Saturday, October 20, 2007

Faction friction!

After one focaccia (with chicken, apple and parmesan cream), one hot scone (with butter, cheese and jam) one pot of tea and one big hunkin' chocoroll (chokladboll), I, with a mind culinarily sedated, happily showed my friend, the history teacher, my new book purchase: The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer. This is Mailer's first novel in ten years and, according to The Guardian, tells the story of "the childhood of Adolf Hitler, narrated by the devil, inhabiting the body of an SS officer, Dieter". Thus, being a mix of real fact and the author's fantasy, the book belongs to that elusive genre coined "faction". Because of the book's faction-status, my innocent display led to a discussion about faction that did not end until the cafe hade emptied and more mundane duties called a good hour later(vacuuming and unclogging the sink for me and my man, high-level tv-watching and navel-picking for the friend) .

Apparently, faction - a blend between fact and fiction - is not an uncontroversial subject. This anonymous history teacher friend felt (I am now in a faction-like way putting words in his mouth; please note the disclaimer at the end of this blog entry), firstly, that the genre is not satisfying as an artform because its dwelling in the misty borderland between biography and fiction, makes it difficult to know what to make of it and, therefore, boring. Secondly, he meant that these kinds of books are potentially dangerous or at least problematic, because many people are not able to read such a work with a critical eye and will thus, maybe subconciously, store the information in their brain's "fact storage" instead of where it belongs, in the "cultural experiences storage".

In the end, we realized that our educations might have something to do with our different perspectives, i.e. literary vs. historical. This was in itelf an interesting discovery and now we will all have to read the novel to be able to continue this riveting discussion. Mailer himself says that people who read it are likely to "have a shit fit", and who on earth would want to miss out on that, I ask you?

Both quotes are from the interview with Norman Mailer by Robert McCrum in The Guardian. To read it in full, please visit:,,2004873,00.html#top

Disclaimer: I have used my highly subjective memory to approximate the opinions of my good friend (the history teacher, who will reamin anonymous). Any misunderstandings or blatant embellishments are mine, and I will surely get my comeuppance in due time; I have heard that any such sins are bound to come back and smack you in the face!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


A greeting from Cambodia where I am reading everything from Kinky Friedman to Khaled Hoseini with a lot of crazy stuff inbetween (even found a book by Magdalena Graaf here ...).

We are enjoying this forgotten corner of the third wirld immensly - it is crazy, holy and spectacular!

BIG good luck in christmas to the both of you!

Your man in Phnom Penh, stefan