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?


Shoumitro said...

Why am I left with a sense of scare after reading this? Is this the way a writer’s mind works? Seems like a life of extreme penance and seclusion.

drift wood said...


Of course it's a life of intense loneliness, troubling self introspection and gnawing insecurity. Even Kiran Desai admitted as much on winning the Booker.
The sadder reality is that many suffer the same states without churning out anything remotely memorable; a lifetime of anguish and turning inwards for naught.

Shoumitro said...

yeah, life wasted!

onlooker said...

well could well relate to that...my mum published one, after 'toiling' for say two decades, but then on its not been all that rosy...and we're bereft of words, what or how to ease her pain..and it sort of dries them up (the writers), and the 'anguish' seems to linger on...it forms a vicious circle, writing...not having the desired response...stop..then start all over again...terrible web...confounded by a whole lot of insecurities...where the 'self' is so much enmeshed in...only heartening fact being that there are millions out there in that 'rut'!

drift wood said...


What can i say? just a huge hug to u guys and prayers for ur mom. what is perhaps the most heart wrenching part of this whole business of creativity is that we end up measuring self worth with the commercial success of our endeavours. i mean, i would do that too. validation, critical acclaim and success become the benchmarks. what was heartening in pamuk's story was the slim idea that perhaps, just maybe, my mundane existence may have the seeds of a story worth telling, that your story may move some readers to tears too, that we matter.

indiana said...

intense lonliness, troubling self introspection , gnawing insecurity!! you are talking about the whole of human race not just authors of lit. fiction !!! :)

onlooker said...

thanks!! :)

i get a feeling that this talked about insecurity, retrospection and loneliness are found more in people who are associated with creative pursuits...writing being one of them.

drift wood said...


yeah, loneliness, morbid introspection may be human preoccupations but here i was talking abt those engaged in creative pursuits. also, the relentlessness of the pursuit is oddly moving.
p.s. try and read kiran desai's account of the process behind 'the inheritence of loss'. it's so full of anguish, loneliness and doubt.