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Be quiet the doctor's wife said gently, let's all keep quiet, there are times when words serve no purpose, if only I, too, could weep, say everything with tears, not have to speak in order to be understood.

José Saramago


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Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Peripatetic

Cercas' Soldados de Salamina is one of the most difficult books to put down that I've read in recent memory. (And thanks for turning me on to Cercas, Rise!) I'm fascinated by how he is putting his book together -- at every moment the focus is strongly on whatever bit he is talking about at the moment, rather than on fitting it in to the rest of the book; and yet the quite diverse elements of the book seem to be fitting together well, in an almost instinctive way. I really enjoyed his note about the composition process at the beginning of part 3:

Escribía de forma obsesiva, con un empuje y una constancia que ignoraba que poseía; también sin demasiada claridad de propósito. ...Por descontado, yo suponía que, a medida que el libro avanzase, este designio se alteraría, porque los libros siempre acaban cobrando vida propia, y porque uno no escribe acerca de lo que quiere sino de lo que puede; también suponía que, aunque todo lo que con el tiempo había averiguado sobre Sánchez Mazas iba a constituir el núcleo de mi libro, lo que me permitía sentirme seguro, llegaría un momento en que tendría que prescindir de esas andaderas, porque -- si es que lo escribe va a tener verdadero interés -- un escritor no escribe nunca acerca de lo que conoce, sino precisamente de lo que ignora. I was writing obsessively, with a drive and a constancy which I had not known I possessed; but also without too clear of a thesis. ...Needless to say, I figured that as the book progressed, its design would come clear; books always end up taking charge of themselves -- one does not write about what one wants to write but about what one is able to write. I was also thinking that, although what I had learned about Sánchez Mazas would make up the nucleus of my book, the core that would let me feel safe, there would come a moment when I would have to dispense with this safety net: If the writing is to hold any real interest, an author never writes about what he knows, but precisely about what he does not know.
In this book the composition process is extremely visible on the surface of the reading. It is beautiful to watch the book taking charge of itself...

posted morning of August 15th, 2010: 1 response
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Monday, August 16th, 2010

Javier Cercas and Joan Ollé, who directed the film adaptation of Soldiers of Salamis, appeared on the Catalan TV program La Mandràgora; some of the actors from the movie were also there. Stills and quotes (in a mix of Spanish and Catalan) here; Ollé says, "The letters of the novel do not move, do not dance. This is not a fault: the movement is internal. One word provokes ten thousand images of everything you have lived." An earlier appearance of Cercas' (from 2002) is written up here, and video of that interview is in three parts starting here.

posted evening of August 16th, 2010: Respond
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