‘I’ve asked a librarian who has assured me there will be novels in the library, up on the fourth floor. But it’s strange, this public dismissal of fiction. It feels like part of some more general diminution of the arts and humanities in our universities, part of the culture that focuses on the body, on sport, rather than the imagination, part of some vast movement of the zeitgeist under our feet, that mistrusts the imagination and what it might be capable of conceiving. Part of a new global politics.
But in the meantime, here we go, the writers of fiction, in our air machines, bobbing along, fifty feet above our country, looking down, seeing how it might have been, how it yet might be, making things up. Imagining.’ Fiona Farrell
An extract from a riveting must read/listen lecture with a link to the whole piece:
Fiction and Factions: the Political Novel in New Zealand
The brief was broad: around 40 minutes, talk about anything, whatever is on your mind. Well, what’s been on my mind lately is politics. And fiction. Last year I published a novel, my seventh. It’s routinely introduced at talks and festivals as ‘political’. The only one to be so labeled.
Now, from my point of view, everything I have ever written has been political. The fact that I can write at all – descendant of Irish famine refugees and dispossessed Highland crofters – that I have been delivered the necessary health and education and readers with money, inclination and time for books – has all been over to politics.
But why this book? What makes a work of the imagination ‘political’? Is it because it occupies the junction between fiction and journalism, fact and fantasy? Is it because references to political events or politicians are embedded in the narrative like hokey pokey in ice cream? Does it depend upon some notion of authorial intention, not simply to entertain but to critique the workings of power? Is it because the text suggests factional allegiance, to left or right? And can fiction that professes to be ‘not political’ drift free above the muddle of ideas, decisions, actions that we bundle together and label ‘Politics’? Or is the personal political, as Carol Hanisch and the 70s feminists insisted and is every novel, every one of our imaginings inescapably ‘political’? And as a novelist, is there something distinctive about writing ‘political fiction’?
Full lecture here at Academy of New Zealand Literature