Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir=dark and sinister atmosphere

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 15 Dec 2003

I've stayed away from this rehash (always welcome, always welcome) of our foundational discussion.

However, this time I think I have it: noir has to be about characters, about what goes on in their minds; the protagonists of noir novels almost always face the void, either because they are on edge or because they are thrown into the void (I don't think I need to explain the void, since we are all adults here). By contrast, in much of hardboiled literature the protagonist may face the world, may face the cruelest and most corrupt enemies, individual or collective, but he does not face the void. The void can take many forms, of course, and those (unpredetermined) forms will not always be the same on the page as on screen.

In this scheme, Franz Kafka, Nathanael West and Charles Willeford would be quintessential noir; Hammett, Chandler and Leonard not at all. Hemingway sometimes, perhaps all the time depending on what one reads into him.

There, let's declare it done.

Best, and in case I don't return before Christmas, have a wonderful one and a great year 2004.


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