I was reading a November issue of The New Yorker recently and found myself absorbed in an article about how Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne were the best of friends. That is, until Zola wrote a novel with a character based on Cezanne and the latter resented how he was represented. The story was absolutely fascinating, transporting me to a world occupied by Manet and Monet and the salons of Paris.
It all came to mind again when my sister spoke of writing a book about our extended family. I like the idea, but I explained to her that it can get complicated. Look at Zola and Cezanne, I said. We have some wonderful, heartfelt experiences to relate, but a true account would have to also include the negativity and the dysfunction. Otherwise, it’s not real. And if it’s not real, it won’t be interesting.
Zola knew this. That’s why he included the dark and the light. His portraits of people are multi-dimensional. It cost him a significant relationship.
That’s a chance we take in art.