In the orthodox version of externally-narrated fiction, the questions, “who speaks,” “who writes,” and “who sees,” when directed toward the narrator or narrating agency, are non-productive ones from the perspective of the world that is narrated. To ask these questions would require moving from the world of the story and into the world of the author; or, at the very least, one would be required to make use of a critical construct such as that of the “implied author,” in order to transgress—albeit in fiction—the fictional frame.1 The purely external narrator speaks or writes from a perspective that is disengaged from any responsibility as an actor in the world, in order to become pure observer. The inability to assign a perspective to such a narrator while remaining solely within the frame of the work proper has long served as an index of the fictional.
Scheindlin, Noam, "The Observer in the Picture: Surface and Depth in a Passage from Proust" (2014). CUNY Academic Works.