommends watching Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York (2008).


The reading group is free and open to all. We look forward to seeing you in July!

This session will take place on Thursday, 6 July from 6.00-8-.00 pm at Brechtbau, Tübingen (Germany), Room 107.


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This entry was posted on June 12, 2017 by .
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