Wednesday, 16 January 2008

When random facts become Story

Who are we? What makes us significant citizens?
I was amused by random facts from the Republic of Ireland's 2006 census, and challenged by my own need to generalise, and to make assumptions about categories of people.

I was also amazed by how small we are. Do we really only have two Maltese divorcees living in the 26 counties? Are there any in the 6 northern counties?

And what of all these holders of Polish passports who come from Africa and Asia? Even if there had been a scam for Asians or Africans to get European passports through a Polish contact, how on earth did they make contact?

Clearly my imagination has been stunted. Maybe I should read more fiction...

Talking of which... I popped along at lunchtime to the Black Box in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, to hear local writers Glenn Patterson and Malachi O'Doherty (and June Caldwell - why, when she said humorously that she had learned about Northern Ireland by studying the sex life of loyalist paramilitaries, did it sound like they were some kind of insect or other low-life?) articulating some thoughts on what it means to be a writer in post-conflict society (or something like that!)

All sorts of interesting dynamics and body-language to observe. I should have taken notes... That's why I'm not a writer!

I appreciated Glenn's point, in response to a German journalist's question about memorialising, that Truth in Translation (despite its limitations as a play) had been a powerful and fitting memorial to what has happened here. Well, that's probably not exactly what he said. But what I heard was what I had thought about the play: that it articulated extremely well the complexity and impossibility of ever writing one definitive and universally acceptable version of the truth.

And I thought of the two men (in my innate sexism, it didn't occur to me to include June, sitting between them!) and their different personalities, experiences and backgrounds, as well as writing styles and genres, as two of many interpreters, conveying stories and possibilities to those who will listen or read. Writers (and artists) are our prophets.

So it's time to go and listen and read... for the Voice of Truth. Grace, Justice, Hope, Judgment... I'll try to share some of what I find.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I didn't mean or insinuate that paramilitaries "and their molls" are low-life or insect life as you put it! On the contrary, I was the only Southern (and Catholic) journalist to take on Jackie's story and do it in 'her' voice and from her perspective. Fellow journalists thought I was mad and no one else was prepared to do it at the time. Jackie had been looking and looking for over two years. So it was not out of lack of respect that I said I learnt about the North via the sex lives of paramilitaries. It simply a fact. Thanks. June Caldwell