Truth & Fiction
  An Untamed View  
  Just Six Friends  
  The Death  
  Recent Travels  
  Australia Day   
  Charming India    
  Lesotho  
  The Drive  
  Italy & Sicily   
  Yukon   
  South Africa   
  Perth foreshore   
     
     
     
     
     
 
 
 
      
      
      
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
      
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
Stephen Scourfield Writing  
   
Partly Truth & Partly Fiction  
(Introduction from the book Connected)
    
Bringing back stories is one of the most important reasons for travel. Stories last long within us. It is these that we first tell with relish, then cherish and embellish and make part of our own story. 
In the retelling of some stories, we might be methodical and careful. Others might meld and be allowed to take on deeper hues. They become coloured by our own interpretation and humour.
And that is why this book contains both factual essays — True Stories — and fiction that results from travelling — Short Stories. Fact and fiction should never be confused, but travel essays and fiction are connected as surely as we travellers observe and experience, then react, interpret and enhance. True Stories recount what happened, Short Stories what could have happened. The two forms represent the leap between science and faith. Recounting as narrator and revealing as creator.
The person — the writer — is the same and the physical journeys are the same, but the process is different. One might say that the essays view the world straight-on, and the short stories are the result of things in peripheral vision; as much sensed as seen. (I find it impossible to look directly at developing fictional stories; they float on the edge of vision, defying direct scrutiny.) 
Fact and fiction — musically, the string plucked, and the sustained resonance that hangs in the air, mingling with notes that follow.
The True Stories that comprise the first section of this book are, in most cases, the straightforward and candid interface with a place, its people and culture, landscape and history. They result from remarkable moments and meetings, and the thoughts that come from these. 
The Short Stories of the second section are the next phase in the stories’ lives. Here, many experiences, observations and interests are condensed and compressed into fiction. A tangier bouquet. It is one of the delights, when travelling, to have the time to let your mind wander as much as your body. Sometimes I feel my body is a carbon filter, with everything fed in, slowly seeping under gravity and being distilled into a more viscous substance. These short stories are a compression of wisps gathered from the wind and, over time and with joy, woven into something new and with its own life.
After all, fiction often is just a whole lot of truths jammed together in the wrong order. As Henry James wrote in What Maisie Knew: “She took refuge on the firm ground of fiction, through which indeed there curled the blue river of truth.”
As such, Connected represents me perhaps better than any of my books. Other Country, a novel set in northern Australia, is one part of me, as are essay books like Travel Etcetera and Are We Nearly There Yet? But here it comes together.
I must quote a favourite line from a Kris Kristofferson song: “He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” My epitaph, some say.
It also brings to mind comments by American photo-grapher Annie Leibovitz, with whom I once spent a little time in New York City. Annie is famous for her early black-and-white work for Rolling Stone magazine and her elaborate celebrity photography. In the introduction to A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, she describes trying to decide what personal photograpy and what assignment work to include in the book. Then she realised she was just one person; this was just one life, so she has included the photographs of her loved ones, her photojournalism and her magazine and advertising assignments “pretty much chronologically”. Glamour and glitz, love and loss. “I don’t have two lives,” she writes. “This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.”
One part of my life is writing essays, predominantly from travelling; the other is writing fiction. But this is just one life, just one person. “One life, one writing,” as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert Lowell declared in his poem Night Sweat, and Australian David Malouf echoed in an essay about his own lauded career, first as poet, then novelist, then as poet again.
In writing non-fiction, my preoccupation is with dramatisation — “to present in a vivid or striking way”, as dictionaries would have it. The task is to take fact and story-tell it — to weave in descriptions of scenes and people, bring to life these real characters, perhaps include their verbatim comments, and come to some conclusions. It may need the author’s presence; in having the author there, on the scene, in the present tense, the reader is, also.
In writing fiction, my focus is on factuality. The landscape, geology, flora, agriculture and industries, what people wear, how they speak, what vehicles they drive and how they fix them — all have to be right. For me, they have to be accurate and believable for the fiction to be plausible — for the bigger emotional questions to be acceptable. 
And, so, fact and fiction — True Stories and Short Stories — sit comfortably together for me. In truth the difference between the two is that compression I mentioned — many people met might be amalgamated and morph into a fictional character, many events melded with others imagined, but feasible, into a scenario. 
The front cover of this book — a photograph I took in Kovalam, in the state of Kerala in India’s south-west — seems to exemplify this dual process. In the practical sense, the fishing nets are rowed out at dawn, and the villagers then haul them in, chanting, perhaps taking until midday, before the proceeds of the catch are divided up. The whole process is to do with tradition, community, family, religion, hard work and ethic.
In another sense, the net is being cast wide and then slowly strained until what is left is the essence of the catch. I trawl through places and my own life in the True Stories. Later, I cook up the best of the catch in the Short Stories. 
But however each piece in this book might be classified, it is a story — and I use the word with a broad meaning. A story as a place of storage and part of a developing philosophy. For I believe that in collecting the ingredients and building stories we construct our ethic and belief, keep our wonder and show our naivety, and develop our sense of place in the world.
Stories are my prayers.
 
 

 

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