Novels Divided in Three Parts

I just finished Charles Fleming’s After Havana from Picador. It’s set in Cuba before the fall of Batista; I’ll get a full review on Friday because, as we all know, it’s bad luck to review on Wednesday.

“Tota Gallia im tres partes divisa est.” It’s a great opening line to Caesar’s Conquests subtitled I need more money if we’re going to subjugate these people. Back in Rome the talking heads were squabbling about the necessity for vanquishing the Gauls; after all, the Romans didn’t need Gaul. Caesar held the office of dictator, a job created to facilitate decision making as the days of the Republic waned. The opening line means that Gaul is divided into three parts; it isn’t clear if Julius was info-dumping or setting the stage for funding increases.

Novels are divided into three parts as well. Post-modern efforts have blurred the classic dimensions of beginning, middle, and end into something resembling all three. Let’s say if Caesar had been a postmodernist his invasion of Gaul might’ve been a dream sequence or an existentialist comtemplation…”the woods, the woods, so different yet so much the same.”

Julius knew his audience. A paean to the trees would’ve been savagely critiqued, poorly received, subjected to scorn and ridicule. Even the French…the object of his conquest…have downgraded Sartre in their Pantheon of philosophers. Jean-Paul failed to make their Top One Hundred list. That’s the door slamming closed on decades of languid prose, striking poses, dark distractions. Like the inventor of the mood ring, his genius is now reviled in the cold light of history. The novel can once again be divided into three parts…