Marie-Helene Bertino on Manipulating Time in Fiction

At Electric Literature, in a fascinating conversation with J.R. Ramakrishnan, author Marie-Helene Bertino explains how she used time as a storytelling device in her latest novel, Parakeet. “I very much wanted to do to time, to use everything I could possibly think of, on a page with time, to help tell the story of time, of how sometimes it reverses, rewinds, moves faster and moves slower, the way it does when you’re in a catastrophic incident, and the way you do for every moment after that incident. The trauma forever changes you. Anytime you remember something, you re-experience it and time works in that same way on you again. It was a literal representation of how time begins to move independent of logic,” Bertino says. “I was focusing on trauma, but I think it works the same way when you’re in love. Days can feel like years when you’re waiting for a loved one to return or when you’re waiting to see your child or when you’re waiting to give birth to your child. There is nothing emotional that doesn’t land on time somehow. I was very literally trying to represent that.”  

is always reading. She works for Brooklyn Public Library and blogs about books at

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