Blooms How to Write About Gabriel Garc¡a Marquez (Blooms How to Write About Literature)
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In Barcelona, for instance, we always mix with about four couples, people with whom we have everything in common. From the point of view of my private life and my character, thats marvelousthats what I like, but a moment came when I realized that this life was affecting my novel. The culmination of my lifeto be a professional writerhad been achieved in Barcelona, and I suddenly became aware that it was a terribly damaging thing to be. I was leading the life of the complete professional writer. RG: Could you describe what the life of a professional writer is like?
GGM: Listen, Ill tell you what a typical day is like. I always wake very early, at about six in the morning. I read the paper in bed, get up, drink my coffee while I listen to music on the radio, and at about nineafter the boys have gone to schoolI sit down to write. I write without any sort of interruption until half past two, which is when the boys come home and noise begins in the house. I havent answered the telephone all morning We lunch between half past two and three.
If Ive been to bed late the night before I have a siesta until four in the afternoon. From that time until six I read and listen to musicI always listen to music, except when Im writing because I attend to it more than to what Im writing. Then I go out and have a coffee with someone I have a date with and in the evening friends always come to the house.
But, as you nd out once you get there, its sterile. I realized that Id become involved in a completely sterile existenceabsolutely the opposite of the life I led when I was a reporter, what I wanted to beand that this was having an effect on the novel I was writinga novel based on cold experience in the sense that it no longer interested me much , whereas my novels are usually based on old stories combined with fresh experiences.
Thats the reason I went to Barranquilla, the town where I was brought up and where all my oldest friends live. I visit all the islands in the Caribbean, I take no notes, I do nothing, I spend two days here and then go Interview with Gabriel Garca Mrquez 13 on somewhere else I ask myself, What did I come for?
Im not very clear what Im doing, but I know Im trying to oil some machinery that has ground to a halt. Yes, theres a natural tendencywhen you have solved a series of material problemsto become bourgeois and shut yourself in an ivory tower, but I have an urge, and also an instinct, to escape from that situation a sort of tug-of-war is going on inside me. Even in Barranquillawhere I may be staying for a short period of time, which has a lot to do with not being isolatedI realize that Im losing sight of a large area that interests me, out of my tendency to conne myself to a small group of friends.
But this isnt me, its imposed by the medium, and I must defend myself. Just another argument, as you see, which makes me say without dramatization but for the sake of my workIve had it to the balls with Garca Mrquez. RG: Your awareness of the problem should make it easier to deal with this crisis. GGM: I feel as if the crisis had lasted longer than I thought it would, much longer than my publisher thought, much longer than the critics thought.
I keep on meeting someone who is reading my book, someone who has the same reaction that readers had four years ago: Readers seem to emerge from caves like ants. Its really phenomenal RG: Which doesnt make it any less attering. GGM: Yes, I do think its very flattering, but the difficulty is how to deal with this phenomenon in practice. Its not only the experience of meeting people who have read the book, and hearing what it meant to them Ive been told amazing things , its the experience of being popular.
Those books have brought me a popularity more like that of a singer or film star than a writer. All this has become quite fantastic, and strange things happen to me: since the time I was on night shift at the newspaper I have been very friendly with the taxi drivers of Barranquilla, because I used to go and drink coffee with those parked at the cab stand across the street. Many of them are still driving, and when I take their taxis today they dont want to be paid; but the other day one who obviously didnt know me took me home, and when I paid him he said to me confidentially: Did you know that Garca Mrquez lives here?
How do you know? I asked him. Because Ive often taken him in my cab, he replied. You notice that the phenomenon is being reversed, and the dog is biting its own tail RG: Anecdotes for a novel GGM: It would be a novel about a novel. Rita Guibert 14 RG: The critics have written at length about your work. Which of them do you agree with most? GGM: I dont want my answer to seem unappreciative, but the truth isand I know its difficult to believethat I dont pay much attention to the critics. I dont know why, but I dont compare what I think with what they say.
So I dont really know whether I agree with them or not RG: Arent you interested in the critics opinions? GGM: They used to interest me a lot at rst, but now rather less. They seem to have said very little thats new. There was a moment when I stopped reading them because they were conditioning mein a way they were telling me what my next book ought to be like. As soon as the critics began rationalizing my work I kept on discovering things that were not convenient for me to discover. My work stopped being intuitive. Or does Garca Mrquez intend it as a metaphor for all modern men and their ailing communities?
GGM: Nothing of the sort. I merely wanted to tell the story of a family who for a hundred years did everything they could to prevent having a son with a pigs tail, and just because of their very efforts to avoid having one they ended by doing so. Synthetically, speaking, thats the plot of the book, but all that about symbolism Someone who isnt a critic said that the interest the novel had aroused was probably due to the fact that it was the rst real description of the private life of a Latin American family Of course I never said to myself, I shall write a book that will be interesting for that reason, but now that its written, and this has been said about it, I think it may be true.
Anyway its an interesting concept and not all that shit about a mans destiny, etc RG: I think the theme of solitude is a predominant one in your work. GGM: Its the only subject Ive written about, from my rst book until the one Im working on now, which is an apotheosis of the theme of solitude. Of absolute power, which I consider must be total solitude. Ive been writing about that process from the rst. The story of Colonel Aureliano Buendathe wars he fought and his progress to poweris really a progress toward solitude.
Not only is every member of his family solitaryas Ive repeated often in the book, perhaps more than I ought but theres also the anti-solidarity, even of people who sleep in the same bed. Interview with Gabriel Garca Mrquez 15 I think the critics who most nearly hit the mark were those who concluded that the whole disaster of Macondowhich is a telluric disaster as well comes from this lack of solidaritythe solitude which results when everyone is acting for himself alone. Thats then a political concept, and interests me as suchto give solitude the political connotation I believe it should have.
RG: When you were writing it, were you consciously intending to convey a message? GGM: I never think about conveying messages. My mental makeup is ideological and I cant get away from itnor do I try or want to. Chesterton said that he could explain Catholicism starting from a pumpkin or a tramway. I think one could write One Hundred Years of Solitude, or a story about sailors, or the description of a football match, and still keep its ideological content. Its the ideological spectacles I wear that explainnot Catholicism in this casebut something else which I cant dene. I have no preconceived intention to say this or the other thing in a book of mine.
Im solely interested in the behavior of the characters, not whether that behavior is exemplary or reprehensible. RG: Are you interested in your characters from a psychoanalytical point of view? GGM: No, because that would need a scientic training which I dont possess.
The opposite happens. I develop my characters and work on them, in the belief that Im only making use of their poetical aspects. When a character has been assembled, some of the experts tell me that this is a psychoanalytic analysis. And Im confronted then with a series of scientic assumptions that I dont hold and have never even dreamed of.
In Buenos Airesa city of psychoanalysts, as you knowsome of them held a meeting to analyze One Hundred Years of Solitude. They came to the conclusion that it represented a well-sublimated Oedipus complex, and goodness knows what else. They discovered that the characters were perfectly coherent from a psychoanalytic point of view, they almost seemed like case histories.
RG: And they talked about incest too. GGM: What interested me was that the aunt should go to bed with her nephew, not the psychoanalytic origins of this event. RG: It still seems strange that, although machismo is one of the typical features of Latin American society, its the women in your books who have strong, stable charactersor, as youve said yourself, they are masculine. Rita Guibert 16 GGM: This didnt happen consciously, the critics made me see it, and set me a problem by so doing, because I now nd it more difficult to work on that material.
But theres no doubt that its the power of women in the homein society as its organized, particularly in Latin Americathat enables men to launch out into every sort of chimerical and strange adventure, which is what makes our America. This idea came to me from one of the true stories my grandmother used to tell about the civil wars of the last century, which can be more or less equated with Colonel Aureliano Buendas wars.
She told me that a certain man went to the war and said to his wife, Youll decide what to do with your children. And for a year or more the wife was the one who kept the family going. In terms of literature, I see that if it werent for the women taking responsibility for the rearguard, the evil wars of the last century, which are so important in the history of our country, would never have taken place.
RG: That shows that youre not antifeminist. GGM: What I most denitely am is antimachista. Machismo is cowardly, a lack of manliness. RG: To return to the critics Gnther Lorenz suggested this at a writers conference in Bonn in Luis Cova Garca published an article called Coincidence or Plagiarism? Balzac doesnt interest me now, although hes sensational enough and I read what I could of him at one timehowever, I glanced through it.
It struck me that to say one book derives from the other is pretty light and supercial. Also, even if I were prepared to accept the fact that I had read it before and decided to plagiarize it, only some ve pages of my book could possibly have come from La Recherche, and in the nal analysis a single character, the alchemist. I ask you, ve pages and one character against three hundred pages and some two hundred characters that dont come from Balzacs book.
I think the critics ought to have gone on and searched two hundred other books to see where the rest of the characters came from. Besides which, Im not at all afraid of the idea of plagiarism. If I had to write Romeo and Juliet tomorrow I would do it, and would feel it was marvelous to have the chance to write it Interview with Gabriel Garca Mrquez 17 again. Ive talked a lot about the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, and I believe it has been the most important book in my life; ever since I rst read it Ive been astonished by its absolute perfection. Once, when I was at a place on the Colombian coast, I came across a very similar situation to that of the drama of Oedipus Rex, and I thought of writing something to be called Oedipus the Mayor.
In this case I wouldnt have been charged with plagiarism because I should have begun by calling him Oedipus. I think the idea of plagiarism is already nished. I can myself say where I nd Cervantes or Rabelais in One Hundred Years of Solitudenot as to quality but because of things Ive taken from them and put there. But I can also take the book line by lineand this is a point the critics will never be able to reachand say what event or memory from real life each comes from.
Its a very curious experience to talk to my mother about such things; she remembers the origin of many of the episodes, and naturally describes them more faithfully than I do because she hasnt elaborated them as literature. RG: When did you start writing? GGM: As far back as I can remember. My earliest recollection is of drawing comics and I realize now that this may have been because I couldnt yet write. Ive always tried to nd ways of telling stories and Ive stuck to literature as the most accessible.
But I think my vocation is not so much to be a writer as a story-teller. RG: Is that because you prefer the spoken word to writing? GGM: Of course.
Fans honor Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Mexico City
The splendid thing is to tell a story and for that story to die there and then. What I should nd ideal would be to tell you the story of the novel Im now writing, and Im sure it would produce the same effect Im trying to get by writing it, but without so much effort. At home, at any time of day, I recount my dreams, what has happened to me or not happened to me. I dont tell my children make-believe stories, but about things that have happened, and they like that very much. Vargas Llosa, in the book hes doing on the literary vocation, Garca Mrquez, historia de un deicidio, takes my work as an example and says Im a seedbed of anecdotes.
To be liked because Ive told a good story: thats my true ambition. RG: Ive read that when you nish El otoo del patriarca The Autumn of the Patriarch youre going to write stories instead of novels. GGM: Ive got a notebook where Im jotting down the stories that occur to me and making notes for them.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez | Gabriel García Márquez | Fiction & Literature
Ive already got about sixty, and I fancy I shall reach a hundred. What is curious is the process of internal elaboration. The storywhich may arise from a phrase or an incident Rita Guibert 18 either occurs to me complete in a fraction of a second or not at all. It has no starting point; a character just arrives or goes away. Ill tell you an anecdote which may give you some idea how mysteriously I arrive at a story. One night in Barcelona when we had visitors, the lights suddenly went out.
As the trouble was local we sent for an electrician. While he was putting the defect right and I was holding a candle for him to see by, I asked him, What the devils happened to the light? Light is like water, he said, you turn a tap and out it comes, and the meter registers it as it comes through. In that fraction of a second, a complete story came to me: In a city away from the seait might be Paris, Madrid, or Bogot there live on the fth oor a young couple and their two children of ten and seven. One day the children ask their parents to give them a rowboat. How can we give you a rowboat?
What can you do with it in this town? When we go to the seaside in the summer we can hire one. The children obstinately persist that they want a rowboat, until their father says: If you get the top places in school Ill give you one.
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They get the top places, their father buys the boat, and when they take it up to the fth oor he asks them: What are you going to do with it? Nothing, they reply, we just wanted to have it. Well put it in our room. One night when their parents are at the cinema, the children break an electric light bulb and the light begins to ow outjust like waterlling the whole house three feet deep.
They take the boat and begin rowing through the bedrooms and the kitchen. When its time for their parents to return they put it away in their room and pull up the plugs so that the light can drain away, put back the bulb, and This becomes such a splendid game that they begin to let the light reach a greater depth, put on dark glasses and ippers, and swim under the beds and tables, practicing underwater shing One night, passersby in the street notice light streaming out of the windows and ooding the street, and they send for the re brigade.
When the remen open the door they nd that the children had been so absorbed in their game that they had allowed the light to reach the ceiling, and are oating in the light, drowned. Can you tell me how it was that this complete story, just as Ive told you, occurred to me within a fraction of a second? Naturally, as Ive told it often, I nd a new angle every timechange one thing for another or add a detailbut the idea remains the same. Theres nothing deliberate or predictable in all this, nor do I know when its going to happen to me.
Im at the mercy of my imagination, and thats what says yes or no. RG: Have you written that story yet? GGM: Ive merely made a note: 7 Children drowning in light. Thats all. But I carry that story in my head, like all the rest, and I revise it Interview with Gabriel Garca Mrquez 19 from time to time. For instance, I take a taxi and remember story 57I completely revise it and realize that in an incident that had occurred to me the roses I visualized arent roses at all but violets. I incorporate this change in my story and make a mental note of it.
RG: What a memory! GGM: No, I only forget what has no literary value for me. RG: Why dont you write it when you rst think of it? GGM: If Im writing a novel I cant mix other things with it, I must work at that book only, even if it takes me more than ten years. RG: Dont you unconsciously incorporate these stories in the novel youre writing?
Gabriel García Márquez
GGM: These stories are in completely separate compartments and have nothing to do with the book about the dictator. RG: Have you never thought of becoming an actor? GGM: Im terribly inhibited in front of cameras or a microphone. But in any case I would be the author or director. RG: On one occasion you said, Ive become a writer out of timidity.
My real inclination is to be a conjuror, but I get so confused when I try to perform a trick that Ive had to take refuge in the solitude of literature. In my case, being a writer is a stupendous task, because Im a numbskull at writing. GGM: What a good thing to read me! The bit about my real vocation being to be a conjuror corresponds exactly with what Ive told you.
It would delight me to have success telling stories in salons, like a conjuror pulling rabbits out of a hat. RG: Is writing a great effort for you? GGM: Terribly hard work, more so all the time. When I say Im a writer out of timidity, its because what I ought to do is ll this room, and go out and tell my story, but my timidity prevents me. I couldnt have carried on this conversation of ours if there had been two more people at this table; I should have felt I couldnt control my audience.
Therefore when I want to tell a story I do it in writing, sitting alone in my room and working hard. Its agonizing work, but sensational. Conquering the problem of writing is so delightful and so thrilling that it makes up for all the work Doesnt this expressive medium interest you any more? GGM: No, because my work in the cinema showed me that what the writer succeeds in putting across is very little.
So many interests, so many compromises are involved that in the end very little of the original story remains. Whereas if I shut myself in my room I can write exactly what I want to. I dont have to put up with an editor saying, Get rid of that character or incident and put in another. RG: Dont you think the visual impact of the cinema can be greater than that of literature? GGM: I used to think so, but then I realized the limitations of the cinema.
That very visual aspect puts it at a disadvantage compared to literature. Its so immediate, so forceful, that its difficult for the viewer to go beyond it. In literature one can go much further and at the same time create an impact that is visual, auditory, or of any other sort. RG: Dont you think the novel is a disappearing form? GGM: If it disappears itll be because those who write it are disappearing. Its difficult to imagine any period in the history of humanity when so many novels have been read as at present.
Whole novels are published in all the magazinesboth for men and for womenand in the newspapers, while for the almost illiterate there are comic strips which are the apotheosis of the novel. What we could begin to discuss is the quality of the novels that are being read, but that has nothing to do with the reading public, only with the cultural level the state has given them. To return to the phenomenon of One Hundred Years of Solitudeand I dont want to know what caused it, nor to analyze it, nor for others to analyze it at presentI know of readers, people without intellectual training, who have passed straight from comics to that book and have read it with the same interest as the other things they have been given, because they underestimated it intellectually.
Its the publishers, who, underestimating the public, publish books of very low literary value; and the curious thing is that that level also consumes books like One Hundred Years of Solitude. Thats why I think theres a boom in novel readers. Novels are read everywhere, at all times, all over the world.
Story- telling will always be of interest. A man comes home and starts telling his wife whats happened to him What are your literary ideas today at eight oclock in the morning?
Interview with Gabriel Garca Mrquez 21 GGM: Ive said that anyone who doesnt contradict himself is a dogmatist, and every dogmatist is a reactionary. I contradict myself all the time and particularly on the subject of literature. My method of work is such that I would never reach the point of literary creation without constantly contradicting myself, correcting myself, and making mistakes.
If I didnt I should be always writing the same book. I have no recipe RG: Have you a method for writing a novel? GGM: Not always the same, nor do I have a method for looking for a novel. The act of writing is the least important problem. Whats difficult is assembling the novel and solving it according to my view of it. RG: Do you know whether analysis, experience, or imagination controls that process? When I want to write something its because I feel that its worth saying. Still more What happens is that I set about telling myself a story.
Thats my method of writing, but although I have a hunch which of these intuition, experience, or analysisplays the greater part, I avoid inquiring deeply into the question because either my character or my system of writing makes me try to prevent my work becoming mechanical. RG: What is the starting point of your novels? GGM: A completely visual image. I suppose that some writers begin with a phrase, an idea, or a concept. I always begin with an image. The starting point of Leaf Storm is an old man taking his grandson to a funeral, in No One Writes to the Colonel its an old man waiting, and in One Hundred Years, an old man taking his grandson to the fair to nd out what ice is.
RG: They all begin with an old man GGM: The guardian angel of my infancy was an old manmy grandfather. My parents didnt bring me up, they left me in my grandparents house. My grandmother used to tell me stories and my grandfather took me to see things. Those were the circumstances in which my world was constructed. And now Im aware that I always see the image of my grandfather showing me things. RG: How does that rst image develop?
GGM: I leave it to simmer All my books have been brooded over for a good many years. One Hundred Years for fteen or seventeen, and I began thinking about the one Im writing now a long while ago. Rita Guibert 22 RG: How long do you take writing them? GGM: Thats rather quicker. Before, I always used to write when I was tired, in my free time after my other work.
Now that Im not under economic pressure and I have nothing to do but write, I like indulging in the luxury of doing it when I want to, when I feel the impulse. Im working differently on the book about the old dictator who lived for yearsIm leaving it alone to see where it goes. RG: Do you correct your writing much? GGM: As to that, I keep on changing. I wrote my rst things straight off without a break, and afterwards made a great many corrections on the manuscript, made copies, and corrected it again.
And now Ive acquired a habit which I think is a vice. I correct line by line as I work, so that by the time a page is nished its practically ready for the publisher. If it has a blot or a slip it wont do for me. RG: I cant believe youre so methodical. GGM: Terribly! You cant imagine how clean those pages are. And Ive got an electric typewriter. The only thing I am methodical about is my work, but its an almost emotional question. The page that Ive just nished looks so beautiful, so clean, that it would be a pity to spoil it with a correction.
But within a week I dont care about it so muchI only care about what Im actually working onand then I can correct it. RG: And the galley proofs? I believe the ideal thing would be to write a book, have it printed, and correct it afterwards. When one sends something to the printers and then reads it in print one seems to have taken a step, whether forward or backward, of extreme importance. RG: Do you read your books after they are published? GGM: When the rst copy arrives I cut everything I have to do, and sit downat onceand read it straight through. It has already become a different book from the one I know because a distance has been established between author and book.
This is the rst time Im reading it as a reader. Those letters before my eyes werent made by my typewriter, they arent my words, they are others that have gone out into the world and dont belong to me. GGM: A book nds its title sooner or later. Its not a thing I consider very important. RG: Do you talk to your friends about what youre writing? GGM: When I tell them something its because Im not quite sure about it, and I generally dont let it remain in the novel.
I know from the reaction of my listenersby means of some strange electric current whether its going to work or not. Although they may say sincerely, Marvelous, terric, theres something in their eyes that tells me it wont do. When Im working on a novel Im more of a nuisance to my friends than you can possibly imagine.
They have to put up with it all, and afterwards when they read the book they get a surpriseas happened to those who were with me when I was writing One Hundred Yearsbecause they dont nd in it any of the incidents I told them about. What I had talked about was rejected material. RG: Do you think about your readers when you write?
GGM: I think of four or ve particular people who make up my public when Im writing. As I consider what would please or displease them, I add or subtract things, and so the book is put together. Bloom's How to Write about Ernest Hemingway.
Bloom's How to Write about F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bloom's How to Write about Geoffrey Chaucer. Bloom's How to Write about George Orwell. Bloom's How to Write about Harper Lee. Bloom's How to Write about Herman Melville. Bloom's How to Write about Homer. Bloom's How to Write about J.
Bloom's How to Write about James Joyce. Bloom's How to Write about Jane Austen. Bloom's How to Write about John Steinbeck. Bloom's How to Write about Joseph Conrad. Bloom's How to Write about Kurt Vonnegut. Bloom's How to Write about Langston Hughes. The problem is that the moment you know the interview is being taped, your attitude changes. In my case I immediately take a defensive attitude. The best way, I feel, is to have a long conversation without the journalist taking any notes.
Then afterward he should reminisce about the conversation and write it down as an impression of what he felt, not necessarily using the exact words expressed. Another useful method is to take notes and then interpret them with a certain loyalty to the person interviewed. What ticks you off about the tape recording everything is that it is not loyal to the person who is being interviewed, because it even records and remembers when you make an ass of yourself.
Well, you make me feel a little guilty using it, but I think for this kind of an interview we probably need it. As a journalist, I never use it. I have a very good tape recorder, but I just use it to listen to music. The sailor would just tell me his adventures and I would rewrite them trying to use his own words and in the first person, as if he were the one who was writing. When the work was published as a serial in a newspaper, one part each day for two weeks, it was signed by the sailor, not by me.
Do you do it with a different feel or a different eye? Besides, I had to condition my thoughts and ideas to the interests of the newspaper. Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas. In any case, I always very much enjoy the chance of doing a great piece of journalism. There are many, and several I have in fact written. I have written about Portugal, Cuba, Angola, and Vietnam.
I would very much like to write on Poland. I think if I could describe exactly what is now going on, it would be a very important story. The sources are the same, the material is the same, the resources and the language are the same. Do the journalist and the novelist have different responsibilities in balancing truth versus the imagination? In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.
In interviews a few years ago, you seemed to look back on being a journalist with awe at how much faster you were then. I do find it harder to write now than before, both novels and journalism. Then at night, after everyone had gone home, I would stay behind writing my novels. I liked the noise of the Linotype machines, which sounded like rain. Now, the output is comparatively small.