The grace of flight (a novella) & The shape of the past: memory, loss and exile in Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero

2017-02-16T05:34:32Z (GMT) by Clifford, Samantha Katherine
This thesis consists of two related components: a creative component and an accompanying exegesis. My novella, titled The Grace of Flight, depicts the physical and emotional journey home for eternal traveller Luca who returns to Tasmania after the loss of his father, where he must face not only his estranged sister Charlotte, but also his past. An unlikely friendship with his neighbour in his now home of Buenos Aires, helps Luca to understand the value of home and the importance of family. The novella combines themes of memory, familial bonds and loss, played out in two distinctly different locales: Luca's small coastal hometown of Oyster Cove and the historical barrio of San Telmo in Buenos Aires in which Luca has found both love and a new home. The accompanying exegesis examines the relationship between memory and narrative form in Michael Ondaatje's 2007 novel Divisadero, as well as the related representations of trauma and exile. Its first chapter is concerned with the representation of memory in literature, suggesting that the past and memory are necessarily incomplete and dislocated, and cannot be subjected to chronological linearity in literary narratives. With a focus on the narrative fragment, it draws from postmodern insights into totality and form and discusses Ondaatje's novel as a 'fiction of memory' whose representation seeks to mirror the nature of memory itself. The recurrent themes of grief and loss in Ondaatje's work inform the second chapter of this thesis, in particular the ways in which these emotional experiences can be seen to influence narrative structure. In their roles as biographers, historians and archaeologists, Ondaatje's protagonists seek resolution to the respective pasts of their subjects, but simultaneously circle and tend to their own individual losses, affording a circularity and complexity of form. Considering the concept of Freud's 'talking cure' as the logic for the narrative's distinctly ruptured form, this chapter suggests that the hyper-emotional states of both loss and trauma demand a similarly erratic form in narrative expressions. The thesis' final chapter will consider the figure of the exile in Divisadero, who is repeated throughout Ondaatje's works: the largely solitary character living out of country and out of culture. Through an exploration of the poetics of exile, I will build on Said's notion of exile as a 'discontinuous state of being' and the sense in which these fractured narrative forms can reflect and give form to the discontinuous and provisional experience afforded such figures, whose sense of temporal and locational continuity has been ruptured by circumstance.