Hermione Wilds

The Narrative

A response to the opening pages of Gerard Genette’s “Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method.”

Sunset at Sea by Giovanni Fattori

Tom was walking backwards. He felt it even as he receded. And yet to whom did it appear that he was receding? Merely himself, surely, since everything happens in relation to somebody or something else. And, because there was a tree here and a human being there, he knew that he was walking backwards, became aware of it instantly, and wondered why it felt so unnatural to him.

Time moves forwards, and human beings move forward, don’t they, since they are governed by time?

Tom became uncomfortably aware of the fact that, should he continue to move backwards in time, he would soon arrive at the beginning of the story, and then he began to wonder, if this was so, where the beginning of the story could be located, since, arguably it wasn’t here now. It was somewhere else, back there in the beginning, where it had, perhaps momentarily, stood still. And yet with time moving inexorably forward, how could it be so that the beginning of this story was situated anywhere else?

Did a story begin at the moment of your engagement with it? Did a story begin the moment you began to read it? Was it at that moment indelibly imprinted on your mind, so that it could not be erased? A fixed spot of time. Something like a still from a film or a song, which had the power when you heard it or revisited it, to take you right back to a moment in your life when you brother had died, in Tom’s case, or when you met the love of your life. That moment. And if that was so then what moment was this?

Something else occurred to Tom then, although it is impossible to say exactly when this was. This was the fact that those moments that he was thinking about in the previous paragraph were quite long. That is to say, they were not really fixed moments at all. For example, his brother dying seemed to him to be a long drawn out affair that affected his whole family so much that it went on for days months and years afterwards and was never really finished. That love affair he had experienced was not over yet. He sometimes wondered whether it ever would be over. If it was, he would certainly know it, wouldn’t he? He would be able to say, “that is when I stopped loving her.” When I was standing under that elm tree or when I boarded that train. It—


About the writer:
Hermione Laake writing as Hermione Wilds is a twice award-nominated writer of fiction for both adults and children. Wilds/Laake is reading for an MA in creative writing in London and is a reader for O:JA&L. You can find more of her work on Amazon and connect with her on Goodreads. Wilds/Laake is a frequent contributor to O:JA&L’s Youtube channel as a reader-in-performance.

Image: Sunset at Sea by Giovanni Fattori (1825-1908). Oil on panel. 7.4 x 12.9 inches. Between 1890 and 1895. Public domain.