This new study asks how stories affect the way we think about time and, in particular, how they condition thinking about the future. Focusing on surprise and the unforeseeable, the book argues that stories are mechanisms that reconcile what is taking place with what will have been. This relation between the present and the future perfect offers a grammatical formula quite different from our default notions of narrative as recollection or recapitulation. It promises new understandings of the reading process within the strange logic of a future that is already complete. It also points beyond that to some of the key temporal concepts of our epoch: prediction and unpredictability, uncertainty, the event, the untimely and the messianic. The argument is worked out in new readings of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.
• An original discussion of the relation of time and narrative
• An important intervention in narratology
• A striking general argument about the workings of the mind
• Provides an overview of the question of surprise in philosophy and literature