Javier Cercas on writers

Javier Cercas on writers

Beyond the deities, I had no particular interest in hearing my favorite writers speak in public, I was amazed that people were intrigued by this idea. A writer is someone who writes well, not necessarily someone who speaks well. It is clear that there are exceptions. Irish writer Oscar Wilde, a genius in life and a talent in writing, spoke better than he wrote, almost.

Similar was the case of Borges, when as a teenager I followed him to every corner of Spain and never heard him utter an expression that lacked humor or intelligence. "I think like a genius, I write like a great novelist, I speak like a child," said Vladimir Nabokov.

Coetzee, one of the best novelists of all time, disappointed the audience who had gone to listen to him because he was only reading his texts or briefly answering questions. Such disappointments are logical. In addition to Wilde, a true writer writes his content in books, the way he writes goes beyond it. Moreover, the true self of an authentic writer is not one who wanders and behaves like an ordinary person, but one who lives by what he writes. JamI am a writer only when I write¨, Adolfo Bioy Casares justifies himself in front of those who asked him to speak. Maybe all of us writers should imitate him.

Or so I thought until early 2013, when I changed my mind. It happened in a theater in Cartagena, the organizers of the Hay Festival had invited Mario Vargas Llosa and Julian Barnes to a debate to talk about Flaubert ¨Madame Bovary¨. The invitation was almost predictable. Vargas Llosa behaved like a legendary writer and read an essay on the book ¨La orgia perpetua¨ while Barnes awarded the lEl loro de Flaubert¨ ¨ prize, unusual was what happened during the debate. The debate was going well until the moment when the presenter, Marianne Ponsford, thought of asking why we were so interested in a delicate and superficial woman like Emma Bovary. Vargas Llosa interrupted the presenter and objected, saying that Emma was not at all delicate or superficial, she was a brave woman who fought to the end to make her dreams come true; as the novelist toughened and persistently defended his heroine, we spectators saw someone writing Vargo Llosa novels turn into an undisciplined and furious Peruvian, hiding behind an exemplary gentleman who speaks on his behalf.

Kur shkrimtari përfundoi fjalimin e tij, pothuajse duke gulçuar, heshtja mbizotëronte në gjithë teatrin, sikur të gjithë po prisnim që nga momenti në moment ti çirrej sërish prezantueses, të cilën e shpëtoi nuanca britanike e Barnes, që kërkoi ndjesë dhe me këto fjalë e uli tensionin e krijuar: ¨Të gjithë jemi në dijeni që Mario është i dashuruar me Emma Bovary¨.

It was perfectly clear that Barnes was right; but I who, like many other writers of my generation, have spent my life reading Vargas Llosan, I had never had such a clear idea as at that moment. Because it is true: the writers we love can never give us when they speak as much as they give us when they write; on the other hand they can give us what they cannot give us when they write, but only when they speak. This can be the unrepeatable embodiment of a miracle.

Javier Cercas is a Spanish novelist. He teaches Spanish Literature at the University of Girona. Has won the following awards: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2004, International Dublin Literary Award in 2008, European Book Prize in 2016.

* This article was translated into Albanian for by Albana Murra