Richard Flanagan: ‘Fiction is a necessary truth.’
Interview de l'écrivain australien Richard Flanagan
Interview de l’écrivain australien Richard Flanagan.
Le romancier australien Richard Flanagan, célébré dans le monde entier pour son roman La Route étroite vers le Nord lointain, Man Booker Prize 2014, est de retour avec un nouveau roman, Première Personne, publié aux éditions Actes Sud – l’histoire de Kif Kehlmann, un écrivain sans le sou qui est embauché pour écrire les mémoires d’un célèbre escroc australien avant que ce dernier n’aille en prison. Rencontre. RENCONTRE AVEC Romancier
Guardian: This is a very different novel to The
Narrow Road. What that always the plan? Richard Flanagan: Plan? I had no plan. First Person is the book I began before the Booker and which I finished after, while at the same time, trying to surf the mudslide that the Booker brings on without falling off and being buried alive.
2. Guardian: Can you tell us about the back story to First Person? R.F.: In 1991, while working as a builder’s labourer and trying to write my first novel, I was offered $10,000 by Australia’s greatest conman and corporate criminal, John Friedrich, to ghostwrite his memoirs in six weeks. He had embezzled a billion dollars in today’s terms, set up a sort of a secret army and the whole thing had
1. The Narrow Road (VF) La Route étroite vers le Nord lointain / Booker (Prize) (Man Booker Prize for Fiction) prix littéraire britannique récompensant une oeuvre de fiction écrite par un romancier originaire du Royaume-Uni, d'Irlande ou du Commonwealth (R. Flanagan l'a reçu en 2014 pour The Narrow Road) / mudslide coulée de boue ici, déferlante / to be buried alive être enterré vivant. 2. back story histoire (ayant mené à sa création) / labourer ouvrier / conman escroc / corporate faisant partie d'une entreprise, d'une organisation (J. Friedrich était directeur exécutif de l'ONG National Safety Council of Australia) / to ghostwrite servir de nègre, écrire à la place de / to embezzle détourner (fonds) / billion milliard / to set, set, set up créer, fonder / gone belly up. His bodyguard was a mate, which was how I got the gig. We worked on the book for three weeks and then he shot himself dead. I was left to ghostwrite a ghost.
3. Guardian: Although the novel is based on your experience with Friedrich, your ghostwriter, Kif, finds truth is arrived at by not cleaving too faithfully to the facts. R.F.: Maybe that is as it should be: after all, fiction is not a lie, but a truth, a fundamental and necessary truth, that we need as much as we need food or sex. Without fiction, we poison ourselves on the lies of the first person. And perhaps that was the fear I had felt with Friedrich all those years ago – the terror of becoming the first person trapped in someone else’s lies. For to go, went, gone belly up capoter / bodyguard garde du corps / mate copain, pote / gig boulot (temporaire) / to shoot, shot, shot oneself dead se tirer une balle. 3. to cleave, clove or cleft, cloven or cleft to adhérer à / faithfully fidèlement / to trap piéger / if story as lies leads us to a dark place, story as fiction offers the possibility of transcendence and liberation, the recognition of the many things each of us are.
4. Guardian: Kif discovers the only way to become a writer is by writing. Would that be your advice? R.F.: I have no advice. People write books in spite of themselves. Which may be why I never understood creative writing degrees.
5. Guardian: Do you become as possessed by your characters as Kif is by his subject? R.F.: No. But Kif is a mediocre artist who believes in the grand
recognition reconnaissance. 4. advice (inv.) conseil / in spite of en dépit de / degree diplôme. 5. grand ici, pompeux /
old lies: experience, empathy and the necessity of identifying with your subject, the first person – those things people say about their writing when they don’t know what to say and are not sure what to write. It leads Kif to a bad pass.
6. Guardian: As a Tasmanian, Kif finds it hard to be taken seriously as a writer. Was that your experience? R.F.: It was. When I started out, Tasmania was still a metaphor for everything Australians hated about themselves – their convict past, environmental rapacity, murderous racism and general insignificance. My first novel, Death of a River Guide, was refused a review in Australia’s leading broadsheet on the grounds it fitted no recognisable school of Australian literature. Which is one of the sweetest compliments I have ever had.
bad pass mauvaise passe. 6. to find, found, found it hard to avoir des difficultés à / convict (de) bagnard, forçat /
(VF) À contre-courant / review critique (article) / leading ici, principal / broadsheet journal grand format (sérieux) / on the grounds that au motif que / to fit correspondre à / recognisable reconnaissable, identifiable / sweet ici, beau, agréable. 7. Guardian: First Person nods to the rise of autofiction. Do you understand its popularity? R.F.: I don’t even understand its meaning. It has something to do with the French? I fear it may also have something to do with me. The problem is, as Flaubert exclaimed in exasperation: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” and novels were always stolen from everywhere and everything, not least the author’s own soul. Labels are best left on jam jars.
8. Guardian: What can more conventional realist novels offer that autofiction can’t? R.F.: The larger truth that we are not one but many and that all that we don’t know is everything we need to discover.
9. Guardian: Are you tempted to write your own memoirs? R.F.: I’m tempted by everything unwise, but I hope I don’t give in to it. St Augustine
7. to nod to faire référence à / rise essor / not least surtout, en particulier / soul âme / label étiquette / jam confiture / jar bocal, pot. 9. unwise imprudent, malavisé / to give, gave, given in to sth ici, céder à la tentation de faire qqch / prayed to the Lord to grant him sobriety and chastity, but not just yet. To which I would add memoir, but wisely St Augustine didn’t.