read sample chapters of "Mr. & Mrs. Hide" here

about authors

 

o o o

An Overview

of Issues of Truth, Fiction and Reality

Based on the Example of the Novel “Mr. & Mrs. Hide” and Beyond

 

by

ngor

Natalija Grgorinic & Ognjen Raden

 

It would seem almost an unfortunate interference, if not an outright rude imposition, to put oneself, a concept, an idea, a theory or a point of view between an author and his/her work. Yet it happens, more often than not, that the author is forced to lift his/her head from the work he/she would much rather be doing and aim a blank stare in the general direction of the nuisance, designating certain space on the hard drive of his/her intellect in order to tackle the hindrance. The world continues, even if unobserved, it probes one’s existence with pointy fingers, a flooded bathroom is as effective as a demand to revisit and analyze one’s creative process while it’s being employed, to take apart the tools of literary production at the precise moment they are being used. But what is a writer to do except to comply, shrugging one, two sets of shoulders. A writer can only benefit from his/her environment (which is not necessarily true the other way around). The world does, completely unintentionally maybe, create better writers, yet writers rarely return the favor since they hardly ever do things unintentionally.

          Thus, intention can be observed as the first instance, the first criterion to scrutinize the relationship between fiction and reality. It would be appropriate to state that fiction does not exist if it is void of intention, whereas reality ceases to exist momentarily once any intention gets attributed to it. It is a difference equal to that between creation and existence. Yes, the two mix but in the origins of fiction there must be intention, as opposed to reality that is pure, intentionless existence. Things become complicated when a/the God as the creator of reality gets introduced. If the world, the reality, was designed and produced by a separate, superior entity would it not make all reality a fiction? It certainly seems so and if any of the representations of God is to be taken into consideration that becomes obvious. The only God we can refer to comes to us exclusively through stories, narratives, both visual and textual. The only other evidence of God’s existence would be the alleged creation, the work he did which, if a product of his, hardly differs from any product, any work, any fiction. If, on the other hand, we decide to keep God out of the debate, reality has to be viewed as creatorless, which clearly differentiates it from the fiction, the creation, the construction.

          In the case of “Mr. & Mrs. Hide” and the two of us as its authors things are less clear-cut, but possibly more interesting. It is a novel that didn’t exist, either as an idea, or as a concept only a year ago. Yet, none of the hundreds of sections and segments it is consisted of were created according the traditional canons of novel writing. The first rule we decided to break was that one does not write about the events happening at the moment of writing. Our intention was not to create a document, a diary, a report, and we respected this intention by creating a novel.

          The second transgression was that we did way with the main character, the patriarchal hierarchy, the main, the chief, the most important. We did way with it in an unorthodox manner, which is to say that in order to get rid of it we doubled it. The individualistic patriarchal structure cannot tower over either creation or existence if confronted by its exact equal counterpart. This divergence from the norm is a direct result of our particular reality which is a reality only to us, and a fiction to everyone else since they (the others, everyone else) consider we have created it ourselves, which is true, but which does not stop us from utilizing this fiction as our own reality, proving that the two – reality and fiction – are perfectly interchangeable.

          Next, we copied ourselves, our persons, into the novel to the very extent possible, which resulted in having almost a set of almost photographic negatives of ourselves as the characters of the novel. Two most important features of what and who we are are utilized to give credibility to one another. The characters are constantly together. The characters are writers. Both of these features are equally unbelievable by themselves – one is possibly too generic, the other almost ridiculously specific – which might be why they complement each other so efficiently.

          The characters of the novel are Mr. and Mrs. Hide. We expanded on the title but not the genre of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, but since at the same time we had nothing and everything to hide, we revealed our intentions in the very title. Yes, things are hidden, but we chose to announce this fact, leave it out in the open. The title of our novel itself plays on the literary stereotypes of yore (but predominantly of the day as well). So our characters are Mr. and Mrs. Hide, which would make us Dr. and Dr. Jekyll, which would make us pseudo-characters of a sort, creations, not of fiction, but creations of reality with literary references, which in turn takes away from our credibility as persons but at the same time ads credibility to our work, and it is our work we put in front of us when confronting the world – to make use of that double pun again, this time in reverse – we hide behind our work in order to make what we want to say more obvious.

          Experience has taught us that nothing is less revealing than the most obvious, clarity of message obscures it most effectively. So would in turn obscuring a thing make it more comprehensible? Unfortunately not, and this is one feature that fiction and reality have in common, neither provides the understanding as a final act that would crown a moment, any moment, of comprehension to mark the complete possession of the truth. What, in fact, exists is understanding as a perpetual process. Thus, it is the truth which divides reality from fiction in a way a wall would divide two properties or two states (see Diagram 1, page 11) The wall is the marker, it stands on its own ground, it does not belong to neither of the properties, yet it clearly defines them, both of them, each in respect to the other, and each of them in respect to itself. Each of the elements, reality, fiction and the truth, is doubly defined, which would indicate that any concrete realization seems to come out only from similar triangulation.

          This is replicated in the relationship between the reality, and the author and his/her work. Here reality would be that which is agreed upon (in absence of any other method) by a consensus of the participants of that reality. In that they are seemingly in an advantage over fictional characters of a novel. Participants in a reality have a say or at least behave as if they have a say about what their particular reality will be like, they are molded and shaped by it in a more or less equal measure in which they mold it or shape it themselves. So, yes, reality is malleable. But what of fiction, and of those who participate in it, the characters? Arguably, the characters too are in the similar reciprocal relationship with their “environment”, although the aspect of intention on the part of the author would imply a fictional character has less control over the fiction it is a part of.

          In “Mr. & Mrs. Hide” two characters with names similarly sounding to ours are writers, creators of fiction. But they themselves are as fictitious as is the fiction they create. On one hand they manufacture their own “reality” which is a fiction, both in terms of fiction and in terms of reality they. Furthermore, they as writers produce “fiction” which is again doubly fictitious, it is a fiction within a realm of fiction, but also within the actual fictitious reality that is a part of this particular work of fiction. To give values to this equation, Nasia and Oren are writers created by Nasia and Oren (the characters) who are created by Natalija and Ognjen (the authors) who are created by Natalija and Ognjen (the plural identity) created by Natalija and Ognjen (two persons collaborating on a single existence).

          By no accident one of the minor characters in the novel manufactures Russian dolls, matryoshkas.  Nasia and Oren, as writers, reach for other characters some of which are as real as the two of them (or at least to the same extent fictional as the two of them) and turn them into characters of their own fiction within fiction. This is a perfectly legitimate technique. In fact, Natalija and Ognjen, the authors, reach for other participants of their particular reality and turn them into characters of their fiction. What’s more, they do it to themselves as well, we do it to ourselves, and turn ourselves into characters who turn other characters into characters, which makes it sound more complicated and less fun than it actually is.

          But to return to the metaphor of the truth being a wall between fiction and reality. In the process of literary creation this wall would be the actual product of literary work, lets say in our case it is the novel “Mr. & Mrs. Hide”. The work itself would be the truth, fiction and reality on its opposite sides. The proponents of the half-empty glass approach to life would say the work of art is separating its authors from reality. Those who see vessels of different shapes and sizes as at least half-full of one liquid or another would argue that the work of art brings the author together with his/her reality, without it neither of them (author and his reality) is well defined, without them the work itself has no purpose, no meaning, no existence.[1]

          When it comes to truth the task of the author is to do, to work, to create. A writer writes – the act in itself is total and does not necessitate any justification. A work is created and then it simply is – this is the reality of the process. But if reality is what we agree upon as reality, and a work of fiction is the truth, what is then the actual fiction, one might ask. And while it takes one to ask, it takes two to answer, and the answer would be in the very question. A work of fiction, a work of art, these phrases offer important clues, for a work of art is indeed a work of art, but a work of an artist as well. In such a relationship artist equals his/her art (and vice versa). So, if a particular novel is a work of fiction, the authors themselves would be equally fictitious – or to be more precise, the part of them that is most crucial for their work, that which represents their intellect complete with all notions and ideas, concepts and plans, is that fiction standing opposite the reality. Even more precise, and certainly less hilarious would be to say that the perception is fiction since one is unable to create without it, so in a way all works of art could be regarded as works of perception, works of perception intended for the perception of others.[2]

          This is evident in the example of “Mr. & Mrs. Hide”, which is an act of truth, an incarnation of truth, defining, separating and bringing together the reality of our life and the fiction of our perception of this reality. The fact that the novel contains a replica of the said relationship is a consequence of pure intention. In order to master a genre, a media, a field, the artist is confronted with obstacles the purpose of which is to draw one’s attention away. Thus, in the creation of art, same as in the perception of art, the only trick is to lead one’s attention aside and allow the intention to communicate.

          But to say that truth is the key to the question of the relationship between fiction and reality isn’t saying a lot. Truth is a product of perception defining both reality and perception of which it is a product. Only what is truth? Or, at least to narrow it down, what is truth in respect to fiction and reality? It is the other side of the fact, and at the same time the other side of the act. The main property of a wall is that it has two sides, and no side of any wall can at any time face the same side its opposite side faces. Observed from either of the sides a wall is a wall although we usually see only one of its sides. We take the existence of the other side of the wall for granted, we suppose it. Same is true for truth, observed either from the side of reality, or from the side of fiction, it appears to be whole enough. Something has to be on the other side, otherwise it wouldn’t exist, but we don’t need to see it, we don’t need to know its texture or its color, we either know, or believe, or convince ourselves we do, or we question and doubt, but always imagining it there. In this a fact and an act are equal, since they both produce the same result, the truth. The only difference is that one cannot express a truth without reaching for fiction, because from the side of reality a truth (in the form of a fact) can only be observed, while in order to express it one needs to act.  In short, there is no truth that is not a fiction, or in other words, a truth is created, which is why the concept of morality, of ethics, is inextricably tied together with creation.[3]

          Therefore it is in the nature of the writer to perceive his/her role as the most important in the layout of the world, indeed the universe. It is the writer who creates the world for the less fortunate ones, without the writer the world doesn’t exist, we believe in the existence of only that which is explained to us, even the inexplicable comes to us with the accompanying story, the nonexistent exists in the stories created about the nonexistent, and it is the story which exists. So, there cannot be a writer granting primacy to any other type of work, type of creation, type of activity – other than the writing. All creation is total, complete, all creation is superior, and its totality is, must be, beyond any question. The writer creates the world for those who are not writers, it is a work in which truth, arrogance, and truth are the main tools. With truth the morality comes built-in. With fiction morality comes built-in. To view the world, the reality, properly one requires morality, although morality does not exist in reality, it exists only in fiction, morality exists not in the fact, it is to be found in the act alone.

          The writer is in a competition with the Creator. Primitive approach to viewing fiction is to regard any type of a holy scripture as the truth, and any other type of fiction as false, corrupt, immoral.[4] Primitive approach to creating fiction is to manipulate the truth, or to manipulate the fact. What is the excuse of a poor writer? “It happened exactly as I have described it.”

          What does one need in order to create the truth? A pure heart, a corrupted mind, a clear intent, an obscure agenda, a clean conscience, a dirty mind, a mind. One is free to take one’s pick.

          There is no secret to literary creation. One word is placed after the other, the illusion of order is created, an order that is to represent order, order that is to represent disorder. Truth is the order created among images, ideas, the illusion of order, the sense of sense and of senselessness. There is no secret in literary creation, the secret is locked in manipulating perception, it is easy to create a truth, it is more of an accomplishment to have it perceived, especially if it is of the kind that had not existed prior to its creation. Easier to perceive are truths that are perpetually created, which does not mean that there are no truths to be created other than those that have already been created. Originality is attainable for those who exercise their perception. One needs to see in order to be able to describe to those who don’t see. Those who don’t see must believe, must trust, but seldom do. Nevertheless, a truth does not come into existence through perception or belief of those who see or don’t. A truth comes to existence through an act of creation. To perceive is to believe, is to allow to be tricked, allow to be entertained by any of the many representations of reality, emanations of reality, faces of reality, images, pictures, concepts, ideas, words, simple or complex constructions of voices or dots per inch, light and dark, sound and silence.

          One creates with everything in order to create everything. The truth, once created, stands by itself, is not defended, protected from manipulations. In order to produce a lie one creates or uses a ready-made truth. To manipulate the truth is to pile one truth on top of the other. Smaller truths are put at the bottom, higher up, bigger truths are placed so that the once at the bottom crumble. Lies are crumbs of the truths crushed under the weight of larger truths. Particularly large truths are extremely simple like blocks of stones cleaved from the side of the mountain. Everything. Freedom. Everything can be committed in the name of freedom, everything can be done, nothing can be undone. The acts of the moment remain, the moment does not, it slides like a bead on an imaginary thread of time. Time is of no consequence. All it has to do is to be. Time there needs to be enough of. Time doesn’t need to do, time needs to be. A writer needs to do. A writer writes. A writer is not. A writer does. An act is existence. Existence is not an act.



[1] If we, just for a moment, return to the idea of God as the creator of reality as we agree upon it, it is interesting what hypothesis might come out of this premise. If indeed God is the author of a particular fiction which we perceive as reality, then there is also a separate reality maintained by his perception alone. This divine reality does not necessarily need to be other or apart from our own reality but is defined by the act of creation. In all religions God is the ultimate authority on truth and his truth is his creation in the same way a truth of a writer is the work he/she produces. So, a novel is a representation of truth since it is a creation of a novelist. And our reality is the truth since it is, supposedly, a creation of God. In this all creation is the truth, it is impossible to create a fallacy, a lie. Even if a thing is designed to deceive, that thing is nevertheless the truth, as is the very act of deception. Here, of course, we need to clarify that by truth in fiction we mean what a fact would be in the domain of reality and it is actually that which is the function of that wall – to bring together what is truth in fiction and what is fact in reality and make them synonymous.

[2] Here might be, again, a good time to return to the idea of God as a creator (or the creator). In order to be eligible for the act creation as we can perceive it, God himself has to possess perception – our reality is a work of that perception. Something which lacks perception cannot create in a similar fashion, which is why to connect origins of life (indeed of everything) with some perceptionless energy would be called a science, but to give that creative force, energy, a power of perception would be an act of faith, belief, religion. Similarly, to an ordinary creator, God would have to participate in a reality in order to perceive, which implies either that he shares our reality, in which case he would partake in the perception of his own work, or that there is another reality, one he didn’t make but in response to which he created our own reality. The second hypothesis seems highly unlikely though because it would put an otherwise supreme being in a subordinate relationship towards a reality not of his making. So, once again, it is possible to compare God to an author, because an author also both creates and creates out of his/her reality in the process made possible by the parallel existence of fiction, or perception. We tell ourselves stories of what things are, who we are, and what is the relationship between the two.

[3] How easy would it be to go back to the idea of God as the primal creator? The answer is – too easy, which is why we’ll leave it to the imagination of the reader to apply the formula to this particular example.

[4] One of the most revealing and most amusing accounts of the treatment of fiction comes from Richard Wright in his autobiographical work “Black Boy” (Harper & Row, New York, 1989.), originally published in 1937. The protagonist gets his first story published in a local newspaper. His environment is quick to react:

“A few days later my classmates came to me with baffled eyes, holding copies of the Southern Register in their hands.

“Did you really write the story?” they asked me.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted to.”

“Where did you get it from?”

“I made it up.”

“You didn’t. You copied it out of a book.”

“If I had, no one would publish it.”

“But what are they publishing it for?”

“So people can read it.”

“Who told you to do that?”

“Nobody.”

“Then why did you do it?”

“Because I wanted to,” I said again.”

But this is only the beginning, a deeper meaning of storytelling is revealed in the reactions of his family:

“At home the effects were no less disturbing. Granny came into my room early one morning and sat on the edge of my bed.

“Richard, what is this you’re putting in the papers?” she asked.

“A story,” I said.

“About what?”

“It’s just a story, granny.”

“But they tell me it’s been in three times.”

“It’s the same story. It’s in three parts.”

“But what’s it about?” she insisted.

I hedged, fearful of getting into a religious argument.

“It’s just a story I made up,” I said.

“Then it’s a lie,” she said.

“Oh, Christ,” I said.

“You must get out of this house if you take the name of the Lord in vain,” she said.

“Granny, please… I’m sorry,” I pleaded. “But it’s hard to tell you about the story. You see, granny, everybody knows that the story isn’t true, but…”

“Then why write it?” she asked.

“Because people might want to read it.”

“That’s the Devil’s work,” she said and left.”