Raymond Chandler, a dazzling stylist and portrayer of American life, holds a unique place in literary history, straddling both pulp fiction and modernism. With The Big Sleep, published in 1939, he left an indelible imprint on the detective novel. Fredric Jameson offers an interpretation of Chandler's work based on reconstructing both the context in which it was written and the social world or totality it projects. Chandler's invariable setting, Los Angeles, appears both as a microcosm of the United States and a prefiguration of its future: a gigantic city built on deliberately ignoring nature, broken into a multitude of private worlds. But this essentially urban and spatial work seems also to be drawn towards a vacuum, an absence that is nothing other than death. With Chandler, the thriller genre becomes metaphysical.
FREDRIC JAMESON is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University. The author of numerous books, he has over the last three decades developed a richly nuanced vision of Western culture's relation to political economy. He was a recipient of the 2008 Holberg International Memorial Prize. He is the author of many books, including Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, The Cultural Turn, A Singular Modernity, The Modernist Papers, Archaeologies of the Future, Brecht and Method, Ideologies of Theory, Valences of the Dialectic, The Hegel Variations, Representing Capital, Antinomies of Realism and Ancients and Postmoderns.