Absolving Absolution

A Photo-series

By Emma Michelle Porter


During my Matric year, I had to read the book ‘Absolution’ by Patrick Flanery. My entire grade struggled through this incredibly strange and abstract novel, and it seemed the only thing we took away from it was a group joke that came from the so-called ‘message’ of the story; that there is no such thing as absolute truth. This became something that anyone could blurt out anytime they deemed appropriate, because we had heard it repeated by our English teachers so many times, and we had written it down in our essays so many times, that the phrase lost all meaning and just sounded hilarious for some reason. “Tell me honestly, should I–”, “There is no absolute truth!”. “Oh my gosh don’t lie, that’s crazy!” “There is no absolute truth!” etc.

At the end of the day, this message is actually incredibly profound, and I think the novel was probably just not suited to a group of stressed out 17-18-year-olds. Looking back now, I can see how the paradoxical truth of this statement about truth is so important.

Everyone has their own truth. Every story has multiple versions of the truth, and the listener/reader/viewer has to decide for themselves to which version they subscribe. Nothing in this world can ever really be classified as absolute, un-contestable truth because humans inherently possess the ability, and desire, to contest anything and everything, and no one can really convince someone else that their truth is actually false. There’s a lot to think about within this idea.

In saying this, I decided to take the words of Patrick Flanery’s novel and turn them into my truth- my writing. Just as human beings have so often reshaped, recycled and re-purposed so many stories in the past, I have done something similar to a book which caused me a lot of confusion and stress, in a very therapeutic act of vandalism, in the hopes of absolving it of its sins (see what I did there?).

This is known as blackout poetry, I hope you enjoy it.