In Hanya Yanagihara’s “Little Life”, the narration toggles between the four protagonists. When it focuses on either of them, his name is usually mentioned once and then consecutively omitted and replaced by the pronouns “he”, “his”, and “him”, thus giving the impression that the person is (right next to) the narrator. It works wonderfully in this novel (even though sometimes these pronouns clash with pronouns referring to other male characters, but then they are sometimes disamibugated e.g. “his” is replaced with “his own”).
Is this convention common in English-language literature?
Andy had been looking down at his ankle as he spoke, using tweezers to pick out shreds of dead flesh from a wound he’d developed, when he suddenly froze, and even without seeing Andy’s face, he could tell he was chagrined. “I’m sorry, Jude,” he said, looking up, still cupping his foot in his hand. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you differently.” And when he couldn’t answer, he sighed. “You’re upset.”
Logically I think the only “he” referring to Jude is the one in “when he couldn’t answer”. Technically his name is mentioned right before (though not by the narrator), but that is not always the case in this novel.