Fear in Fearn: Place and Imagination in Michel Faber's Ross-shire Fiction

Kristin Lindfield-Ott

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Abstract

A number of Michel Faber's genre-defying works are set in and around his home on the Fearn Peninsula in Easter Ross. While largely geographically accurate, the towns, roads and landscapes depicted in the novel Under the Skin and in his short stories evoke both a sense of reality and an uncanny otherworldliness in the reader. Faber's keen eye for detail and his careful use of language complement the precise geography of his works, and the themes running throughout his Ross-shire works – isolation, otherness, what it means to be human – are indicative of Faber's reluctance to fit into established notions of genre. While his 2002 novel The Crimson Petal and the White has been explored by neo-Victorian critics, and while scholars have engaged with Under the Skin (2000) to explore animal-human relationships, this article is the first to engage critically with his Scottish works and their connection with geography and identity.1 With nods to geocriticism and psychogeography, this article explores Faber's engagement with space and landscape as more than setting: the realism inherent in his physical descriptions adds realism to his supernatural, animal and incomer plots. As we will see, in Under the Skin and the Ross-shire short stories from Some Rain Must Fall (1998) and The Fahrenheit Twins (2005), Easter Ross and its arterial road, the A9, play an active role. The landscape, settlements and landmarks reflect the precision of Faber's language, juxtapose the characters’ states of mind, and anticipate the plot. Indeed, his settings function as characters in all works examined here, though the extent varies. As such, this article constructs a geo-literary map of Easter Ross that is both literal and figurative, drawn from careful close-readings of the texts themselves.2 For Faber, ‘place’ is both an imagined space and an imaginative rendering of actual space, encountered by his alien narrator (Under the Skin) and a succession of outsiders and incomers in his short stories
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-84
Number of pages20
JournalNorthern Scotland
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2016

Keywords

  • Michel Faber
  • Fearn
  • Easter Ross
  • geocriticism
  • literary criticism

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