In order to be shown the sign (Gerald Murnane)

The shabbily dressed man spoke to his students at their first class as follows. The best service he could perform for them was to persuade them to give up writing fiction as soon as they had finished his course—or even before then. The writing of fiction was something that a certain sort of person had to do in order to explain himself or herself to an imagined parent or an imagined loved one or an imagined god. He himself had had two novels published more than ten years before but had had nothing published since then and had no intention of writing so much as a sentence of fiction during the remainder of his life. He had stopped writing fiction after having been shown a sign. He had had to write or to prepare to write fiction in order to be shown the sign, but having been shown the sign he no longer wished to write fiction. The shabbily dressed man then said to his class that he had probably said too much to them already and had probably confused them thoroughly. He then said that their first class was over, that their classes for the next month were cancelled, and that they should go away and write their first piece of fiction and deliver it to him three weeks later so that he could prepare photocopies for the workshop classes that would occupy him and them for the rest of the year.

From Gerald Murnane’s short story “The White Cattle of Uppington,” (1995); collected in Stream System (2018).

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