The Age of Confession

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Goose Lane Editions, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 102 pages

In this illuminating essay, Neil Bissoondath explores the powerful influence exerted by narrative on the human psyche. Storytelling is a primary activity in the human experience. The stories that we tell ourselves, as well as those we hear from others, help to answer the question of who we are, "as individuals, as familial beings, as social beings." On a deeper level, stories are also subtle forms of confession. They reveal our dreams and desires, our fears and fantasies, our hurts and pleasures.

Sifting through history, Bissoondath examines how governments, both totalitarian and democratic, have sought to control and to simplify narrative. Novelists, to different and contradictory ends, have used narrative as a sphere of exploration and discovery, where questions are numerous and answers are rare. Fiction, suggests Bissoondath, is a subtle, yet powerful narrative form, unsurpassed in its ability to confirm human complexity and to affirm human existence.

"Every age seeks, through a baring of the soul, a response to the basic human need to make connections with other human beings . . . it helps both the teller and the listener feel less alone."

Dans cet essai édifiant, Neil Bissoondath explore la puissante influence qu'exerce la narration sur la psyché humaine. Raconter des histoires est une activité primordiale dans l'expérience humaine. Les histoires que nous-mêmes racontons, de même que celles que nous entendons raconter par d'autres, nous aident à répondre à la question de savoir qui nous sommes « en tant que personnes, en tant que membres d'une famille, en tant qu'êtres sociables ». À un niveau plus profond, les histoires sont aussi une forme subtile de confessions. Elles révèlent nos rêves et nos désirs, nos peurs et nos fantasmes, ce qui nous blesse ou nous fait plaisir.

Puisant des exemples dans l'histoire, Bissoondath examine comment les gouvernements, tant totalitaires que démocratiques, ont cherché à contrôler et à simplifier la narration. Les romanciers, quant à eux, ont utilisé la narration à des fins différentes et contradictoires comme une sphère d'exploration et de découvertes, où les questions sont nombreuses et où les réponses sont rares. Bissoondath suggère que la fiction est une forme de narration subtile mais néanmoins puissante, qui est sans égale dans sa capacité à confirmer la complexité des hommes et à affirmer l'existence humaine.

« En mettant l'âme à nu, tout âge répond au besoin fondamental chez l'humain de nouer des relations avec d'autres êtres humains [Cela] aide tant le raconteur que l'auditeur à se sentir moins seuls. »

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About the author (2007)

Considered both a West Indian and a Canadian writer, Bissoondath began his literary career as a short-story writer. His first book Digging Up the Mountains (1985) is a collection of short stories relating the experiences of immigrants in Toronto as they combat feelings of nostalgia and marginality and try to adapt to their new home. Bissoondath returns to the theme of placelessness in the novel A Casual Brutality (1988), in which the protagonist feels alienated in both Toronto and Casquemada. Bissoondath's most recent novel, The Innocence of Age (1992), is set in Toronto and is a departure from these themes. Here, defying the current appropriation of voice debate, he uses a Canadian Caucasian father and son to describe the difficulties in parent-child relationships, especially evident in communication between fathers and sons. As a relatively new writer, Bissoondath has received some critical attention, but as yet there is no extensive study of his work.

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