Marion Halligan on fact, fiction and character
More on playing with that line between fact and fiction… One of my favourite writers – though I have nowhere near read all her works – is Marion Halligan, who also happens to be local to my town. Halligan has been shortlisted for and/or won several signifcant Australian literary awards but I’d be surprised if many readers overseas had ever heard of her. A particularly beautiful novel of hers is The fog garden (2002) which she wrote after her husband’s death. It’s about love and grief (reminding me of Joan Didion‘s non-fiction work, The year of magical thinking which was published in 2005), but it also explores the nature of fiction, and the relationship between life and art.
And so, here she is introducing the heroine:
She isn’t me. She is a character in fiction. And like such characters she makes her way through the real world which her author invents for her. She tells the truth as she sees it, but may not always be right.
And here she is, the next page, on keeping your character honest:
A reader could think that, since Clare is my character, I can make all sorts of things happen to her that I can’t make happen to myself. This is slightly true, but not entirely … only if it is not betraying the truths of her life as I have imagined them.
Some readers may not like this sort of self-conscious writing but I often enjoy it … I like the recognition that we are, writer and reader, meeting in a very particular space, that of art (or is it artifice!). I like it that Halligan is here writing fiction inspired by a very personal experience and tackling head on the questions her readers will raise … playing with us, teasing us even, but also teaching us about the nature of fiction.