Apr 28, 2010

On Love & Writing

One must begin pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence (TMOI) only after reading the marathon speech he delivered on the eve of winning the nobel prize in 2006. A few things jump at you Immediately after you finish the novel – how conducting a love affair is no different from the act of writing – both require enormous reserves of patience, both involve a mad stubbornness to never give up, neither provides any assurance of success, and both require a complete annihilation of the ‘i’. Indeed he defines love as nothing more than ‘deep attention, deep compassion’. Isn’t the writer also one who can bring himself to feel for all of humanity, whose tender heart encompasses the joys and sorrows of all those around him and gives voice to them in his stories? He pays close attention and lends voice to all stories – yours and mine. According to pamuk, “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.” Patience then is the key. I smiled as i read this, me the most impatient of all.

In my class 7 history text book, a section on the Dilwara temples in Mt Abu mentioned that so intricate and relentless were the carvings on the temples that it seemed as if the artisans never tired in their devotion to the task at hand, that they went to sleep carving and took up again when the sun rose. I was reminded of this as i read about kemal’s endless longing for fusun and the indefatigable energy with which he pursues his love, against all odds. He loses peace, friends, social standing and most importantly, is beset by doubts. Surely the writer is no different. No wonder pamuk says, “The angel of inspiration (who pays regular visits to some and rarely calls on others) favours the hopeful and the confident, and it is when a writer feels most lonely, when he feels most doubtful about his efforts, his dreams, and the value of his writing – when he thinks his story is only his story – it is at such moments that the angel chooses to reveal to him stories, images and dreams that will draw out the world he wishes to build."

Perhaps it is the universality of all our stories, all our experiences, that makes a turkish artist one of the best selling authors in the world today, perhaps that is the reason Dostoevsky still has the power to touch the soul of the 26-yr old assamese youth on the run for his naxal activities, or for the avid interest with which scores of readers still devour the dysfunctional ramblings of the jewish portnoy . In his speech pamuk says, “When a writer shuts himself up in a room for years on end to hone his craft – to create a world – if he uses his secret wounds as his starting point, he is, whether he knows it or not, putting a great faith in humanity. 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.”

If we accept this simple truth that all our stories resemble each others, then there are no heroes or villians, no great love stories, no great tragedies. It is only the author’s skill, his prowess with words, his supreme powers of observation, his ability to empathise deep and long with his fellow beings that elevates some stories above others. All those who have read TMOI will instinctively know this as we come upon the twist in the end where pamuk mischievously introduces himself. Would kemal’s love story seem so compelling were it not for pamuk’s felicity with words? I don’t know whether to draw consolation from this knowledge or to despair. A world without heroes? Your love as futile as mine?