Groundbreaking Author Ruminates On New Type of Fiction

Release Date: February 24, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In "Critifiction: Postmodern Essays," his new book from SUNY Press, writer Raymond Federman discusses a new type of fiction that arose 30 years ago in America, Latin America and Europe as a simultaneous response to the turmoil of the times.

Calling this new form "surfiction," Federman says it arose due to cultural, social and political conditions that have forced serious writers to reflect -- often within the work itself -- on the act of writing fiction in the modern world. In informal, provocative terms, "Critifiction" offers a manifesto for the present and future of the new fictional forms.

Federman is distinguished professor of English and comparative literatures and the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University at Buffalo. He is a bilingual novelist, poet, critic and translator who has published more than 20 books of fiction, poetry and criticism, and many essays and articles. His novels have been translated into a dozen languages.

Among his best-known works are "A Voice in the Closet"/"La voix dans le cabinet de débarras," a bilingual work of experimental writing based on the author's grim childhood experiences in occupied France, and "Double or Nothing," a challenge to the conventions of the novelistic form that was called by one critic "a dazzlingly inventive small masterpiece."

Also well-known are his novels "Smiles on Washington Square," which won the 1985 American Book Award, and "To Whom it May Concern," a novel in letters published in 1991, and several scholarly works on Samuel Beckett.

"My role as a writer," says Federman, "has been to clear the way, for those who write after us, of the imposture and pretentions of realism in fiction."

One of "those who write after us" is Mark Leyner, whose two comic novels, "Et Tu, Babe?" and the campy, cyberpunk "My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist," have earned him critical praise and a healthy readership as the college cult author of the 90s.

Leyner says, "I never had to go through (what) postmodernists like Ron Sukenick, Steve Katz and Ray Federman had to go through back in the '60s and '70s. I came from the fictional womb just as I am. The postmodernist battles had already been fought and won by them."

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