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Month: March 2019

I Am Someone Else

As the god of adolesence (or addled essence) said, Je suis un autre – I am an other.

It’s been a surprise to me how often, when leading a reading group, the character of ‘I’ has been confused with the author. At the most extreme, such and such an author has been accused of ‘being sick’ or ‘thinking too much’. Appreciation of reading requires one to learn that an ‘I’ of the narration is not the ‘I’ of the author and her life. Usually, the discussion has been interesting and fertile, and sometimetimes we have got to the point of considering how, in some ways, any narrative or any voice does indeed refract aspect of an author’s own biography.

Writers may use pseudonyms for the author of their works. Think Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine, for instance. John le Carre is a once-and-for-all name for the authorship of David John Moore Cornwell. A male writer with the real name of Albert Stubbins may publish his romantic novels as Cynthia de Mornay.

I too write as ‘Ade Johnston’, a part of my full name – Adrian Johnston Bailey – and as Adrian Bailey, and A.J.Bailey. Different markets, different brands.

However. In reading the beautiful Fernando Pessoa one is introduced to the possibilities of heteronyms. Now these are not as simple as pseudonyms. They are the names of authors with distinct personalities and biographies, they write and exist in ways often very different from their inventor. That inventor may be an ardent Peruvian socialist while one of her heteronyms is a powerful conservative. Each heteronym has her own historical biography, is a real but fictional character.

It’s something that excites me, and something I urgently want to explore: not only to write from different perspectives, but to write as different people. To become, as it were, someone else.