telling tales

Why the obsession with narrative? Why do readers need stories? Is it that we live stories that only certain people like writers can understand, can decipher? Or is it that we want to live stories, tales of beginnings and middles and more middles and more and finally, ends? It doesn’t feel like a narrative to me. I don’t see narratives. I don’t live a narrative that I am aware of. What I am writing about isn’t a narrative so much as a series of incidents, of acts, of seeings and hearings. Do they have to amount to a story just so that you – I hope, the eventual reader – will feel more of a desire to turn the page? Do I have to entice you all to read what I’m writing? Why? That’s not my aim. My aim is to write what I saw, what I heard and what I was told and what I did. There isn’t really a narrative so much as an attempt to understand, to come to terms, to search for, to make sense of… And don’t say, See Lara, that’s your narrative! in that kind of discerning and terribly bourgeois (it is, isn’t it?, bourgeois) way that always finds narrative in the travellings of someone like me going South. Ah! So you’ve got the journey, That’s the narrative, the journey! Except it’s not really. The travelling was to escape boredom (and NO, that definitely won’t do and it’s been done a thousand times before anyway), and to see more, and to try to fit it all in before the visa ran out. It was to remind myself of what I’d done, to remind myself of a past, to give some definition to what I’ve become: a terribly deeply cynical being. Can we do more than simply write what we see? Interpretation? Analysis? I’m not sure I have any. But you have to have analysis, Lara. Do you? Why? What for? For whose benefit. How do I know that what I saw was what you saw, or what I saw, or what I thought was somehow erudite or interesting. A lot of the time it’s very humdrum. Which strikes me as the whole point.

But I know I must be missing something. You can’t simply expect people to read a series of sightings. There has to be a point to it. Does there? My point is, if pushed, a sense of tragedy of peoples lives. But I see the same tragedy here. It’s not that I think the tragedy is there because it’s obviously tragic. Being back in London feels every bit just as tragic. That’s my point. I don’t see the difference so much as the similarity. And spectacular generosity. But apart from that, it’s just the enjoyment of being with strangers and being strange and being seen, noticed perhaps. And that’s all fluff anyway. I could get on the 55 bus and end up on the road from Huambo going north to Luanda and I wouldn’t blink. I’d just think, It’s got hotter all of a sudden and The driver’s going much faster than he usually does. But I wouldn’t suddenly feel in anyway exotic, or nervous, or lonely.

Is this where cynicism ultimately leads? I really want to find the path out. But I fear it might be too late. Do I mean cynicism?

This is a bit more like it! (Thank you MO for the introduction).

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