Publication Details

Turcotte, G, Persistence of Vision, in Border Crossings: Words and Images, Brandl & Schlesinger, 2004. A version of this chapter also appeared as Turcotte, G, Persistence of Vision: Memory, Migration & Citizenship - Free Trade or the Faulure of Cross-Culturality?, in Boyer, P, Cardinal, L and Headon, D (ess), From Subjects to Citizens: A Hundred Years of Citizenship in Australia and Canada, University of Ottawa Press, 2004, 295-299.


In my novel, Flying in Silence, set in both Australia and Canada, my principal character is a French Canadian man torn between landscapes, languages and allegiances. To represent what was for me the central dilemmas of the novel — reconciling memory and migration — I used the metaphor of Persistence of Vision, that process in film through which we physiologically make sense of, or hold together, what should be a blurred, segmented and impartial sequence of frequently unrelated images. *** Persistence of vision is all about the eye, the way it follows a film, remembers an image, holds on to it, until the next one appears to replace it, so that we are never conscious of the stutter of frames — the space between. Image after image flows past us leaving ghostly fingerprints on shellshocked retinas. Our mind races, slower than light, and we see through the past into the present, just as that present no longer exists. And so we imagine the future. With the old projectors, a glitch could shake that sequence free. Suddenly, we might glimpse a momentary stutter that we’d suppressed — a mother, torn and fractured by a creeping darkness, a loved one felled by another’s lifelong expectations, violence inflicted on a child so that he turns himself inward and disappears.