SECOND THOUGHTS : Top of the league type

Frank Moorhouse on the ideas that bore fruit in Grand Days (Picador, £6 .99)

When I began to write Grand Days, I had no creative hesitation in entering the narrative from a female point of view. While not in the first person, the entire book is seen from the point of view of the character Edith Campbell Berry, a young wom an in the League of Nations secretariat in Geneva during the Twenties.

In giving my answer to questions raised about the point of view of the novel, I found that I had to state some rather banal things which have been submerged in the gender theorising of the last few years.

These were that all of us are made up of a male and female genetic mingling and most of us were raised by a male and a female. Freud said that, in fact, the personality is a quarrel between the parents for possession.

The second commonplace is that most heterosexual men and women, throughout their lives, experience long-term intimacy with the opposite sex - men come to know women through intimacy with women.

There is the speculation about the androgynous capability of the imagination. Virginia Woolf was one of the first writers to ponder this. In A Room Of One's Own (1926) she said, "I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female . . .''

I came to realise too, that Grand Days (as was the League of Nations) was about borders, the crossing of borders, the removal of borders, and strife at the borders. Both in nationality and gender there is a transvestite in the book. I see parallels between the contemporary perceptions of gender border and the perceptions of national borders (a lateral leap the value of which I am uncertain).

In gender theorising, there are those who are demarking the boundaries of "male'' and "female'' genetically, culturally and politically, claiming that they are separate and different ways of knowing reality.

The second theoretical movement in gender is intent on downplaying, if not erasing, the distinctions between male and female. They argue that gender is not simply male and female but is a single spectrum of different hues. The position is in alliance with those who celebrate transgendered conditions.

And curiously, so it is with the national borders. In the European Union we have the fading of borders. Yet in the Balkans we have warring to bloodily establish suppressed borders. In Africa we have the strife from borders falsely created - inexact borders.

Looking back on the writing of Grand Days, I found that in researching the forgotten history of the League I was learning about an institution the like of which the world had never seen. But more than that (and only after finishing the book), I came to learn about another forgotten history from my own personal institution, my family - about the mother and the father within me and their quarrel for possession of me (and a possible answer to who won the quarrel in me). I was able to see my own borders.

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