March 1, 2009

Out of Africa, out of mind


"People always ask me, they say, In 'The Deluge at Norderney,' were those characters drowned or saved at the end? (You remember they are trapped in a loft during a flood and spend the night recounting their stories while awaiting rescue.) Well, what can I reply? How can I tell them? That's outside the story. I really don't know!"
--Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)
When a story ends, does it really part ways with its creator, or does it sometimes creep into the author's mind, haunting him or haunting her until it's heard? I always thought it was the latter, but maybe not. Perhaps it depends on how much power the author wants to hold over the characters...Dinesen seems to be an advocate for free will when it comes to her characters. Another writer might feel that the characters wouldn't have free will outside the story created for them.

Then again, her response could be a sign of her belief in the finality of the ending of a story. Of how it all can end, just like that -- so that when the pen is set down, the characters and storyline cease to exist, except as they were. Out of paper, out of sight, out of mind.

P.S. I want to watch "Babette's Feast."

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