“But I will remain optimistic about the future of literature and I am convinced that the writers of the future will safeguard the succession just as every writer has since Homer…”
Patrick Modiano, Nobel Lecture
Patrick Modiano, this year’s winner of The Nobel Prize for Literature, recently gave a wonderful far-ranging lecture in which he pondered many mysteries: the influence of his own life upon his novels, the bond between writer and reader, the relationship of literature and music, and the unsettling feeling many novelists have of chasing a dream they can’t quite remember. Wherever you are in your writing life, here are a few passages from his speech* to inspirit and encourage you:
“A novelist can never be his own reader, except when he is ridding his manuscript of syntax errors, repetitions or the occasional superfluous paragraph. He only has a partial and confused impression of his books, like a painter creating a fresco on the ceiling, lying flat on a scaffold and working on the details, too close up, with no vision of the work as a whole.
“Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.
“When you are about to finish a book, you feel as if it is starting to break away and is already breathing the air of freedom, like schoolchildren in class the day before the summer break. They are distracted and boisterous and no longer pay attention to their teacher. I would go so far as to say that as you write the last paragraphs, the book displays a certain hostility in its haste to free itself from you. And it leaves you, barely giving you time to write out the last word. It is over – the book no longer needs you and has already forgotten you. From now on, it will discover itself through the readers.”
To read this thought-provoking speech in full, go to http://www.nobelprize.org — and write on!
* © The Nobel Foundation 2014