Spie a piè di pagina

La funzione narrativa del peritesto nel racconto “The Sorge Spy Ring” di Aleksandar Hemon


  • Enrico Davanzo




Aleksandar Hemon, Spy fiction, Peritext, Richard Sorge, Bosnian Americans


This essay aims to analyze the short story “The Sorge Spy Ring” (1996) by Bosnian American author Aleksandar Hemon, included in the collection The Question of Bruno (2000). The short story, constituted by two parallel narrative threads, exemplifies the idea of duplicity recurring in Hemon’s literary production. As in the main text an adult narrator recalls the traumatic materialization of his spy-related fantasies during his childhood in late 1970s Sarajevo, the historic vicissitudes of real-life secret agent Richard Sorge are progressively exposed through a complex system of footnotes.

The parallelisms between the two threads seem to give a metaphorical aura to Sorge’s character, who freely moves between rival nations, cultures and ideologies, almost becoming a symbol of a transnational migrant identity. Through the examination of the story’s particular structure, I intend to study how the footnotes and other peritextual elements become a sort of secondary narrative dimension. Hemon’s literary strategies will be compared to his biographical experiences as an immigrant writer, divided between the United States and the fragmentary post-Yugoslav context. I will base the analysis on the thoughts about peritext expressed by French critic Gérard Genette in his essay Seuils (1987), and on Linda Hutchinson’s reflections about the postmodern conception of History (A Poetics of Postmodernism, 1988). I will also compare the short story to the work of other writers whom Hemon has often been likened to, such as Vladimir Nabokov and Danilo Kiš.


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