Let’s have a talk, reader. Maybe you should have introduced yourself first, maybe I drew the short straw. Thing is, I’m not gonna be that flagrant Melville copycat that says, like many unschooled writers, “I am Malala”, or “I am Zlatan”, or anything progressive like “I Am Number Four”. Won’t even tell you how to call me. Names were just Crusoe’s way of denominating and controlling the world around him, Friday included. If you can own people with words, why should I give you the one tool that could harm me, when it is I who is here to harm you with my words?
I have a story for you. Or don’t I? All the good stories lie covered in layers and layers of dust in libraries you won’t even visit, because you don’t know they exist. To hail your time to another in hopes he’ll recognise you, pick you, and try to collaborate with you in making sense out of some mess, someplace, somewhere, an idea or a light bulb history screwed the wrong way around, what a way to throw your most precious needle into the haystack. People write because they’re blind, not because they’re enlightened. People write because they’re blind and people read because they’re enlightened. A great twister game humanity has played since the dawn of time, when smart people used to give others the fruit of their mental labor! Now if you make time for reading you’re already someone who knows a thing or two about life, the world, the human mind, and if you write, most of the times you’re just a buffoon trying to earn a buck or get laid. Schopenhauer was right when stating there are only two types of writers, the ones who write because they have something to say and the ones who are commissioned by their greed . Mircea Eliade was a little more specific when saying authors either write with a firm notion of the beginning, middle and ending, they write solely with a perception of one of these basic textual structures, most of the times that being the beginning, or they leave the text to write itself, the pen and the brain becoming the slate and stylus of this story that resembles the blind leading the blind. What a mountain of a writer like Mircea Eliade then did was admit he himself, author of over 80 books, out of which 30 scientific treaties, an author almost as prolific as the Romanian Nicolae Iorga, whom I’ll reference in the next sentence, Mircea Eliade wrote like this. He said he never knew where the story would go before he laid the last glyph of an i. What careless novels and novellas must have came from underneath this man’s quill, you must think. Some of the best literary works ever written… such statements leave a mark of falsity and vague imposture in the hearts of every man who utter them. You can’t be so superlative, so august, such a know it all that you can say “the best” and leave the room without one of your dear audiences laugh at you. Well, in the case of Eliade, Jorge Luis Borges and a handful of others you can. Eliade is one of the reasons people are glad they were born calling Romanian their native tongue. Some things are untranslatable, we usher this idea with a certain pride we’re Muslim, in the case of the Qu’ran, Hindu, in the case of the Upanishads, and English in the case of Shakespeare. Well, it’s not quite so, even though some translations have turned poets and enthusiasts into madmen, seekers of nuances and meanings that not even linguists dreamt a word might have. Even so, what baffled me in the case of Eliade, Mircea Cărtărescu and a few others I’ve read in their native tongue, the words had a sort of magical, “incestual” flavor. You delighted in them like you would when reading some sort of forbidden diary, stolen with the price of your life, the last thing you were going to read before you being captured, tortured and killed. You can understand now how such evangelical acts of flattery have the grand flaw of being whispered by a convert of words to a convert of words. If someone who can’t speak or read in a certain language, an atheist of that language, would like to counter-argue your claim, he couldn’t do so without learning your native tongue. You hide behind your nativity because rebirth is something that hasn’t been done.
But I’m stretching one idea without having ever returned to Nicolae Iorga. Although writers like Lope de Vega wrote roughly 2200 plays, romance writers of the sort a lot of readers never even heard of, like Spanish Corín Tellado (4000+ published works) or Barbara Cartland (722 published books) – already you’re like wow, how many lives did these guys have, right?! – Agatha Christie – 69 novels, 19 plays.
Well, take a look at the stats from this angle: Alexandre Dumas wrote 277 novels, and Balzac wrote 90 or so. Their whole works are roughly the same number of pages, because Balzac describe a whole deal more and had more pages to account for with each novel.
Barbara Cartland and R.L.Stine were known to write as many as one book a month, so 12 books a year. Without a ghostwriter, that is impeccable work. Julio Cortazar took 7 years of his life to write “Rayuela”, Hopscotch, his masterpiece. Most authors considered good need as much as 3 years so they finish a novel. At least that’s what Johm Irving allegedly said somewhere. You can imagine a good novel being something woven from a different cloth than a romance novel written for the passengers of flight 105, LA to Amsterdam.
What about Nicolae Iorga? Well, he wrote books on history, literary critics, travels, he wrote in journals, he wrote autobiographies, memoirs, conferences, political discourses. History books are scientific endeavours, they’re property to a train of thought closely related to philosophy, academic journals, hermeneutics, treaties, so on and so forth. These being said, recounting the numbers already mentioned with some of the other authors, romance or otherwise, 2200 plays, 277 novels, 4000+ published works, 722 published books, Nicolae Iorga wrote 1359 books on history. In print paper, that’d be translated into roughly 80.000 quires, and because a quire has 25 sheets, that’s 170.000 sheets. 340 reams, 170 bundles, 34 bales, you could literally fill up a whole 20 x 13 feet room with his work, pile it up to the ceiling. Sometimes links like that form in my mind, reader. What if Voltaire, who wrote over 20.000 letters, what if Voltaire would have lived today, in the Facebook era. Would he have been that desperate user that immediately answers each message he gets, in a desperate attempt to maintain popularity with his friends and with the people that are kind enough to address him?
What about if Jesus would have lived today? Would he have considered writing? Most of what the pharisees accused him of seemed to me a better depiction of who Jesus was than the annotations of St. Paul, John Chrysostom and the likes. Isn’t Matthew 28:13 (“You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’”), where the Bible talks about the resurrection, a better understanding of what happened than “two winged chicken-men came and gave life to a dead man, as witnessed partially by two illiterate women”? Isn’t the fact that he scribbled something indecipherable in the sand/gravel/ground and the unanimous question mark regarding what he actually “wrote” a sign that this man, as sure as 90-95% of the people of his time, carpenters even more, was illiterate? But what if present day Jesus would write a book? Without his publisher and marketeer, Constantine the Great, would anyone even notice or get to read him? I highly doubt it, taking into account the nonsense and sheer idiocy surrounding the books people read nowadays. I’ve seen people skim through a book called “A Million Dead”, a few pages commemorating the Jewish Holocaust deaths through… what am I even doing? Let me show you, so you understand. The book is just pages upon pages of people:
The person “reading” the book simply sat in wait of an ideological prey with whom to impart his vast knowledge of human suffering. Others read empowering books, inspirational bullshit, mind grieving disastrous pieces of incomprehensible bull-whack, boomerang books meant to hit their authors’ own head and leave them flat bankrupt for ever daring to cut a tree and give the world more context with no text. Drugged enough you can find meaning in any “Own Yourself” and “How To Make Your First Million” type of Sunday evening façon de passer le temps.
This just in, reader! I found out who you are. Thank you for disclosing your identity. I would say, finally! I understand now that you are my cat, and that I wrote all of this, with you resting on my belly, TO a future you, a kitty that very well knows how to read and write. Right now you’re a baby, not knowing why letters appear on the lighted panel synchronised with the tidal keystroke sound. At ease! Because your future you’s attention span is short, I’ll leave this conversation where it is and mark my ending with this little piece of information:
It’s always good not to swallow too much of another being at once. Just as food, undigested thoughts are something that dull the sight and make you look silly, like you’ve just been caught masturbating. Take a break, and remember how I remembered to sign this letter to the future you with,