Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

When Writing, Dislocation Helps

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 31st July, 2017

JF writingSome people might think it odd that I am writing about life in Brussels in the 1970s while currently based in Fortaleza, Brazil. But I have often found that dislocation can be a great aid to writing, be this memoir or other. It was the novelist Christopher Isherwood — who will appear in my new book — who first made me aware of this, when I asked him how he managed to write his vivid Berlin stories far away from the German capital and years after the events partly described. It’s all about digging into the deeper recesses of memory (in my case, supplemented by diary entries) and then reforming images and actions through words  in a way that can be transmitted to the reader and make a visual impact in their brain. If I were in Brussels now, for example, I would be distracted by aspects of the city in 2017 rather than the reality of 40-odd years ago. Photographs help when it comes to people, of course; in fact, they can be a fantastic trigger of memory. Then there is the matter of selection. Great diarists can write material that withstands the test of time, but most of us jot things down in a way that is neither literary nor necessarily very interesting to anyone but ourselves. When I kept those diaries (from the age of 16 onwards) did I realise that one day I would turn my hand to memoir? I don’t believe so. But something compelled me to write notes which were then put aside for decades. Maybe unconsciously I realised that my memory would need their aid some time in the future, some place else.

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