Who I Am and Why I Write
Jaume Cabré (Barcelona 1947) is one of most widely read writers of contemporary Catalan literature. He is the author of an extensive body of work that includes fiction, television screenplays and theatre. His writings have been translated into many languages. Senyoria [The Judge] won the Méditerranée prize (2004) and Les veus del Pamano [Voices from the Panamo] won the National Critics'Prize.
I've often been asked why I write. At first, I would evade the issue, as even I did not know why, or perhaps I was tempted to churn out a more or less worthy discourse on the literary event. Now, when I'm asked, I still evade the issue but with some elements of personal clarification as the time has come when I have realised that, for me, writing is a need in the same way as reading has been for some time. One thing is certain: I've come to writing through reading. As a reader, opening a book becomes the acceptance of the invitation that the author makes to enter the world of his or her thoughts and stylistic approaches. In the same way, writing, for me, is the chance to put my inner life into order and offer up, with the help of the great metaphor that is literature, what I am thinking, what concerns me, what I fear, what I expect, what gladdens me or what saddens me. With one great added benefit: the medium I use, language, affords me an aesthetic approach that I find ever more pleasing. The phonemes, the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, are all live, beating materials, which interconnect and take on their own rhythm and cadence and which, and this is the miracle, take on a meaning of their own.
In every literature, controversy regularly arises regarding the level of literary quality at that time, and the fatal blow occurs with the appearance of two opposing stances: those who argue that we are on the verge of disaster as the entirety of what is currently being produced is irrelevant, and those who feel that things aren't so bad and who even bandy about specific publications and names to prove that this quality exists. I've been invited to take part in these disputes on more than one occasion, but, despite the fact that I see them to be useful (every review is good), I also regard them as sterile for personal reasons that stop me from getting involved. I speak of them now as they have a great deal to do with my understanding of literary practice.
For me, to write is to doubt. I do not believe myself to be in possession of the truth, but at most of opinions. Yet in a dispute, stances are simplified and they take on the nature of dogma. Personally, that troubles me. I do not think it is fair to compare literary corpuses that are being made, that are being constructed, with literary corpuses that are ended, established and repositioned in their historical context with the ease afforded by the passage of time to "remember" only the culminating points of that whole production, which has completed its cycle and which has already been analysed by scholars of it. This apart, neither am I satisfied with a large part of today's literary production, even though I recognise that it is more exposed to analysis based solely on the personal tastes of the consumer. Moreover, sales success or failure may influence evaluations, which does not occur when we talk of a book published sixty years ago. What I mean is that it does not seem relevant to "compare" Solitud [Solitude] with Ventada de morts [Gust of the Dead] or Estances [Stanzas] with En quarentena [In Quarantine] or L'edat d'or [The Golden Age].(I am giving examples of works that I value highly, so as not to get my fingers burnt). It also happens that in a controversy of this nature, much polemic arises based on the personal tastes of the polemicist. In light of this experience, I am very well aware that what I write appeals to some, does not appeal to others, and leaves yet others indifferent. This is logical. But as we writers (in common with all creators) are touchy, we get things out of focus and find it extremely difficult to distinguish objective reasons from personal prejudice, publishing strategies, individual empire-building or the preferences of the age. It is very hard to be objective. As I said before, for me to write is to doubt. It is to expose one's own hesitations and hopes; it is a way of life. I think that time will sort everything out, and in the meantime I'll restrict myself to finding (personal) time to face the blank or half-filled page, which is what really enthuses me. Continue reading...