Writing as a Trader

Francesc Mira, Joan
Quaderns Divulgatius, 13 2000

What does this trade of writing require us to do, what are the stories we tell and what moves us to practise this profession? Italo Calvino says he is afraid of repeating himself and that he must find a new challenge beyond his possibilities every time he writes. I say that the bad thing is that my possibilities will always go further in the next book and so every book is like a small provisional failure.
To the question of how much reason there must be in passion, when he writes, Calvino would respond that he writes without frenzy. I, who write weighing every word and with premeditation, believe that the impulse must always be there, a blast of cold or scalding air that descends from the heavens or rises from the abyss, going against all reason and one knows not why. Again, to the question of what he puts into what he writes, Calvino would respond, a dose of reason, determination, pleasure and the culture to which he belongs. I also put the unconscious, the inner impulses, what not even I can control, my neuroses or, let's say, frenzy to be precise.
Writers write what they can, Calvino might say and he would add that a writer may feel obliged to write this or that, but there are different types of obligation. There are literary constrictions, like the number of verses in a sonnet. They form part of the structure of the work, and inside it, the writer can express himself or herself freely. As for me, the constrictions of structure I impose myself, and they are rigorous, and precisely in following these norms I have found the most beautiful liberty. Calvino says there are also social constrictions such as ethical, religious, philosophical or political duties, which can't be directly imposed on the work but which must pass through the writer's inner being. From Leonardo Sciascia to Günter Grass, this "constriction" seems to be at times the very reason for writing. And what are the "social constrictions" of a Catalan writer (and even more, as is my case, of a Valencian writer) in our times? Maybe we have the duty to talk about something, with stories and in books, but talk about what? Borges says in El oro de los tigres that there are four stories. One, he says, the oldest one, is of a besieged city defended by valiant men. The second story, which is related to the first, is that of a return. The third story is about a quest which, according to him, is doomed to failure in these times so that the heroes of James or Kafka can only expect defeat. The final story is of a sacrifice to some God. They are four stories that we keep transforming to tell them or while we tell them. Mine is, or so it seems to me, is above all a story about travelling in a circle and seeking something which is not found, perhaps because the circle has no end.
In the West, the only common horizon is watching the television and trying to manage our income tax. We are certainly not moved by adventure or by going back to the sea. The final destination of Ulysses is that of all of us: flying off into the spaces of some infinity after having spent one kind of life or another. Not necessarily heroic. We are all imitation Ulysses. Like the original Odysseus, that of father Homer, we can abandon the image of past ill-fated adventures, just plod on and let our life go happily by. Unlike Ulysses, Josep Pla came home but he had the infernal passion of writing and that does not permit being in peace, not even in the face of death. We writers do not tend to be adventurers and if we see a little of the world, it is more to be able to write about it than for the pure pleasure of travelling. Immediately after a heart attack, Josep Pla advised, "Live the life you have inherited: the life of civilisation, which goes against nature". Read books, then, until the hour of your death, and this is why some of us have the unrewarding trade of writing them.

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