Novels, Truth, Flanagan and Fidler
Every weekeday at 11am Richard Fidler's radio program is aired. It is called Conversations and, as the name suggests, is a conversation between Richard and his guest. There is a new guest each day. Some days the names are well known and the voices are recognisable. Other days the names are unknown and voices are new but the conversations are always captivating, compelling and thought-provoking. Richard is a wonderful interviewer. He draws the most interesting stories out of his guests. He asks great questions, doesn't impose himself on their tale and gives them just the right amount of space to speak before drawing them back to the central narrative. I enjoy listening to them as much as to figure out the craft and the structure of the show as to listen to the conversations themselves.
On the show that aired yesterday (October 16 2017) Richard was speaking with Richard Flanagan. It was part of a promotional tour for RF's new book First Person. First Person is a novel but it draws on RF's experience as a ghost writer. I was struck by so many of the things RF said that I listened to the podcast of the show today so that I could listen to it again and transcribe some of it. This isn't the full transcript but it is the snatches that spoke most clearly to me. These are the thoughts and words I want to remember and to be able to refer to again so I am putting them here in my Duyvken catchall.
Perhaps, dear Reader, they'll be words that speak to you too. Novels are precious and important things. I read a lot because I want to experience worlds outside my own, to be part of the stories of others imaginings, to not just to seek the answers but to live the questions.
Richard Flanagan, Australian author, on Conversations with Richard Fidler, ABC Radio 16/10/17.
"Gabriel Garcia Marquez said 'everyone has a public life, a private life and a secret life' and I think that private life and secret life are very important to us. It is because, contained within them, are the many strange aspects of our soul that are not reducible to one identity. Novels particularly are something we go to because they remind us that, implicit in each of us, are a universe of possibilities; some better some worse, all love, all hate, the lover, the murderer, etc. And I think that reading, in this age when privacy is so under attack, remains a deeply private act. I think it's become, in a strange way, a private act. Books have become a new counter-culture.
I thought a novel was the place to begin to try to understand some of these things because a novel, and this is the second aspect that I saw more and more reflected in the present times, is that truth's come under attack. People have always lied in public life but now the lies have a new purpose and that is to deny the very concept of the truth. We've seen the idea of objective truth being daily corroded. If, in the end, there is no objective truth and there is only opinion then the most powerful will tel us what the world is and we'll have to agree with it because we'll no longer have the power to say what it really is.That to me is very frightening. It is said now that reality have out-stripped fiction and that fiction can't deal with this new reality but that's not so. It's untruth that has out-stripped truth and more than ever we need to rediscover what the truth is, we need to honour it. I genuinely believe that the novel is one of the great spiritual, intellectual and aesthetic traditions and at it's best it speaks to fundamental truths about the human condition. It's not that it has answers but , at it's best it asks the necessary questions we need to ask about ourselves and about our times.
The great changes that took place in our world was greased by this strange solipsism that ecouraged everyone to find the answer not within society or within community but within themselves. That took every kind of madness from bikram yoga to paleo diets but perhaps the answer is, or whatever the answer is, it exists in others and that's what the book arrives at."