Baret Magarian is an Anglo-Armenian author based in the cradle of the Renaissance—Florence, Italy. A former freelance journalist for The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Telegraph, among others, he recently published The Fabrications with Pleasure Boat Studio. Through dark comedy and a band of eccentric characters, The Fabrications explores how identity, fame and celebrity are constructed through the trials and triumphs of Oscar Babel, a young and unremarkable man who unwittingly becomes the messianic face of a movement, thanks largely to a sleazy PR agent and the gullibility of the masses. An extremely topical page-turner that will leave you questioning your own reality long after you finish reading! Let’s get to know Baret and his writing a little better.
1) Where did you get the idea for The Fabrications and why do you think it’s an important and culturally relevant read today?
I was on a bus from London to Oxford thinking about how people can exchange energies and even personalities, and the idea seemed to me to be fruitful and interesting and it started to knock on my door and wouldn’t go away. That idea was eventually fused with another – the notion of a fiction that comes true, and eventually the novel was born. I think The Fabrications is important because at its core is an investigation into some very topical issues – manufactured fame, invented facts, the manipulations of the Internet, the meaning of identity, the difference between the fake and the authentic, and how much of our search for love is bound up in wearing or removing our masks.
2) What is your writing process like?
Total chaos! I scribble notes everywhere and have various bits of paper, cards, A4 sheets that eventually accumulate and become a bolus of data. I always make initial notes with a pen and paper – I like to jot down notes manually at the early stages of a project and then I shift to the computer when I start to write the actual text. I have a lot of files, with different colours for different projects and I like to buy pens and notepads obsessively but they are all out of sync and disordered and full of incongrous ideas and perceptions, lists giving way to obsessions giving way to story ideas. All I really care about in life can be found within the confines of a stationery shop, I have realised.
3) What’s the biggest challenge for you as an author?
Trying to overcome my inner critic who is constantly whispering “forget it, give it up, you are not good enough, go for a beer instead, who are you kidding?”
4) Could you imagine The Fabrications being made into a movie? Why or why not?
I can imagine the book being filmed yes because, firstly, it’s a very visual novel. I was careful, when I wrote it to try and give the scenes and settings a strong visual dimensionality. I knew that I wanted the novel to possess a strong visual imagination in which the reader could imagine him or herself in a kind of displaced yet immediate way, watching the action like a silent bystander. This visual element obviously lends itself to a cinematic treatment of the story, and the novel has many levels of conflict, which, I am told, is the key to good screenplays and films these days. I think there is a lot of forward motion in the plot of The Fabrications – again, a factor in a good film, and there are many different memorable, grotesque characters – a hero who is also an anti-hero, a villain, a heroine, an angel, a servant, a series of father figures, and many cameos. The novel is very theatrical too so I think it would make for a great stage play or even a TV mini-series. I think there’s enough incident and intrigue there to power the engines of a visual medium. Visual drama – TV, theatre, film – requires that kind of energy, that kind of elevated tension. My novel isn’t merely introspective or “interior” – there’s a hell of a lot of action and events!
5) What are some of the book’s themes that, to you, are personally significant? Do you see them recurring in your other work as well?
My writing all seems to be about the search for identity and The Fabrications features this idea quite prominently. I am fascinated by how we compose our own identies and where they come from: how much of ourselves derives from others, from friends, from art and so on. This is a theme that has always interested me and I think it’s an inexhaustible subject to be honest. The idea also informs my book of short stories, Melting Point and my novella Mirror and Silhouette. So to some extent it’s in all my writing. The Fabrications also asks questions about sexuality, synchronicity and free well. Are we living out someone else’s script – this is a question Oscar finds himself asking when he realises a friend’s fictional story about his life starts to manifest in reality. And is there any kind of structure to our lives or is it all just random? These are some of my themes I think. I try and present them through satirical and at times humourous prisms but I think they form the cornerstone of my work.
6) Fans of which authors and genres might enjoy The Fabrications?
This is a book which, I think, would appeal to fans of magical realism and novels that reject strict reality and verisimilitude. I can imagine that the novel might appeal to fans of fantastical writing as well, to people who have read and like novels like The Master and Margarita, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Unconsoled, The Trial, The Recognitions, The Corrections, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and writers like David Forster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon. There’s a lot going on in the novel – slapstick, metaphysical speculation, ideas, twists, turns, tragedy and comedy, but most of all, a damn good read that transports you into another dimension – which all good fiction should do on some level.
7) Who are your “heroes of fiction” – famous characters with whom you identify?
I identify a lot with Harry Haller of Steppenwolf because he is such an amazing mixture of the romantic and cynic, with The Time Traveller in The Time Machine because he is so obsessed with mankind’s ultimate improvement and with utopia, with Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being because he is so in love with women, with Christine in The Post Office Girl because she is given a glimpse of paradise, which is then snatched away, and with Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice because she is forced to realise that she isn’t as clever as she thinks she is.
8) With whom, out of your own characters, do you most closely identify?
I think probably in The Fabrications with Daniel Bloch because he is a writer and he is privy to all of writing’s joys and sorrows and, in my shorter fiction, with Kirsten, the heroine of a story of mine called “The Watery Gowns”, because she is given a glimpse of something that is nameless which allows her to live more completely and more joyfully later on. We are all searching for that “bridge”. I guess which would allow us to make sense of things and be ourselves, truly and beautifully.
9) In your opinion, is it better for a novel to end with more questions or answers?
I think the important thing is that the novel stimulates thoughts and allows the reader to have certain realisations about life and about the nature of relationships. If a novel can also help to lift depression, darkness and negativity by making the reader feel, laugh, cry, that is a real accomplishment in my, excuse the pun, book! That’s what I strive for anyway and the most precious books have enriched my life no end. If a novel can throw up answers in these crazy times that’s nothing short of a miracle!
Learn more about this fantastic author on his website at http://www.baretmagarian.com/
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