When Gérard Genette drew the distinction between “voice” and “focus” in narrative, he pointed to two kinds of deviation from the monitoring of narrative details based on focalization. One is “paralepsis,” that is, giving the reader more information than is available to the focal character; the other is “paralipsis” – giving the reader less information than the focal character possesses. This paper suggests that the content of paralipsis – what the focal character knows but the reader is not told – is often the intentions and concrete plans of the focal character. The paper discusses the ending of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (1959) as a paradigmatic case: the precise intentions of Sydney Carton are not disclosed to the reader; the second reading is therefore qualitatively different from the first reading; and the intentions of the author (the implied author or even the historical author) for this temporary gap invite interpretation and raise the issue of the reasons and the causes for this feature of the narrative as a communicative act.
According to Vladimir Nabokov, exactness of detail in the composition and the reading of literary texts can yield “the sensual spark without which the book is dead”: one needs, for instance, to understand the topography of Mansfield Park in order to respond to Austen’s “stereographic charm.” Speaking after Stuart Gilbert’s chart of the episodes of Joyce’s Ulysses but before Gifford and Seidman’s maps in Ulysses Annotated, Nabokov protested against “the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings” and advised careful readers to “prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” Nabokov himself draws maps in his (posthumously published) lecture notes of the 1950s. This paper comments on the “stereographic” implications of his maps and then turns to Nabokov’s biography of Pushkin’s African great grandfather. Studying the possible origins of Abram Gannibal, Nabokov reads maps of Ethiopia. Though his essay is largely a matter of the critique of sources, the course of Ethiopian river-beds seems to give him “the sensual spark” which, despite his vexed insistence on the literal in Ulysses, follows Joyce’s novel in understated transmutation of stereographic detail into symbolism.