Ri­chard Flanagan: ‘Fic­tion is a ne­ces­sa­ry truth.’

In­ter­view de l'écri­vain aus­tra­lien Ri­chard Flanagan

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito Sommaire - STEPHANIE CROSS 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.

(Andrew Parsons/REX/SIPA)

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