Sunday, July 16, 2017

Yet Another Novel About Janet Frame

It has a pretty cover. There is a little Janet on the beach, with no face, washed over by wave upon wave upon wave.

No face. Interesting, isn't it, that the graphic designer has gone right to the heart of the matter of the erasure of the real person being exploited by this 'real person fiction'.

There is probably a thesis in it, in the no-face tiny not-really-Janet.

The novel is Kirkkaus by a Finnish novelist, and anything I can tell you about it comes via the assistance of Google Translate. It is apparently a fictional autobiography written in the first person as its main character Janet Frame, and it follows Frame's early life until the age of forty (Janet Frame's own 3-volume autobiography finishes at the exact same age: 40).

Why would you write a fake autobiography of someone who wrote a world famous autobiography?

Jalonen claims not to have read any of Janet Frame's own work until after she wrote Kirkkaus. She got the biographical stories she bases her book on, she says (I think) from Michael King's biography of Frame.

But Michael King's biography covers Janet Frame's life until she was in her late 70s. Jalonen's 'Janet' stops at age 40. Jalonen  appears to be drawing her inspiration from an autobiography she claims not to have read. Unless she thinks Frame's autobiography does not constitute part of her literary 'work'. I have encountered that fallacy before. It is as though the great memoir wrote itself, and this fallacy is, I believe, another aspect of the tendency to dehumanise Janet Frame, to strip her of her agency and self-determination. The obliteration of her face, if you like.

Ah but of course Jalonen probably saw Jane Campion's film adaptation of Janet Frame's autobiography, and Jalonen would not be the first person to have decided she knew Janet Frame better than Janet knew herself, from having watched a movie about her.

Jalonen's story ends, apparently, with Frame returning from England to her parents' empty house, which sounds awfully like one of the last scenes of AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE. The powerful visuals in that movie have convinced many people that they were there, that they saw Janet, that they knew how she was feeling, what she was thinking.

Without ever having read Janet Frame's own work.

So there she is, tiny Janet, marooned on the shore, washed over by the tides she is helpless to defend herself against. The authors of the fan fiction probably think of little Janet as helpless against her own emotion, or whatever twisted fantasy about Frame they are pushing.

For me the little faceless Janet speaks of the perfect little puppet for the author to project their own obsessions onto. Lying there stranded on the shore to be snapped up by the opportunistic beachcomber who can't make up their own story but has to steal somebody else's.

Janet Frame is not just her 'own best character'. She is also the author of her books, including her life story, and the deliberate distortions of her biography are not just morally reprehensible, they verge on plagiarism.


1 comment:

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Thanks for the review. Love love, Andrew. Bye.