Simulations, Narrativity and (Post)Modern Historiography: Patterns of Ambivalence in Daniel Silva’s The Unlikely Spy


Muhammad Furqan Tanvir
Waseem Anwar
Amra Raza


This paper aims at locating complex patterns of ambivalence in the narratology of Daniel Silva’s Second World War thriller, The Unlikely Spy, published in 1996, by contending that it recreates a historically justifiable picture of the 1940s in a manner that highlights the typical historicist episteme of the 1990s. This is because its plot retains an apparent structural wholeness as far as the atmospheric evocation through archival research is concerned in spite of the fact that its narratorial focus is informed by characteristic postulates of postmodernist historiography. The argument's theoretical exposition of the latter depends, through an emphasis on notions of simulations, evasions and self-deconstruction, on Jean Baudrillard's proclamation that history’ is no longer possible. The paper employs techniques of qualitative discourse analysis for studying the novel’s narratological patterns and historicist constructs. It shall be seen how, along with narrativity that combines motifs of linearity and temporal-spatial chaos, the text philosophically problematizes the ‘reality’ of the War through an ambivalent intermingling of confrontation and evasion by metonymically representing the entire War-dynamic – completely dispensing with any first-hand account of the uniformed soldiers’ battlefield – in devious circles of executive offices and spies stalking the streets during the blackout. It is further contended that the novel’s historicist vision draws attention to, and even symbolically represents, the ambivalent nature of the relationship between modernism and postmodernism.