On being a writer...

A celebration of the writing process, of being a writer, of all the weird things that pass through a writing brain...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The French Revolution

Word from the wise - The French Revolution - approach with care. Yikes. When I told a friend I was setting my new novel in the French Revolution he draw breath and said: 'You do realise the French Revolution is the most opaque period in history...' And he's right. The problem is that almost every element of the Revolution, be it a characters, places, the politics, the conflicts, is like one of those weird stone-like blobs you see at a distance on the beach and as you approach you can't decide whether it's some kind of plant or jellyfish or sea-creature. Just when you think it's definitely a jellyfish, it turns out to be an upturned shell. This applies to the French Revolution. Take Robespierre, for instance, whom most people would regard as a bit of a villain. In his early years as a lawyer he chose to represent the poor, and was against capital punishment. Take the famous image of the tricoteuses, knitting at the foot of the guillotine. Actually women were chivvied back to the hearth by the end of the Revolution. Nothing stayed the same for long, or was quite as it appeared. Nobody was clearly on one side or another.

Fortunately, I'm a novelist. My job is to find a pathway through this intriguing, infuriating, rich soup. Tough, though.

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