I thought I'd create a second post this week. (Please see "The Danger of Grammar" for my first post this week.) Below is an irresistible excerpt of an interview with French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It speaks to some of the writing issues we are discussing.
Full interview available here: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2936883
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
Q: What do you pursue in your literary works? As you mentioned, literature is written in a native language, meaning it contains a writer’s point of view.
A: Of course, the writer’s own experience will be shown in the works. People might question how the events happening in one country and how one person thinks of that event can become universal.
I think, no matter where it happens and what happens, if the feeling one person has in that country can be felt (by someone) else from a different country, there the feeling itself becomes universal. You don’t need to know well about whom the writer is and what experiences the writer has had personally. Take a look at works by William Shakespeare. Not that many people know when he was alive, or where he lived, but people still read his pieces and sympathize with them. They even create many adaptations to find their own universal value within his literary works.
Q: At the same time, some writers incorporate local sentiments within their pieces to promote their culture to larger audiences. Other writers incorporate the cultural sentiments they have been living with and are exposed to.
A: Of course, writers would use the places, time period or any background set that suits them in their creative works. And that’s what makes the characteristic of each writer. However, there is no answer to how to make that character. Would a novel heavily based on the local culture always fail to induce sympathy from the global audience? No.
But what if one just tries to include the local cultural element within the novel just because (a previous book set in the same culture) was a hit before? In this case, the chance of failure is much higher, since it is not really what naturally came from the writer. I’ll say that writing genuinely is the answer to this question. There’s no recipe for good writing. You just write from your heart.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a writer?
A: I write because I like it. It’s an egocentric pleasure. I like to write because it’s like living (the same life) twice. I like very much to relive what I did in the day again at night as I write it down. The pleasure is essential to me. I also find pleasure in reading. It gives me knowledge and it gives me explanations on who I am. I particularly enjoy reading poetry, because the genre almost has no rules. It’s something like a cloud. If you don’t understand the wording in the poetry sometimes, then you just reflect your experience onto it, and it becomes understandable
Q: So it sounds like you always enjoyed writing.
A: For a long time I thought my life would have been better if I was a mariner. But that’s just imagination because I will always live as a writer. When I was around 15-years-old, writing novels was considered fashionable in my school. I draw cartoons and caricatures and some of the characters were of my teachers. People liked them very much. Then when I was in high school, I thought I had to be more serious, so I wrote poetry.
Thinking that it was a lonely job to write poetry, I wrote (poems) with several different voices and asked fellow students at school to read them together, like an orchestra performance. But the result was poor because it was impossible to understand all these different words at the same time. Then I tired writing detective novels, which were never published, and then I wrote my first novel that was published and I kept going...