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When I first wrote Old Miguel and The Circus about a decade ago, I was trying to stretch suspension of disbelief to its very outer limit.
Old Miguel’s tale of life in the circus becomes more and more unbelievable as he goes along. When I got as far as writing about the clowns I made a point of being as transparently dishonest as a writer of fiction can be, given that fiction is a lie by its very nature. No self-respecting clown in real life could possibly behave in the way I describe, and nobody could possibly believe they would. Except, of course, the other fictional character in the story, Marlene, the Swiss gallerista. But then, as the writer, I take full, and unreserved, responsibility for that. Then I made the tale even more unbelievable, just to make sure.
But a report in today’s Guardian appears to prove me wrong. Or right, depending on how you look at it. The story entitled UK’s concerned clowns call for end to copycat crime wave left me completely flabbergasted. It seems that life really does imitate art on occasion, and some British clowns, or people masquerading as clowns, have declared war on magical realism. Of course, the difference between masquerading as a clown, and being a clown, is a little bit hazy due to the fact masquerade is the most essential part of clown’s profession. His job is to suspend small children’s disbelief to the extent they pee their pants through laughter, or poo them through fright. What passes for assault and battery in city streets, is regarded as hilarious within the confines of the ring, for some strange reason. But not by all. There is a big enough minority of people terrified of clowns for the condition to have its own name. Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns
But before I knew all this, I’d already come up with the perverse idea of investing my own fictional account of Old Miguel’s circus fable with a tang of credibility, by giving it an apocryphal existence within another story I’m writing.
The location and some of the details have been changed slightly for Pedersen’s Last Dream, where Knut Pedersen relates his circus tale to a waitress in a café, as he seeks shelter from an early morning snowstorm in Oslo’s Grønland. To see it link here: Pedersen’s Last Dream – Eight. If anything, Pedersen makes the story even more unbelievable.
A true childhood experience of mine, involving clowns and a very odd circus, probably inspired the story. That account can be read here: Bring on the clowns.
Maybe, deep down, I’m a coulrophobic in denial.
Copyright © 2013 Bryan Hemming
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