Getting it All in the Right Order: the Love Plot, Trauma and Ethical Uncertainty in Rachel Seiffert’s Afterwards

Andrew Monnickendam

Abstract

This article analyzes Seiffert’s Afterwards (2007), which, in marked contrast to her debut publication, The Dark Room (2001), has received scarce critical attention. Set in anodyne suburbia, Afterwards narrates the fate of two unglamorous ex-combatants and their trauma. Seiffert’s complex narrative binds together romance and PTSD in a double plot that intertwines the fate of a “squaddy” involved in a shooting incident in the Northern Ireland Troubles with that of a former RAF officer stationed in colonial Kenya. This article argues that beyond subjective issues of judgment, Seiffert shows an awareness that modern romance cannot combine with trauma, as the idea of healing is nonsensical in a world ruled by ethical uncertainty. Furthermore, Seiffert’s examination of trauma indicates that in fiction –as in life– author and reader have to confront questions of guilt, responsibility and the absence of forgiveness. Seiffert, drawing on ideas similar to Primo Levi’s, concludes the novel with the tragic irony that the more humane the perpetrator, the more distant closure becomes, leaving her main character locked in trauma and the reader ensnared in uncertainty.

Keywords

Fiction; War; Trauma; Love-plot



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2016.29.10