Australia

Looking at the world through Helen Garner's eyes

Non-fiction
One Day I’ll Remember This: Diaries 1987-1995
By Helen Garner

Her diaries reveal deep – and surprising – self-doubt.

Her diaries reveal deep – and surprising – self-doubt.

What a joy and a privilege it is to dive into the pages of Helen Garner’s second volume of diaries, which opens with her embroiled in an affair with a married man and ends just after the publication of The First Stone.

Garner released the first volume of her diaries, Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume 1: 1978-1987, late last year. She explained then that in publishing these diaries (and there are more to come), she would allow herself only to trim, not to rewrite or improve.

Here then are the unvarnished reminiscences of one of our greatest living writers on subjects that are endlessly fascinating: “the vast chasms” between men and women; the difficulty of being in a couple (“The struggles for freedom within it, the demands for support and love”); and the challenges facing a woman artist (the need to “keep enough of myself free for my work” and not allow her attention towards her lover to “outweigh my attention to myself for work”).

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Garner’s diaries reveal a woman with deep – and surprising – self-doubt: about her writing ability (“I will probably never write anything large, lasting, solid or influential”); her intellect (“I’m not and never will be a real intellectual”); and her marriageability (“I’m no good at marriage”).

Why read these diaries? Garner has said that a diary “show[s] the world from the writer’s point of view” and gives the reader “a deep sense of comradeliness, of not being so alone”. Hers do both. If you have never read Garner, read them for the sheer beauty of the prose and clarity of her thinking. If, like me, you have devoured everything she has ever written, they will enhance your understanding of her work. I now want to return to it immediately.

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