Fiction: A Novel: 06/16/09
Meta is a Greek prefix that in English is used to mean something self referential. If you run a blog or a website, you know meta in the form of metatags. Fiction a novel by the oddly named Ara 13 is metafiction a book that draws attention to its own fictionality to open a discussion about the barrier between fact and fiction.
At its most basic level, Fiction is yet another missionary on a quest to convert "savages" to Christianity. It's right there with The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver,
At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiesen and to a lesser degree Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
In Fiction, the missionary is a priest, Father Daniel who has gone in search of the "fierce Oquanato cannibals" whom he hopes to convert to Christianity.
Instead of just presenting the entire story from the priest's point of view and watching him slowly either sink into madness, go native or lose his life in the failed process of the mission. Instead, Fiction presents both sides of story and uses very similar language for both parties. The tribe members speak in a slang that's quirky but no different than any other small group of people. By making creating recognizable and memorable characters, Ara 13 opens the dialogue between "civilized" and "savage" morals.
In that dialogue the belief system of the tribe begins to come to light. Other reviews giveaway the source material for their bible but I'm not going to do that. A big part of the fun of Fiction is figuring out what their good book is. The choice of source material works. It's full of many of the same themes as the Bible but its probably never thought of in those terms. Dreamybee asked if the choice felt gimmicky to me. No. It made me laugh and then it made me think but at no time did it strike me as a gimmick.
The final third of the book deals with the aftermath of Father Daniel discovering the truth behind their religious beliefs. The dialogue ends with both sides accusing the other of believing in fiction.
One question I've been asked by Gautami Tripathy if I would read more books by Ara 13. The short answer is yes. He has another novel out, Drawers & Booth (2007) that I hope to read some day.
The author's website.
Other posts and reviews
Ohh yeah Ara 13 is definitely one of the better metafiction/postmodernist writers out there right now. I really enjoyed this book. If you get around to reading D&B before I do, let me know! Would love to see what you thought of it :)