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'A Riddlewrapped In A Mystery Inside An Enigma'? On The Literary Form Of The Prison Notebooks

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Chapter Summary

Anderson's preliminary cautions regarding the difficulties of reading the Prison Notebooks are in this sense representative of the most attentive and honest approaches to Antonio Gramsci's admittedly difficult and unusual work. The first assumption is undeniable: Gramsci suffered 'the normal fate of original theorists', as Anderson himself phrased it. Gramsci provides a clear if complex Ariadne's thread for the attentive reader to follow his discussions of state theory. Anderson's second assumption, namely, that Gramsci adopted a code language in order to evade the scrutiny of the censors, would seem to be upon safer ground. Anderson's third and fourth assumptions-namely, that there was a 'hidden order' that could be reconstructed to reveal that which Gramsci really intended to say, but which could only be discerned in the form of 'hieroglyphs' due to the fragmentary and incomplete nature of the text-call for considerations of another order.

Keywords: Antonio Gramsci; Ariadne's thread; Perry Anderson; Prison Notebooks

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