Krakow Diary Day #17 (Wednesday Oct. 4): Novel vs. Non-Novel

We had another knock-out-drag-out fight last night – Katja, Erica, Nicolai and I – about the difference between fiction and non-fiction. (This was before we went to a horrible all-out-self-gratifying-middle-class-we- listen-to-jazz-mushy-New-Age-Wagnerian-concept-jazz-funk concert – see photo). Anyway, during this discussion, I claimed – rightly so – that non-fiction is superior to fiction because it shows the world as it is (give or take a little for perception and honesty of the writer), whereas fiction can say whatever the hell the writer feels like saying, and the more I know about writers, the less I feel like trusting what they have to say.

There was some disagreement. Erica said, "Yes, but fiction depicts what is inside us." She hasn’t heard yet that Freud has fallen into disfavor. (Erica is conflicted on this issue – she is writing the story of her family and is waffling between writing it as fiction and non-fiction. As a novel, she could more easily play with the chronology. I am trying to talk her into making it non-fiction, and I almost had her there when she discovered that I am thinking about writing as novel and now she doesn't believe anything I say anymore. I suspect it doesn't matter whether she writes is an autobiographical novel or a non-fiction memoir, it will be her second bestseller.)

But I ask: Why is it we are so fascinated with what we feel "inside" and are so disinterested in what's really going on in the world? If we're going to discuss the human condition, let's at least try top bring a minimum of objectivity – not to mention research – into it.

There's an old novel dictum that says, "A character (and a human being) is not what he says or feels, he is what he does." The same goes for the human race: We are what we do. If you want to know us, don’t listen to what we've been talking about for the last 2000 years, look at what we've done. If Hitler had ever written down his stream of consciousness, it would probably have made him look really good. No, this "fiction helps us learn who we are inside" stuff I don’t buy. Show me what we are on the outside first.

Needless to say, I was able to convince no one. So I immediately sat down and wrote this stream-of-consciousness blog. That'll show 'em.

Comments

kobus said…
i´m just a cute little post-"Hegelianer", but i assume that a possible dialectical solution for your problem might be: take a fictional lie for granted, as an authentic lie! and afterwards you may write a few non-fictional essays on the truth beyond it.

off to bed,
n.

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