Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jesting Pilate

'What is truth?', said Jesting Pilate. The different forms of truth have been brought home to me by two things over the last few days. One was reading an article by John Burnside about the process of writing his new book, a memoir called A Lie About My Father (it's brilliant, by the way). He said that what he remembered about his father may not necessarily be accurate - his truth, but no one else's, hence the title of the book.

The other was Saturday's session with Lindsay and the gang. I read the latest section of the novel, which concerns Elias's eventual appearance in the novel. I'd based the scene (only a first draft) on the account by Helvetius, from whose point of view we see the final part of the book. Helvetius's account, however, seems oddly undramatic. Although he tells the story, he simply relates it matter of factly. We have to remember that this is 1660s narration, and they did things like that in those days. But as Lindsay pointed out, the story needs to be told in a way that will engage the attentions and fire the imaginations of 21st century readers, so I now realise that, although Helvetius's account may be true, I need to deviate from his truth in order to find my own.

Truth, as John Burnside says, is not necessarily related to facts.