"Baker Street and Surroundings: The Criminal and the Detective."
By Franco Moretti (born 1950).
Book chapter from The Soul and the Harpy, 7 pages, 1983.
"Detective fiction must quell the fear that the criminal may remain unknown and therefore continue to circulate in society."A few excerpts:
"Detective fiction is rooted in a sacrificial rite."
"Murderer and victim meet in the locked room because fundamentally they are similar. In at least a third of Conan Doyle's stories, the criminal has been the victim of a preceding offence and vice versa. The victim, that is, has asked for it: because of his shady past and because he wanted to keep secrets, thus fending off society's 'assistance'; and finally because, exactly like the criminal, he is still devoted to the idea of individual property. Detective fiction origi-nates at the same time as the trusts, the big banks, and monopolies: mechanisms that make wealth impersonal and separate capital and capitalist. The victim, on the other hand, is still attached to his small capital, like the criminal who covets it. They are betrayed by economic independence. Detective fiction enacts the antithesis between life and property and between life and individuality: to have one, it is necessary to give up the other."
"Detective fiction owes its success to the fact that it teaches nothing."
"Reading Conan Doyle, however, one discovers that the criminals are never members of the bourgeoisie. Detective fiction separates individuality and bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is no longer the champion of risk, novelty and imbalance, but of prudence, conservation and stasis. The economic ideology of detective fiction rests entirely upon the idea that supply and demand tend quite naturally towards a perfect balance."
|". . . criminals are never members of the bourgeoisie."|
". . . the poor stepfather is a bit like the well-known 'uncle' evoked by early psychoanalysis: a mask for the father. Needless to say, Conan Doyle, unlike Freud, was not trying to make a sticky subject 'acceptable': had he suspected this, his pen would have frozen in his hand. . ."
". . . Holmes is not a policeman, but a decadent intellectual (as is blatantly obvious from his escapes into music and cocaine). He is the intellectual who is no longer a person but a product . . . in him, detection is disengaged from the purposes of the law. His is a purely cultural aim. It is preferable for a criminal to escape (as, in fact, happens) and the detection to be complete - rather than for him to be captured and the logical reconstruction be pre-empted."
|". . . a decadent intellectual . . ."|
Typo: "return to the beginnmg"
- A Wikipedia entry about the author is (HERE) and a New Yorker article about him is (HERE).