The OF Blog: Translation of the Bakker/Martin chat at Semana Negra

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Translation of the Bakker/Martin chat at Semana Negra

I finally finished a rough translation of the talk with Bakker and Martin that took place a few days ago at the Semana Negra (Black Week) festival in Gijón, Spain. While off in a few places, no doubt, this ought to be of interest to fans of both authors:

The Week, culpable. Gijón has had the pleasure of hosting, in this the 21st edition of the Negra, with two of the great phenomenons of international fantasy. A luxury: Scott Bakker and George R.R. Martin. The two spent yesterday seated in the meeting tent with Paco Ignacio Taibo II, chatting about The Prince of Nothing, the trilogy with which Bakker has managed to catch readers and to astonish his literary colleagues. It was a fantastic chat, but real, pleasant, interesting, and didactic. Hundreds of people gathered around in the tent, some seated, others standing and the rest occupying the ground, sitting cross-legged. It was not for less. Martin and Bakker managed yesterday under the white canvas to coexist with much pleasure during an hour with people of distinct ways, but with the same passion: fantasy. Young, mature, fans of Dream Theatre, defenders of Che, lovers of black and spiked wristbands, Tous shoppers and boatline neckline dress. All vibrated with the two monsters of fantasy and they knew first hand the key parts of the memorable works of Bakker, a Canadian standing two meters [6'6"] tall with long blond hair à la Europe [NB: the band, although I think he looks more like an extra for Air Supply.] Philosopher, professor, and writer of the last times. Taibo II took charge of introducing him and his work at the beginning of the meeting. In the words of the director, “We have a great story, superior, one of adventures with a grand debate on Fundamentalism and the religious act. The Prince of Nothing has an immense malice. Scott is a surprising author, his work would have been loved by Sartre, would have delighted Eco, Farmer, and Manolo Vázquez Montalbán.” After the presentation, Bakker said only this, “Wow.” Afterwards, he recalled that “this was a revealing experience to me, in every sense. Five years ago, I halted my career as a professor in order to write. I believe in fantasy literature to reach a reader, to establish a debate with him. And I believe that I am not mistaken in in seeing people which have gathered in this place. I will be in Boston next week in a much smaller place speaking in front of a dozen people who will not be interested at all in what I have to say. This Semana Negra is fantastic, and I see here that literature has that power of connection.”

He revealed that “The fantasy book is based on two premises. The first is following the genre norms and the second is on the spectacle. I have intended to unite those two premises in writing the trilogy. I got my inspiration from The Lord of the Rings and I also included a series of philosophical concepts. And for that I have utilized characters which are above all of us, characters that transcend the rest. So, the protagonist treats us as if we were children and he manipulates all of those around him.” The author wanted to elaborate on the personality of his protagonist, Kellhus, an enigmatic character who searches for his father across a planet in conflict. “The protagonist of this story is a false prophet, which converts himself into one thanks to the admiration of those around him. These characters discover that there is someone which seems to possess absolute truth. Each one of us believes that we hold the power of truth, that we have our own vision of the world. In this society doubt has a negative connotation, pushing us to believe in something and I believe that doubt has a positive virtue, one that helps us to strive to understand.” Taibo II then introduced the other grande, George R.R. Martin. The American author also wanted to resolve his doubts and he questioned his colleague about the historical perfume that emanated from his book. “The historical context of The Prince of Nothing makes references to the events of the First Crusade...Do you consider that you wrote a historical novel set in a fantasy world? How did you conceive this book?” Scott Bakker clarified that “I studied philosophy and I believe that the philosophers liked to give us elaborate responses to simple questions. The truth is that I read at 15 years a book over the First Crusade that left me stunned. Perhaps for the lack of confidence I have in my narrative, I based it on historical deeds. I believe that the novel is a fantasy crawling with historical deeds.

George R.R. Martin praised the literary skill of Bakker on a few occasions and also shared with the Canadian some concerns. “So,” Martin commented that “I am an admirer of Tolkien’s works, I believe that he is the father of modern fantasy, who at the same time has created stereotypes that burden the genre: the Dark Lord, the fight of good and evil, etc. Your book is more complex, there is a darkness which inhabits all of the characters, which are difficult for the reader to admire. On some occasions readers have questioned me, ‘But who is Good in the novel?’ Has this also happened with you?” Bakker recalled to the respect that “the fantasy reader seeks moral simplicity which gives him/her security, security which one doesn’t find in real life. I believe that you do this, George, better than I do. Your characters have distanced themselves from the stereotypes and you give form to the stories with an extraordinary narrative. I want to compensate for this with the protagonists’ lack of confidence and by creating a world which interests the reader.” Taibo II noted that after reading the works of his table companions he had encountered certain similarities in their work. “There are some parallels in the work of both, such as political complexity.” Bakker answered, “When I read Tolkien I was surprised, it provoked admiration in me. It captured me because the world which was presented was believable. I wanted to make a complex story. In general, we hate complexity. I wanted to be more complex than the complex, more Tolkien than Tolkien.” Likewise, Martin agreed and contributed other parallels between their pages: “Such in Scott’s work as in mine I believe that you note that the actions of the characters interest us. History does not depend on the actions of great men, but instead on the actions of the people and on the socio-economic context. I believe that in fantasy books we ought to restore the importance of individual accion.” Concluding the meeting, the author of The Prince of Nothing ended with this: “Readers of fantasy fiction are not astounded by the size of the books which they read, they realize that effort. I believe that this genre merits being considered in the same breath with Capital L Literature.” The applause served to close the meeting. Afterwards, they signed books, because this is Semana Negra...

5 comments:

Paul Raven said...

"... with people of distinct ways, but with the same passion: fantasy. Young, mature, fans of Dream Theatre, defenders of Che, lovers of black and spiked wristbands, Tous shoppers and boatline neckline dress."

Good ol' Babelfish - practical and unintentionally amusing! :)

Larry said...

Except I didn't use Babelfish! :P The Peninsular expressions were a bit odd for me, that's all.

RobB said...

Thanks a great deal for this Larry! Very cool that Martin and Bakker seem so chummy! (In the friends sense, not in the sense of dead-fish-guts for bait)

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, that proves I do have Spanish without even knowing it. :)

I could read the article without problems, using my French, the smattering of Italian and vague memories of Latin I have. Maybe I should try and read a Spanish novel in the original. How complicated is the reading level of Alatriste? Or some Borges?

Larry said...

Alatriste is fairly easy, Borges deceptive in its appearance (more Anglicisms, but the nuances are very tricky in places).

And Rob, I too was glad to read what I did. I knew Bakker has had a high opinion of Martin for years. Cool to see it goes both ways :D

 
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