Storytelling Permutations in the Performance of Life Narrative Betty Roland's Caviar for Breakfast.
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Throughout her life, Australian storyteller and playwright Betty Roland (1903-1996) was haunted by the lure of travel. Roland's extensive body of work reflects experiences in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s, the UK in the 1950s and Greece in the 1960s and charts the evolution of a personal and political philosophy marked by world-wide social upheaval. Caviar for Breakfast (1979 revised 1989), the second volume of Roland's autobiographical trilogy, is the subject of this paper. When taken together, the three books provide a fascinating insight into the values and ideas of the mushrooming modern cultures in which Roland travelled, worked and lived. Caviar for Breakfast retraces Roland's adventures in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union where she spent fifteen months during 1933-34 with her then lover, Guido Baracchi, a wealthy Marxist scholar. The narrative takes its life from the contents of a diary maintained by Roland during that time and her introductory remarks convey the notion that, what follows, is not a literary enterprise of the imagination. The author insists that Caviar for Breakfast is a first-hand account of past realities and not only does her diary hold the ordering of events together, but is the purveyor of truth. The truth status of the diary as a mode of representation is widely accepted in Western culture. This paper argues, however, that it is impossible for any transcription of a life to enjoy a one-to-one ratio with 'what actually happened' as it is for a ghost to re-enter a world which fully resembles the one it left. It is well within the capacity of any imaginative storyteller to construct a counterfeit, or simulated, sense of reality whether or not s/he works with the diary mode of representation.