A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man – or this woman – may use a typewriter, profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I have done for 30 years. As he writes, he can drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time he may rise from his table to look out through the window at the children playing in the street, and, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or he can gaze out at a black wall. He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy. As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone.
My confidence comes from the belief that all human beings resemble each other, that others carry wounds like mine – that they will therefore understand. All true literature rises from this childish, hopeful certainty that all people resemble each other. When a writer shuts himself up in a room for years on end, with this gesture he suggests a single humanity, a world without a centre.
What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity’s basic fears : the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kind…
And finally, this turkish proverb that I have used as the title for this post :-
The writer’s secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind.
If not anything, this lecture has inspired me to start writing my dissertation, shutting myself in a room etc. 🙂
Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World has been hailed by many as his greatest work. After procuring a second hand (well who knows how many hands it has passed!) copy of the book over 5 years ago, I finally finished reading it last week. From what I understand, this novel along with Orwell’s 1984 is part of high school suggested reading curriculum. In fact, only a few days back I read this interesting story on nytimes about outsourcing homework, the topic being comparing/contrasting the two novels. But I digress, coming back to Somaphoria*, I have tried to present some salient ideas here…
In the new civilised world, eugenics have been mastered and a specific social order exists, alphas > betas > gammas > deltas > epsilons, controlled by the amount of alcohol added while conception in a test-tube etc. Hypnopedia is used to condition people to like (not love since thats contagious and overly destabilising) the present circumstances of community life, and any free time that the people have is spent on “soma” holidays and the “feelies”. They have mastered fear of death, so basically life is just one big passionless overly pleasant experience. “Happiness is never grand” like. The highlight of the novel for me was when Mustapha Mond, the Western World Controller, rejects a heretical article titled ‘A New Theory of Biology’ about the conception of purpose stating ‘What fun it would be if one didn’t have to think about happiness!’ Indeed a very valid point! By systematically rooting out any form of free-thinking, innovation, high art, science and ofcourse dissent, a stabilised social order or the persistence of civilisation can be achieved.
The logic of Mustapha Monds is undoubtedly impregnable. To prevent you from getting hurt while playing football, the game is abolished, not just abolished, negative propaganda is repeated ‘3 times a week between 13 and 17’ and so forth. But why have a civilisation? Stop decanting babies and end it already Mustapha! 🙂
*Somaphoria: portmanteau (soma + euphoria)