It is that time of year again in Sydney, the weather turns cold and the writers and readers come out of the woodwork for a week of celebrating the written word. This year's festival started last Saturday, 14 May and will run until this Sunday 22 May. I have only managed to get to to a session yesterday, and was lucky enough to get a ticket for the panel discussion about World War II in Fiction.
The discussion was facilitated by ABC interviewer Michaela Kalowski and involved Nir Baram, an Israeli author, Leah Kaminsky, an Australian writer who's latest book focuses on the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations, and Irish author John Boyne, who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Obviously the gargantuan topic that is World War II honed in on the Holocaust and how each author decided to write about this subject, how they approached it and how they dealt with the impact on their lives.
It was a fascinating conversation that kept coming back to the authors agreeing on being loyal to the story rather than loyal to history. Not that they advocated throwing away historical fact, but that the role of the author is to create a story that runs true to the world created not to the official historical narrative we are told. To set a novel in a place and time in the past only works if it reflects on the issues of today. Each of the novels discussed does this, whether it is a story of a how someone can thrive in a fascists regime, the generational impact of genocide or a child's perspective of war. What is undeniable is thtat each writer ensured that their protagnosts are well rounded human beings that make decisions to survive. No one is a hero or a villan but a person like you and me.
It was a great way to start the weekend.