What is the difference between history and historical fiction? What demands do we place on historians and are they similar or different to those we place on authors? How important is the ‘truth’ in constructing a narrative and interpreting history?
Read the following ‘Revisiting The Secret River’ article from the Quadrant in which Jenny Stewart examines the act of reading and interpreting Grenville’s novel.
Respond to the following questions:
- How does Jenny Steward explain the problematic nature of writing (history and novels) through the Jewish term ‘midrash’?
- What decisions has Grenville taken in her book when representing the past which historians have taken issue with?
- Steward is dismissive of guilt: ‘The guilt may be a stage we need to go through. But guilt is the least productive of the emotions—it makes us sad, without making us more consistent or effective. It is an emotion that is difficult to sustain, nor, I suspect, is it even very widely shared. Almost a quarter of Australia’s current population was born overseas. Multicultural Australia knows little about indigenous Australians.’ Do you agree with her view that ‘Multicultural Australia’ is ignorant? What issues does this raise for you? How might we understand the past in the present?