Thursday, 28 May 2009

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco

pg. 86 Two students from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris recently came to show me a photograph album in which they had reconstructed the entire route taken by my character Casaubon, having photographed, at the same time of night, each of places I had mentioned. [...] They wanted to transform the 'real' Paris into a place in my book. [...] To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative - the reason people tell stories and it has always been the paramount function of myth: to find a shape, a form, in the turmoil of human experience.

Although I have edited this down quite heavily I identified with the idea of building a visual collage of a place that - when written - did not exist but has been 'found' through a library of visual images. Eco admits that he did not describe a particular bar in Paris but the students subsequently found the imaginary one he was describing. Sort of like dreaming, when you are describing a place which could later be 'found', slightly redefined or remembered/salvaged by an image.

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