lunes, 17 de agosto de 2015

El Escritor y sus Fantasmas - Ernesto Sábato


A writer —and, I believe, generally all persons— must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
- Jorge Luis Borges, Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983

All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

- The Beatles, Eleanor Rigby

Some people have said that you cannot feel happiness and be a writer at the same time. That only the feeling of excruciating sadness or gentle yet inexorable melancholy can give you the instruments to write something beyond the ordinary, be it prose or poetry. Apparently, Lord Byron went a little further and added love to the recipe. According to Thomas Medwin in his Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron (1823), “For a man to become a poet (witness Petrarch and Dante), he must be in love, or miserable.” It says nothing about the nature of that love. For you could be in a one-sided love. Love and misery combined... how the human soul is able to endure that, I will never know. But it does.
Anyway, from Byron's approach, love can make you happy. So it is no longer that if you are happy, you only can write self-help books and stuff like that. You could be able to write the literary piece of your life. Or not. Bliss and desolation cannot grant the gift of writing. I know.
However, regarding this book and from the point of view I chose to analyze it, it seems that there is something more profound about what we call melancholic or pessimistic literature. Paraphrasing Tolstoy, maybe it is because happy people are alike and each unhappy people are unhappy in their own way. And our restless minds want to know a little more about the latter.
In this essay, Ernesto Sábato dealt with many ghosts that writers encounter in their lives. He also described many aspects of the creative process, its nature, its sources, themes, philosophical approaches to explain all the aforementioned, literary movements, the existence of a national literature, perspectives on aesthetics and human condition, the matter of originality, the fact that he looks at writing more like a doom rather than an occupation, the eternal debate between subjectivity and objectivity and other movements, comments on several renowned writers... A lot.
There are many reasons that lead a person to write, which diversity does not allow me to mention. However, we can agree that certain emotions prompt us to be in the mood for writing. Later, whether it is good or bad writing, that is another matter.
The sentiment that can move mountains of paper is the conflicted relationship when solitude becomes loneliness. Many times it is wanted, other times is a cause of disquiet. And then you are satisfied because you are calmly alone, and then you are desperate because you feel your humanity fading. And so on. And so on.
Isolation (a writer is well-accustomed to dealing with that) is one of the more powerful sources of literary works in the planet. With surgical precision, it cuts and finds its place in our minds, pinching memories of more accumulated isolation, which leads to the bleak disposition that shapes the day.
Why does it happen?
Why are we like that?
Where do lonely people come from?
Where do we belong?
How can we fix that?
No human being is an island. By writing, we express emotions and empty the mind to go on. But some things cannot be fix easily. Some, cannot be fixed at all.

Weird. Some of Sábato's essays left me pondering and the music I was listening to at that moment, did the rest. The reasons as to why a person would grab a pen or a computer and starts writing are as varied as human reactions. One? The intricate path made of insecurities and tragedy that can take the writer to the creation of a novel, thus, purging himself, at least for a moment.
One of the first things I underlined in this book are the following two sentences.
El principal problema del escritor
Tal vez sea el de evitar la tentacion de juntar palabras para hacer una obra. Dijo Claudel que no fueron las palabras las que hicieron La Odisea, sino al revés. (16)

It might be something like:
The main problem for the writer
Perhaps, to avoid the temptation of putting words together to make a literary work. Claudel said that it wasn't the words the ones that created The Odyssey, but the other way around.

A poetic way of portraying the absence of pressure. The lack of impatience for putting word after word to create something meaningful.
There are many more passages I would like to quote so you can appreciate the exquisite language he uses while conveying his ideas, giving the illusion of an effortless literary process. However, I cannot translate all that. I already heard the author's giggle at my previous naive attempt of translation. So, I will simply leave two more passages in here, asking for forgiveness to my English speaking friends.

De la cosa a la angustia
Lanzado ciegamente a la conquista del mundo externo, preocupado por el solo manejo de las cosas, el hombre terminó por cosificarse él mismo, cayendo al mundo bruto en que rige el ciego determinismo. Empujado por los objetos, títere de la misma circunstancia que había contribuido a crear, el hombre dejó de ser libre, y se volvió tan anónimo e impersonal como sus instrumentos. Ya no vive en el tiempo originario del ser sino en el tiempo de sus propios relojes. Es la caída del ser en el mundo, es la exteriorización y la banalización de su existencia. Ha ganado el mundo pero se ha perdido así mismo.
Hasta que la angustia lo despierta, aunque lo despierte a un universo de pesadilla. Tambaleante y ansioso busca nuevamente el camino de sí mismo, en medio de las tinieblas. Algo le susurra que a pesar de todo es libre o puede serlo, que de cualquier modo él no es equiparable a un engranaje. Y hasta el hecho de descubrirse mortal, la angustiosa convicción de comprender su finitud también de algún modo es reconfortante, porque al fin de cuentas le prueba que es algo distinto a aquel engranaje indiferente y neutro: le demuestra que es un ser humano. Nada más pero nada menos que un hombre. (89)

Tristeza, resentimiento y literatura
Por otra parte, la autenticidad está probada por el hecho de que nuestra mejor literatura es triste, melancólica o pesimista: desde Hernández hasta Borges y Marechal, pasando por Payró,
Lynch, Güiraldes y Arlt. Cada vez que somos profundos, expresamos esa tonalidad de sentimientos. Cada vez que, forzados por teorías o recriminaciones, intentamos ser alegres ofrecemos en nuestros libros un espectáculo tan torpe y apócrifo como cuando un argentino intenta divertirse en una boîte. Como los rusos del siglo pasado, empieza riendo y tomando, y termina llorando y tomando; cuando no concluye rompiendo todo lo que tiene a mano. (136)

All the lonely people, members of an atomized society, belong to the world. Yes. Citizens of the world perhaps developing pulsing creativity trying to find a way of expression. Let it be a resource.
Literature is always an option.

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

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