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Muriel Spark, Existentialism and The Art of Death$
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Cairns Craig

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474447201

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474447201.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 05 August 2021



(p.124) Chapter 5 Repetition
Muriel Spark, Existentialism and The Art of Death

Cairns Craig

Edinburgh University Press

Spark’s The Only Problem recapitulates the sub-plot of Kierkegaard’s Repetition, in which a young man withdraws from society to study the Book of Job. Spark’s central character, Harvey Gotham, is writing a book about Job but finds that his life repeats aspects of Job’s when his wife is accused of being part of a terrorist organisation that police believe Harvey to be funding. Police interrogation becomes equivalent to Job’s confrontation with his ‘comforters’. Harvey, however, has discovered the image of his wife in a painting of Job’s wife completed hundreds of years previously, making repetition central to the structure of the novel. Spark regularly turns repetition into a formal principle that undermines temporal sequence by relating the same event or repeating the same words on a variety of occasions in her stories and novels. Thus her Symposium, with its discussion of the nature of modern love, recalls Plato’s Symposium, but is also a repetition of Kierkegaard’s restaging of Plato in his Stages on Life’s Way. It is a theme taken up in The Takeover, a novel which dramatizes the fact that it has become impossible to distinguish between the real and its many artful repetitions.

Keywords:   Kierkegaard, Job, Plato, repetition, terrorism, art, love, marriage

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