Mapping a Self, Mapping Absence in Sally-Ann Murray’s Small Moving Parts

  • JU Jacobs


The essay analyses the figurative mapping in Sally-Ann Murray’s first novel, Small Moving Parts (2009), which is a coming-of-age novel about the young Halley Murphy who grows up in the suburb of Umbilo in Durban in the 1960s. The essay begins by analysing the narrative topography of Durban in the 1960s in terms of J. Hillis Miller’s notion of “topotropography”, with special reference to what Miller calls “atopical” or unplaceable/unmappable places. Against the background of the main Western philosophical conceptions of the self, the essay then analyses the way Halley’s developing sense of herself is mapped in the narrative, and pursues the analogy between, on the one hand, the philosophical problem of a unified and diachronic sense of self that persists despite gaps in consciousness, and, on the other hand, the narrative paradox of a coherent narrative topography of the self being mapped despite zones of absence. Absences, losses and gaps – personal, social, historical and linguistic – are a distinctive feature of the narrative, and it is argued that in Small Moving Parts Murray has shown that the atopical is an inherent part of every life and of every act of figurative mapping.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X