The OF Blog: I wonder how authors would feel about this passage

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I wonder how authors would feel about this passage

I wasn't going to post another passage from The Angel's Game for a few days, but I was re-reading this dialogue between David Martín and Isabella and I thought of a few talks here and there about what writing can mean for many authors, so I thought I'd just post this little snippet and see whether or not authors (and/or readers, I suppose) agree with what Zafón expresses via his characters:

Isabella suspiró.

- ¿Qué es verdad emocional?

- Es la sinceridad dentro de la ficción.

- ¿Entonces hay que ser honesto y buena persona para escribir ficción?

- No. Hay que tener oficio. La verdad emocional no es una cualidad moral, es una técnica.

- Habla usted como un científico - protestó Isabella.

- La literatura, al menos la buena, es una ciencia con sangre de arte. Como la arquitectura o la música.

- Yo pensaba que era algo que brotaba del artista, así, de pronto.

- Lo único que brota así de pronto es el vello y las verrugas.

Isabella consideró aquellas revelaciones con escaso entusiasmo.

- Todo esto lo dice usted para desanimarme y para que me vaya a casa.

- No caerá esa breva.

- Es usted el peor maestro del mundo. (p. 297)

And in English (my translation):

Isabella sighed.

"What is emotional truth?"

"It is sincerity inside of fiction."

"Then must one be an honest and good person in order to write fiction?"

"No. Must have a trade. Emotional truth is not a moral quality, but instead a technical one."

"You speak like a scientist," Isabella protested.

"Literature, at least the good [literature], is a science with the blood of art. Like architecture or music."

"I thought it was something that sprouted out from the artist, like that, suddenly."

"The only thing that sprouts out like that suddenly is hair and warts."

Isabella considered those revelations with scant enthusiasm.

"All this you say in order to discourage me and for me to leave the house."

"That fig won't fall" [expression similar to "If only!" or "If I could only be so lucky!" in meaning, it seems]

"You are the world's worst teacher!"
The dialogue continues for another couple of pages, but I thought that one bit to be quite interesting. So, is literature more like a wart and sprouts out from the minds of writers, or is it like architecture or music and is a combination of science with artistic elements? After all, sincerity at the hands of those, as Eco might argue, who make up lies for a living might make for a lengthy discussion, no?


Mihai A. said...

Larry, you have to stop posting these excerpts from "Angel's Game", I am eagerly wait for this book and you don't do me any good with them ;)

It is a quite interesting question and I am thinking that like any talent it can express as a wart or as a science. Like in music, art, architecture, sport and so on the talent might come naturally for some and with a lot of work for others. So I believe that depends heavily in every one abilities, on every one disposition for effort and work. Therefore I say that literature can be a wart and a science, but if it doesn't involve the reader emotionally it might falter.

marbelcal said...

The idea or inspiration is like the wart. It often presents out of no where, when you least expect it. But the documentation of that inspiration, the writing, is more like science. You have to work at it, nurture it, shape it into its final form, according to (at least a few) accepted guidelines.

Lsrry said...

Well Mihai, I have toyed with the idea of posting one other, but that might wait a bit, as I'll be busy for a few days now.

As for my own take, I suspect it's something that is more conditioned than innate, even if the talented person does not quite consciously grasp this conditioned ability to do something.

Daniel Ausema said...

Fascinating. I'd quibble on one line of the translation:

"No. Must have a trade. Emotional truth is not a moral quality, but instead a technical one."

I'd put as

"No. One must have craft. Emotional truth is not a moral quality, but a technique."

[I'd suggest that "oficio" also carries a hint of religious orders or mandate simply because that's another definition of it...but I'm not sure if that's an intended subtext or not]

They sound like a fun pair to follow, and I think I'd agree that there's a lot more technique involved in art than we often like to romantically idealize.

Lsrry said...

Yeah, I hesitated between which word to use, as I too think the ceremonial/religious "office" would have been even more apt, but more likely to be confused, plus my Oxford Desk dictionary didn't have "craft" as a choice, although I agree it is at least the equal to the one I used.

And yes, their dialogues make this story all the more meaningful. I'm planning on translating one other excerpt sometime this week, then writing a lengthier review this weekend.

Elena said...

seconding marbelcel's comment. i get asked a lot (mostly by family or older acquaintances) how i consider writing, as an "art" or a "craft"--basically as a creative maelstrom or something built with conscious intention--and i always answer craft. in my opinion even the constant scanning of my own thoughts for ideas/reflections/observations i might use in a piece is as much a honed skill as having learned how to write well.

sometimes ideas come on a flash of insight that *seems* organic and unintentional, but i have also been thinking up stories and situations for so long that my mind pretty much maintains a constant level of synthesis in the background. i'm just not always aware of when it's closing in on an epiphany.

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