Digital Autofiction, Frances Bonner Aucoin

Me. Myself and Other

Me. Myself and Other

Autofiction is a term generally associated with contemporary French authors. It was “invented” by Serge Doubrovsky in 1977 in relation to his novel “Fils” where he sums it up perfectly as a way of “selling” an autobiography, making it attractive to the public without playing the “grand-homme-au-soir de la vie”. When using Autofiction an author may choose to write an account of his life in the third person where he modifies significant details or characters using fiction as the narrative self.  Author, character and narrator are one and often we find that using Autofictional practice authors retain their real name and persona while venturing into an imaginary life. The term has come to represent a new direction where the lines of fiction and nonfiction have been erased. Thesite www.autofiction.org  features articles which discuss the genre, specific works and contemporary French authors such as Anne Wiezemsky, Catherine Miller, Olivia Rosenthal and Michel Houellebecq find literary freedom within the genre. Doubrovsky claims that is gives authors the freedom of language in their writings… “To have entrusted the language of an adventure… then create the adventure of language, outside the wisdom and the syntax of the novel, you have created something concrete.” Today Autofiction has become  a multifaceted style  of writing, breaking all preconceived notions of how to narrate “sincerity and fiction, reality and truth.”

In regards to truth, fiction and lying, the dictionary defines lying as “the deliberate act of deviating from the truth” ( www.thefreedictionary.com/lying ), but fiction is considered to be an “imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality, but has been invented.” Therfore Autofiction is fiction and not a lie because the reader is aware of the genre (autofiction generally on the cover of the novel) and that what they are reading deviates from the truth. They are  aware that the elements in the novel are a mix of fiction and autobiography and only the author really knows what is truth and fiction.

Autofiction is omnipresent in all present-day media, particularly on the Internet. The most prominent genre of visual autofiction today on the web is the net working phenomenon that is MySpace which is all about the creation of an image for the owner of the profile. Unlike the literary variant which was all about the novel, sites such as MySpace are all about the creation of the image of the profile owner. Users may construct different profiles for themselves such as dance-divas, travel-gurus or pin-up girls. They may present themselves as vampire slayers or werewolves all in the name of identity creation and escapism.

Identity creation is nothing new to us and it does seem to be a part of human nature. From the Renaissance to the Victorian, class-structures dictated one’s social identity, taste in art, music, social circle and status. Today identity formation is a choice of self-fashioned creation. Users can choose freely the role models they wish to present themselves, thus making Identity less of a given and more of a constructed reality. Millions of young people who are creating their identities are taking to these internet  sites in the form of MySpace, blogging and tweeting and reinventing themselves in this cyber playground. A truly hijacked profile may still function as a real profile because of the space it inhabits. The expression …“what cannot be found on the Internet does not exist” (Peters) may have seemed a bit farfetched at one time but is proving  true, as the net–variant of Autofiction is far surpassing the literary variety and growing exponentially.

Across the globe young, across language and culture Autofiction is taking hold and particularly in Japan. The reason Autofiction is popular in Japan is the same reason Facebook is not. Japanese culture frowns on self-promotion and standing outside the crowd. Japanese blog sites rarely show identity photos and an exploration of Mixi, the Japanese equivalent to Facebook, show  profile faces presented as cartoon characters, stars, warlords, constellations and kittens.” Autofiction is the playground for these self-fashioned identities.  Profiles which are “untrue” or which do not present accurate profile photos, names, pictures and demographic descriptions, can only be seen as playful and not lies, deceit or fraud. These “anti- profiles” partake in the community of MySpace or Mixi template and therefore identity and truth status are  shared. Occasionally the truthfulness of a profile is questioned and the reader may well be surprised to discover it is a complete counterfeit and this is the intrigue as the reader can never be certain what is real and what is not. This is the real attraction of the genre.

We may wonder if the novel entitled “The Sexual Life of Catherine Miller” is really the sexual life of Catherine Miller? Or if the novel”Autofiction” by Japanese author Hitomi Kanehara is an experimental novel of herself or the narrator Kin? What we do know is that we do not know. What is reality but a concept which hovers in between spaces. Spaces where star-phenomenon, geisha girls, artists, fashion designers, star constellations, and flowers are all examples of self–fashioned identity creations. These self-created personalities are signatories of  the “Autofictional contract” between sender and reader where anything goes. In between the two poles of truthfulness and falseness the majority of us dwell and the “about me” is fast becoming our space of inquisitive indulgence.

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