20091116

Fiction as Reality

«L'espace m'a happé dans ses contours sans fin.»
"Space has caught me in its endless contours."

- Mabrouck Rachedi -
Photo:  Ryder Park, San Mateo, California, October 2009

I have been re-reading "A Writer's Reality," Mario Vargas Llosa's autobiography, mainly an essay on his thought processes during the writing of his novels.  Llosa speaks of two types of fiction, ideological fiction, an inverse to objective reality, and literary fiction, the product of the writer.  As I ponder the former, I think that perhaps fiction and reality can be the same, changeable depending upon perspective.

correction:  objective reality and ideological fiction are not so much inverses as they are points of comparison.  Ideological fiction is what one perceives as seen through one's own ideologies.

In some cases, fact and fiction seem pretty clear.  Llosa marvels at how intellectuals (he limits his scope to those in Latin America) have contributed to  intolerance as he describes the civil war of Canudos, where soldiers of the newly formed republic of Brasíl, achieved through a joint effort by the military and intellectuals, crushed a rebellion in Canudos, a village in a remote area of Bahía.  The republic leaders assumed that exiled monarchists had conspired with the English to create the rebellion.  So strong was this belief that reporter Euclides da Cunha confirmed this belief from the front lines. Da Cunha truly believed that he saw blonde haired English officers among the rebels.

After every rebel had been slaughtered and every building in Canudos razed by the Brazilian army, it was discovered that, in fact, the rebels were entirely made up of a rag-tag band of illiterate peasants, stirred up into a frenzy by fanatical catholic priests to drive out those foreign invaders who must have come from the Devil himself.  The priests were anti-republic, but the peasants themselves had no knowledge of it.   Both sides had allowed their beliefs to filter what they saw.  So the members of the republic saw a conspiracy cooked up by the English and the old regime, and the peasants saw evil.  Da Cunha's book, "Os Sertões", is a "personal and national self-criticism" of this event.

I-beam, San Mateo, California, October 2009

But most situations are not so cut and dry, and the lines between fiction and reality are often blurry.  Proponents of different socio-economic systems claim their own system is the ideal and that others are flawed and/or evil.  They are all correct ... and they are all wrong.  All systems have strengths and weaknesses and the right fit for one group of people may not be the best for another.  Two fighting people each believe the other is the instigator.  Again, the way in which events unfolded can make both correct.  There seems no clear distinction between an idealized fiction and the truth with situations such as these, because either argument could be valid.

How do you feel?  Is the difference between fantasy and reality black and white, or are there shades of grey?