Novelists, when writing in the first person, have various techniques to account for the existence of the document they present to the reader. One way is to grant the reader magical access to the protagonist’s mind and thought processes – to overhear him rattling along with his tale. Then there’s the epistolary novel, the journal – or a combination of the two – and the fictional memoir or apologia, such as this narrative.
Such tricks raise as many problems as they solve; often, it’s not believable that the narrator could deploy the tools and skills of a gifted novelist, such as concealment, timing and pacing, or the artfulness that makes a novel out of a narrative. Here the narrator, Schroder, is working on a mysterious document that ‘could someday help me in court’. It’s part confession, part plea of mitigation.
It’s clear that Erik Schroder is in big trouble, but what defendant would put pernickety footnotes in such a document? Why does Schroder embed a mini-lecture about the Berlin Wall in his testimony (‘A little German history, if you will.’)? Why is he instructing the reader how his name is