As a relative newcomer to the world of literary fiction – as I heard it referred to in a conversation at the Sydney Writer’s Festival today – I’ve ascribed little time for modern titles, instead I wading through the vast oceans of classics. Two books that were recently given to me as gifts (Thank you Aunty Sue & Paulie) however, have made me realise that there is just as much, if not more reward in coming across a future classic. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is a story filled with pathos that, as the beautifully sentimental title suggests, looks into questions of time and memory. One passage that piqued my interest, while perhaps relevant to a broader discussion on fiction versus non fiction went as follows: “Real literature was about psychological, emotional and social truth as demonstrated by the actions and reflections of its protagonists”. The quote stood out to me because it puts better than I’ve been able to, the way that historical or literary fiction can be equally enlightening to the facts of a time, person or place as any non fiction can.
The second, also in this category of historically accurate fiction, is by Australian author, Elliot Perlman. Its title, The Street Sweeper, while not eluding to the themes of the book, refers to the down-on-luck but full-of-heart central character, Lamont Williams whom the book revolves around and to whom the story of a Holocaust survivor is told. Perlman spent 8 years researching for the book and the result is a thoroughly heartening yet brutally realistic portrayal of an oft but never over-told story of modern history.