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Richard Beard on memory, repression, and the art of the memoir: It’s all coming back

  • Published at 10:32 am November 9th, 2018
Richard Beard Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu

To kick off the session, Beard read a few extracts from the novel to set the context for the panel

UK author Richard Beard is back in Dhaka for his second stab at DLF. The UK author and teacher had previously visited Bangladesh in 2016, and left with a brand new fan base after a surprisingly entertaining editing workshop. This time around, he is promoting his newest novel The Day That Went Missing, a memoir about the death of his brother, and his attempts to reconstruct the events of the day the tragedy occurred. 

He appeared on Day 1 of DLF in a panel also titled “The Day That Went Missing,” moderated by Pru Rowlandson, long time publicity director of Granta Publications. It was announced at the beginning of the session that Granta is offering a three-month digital subscription for free at granta.com/dlf.

To kick off the session, Beard read a few extracts from the novel to set the context for the panel. The readings provided a little detail about how his brother died (drowning), his subsequent attempts to suppress the memory, aided by his family, and years later, his state of mind when he decided to reopen old wounds and revisit the day. By the end of the reading, there were several shining eyes in the audience.

Pru Rowlandson decided on a more personal approach to the panel by asking Beard to talk about his brother, instead of talking about the book, something the author seemed to warm up to. He spoke about how he had very indistinct memories to begin with, and had to piece things together from photos and testimonials to reconstruct the brief life of Nicky Beard. 

The conversation turned to the theme of repression and the idea of fortitude, the “stiff upper lip” that is so widely recognised, and even praised, as an essentially English trait. “Repression is such a disruptive way to live,” Beard stated, although he went on to explain that he understands that his family’s approach to the tragedy was simply in accordance with the social mores of the late ‘70s, when the incident happened. There was also some discussion about the craft of writing a memoir. “When you’re writing non-fiction, you still have to treat the people in the story as characters,” he suggests, as a method to create a compelling read. 

The panel ended with an interactive Q/A session with the audience. Richard Beard will be conducting another editing workshop this year, on the final day of the Dhaka Lit Fest.