Technique and Trauma in Post-9/11 Fiction

A Postmodernist Critique of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


  • Taj Nabi PhD Scholar, Department of English, IIU, Islamabad
  • Muhammad Kamal Khan Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics, AIOU, Islamabad


Techniques, Trauma Literature, Postmodern Critique, Post-9/11 Fiction.


The 9/11 attacks are turning point in history and the literature that appeared afterwards is considered as a new genre. Jonathan Safran Foer, in his Post-9/11 novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (EL&IC) has focused on September 11 as a traumatic event for its survivors. Therefore, in order to make the psychological trauma of the attacks presentable, the author like other postmodern fiction writers has challenged the established literary conventions by undermining the traditional pecking order of discourse for rendering the devastation of the attacks into narration. For this purpose, Foer employs a number of creative and artistic techniques and other modes of communication in the novel, especially when language fails to fathom the depth of trauma. It is with the help of these techniques that the author has generalized trauma beyond cultural and political differences as its effects remain the same for the victims. The novel has also discussed almost all of the major traumatic events of 20th century in the post-9/11 scenario representing the silent ordeal of suffering and after-effects on the survivors (WW-II, Holocaust, Hiroshima, and 9/11). Moreover, as a postmodern writer, for Foer too, nothing is outside of the text as he incorporated almost everything in the novel that he exposed to in the 21st century media saturated world with virtual realities: visiting cards, images, emails, letters, newspaper cuttings, blank pages, shaded pages, pages with single words, pages with single sentence, pages with name of colours and signatures, highlighting mistakes with red colors, writing digits and transcription of telephone calls/messages, fragmented/dialogic text, multiple narratives/perspectives, temporal distortion, inter-texuality, rewinding action through images, certain words were italicized others capitalized, unusual spaces were left among the sentences, frequent questions were asked and a number of dialogues were made in the unconventional form in the narration etc.  Foer in EL&IC also makes an attempt to represent and record the traumatic history, which is commonly considered as inaccessible and un-presentable. Thus at times it also seems as if the whole text of the novel is suffering from trauma. This research makes a critique of the creative, artistic and postmodern elements/techniques of the novel, which are deliberately used for capturing the effects and after-effects of trauma on the survivors of September 11 attacks. The research also shows that the psychological scars of the survivors are slowly opening up in the after-days of the tragic event(s). However, the psychological injuries could not be healed the way physical injuries are healed as the process of its recovery is very slow and painful not only for the victim survivors as in case Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old protagonist of the novel but also for the entire family.