True Stories

Posted: November 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m Telling You Stories. Trust Me. – Jeanette Winterson

In Fiction, we find acts that make our own lives worth living- Nietzsche

I have been looking for someone to endorse my decision to write a fictional account of Foucault. I can’t ask the man himself, and some of his ‘sons and heirs’ have been decidedly vague or unresponsive about my endeavour. I wonder if they think I am crazy to seek the opinion of a bunch of homos on a writing project by an unkown woman.  But I obviously need this endorsement because I have been searching far and wide for it. And I think I  have found it here, in an essay by John Carvalho, which refers a lot to Foucault’s biographer, James Macey:

‘Foucault, of course, had a special relation to fiction. “Foucault liked to say that all his works were ‘fictions’,” Macey tells us, “which did not necessarily mean,” he goes on to explain, “that they were untrue.”[47] Foucault admitted to Claude Mauriac that he had made fictional use of materials he assembled in his books and made fictional constructions from authentic elements.[48] And he told Raymond Bellour that Les mots et les choses was “a ‘fiction’ pure and simple; it’s a novel,” Foucault said to him, “but I didn’t make it up.”[49] Macey traces this notion of fiction back to Nietzsche and a passage from Daybreak.[50]

 Facta! Yes, facta ficat! A historian has to do, not with what actually happened, but only with events supposed to have happenedY.All historians speak of things which have never existed except in imagination.[51]

Macey uses this reference to endorse Guibert’s novel which he speculates Foucault would have preferred to the biography he has written. It abbreviates, in Nietzsche’s inimitable way, the detailed argument for the preference, not to say the privilege, of fiction over fact presented in Les mot et les choses. In literature, Foucault says, words, otherwise burdened with representing the truth, bring a world back to life. In fiction, according to Nietzsche, we find facts that make our own lives worth living. In the best case, no doubt, a story like the one I’ve just told complicates the facts about Foucault’s death and, quite provisionally, to be sure, brings Foucault back to life again. As the story finally ends, I can only hope that whatever fiction it contains will have made our own lives worth living’

Even more satisfyingly, from a selfish point of view (writers only have this point of view), I have found some readers along the way, as I have begun to discuss and show excerpts of my work. If fiction makes life worth living, then readers make writers’ lives worth living. I think Foucault is a testimony to that, as is the love and reading of his work that somehow seems to  keep him alive beyond the grave.

Thank-you for keeping me alive!

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