A Prophet as Unreliable Narrator: Rewriting Arise Evans

Matthew Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The theme of the reliability or unreliability of narrative is important in both early modern and postmodern texts. The Welsh prophet and Royalist propagandist Arise Evans (1607 -?) is a prototypical unreliable narrator: his autobiographical writings contain many unbelievable events, including miracles and visions. Evans seeks to establish the reliability of his account by personal revelation and experience, by appeal to scriptural authority and by magical lore. Nevertheless, much of its attraction to a contemporary reader lies in the fragility of its narrative authority and the comic and imaginative possibilities this opens. This unconscious feature of the text can be compared to the deliberate narrative strategies of postmodern novels, such as Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. I am using Evans's story as the basis of a novel-in-progress, The Book of the Needle, employing him as an unreliable narrator like Nabokov's Charles Kinbote. Drawing on both postmodern and earlier metafiction, I am creating a fictive text by Evans on the subject of tailoring, which continually breaks down in the manner of Pale Fire or Tristram Shandy. This also gives me the opportunity to explore early modern textual conventions, and in so doing liberate my own writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
JournalNew Writing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 06 Aug 2010


  • Fiction
  • Writing
  • Metanarrative


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