The Eulogy, new autofiction by Jackie Bailey
4 July 2022
The Eulogy, published by Hardie Grant in June 2022, is the debut autofiction novel of Australian author Jackie Bailey, and if the description autofiction is indicative, then the story is based, in part at least, on Bailey’s own life:
It’s winter in Logan, south-east Queensland, and still warm enough to sleep in a car at night if you have nowhere else to go. But Kathy can’t sleep. Her husband is on her blocked caller list and she’s running from a kidnapping charge, a Tupperware container of 300 sleeping pills in her glovebox. She has driven from Sydney to plan a funeral with her five surviving siblings (most of whom she hardly speaks to) because their sister Annie is finally, blessedly, inconceivably dead from the brain tumour she was diagnosed with twenty-five years ago, the year everything changed. Kathy wonders – she has always wondered – did Annie get sick to protect her? And if so, from what?
Autofiction, in case you’re wondering — as I was — is term first used by late French author Serge Doubrovsky, when he published his novel Fils in 1977, although he by no means pioneered the genre. The autofiction like blending of autobiography with fiction, can be found in the writing of Sappho, a Greek poet who died in around 570 BCE.
Autofiction combines two mutually inconsistent narrative forms, namely autobiography and fiction. An author may decide to recount their life in the third person, to modify significant details and characters, using fictive subplots and imagined scenarios with real life characters in the service of a search for self.
Some titles by James Joyce, and Jack Kerouac, who both worked and died well before 1977, can be seen as examples of autofiction, while On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, written in 2019 by Ocean Vuong, and Outline, from 2015, by Rachel Cusk, are more recent instances.