Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Verbatim: Hansard as fiction

I've read some Hansard in my time: not only the Ottawa one, but some provincial ones, and even the Debates of the legislature of the 1841-67 province of Canada, which is kind of a constructed Hansard, in that it was assembled in the 1970s by a team of historians who pieced together newspaper accounts of what was said by the parliamentarians at a time when there was no official reporting. I've even written a piece or two drawn largely from Hansard exchanges. And parliamentary matters do come up from time to time on this blog.

Recently, Jeff Bursey introduced me to another kind of Hansard, a fictional one. This is his novel, Verbatim: A Novel, published by Enfield and Wizenty of Winnipeg in 2010. Verbatim is a full-length novel consisting entirely of the parliamentary debate during a session or two in a fictional Canadian province, interspersed with some equally fictional inter-office memoranda and emails from the Hansard reporters and the legislative staff.

I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it.  It's an unconventional novel, for sure, and you don't get to look the leading characters up in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography the way I'm likely to do with the Province of Canada Debates, say. To figure out the premier's character and politics, or what the various imaginary constituencies want, or to sort out who is that independent member who never gets any floor time, well, you just have to keep reading.

If the concept intrigues you, well, here's Jeff Bursey's website and a link for the book itself.
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