Faye, a writer who lives in London, decides, a hot summer, to visit Athens just for a few days due to a creative writing course. There, she meets colleagues, friends as well as people she has never seen before. However, she gives all of them ample space to open up and show their personality, beliefs, to present their way of living by letting them speak for hours without interrupting. She just listens. From time to time, she may comment or tell her opinion but this response always comes as a reaction based on other people’s words. Her “silence” evokes a sense of sadness and sympathy for every human being listening to dreams, errors, desires, insecurities and existential issues of other people, not as a good and non-judgmental friend, but as a person so blocked that seems to deconstruct the notion of discourse. On the other side, this may consist the best way to write about loss – loss of self, love, inner center, partner or even the loss of personal truth- by collecting confessions and meticulously describing the lives of others.
Faye has a great knowledge of Greece. She is totally aware of greek mentality, summer heat, stray animals, traffic, family bonds, the typical greek “heart”. She is even able to give directions to tourists showing the way to the Benaki Museum. Athens is a city she becomes well familiar with, however, she has not still perceived how it is related to reality. The dipole illusion – reality is obvious in every chapter, directly or not.
As a writer she tends to be sensitive to language matters and as a mother, to children. Her beliefs on upbringing, childhood, traumas caused by adults, as well as on writing, translation, language and literature are original and really straightforward. It looks like she tries to shed light on the least spread aspect, she wants to capsize the common viewpoint. In other words, she abstains from stereotypes. Therefore, this book offers a great chance for reflection.
But which is the real reason why Faye gives so much space to people, known or not? Does she try to find her own answers? Does she compare? Learn? Observe? Is all this on purpose? Can we suppose that to a great degree she attracts people that enjoy talking about themselves? Does her own silence make her stronger, or she is confined to her loneliness, instead? Is it her own way to comment an open world thrilled while treated through verbal expression or she implies that the best way to know ourselves better is while being in other shoes for a while? Is it not highly possible that Cusk just forms her own literature figure or the way she would like to be? And, after all, don’t we know too much about Faye?
Everything is a matter of the personal outline that each one of us makes for self.
Translated in Greek by Athina Dimitriadou
Published in Greek by Gutenberg
Rachel Cusk was born in Canada and grew up in Los Angeles. She lives and works in London. Her entire work is labelled as autobiographical, as she describes her own experience of motherhood, divorce, her profession or her personal views on a great deal of issues. Outline is the first part of her trilogy.