Friday, July 22, 2011

writing as displacement in author Graham Swift

I harbour this dream of being a writer. Not a factual writer, but a fictional one. Perhaps it’s why a blog – a wannabe :). Anyhow, beside my bed since Christmas has been Graham Swift, Making an Elephant: Writing from Within. Swift is a UK author, Booker prize winner (1996). Two of his books have become films (Last Orders and Waterland).

This book, Making an Elephant, is a collection of various pieces he has written, many of which explore the art of writing. Below are some quotes that stood out. And which, when put together over some 400 odd pages, suggest a recurring theme. Whether for me, the reader, or in him, the writer, who knows.

[S]he suffers greatly, but she still grows. It’s the price of the ticket, isn’t it? The displacement ticket. Displacement engenders a great deal of suffering, a great deal of confusion, a great deal of soul-searching. (139, 140)

Unlike Vaculik, Klima did not disdain manual work. Rather, he took the view that doing other, temporary jobs could be valuable for a writer; and he told a story which was a perfect explosion of the Western ‘myth’. A famous Czech author is seen cleaning the streets by a friend of his at the American embassy. The American goes into a fit out of outrage at how the authorities humiliate the country’s best minds. But the writer is doing the job voluntarily: it is research for a book. (166)

a belief in the local as the route to the universal, combined with a belief that in the local (including those seemingly familiar localities, ourselves) the strange and the dislocated are never far away. (294)

we are all, at one and the same time, inhabitants of place and of placelessness, creatures of tenure, attachment and of no fixed abode …all writers … would recognize that mental dislocation is part and parcel of what they do. (311)

Posted by steve at 08:35 AM


  1. when i was writing my honours paper, i was exploring in part, the connection between mental illness, specifically depression, and the craft of writing. depression is a bit like dislocation, or discombobulation to use my best friend’s favourite word. sometimes it disables the writing. sometimes it enables it. and sometimes you let the dislocation / fracturing remain a while longer before you take steps towards a healthier place, just to get the poem you know is lodged between the fissures …

    Comment by Sarah Agnew — July 22, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  2. That’s a really interesting connection Sarah. Yes, depression is a bit like dislocation and yet when framed in the way you have, becomes a bit redemptive. Lovely


    Comment by steve — July 23, 2011 @ 11:50 pm

  3. Hi mate. Interesting post. Have you read the chapter on Isaac Babel in “Making and Elephant”?

    Comment by Paul Fromont — July 24, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  4. Yes, read the chapter. Love the idea of placing a writer on the desk as I write. But not sure who I would place. Who would you?


    Comment by steve — July 25, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

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