The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Friday, September 08, 2006


From Shop Talk, part of a conversation between Philip Roth and Aharon Appelfeld:
AA: I have never written about things as they happened. All my works are indeed chapters from my most personal experience, but nevertheless they are not "the story of my life". The things that happened to me in my life have already happened, they are already formed, and time has kneaded them and given them shape. To write things as they happened is to enslave oneself to memory, which is only a minor element in the creative process. To my mind, to create means to order, sort out, and choose the words and the pace that fits the work. The materials are indeed materials from one's life, but ultimately the creation is an independent creature.

I tried several times to write "the story of my life" in the woods after I ran away from the camp. But all my efforts were in vain. I wanted to be faithful to reality and to what really happened. But the chronicle that emerged proved to be a weak scaffolding. The result was rather meager, an unconvincing imaginary tale. The things that are most true are easily falsified.
This ties in, though not exactly, with what I was trying to say earlier about narrative and our sense of time: that one of the uses of story is to make sense of and reflect the way we feel experience to be, rather than on the terms of the calendar or clock - inner time, not outer. Or indeed, dreamtime.


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