As elsewhere this weekend the political is explored as the personal and the ways in which we make sense of the world and seek to make it better were explored by Julie Hill in conversation with Brannavan Gnanalingam, Pip Adam and Rajorshi Chakraborti.
I left the sessions on Alt America and The House of Islam with nagging questions about the ways that the politics of the world and the fictions of fascist and radical propaganda are impacting on individuals, and the way that personal fear is driving people towards destructive ideologies. I’ll not go so far as to say I found the answer to all those questions in this session, but the work of the authors here felt like a powerful example of the way that humanity can respond with empathy and thoughtful care, even in the face of terror and misinformation.
There was an echo of the discussion between Kate De Goldi and Charlotte Grimshaw in I and I and I here of the exploration of the ideas of truth and self in Grimshaw’s Mazarine, which looked at the microcosm of the family, truthfulness, communication and power, alongside the macrocosm of the world of “fake news” and a rising tide of facism.
Grimshaw discussed the experience of growing up with a father who wrote, and seeing the events of their lives fictionalised over and over again, and through her protagonist (an author herself) raises the question of where the self resides and whether and how we exist. Grimshaw discussed how her personal creative process is anything but introspective, that she writes almost as if the stories are being told to her by aliens, though De Goldi’s responses showed the degree to which her work does inspire introspection, investigation and reflection in the reader on the existential matters at hand.
Rajorshi Chakraborti spoke of his interest in writing stories of the ‘existentially incompetent’ – Grimshaw’s work seems to move towards further layers of abstraction in terms of existence, while Chakraborti, Gnanalingam and Adam all spoke in their own way of using their fiction and indeed the political act of living day-to-day to take people who suffer disenfranchisement and oppression from the abstract and into the consciousness of those who engage with them. If fascism and extremism arrive out of the dehumanisation of Others, there was a sense in The Politics of Fiction of the way that we can tell stories and live our lives in a way that reminds us of each individual’s humanity and how precious that is.
Reviewed by Brett Johansen