Autobiographical Existentialism in Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song

This essay investigates how Norman Mailer’s “true-life” novel The Executioner’s Song may also be read as an autobiography. The novel contains strong traces of Mailer’s existential philosophy as related to sexuality, non-conformity and death. The essay discusses the nature of the relationship between truth as defined by the author and the function of autobiography to tell the truth about a life. The discussion centres around Mailer’s conviction that the novel is a better, i.e. more accurate vehicle for truth than is the autobiography. The essay argues that the truth which Mailer imparts is less the “true” story of Gary Gilmore and more the “true” story of Norman Mailer.

Author: Ola Jonsson

Source: Blekinge Institute of Technology

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