1. AnthonyArnov
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    AnthonyArnov New Member

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    Approaching Pоссия!

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by AnthonyArnov, Jul 10, 2012.

    Hi. I am a columnist for a regional newspaper (in Bloemfontein, South Africa), and I write short stories for my own amusement. I also have a great deal of academic writing experience. I would like to attempt the challenges of a longer creative text, such as a novel.

    However, I have a few ethical concerns with regards to the truthfulness of the setting I would like to use.

    I have a story in mind that will explore a few philosophical and existential questions and themes. But I want to cover these themes without wanting to use a single direct reference to philosophy, history or politics. (In almost in the same way in which Albert Camus approached the idea of the absurd in La Peste and L'Étranger).

    The problem is that the socio-political conditions in my country does not allow for the incidents and worldviews for the characters I have in mind; it will be too foreign for something to take place in South Africa.

    So I was thinking of using a (Eastern) European town or city (most likely in Russia) for my story. I have a great love and appreciation for Russian culture, but I have absolutely no firsthand experience as to WHAT IT MEANS TO BE RUSSIAN, to be able to write with confidence and truthfulness. (And I have no means of visiting Russia anytime soon to do my ethnographic research.)

    So here follows my questions:
    1) Is it possible to write a novel which only implies a setting or city in Europe (such as Franz Kafka’s Der Prozess), or will this not be inviting and appealing to the modern day reader (In other words, can I communicate the story in an Ideologically English (/western) cultural frame, only, for example, referring to the setting through the names of the characters? or does a good modern story (novel) rely on the setting* being imbedded in the characters?

    2) (Almost the same as above), having indirectly implied the setting, can I use Ideologically English (/western) cultural frames in the dialogue and actions of the characters (In much the same sense that a foreign setting, in an American film, will have the foreign characters speaking English and using American metaphors and cultural cues (e.g Tom Cruise as Claus Von Stauffenberg in the 2008 film Valkyrie))?

    3) And, Do you know of any non-translated English longer short stories or novels where the setting or culture is not clearly indicated (that I can maybe look up for study purposes), or where characters speak English and make use of English cultural and linguistic metaphors, but they themselves are supposed to be non-English or non-Western?

    The reason I ask these questions is that I want to write a proper story without necessarily relying on the cultural specifics, and not wanting to write offensive or culturally alien references, of say, the Russian people.

    [* - I have no aspirations of writing a Nobel Prize winning text, I know my limits. But I have noticed that the modern Nobel Prize winners (literature) focus greatly, if not sometimes primarily, on the socio-political setting: Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, Goa Xingjian’s One Man’s Bible and J.M Coetzee’s (my fvourite South African author) Disgrace]

    Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

    Sincere Regards
    DBT
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    frankly, given the idiosyncratic nature of the russian people's character and culture, idiomatic way of speaking in english, and so on, it will be hard to pull this off, not having any first-hand knowledge/experience...

    with enough research you can certainly give a convincing picture of the setting to your readers, but much harder to make your characters seem authentic enough to any who either are russian, or have spent time in russia and/or with russians, or have even just read much authentically written russia-set novels...

    but if martin cruz smith could do it solely on research and brain-picking of ex-pat russians, in his award-winning arkady renko series bestsellers, there's no law saying you can't...

    удача!
     
  3. AnthonyArnov
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    AnthonyArnov New Member

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    Spasiba mamamaia!

    I was fearing that this would be the case. I was clinging to a last hope. I think it will be best sticking to 'writing what I know'. I am revisiting my story, choosing a local scene. It may be my own prejudice, but always have this poetical facination with regards to the (severe) history of Russia and its people. I think it is the only item on my 'bucket list': visit Russia.

    Sincere Regards
    DBT
     
  4. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    i dont know mutch about your story but whould it be possible to use a fictional eastern european nation, region or culture?
     
  5. AnthonyArnov
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    AnthonyArnov New Member

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    Hi! James

    To be quite honest, and this I cannot yet believe myeself, your suggestion may just have solved my problem. I suppose it is an obvious one. It may be my obsession with realism that gets in the way. I must learn to be not too serious.

    With Gratitude
    DBT
     
  6. Vsevolod
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    Vsevolod Member

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    I guess I can help you.
     

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