Why? (Kate Colquhoun)
I make an assumption that the question ‘why?’ exists obdurately in the lives of all writers, asked by oneself and by others.
Why do I write? Certainly not for recognition. It started with an untold story waiting to be discovered. It continues because, in the course of that long process of investigation, a space of quiet concentration is carved out of the clamour of urban family life.
But it is not simply a matter of why one writes. For a crafter of non-fiction – and particularly a historian – why? is the most central of concerns. It hovers behind every other fundamental question. Alongside it is the knowledge that nothing can be made up – not even the blink of an eye. Answers are not manufactured, they are discovered. Even then – like secrets - they should be approached with caution.
Persistent in its demands, why? thrums to be addressed. It is imperative; it gets us into the heart of the story; it drives one’s research and it colours approaches to structure, character, pace and the narrative arc. What? and how? are simply not enough. Investigating why? involves tenaciously peeling back the wafer-thin skins of time in order to peer underneath and around events. It implies leaving no stone unturned in one’s quest for the answers and hours interrogating old newspapers and unpacking filthy archive boxes.
With luck, the rewards are the discovery of routes that lead to a proper understanding of motive and of the influences on people and events. At other times, the question refuses to be answered unequivocally. A space must stand in its place. In either case, though, making eye-contact with why? informs one’s historical sensitivity, encouraging a human approach to the past and a refusal to make do with received wisdoms. Without why? both what? and how? lack the beating of a proper human heart.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Kate Colquhoun, "Why? (Kate Colquhoun)", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), avril 2014. Consulté le 05/12/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/why-kate-colquhoun-