I read this really interesting text last semester about beginnings and whether they exist and I still hate myself for waiting this long to write a blog post, but here it finally is!
When we think of a text, we call the first word the beginning. Why? Because without thinking too hard about it, it is the beginning for us. It is where we enter the realm of the characters within the novel. However, is it really the beginning? What if the beginning is the title page, even if it conveys nothing but a few words? What if the beginning is the blurb, since that’s the first time you conceptualise the novel in your head? Maybe it’s the moment you first saw the cover, now that imagery suddenly conveys a lot more than you would expect. It’s actually endless where a beginning even begins.
If you think about the author of a novel, the beginning is very different for them since they are the ones writing it. For them, perhaps the start is when they initially come up with the idea. It could be a fully formed idea or it could just be noticing that man at the corner of the street that stemmed the rest of the characters. Maybe nothing really begins until it has an end in sight, making it halfway through the draft, or when the end is actually known, making it the full first draft.
However, just to make things even more confusing, if the beginning of a novel did stem from seeing the man at the corner of the street, then surely that’s not the beginning because it’s not the man’s beginning? So the beginning of the novel would stretch back all the way to the beginning of the man because without him, the beginning of the novel would never have occurred. But then the beginning of the man wouldn’t have occurred without the beginning of two other people. And so on. And so is it all just an endless beginning, ironically meaning that there is no beginning at all?
This is evident in the way that an author can never really create a novel with no inspiration. It is impossible since they would have to invent everything. Therefore, they are unconsciously inspired by everything they have come across in their life. Their work isn’t new; it’s just a transformed, manipulated version of everything that’s ever existed. Wow, that’s a way to degrade a novel. But isn’t it also true? It doesn’t necessarily make it unworthy, just that it’s had so many influences that it’s beginning can’t be pinpointed, and to me that makes it all the more important and exciting because you know that no one else could have created an exact replica, even if they tried.
What also interests me is that if there is no beginning, then surely there’s no end either? A quote from the text I read said something along the lines of “it takes longer to write about life than it takes to live it, therefore no autobiography can ever end”. I love this sentence because I’ve never really thought of it like this before. It is actually impossible to document our life without using up all our life and more, and we don’t have that more. Therefore, our life can never fully be explained, no one can ever really know everything about you and your experiences unless they were you. If people come into your lives at different times, they only know part of your experiences. Perhaps your middle becomes their beginning. Or their end becomes your middle. It’s like a tangled web of different timelines and you all interweave and dodge each other and share information and there’s no way of knowing where anything began or ended.
But really, does it matter?