The ocean of the past

by
March 2007, no. 289
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The Curer of Souls by Lindsay Simpson

Vintage, $32.95 pb, 352 pp

The ocean of the past

by
March 2007, no. 289

It is surely impossible to read a new work of Australian historical fiction without doing so through the lens of Inga Clendinnen’s much-discussed essay The History Question (2006). One of Clendinnen’s arguments is against claims for the superiority of fiction over history because the former brings the past to life through imaginative empathy, allowing readers to ‘get inside the experience’, while history is merely a desiccated ‘world of facts’. Clendinnen also sets out the differences she sees between fiction and history, which are standing on either side of a ‘ravine’. In her response to correspondence in the following Quarterly Essay, she expressed her position concisely: ‘Fiction carries us deeply, effortlessly into imagined individual subjectivities. History is the sustained attempt to penetrate the minds and experiences of actual others.’

Lorien Kaye reviews 'The Curer of Souls' by Lindsay Simpson

The Curer of Souls

by Lindsay Simpson

Vintage, $32.95 pb, 352 pp

Buy this book

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