Mariya: Good morning, Tom, let me start our dialogue (to follow Fromm here in his claim that the best thing in life is to begin). After reading the stimulating discussions up to now, I thought we might offer an exchange on the other side of the battle field, namely, what are our modes of reading, how do we read (to counter the dialogues of how these authors write), what are our danger zones, where do we pause, how do we attempt (be it often to no avail) to reflect our blind spots (as readers). Let’s talk of situating ourselves, of disloyalty, dissociation, problematic readings and too, impossible ones. Of Glissant’s ’Nous réclamons le droit a l’opacité’ and the ethics of silence; the desire to know and unknow; politics of reading, its perils, vulnerability and possibilities, too. Let’s talk of questions that leave us restless and too, those which stand at the borderline between us and the text.
Tom: Bam Bam BAM! That’s not a start, that is an overwhelming mass of possabilities, no it’s not, but a realistic statement of what is already given (we don’t need to (re-)start things that are already in a ‘state’ of flux, in progress, in a progress of flux, or something like trans-streaming…). I think about our session last Saturday (our Bremen-Kampala-Blog-Group), when we talked about Nikolas’ first chapter (Joseph) of his novel in progress. We stated, that an opening of such a text, that overcharges the reader with a naturlaness of a story (no traditional, or easy accessible introduction where you get to know the charecters, places and else on a dinner tray like in an encyclopedia) and leaves one behind with a situation in which you have to deal with (and in a certain way to accept) a mode of not-knowing (“what’s going on?” and “what exactly is this about”), while simultaneously constructing a minimal, fractional access, to get hit by an influx to get soaked into the text (somehow being rejected by a text and getting caught in an undertow at the same time) – that such a beginning can be the literary translation to a/the concept of transculturalism. Transculturalism as a way to describe reality – social reality as given and grown structures that are influenced by various streams (each one for itself a highly dynamic formation) and directions. Both, transculturalism as a way to describe … world(?)/ a way of perception and the opening of (such) a text (currently I’m thinking that ‘beginning’ is simply a wrong term for handling such texts) alike, are dodgy situations, or better, require a sense for dodgy situations – one simply has to deal with the never wholly knowable background of structures and influxes of a cultural happening, one has to accept the never wholly bridgeable or fillable gap between the given and the/my/ones perception, but one has to create a walkable/walk-on-able bridge, in order not to get entirely lost.
Recently there have been many very different reasons and occasions for me to think about my writing. One reason being the invitation to write a small contribution to this blog. So: what is important for and what is central to my writing? To my own surprise, the answers seemed all at once to stare me clearly in the face and were no longer an inextricable knot of thoughts, beliefs and vague notions.
I am convinced that there is nothing as important as finding “our own stories”. I think that we must develop something like an individual, literary fingerprint on to which flows everything we have ever experienced and read and written. All our nightmares and fears and concerns and our disappointed hopes. And above all our questions. Our surprise and our amazement. I believe that that is the source of each individual’s manner of perceiving the world; and I think that a large part of our job consists of finding a form and a tone for that. I know that the “stories which only we can tell” are not the first ones we encounter (and, unfortunately, mostly not the ones that follow either) – and that the search for it can be a long and laborious process.
Meanwhile I have been surprised at how much I have been wrong in the past about so many aspects of writing. I completely overestimated the relevance of talent and underestimated practical experience and constructive criticism. I used to believe that a person either had imagination and creativity at their disposal – or they didn’t. I didn’t realise that the need to write can also develop and grow. I didn’t know how important it is for us to be open to our own ideas and that we also have to endure this when these threaten to become uncomfortable. But above all I had no concept of the fact that it is necessary “to become the one person who can write the book which one has to write” (Jonathan Franzen). I believe that’s how it is.
FINDING A BEGINNING
NORA In your writing, how do you find a beginning? How does a story start for you?
RONALD I believe that stories are always around and within us, I would even go so far as to say that we are actually made up of stories. For me stories are in the nature of humanity – they help us to deal with all aspects of our lives – social, political and economic.
NORA I like the idea that stories are imbedded in the nature of humanity. I think they help us to arrange our lives by putting the chaos of impressions, feelings, damages, and interactions with people close to us into some kind of form, allowing us to see a development, a storyline. Probably most people do this. The work of a writer might then be to find the moments that stand for more than themselves, that go beyond, and to arrange them – to find stories that are in a believable way extraordinary.
RONALD I would say that for me a story always starts with my own life experience. My mind is always ready to slip into ‘story mode’. Yesterday, for example, my brother officially asked his future in-laws for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. This made me think about our culture and traditions and how they transition over time. I also thought about human relationships because they talked a lot about our origins and how our people have been living over time. My head was buzzing with ideas. Usually, I have a notepad or my phone on me where I can jot down these ideas. Sometimes I come up with what I would call a punchline which, when I revisit it later, will give me the same feelings I had when I developed the idea. Yesterday, I wrote down: “You have spoken well” – a statement that an elder kept saying to people who expressed their opinion.
NORA For me, it is not only my own experience that builds the base of my writing, but also the experience of people around me, people I listen to, people whose inner conflicts make a deep impression or have an impact on me. The issues I deal with in my writing are often not closely connected to my everyday life, but I have to find a feeling that correlates with the feelings of my protagonists to make a story work. Strangely enough, the characters that seem very distant to my own life with respect to age, sex, lifestyle etc. are sometimes closer to me than those that are much more similar to me.