A WAR OF WORLDS IN A WORLD AT WAR: HISTORY AND MARGINALIZATION IN GRAHAM SWIFT’S NOVEL WISH YOU WERE HERE
In his 2011 novel, titled Wish You Were Here, contemporary British author Graham Swift abandons his usual depiction of world wars as silent witnesses of times gone by and of a more structured, if questionably nobler, British past. Wish You Were Here explores contemporary warfare, both literal and metaphorical, at the same depicting a nation crumbling into itself. In this novel – history, instead of providing a coveted sense of structure, ceases to matter. In a way, it is non-existent. The main characters inhabit the world of the here and now, a world at war in more ways than one. The centre and the periphery shift, and the margin stands within Britain itself. While outsiders are nothing but a faraway threat, other Britons are the ones the main protagonists, being of a rural background, have to look out for. In this sense, Wish You Were Here presents a shift in the binary power relationship. The main protagonists fall outside of the hegemonic power structure, and the marginality that marks their existence is one within familiar territory. Consequently, otherness is characterized by feelings of disunity with the nation, and the aforementioned shift of the periphery is twofold, the main protagonists being both dislocated and displaced. The British men in the story almost resemble subalterns whose stories need to be heard.