Andreas Heger gave a short speech at the launch of Cooktown at Better Read than Dead, that we thought was worth repeating.
Jennifer Egan has noted that, of all the forms of artistic expression, the novel is the only truly internal one; it’s the only one that brings you into the mind of another person. The image, although powerful, is external.
For me, this means there is an intimacy in the novel which no other medium can produce. I write for that intimacy – that connection with each individual reader.
The best novels are those that express the human condition in all its raw truth. None of us is without flaws or regrets – and none of us without joy.
In Cooktown, I tried to take an unflinching look at issues like masculinity in Australia today, sexual abuse, identity and our need for human closeness – but I’d ask you to be compassionate with my protagonist Daniel Grey and the other characters. I reiterate: none of us is perfect.
Daniel Grey is given no guide in life. He has lost everything that shaped his identity along with the person he was closest to. Do not underestimate the power of grief and trauma. Daniel is shaped by the society around him as much as by personal decision-making.
This is the beauty of fiction. It allows us to examine ourselves through a compelling story with compelling characters – but with characters who are not real, even if they feel that way. Fiction is what enables us to pull back from the story and examine ourselves and the world around us.