Patrick Samphire (psamphire) wrote,
Patrick Samphire

Foreign foreign

"The past is a foreign country," L.P. Hartley wrote in The Go-Between, "they do things differently there."

As it turns out, foreign countries are also foreign countries, and they do things differently there too.

The past in a foreign country must therefore be a foreign foreign country, where they do things very, very differently.

Which does beg the question as to why I would choose to write a novel set in 1930s Malaya.

I have never been to Malaysia, and I have certainly never been to the 1930s. I am not by nature particularly keen on research.

My book is currently littered with square brackets of the "[something]" or "[description here]" or "[blah, blah, blah: do some research you lazy fool]" type. I've been wondering if I could get away with leaving it like that and claiming that I was writing experimental fiction.

Some writers seem to delight in writing about foreign foreign countries. Bernard Cornwell, to pick a not even slightly random example, appears to be. I have been watching the entire box set of the adaptations of Cornwell's Sharpe stories. They are fantastic, and the adaptations are brilliant too. But I can't help the odd shudder as I contemplate the amount of research I would have to do to write something like that.

Of course, I find myself actually wanting to write that kind of story, but this (I hope) is simply the side effect of watching 12 Sharpe episodes in quick succession.

What I really should do is write contemporary stories set around where I live. But these rarely fire my imagination in the same way.

So here I am, filling up a text with square brackets and hoping someone else will do all the research for me.

And, why yes, this is my first journal entry of 2010. Wasn't it worth waiting 23 days for this unfocused rambling?
Tags: historical fiction, sharpe, writing

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