Fictional Facts or Factual Fiction? Lucia Galli's talk on self-representation and the social reality behind two Tibetan memoirs
Cultural meanings and socio-historical realities hide in the interstices between literature and history, and narrative indisputably plays a central part in both fictional and factual writings. While the role of historians as “fiction-makers” has been theorised by Hayden White as far back as 1974, the question of whether a novel gives us access – albeit in its own peculiar way – to the same kind of truth that we express in our assertions about states of affairs in the world is still a much disputed ground.
This presentation deals with questions of narrative’s truth by analysing and comparing two different Tibetan texts, namely Kha stag ʼDzam yag’s Diary (nyin deb) and Lhag pa Don grub’s novel The Life of a Muleteer (Drel paʼi mi tshe).
In questioning the arbitrary categorisation that will have these texts placed at the opposite ends of an imaginary clear-cut “fiction”- “nonfiction” divide, I will first bring to the fore the fictional aspects of the diary narrative and their function in increasing our understanding of indigenous representations of the self, and then examine the factual nature of Lhag pa Don grub’s work, largely based on the author’s memories and personal experiences.