DUB Speak

Is ‘fiction’ as unreal as the word itself suggests?

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“We all-adults and children, writers and readers-have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine.”

I anticipate two kinds of readers-one category will scoff at the above statement and mumble to themselves about the kind of trash that the internet produces these days. The second category will find that their hearts and minds resound with the statement above, with every novel they lift off the shelf and every page they turn.

The statement quoted was made by Neil Gaiman, a master storyteller who reigns supreme over the world of fiction. It was part of an article published in The Guardian and aptly titled, ‘Face Facts: We need Fiction.’

The category of readers who scoffed at the statement would, in all likelihood, like to refer to fiction as a form of ‘escapism.’ Fiction, to those who consider it a waste of their time, is a convenient way of running as far away as possible from the harsh realities of the world we inhabit. It serves as a temporary retreat when the tribulations of the ‘real’ world become too heavy a burden. Cannot deal with adult problems anymore? Turn to hippogriffs, or Gandalf, or Mowgli, to forget about them for a while. Such an argument sees fiction as a form of entertainment that takes our mind off of more pressing matters-a route to the land of collective amnesia, if you will. Once our allotted, limited time for leisure has come to an end, we must return to the mundane lives of our everyday chores and routines for, fiction is not as significant as the circus that is world politics or the imminent threat that is global warming.

Though valid to a certain extent (yes, I shall make that concession), this line of thought refuses to acknowledge the fact that ‘fiction’ mirrors the very world we live in. The fantastic world of Narnia or the castle of Hogwarts, are not as untrue or feigned as the word ‘fiction’ portrays them to be. The creators of these magical realms are those who inhabit our very societies, and writers are a product of their times. The worlds that emerge from their enviably rich imaginations are not entirely disconnected from our very own realities, for the writer is largely influenced by his or her circumstances. Therefore, there are important lessons to be gleaned from animals that can talk and feel, or from the possibility of a Jurassic Park. In the process, if the story gives the reader respite from their own problems, or even better, offers a solution to them, fiction has served its noble purpose.

Fiction equips us with the powerful weapon of imagination and the ability to dream of alternative realities and truths. The academic disciplines of history or science are not the only worthy pursuits that will someday make a change in the world. Imagination can be just as powerful.

Featured image credits: : bengoldmd.com

Abhinaya Harigovind

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[email protected] ; 'A self-confessed workaholic, I run on endless cups of coffee, last-minute panic, and the smell of fresh print on paper. Student of History at St.Stephen's College, but home and heart lie in Bangalore. Like Holden says, "I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot."'

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