Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Journalist, writer and carpenter

Published: December 13, 2011
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According to Gabriel Garcia Marquez literature and journalism nurture each other. PHOTO:REUTERS

Most of us tend to believe, for good reason, that journalism is inimical to creative writing. Exceptions apart, the Urdu writers who have ventured into journalism have not returned to the world of literature. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the South American writer, however, believes otherwise. He learnt, he says, from his own experience that literature and journalism are conjoined and nurture each other. An Urdu translation of the interview has been published in Kahani Ghar, a new literary magazine.

Marquez, it seems, resents the use of tape recorders by interviewers, a standard practice these days. “I have a very good one”, he tells the interviewer, “but I use it for listening to music. I have never touched it during my work as a journalist.”

Of One Hundred Years of Solitude, his most famous novel, he says he wrote the story in his grandmother’s style of storytelling. “What was that like?” the interviewer asks. “When grandmother told a story her face assumed an expression that made one wonder what the matter was with her. When I first wrote the story I was not satisfied. It did not sound quite like her. I resolved then to rewrite it once I had full grasp of her style,” Marquez says.

About journalism, he says, “I always wished my reporting to be objective but to read like a fairytale. The more the time passes, the more nostalgic I grow and more convinced that literature and journalism are conjoined.”

Marquez does not stop with journalism either. Next, he compares literary writing to a carpenter’s craft. “In a way, writing is like making a table. A lot of effort goes into peeling and planing… it’s the same with writing. Both these jobs require a lot of skill and a lot of hard work. I have never worked as a carpenter but in my heart I have great regard for the job.”

Asked how journalism had influenced his writing of fiction, he says, the influence was two-way. “Journalism’s impact on fiction is one thing; fiction too greatly helped me in journalism.”

Another insight Marquez provides is, “Writing the first paragraph is the hardest part of writing a novel. Once the first paragraph has been written the narrative flows. Writing short stories, by the same logic, is even harder because you need an opening paragraph for every story.”

There is much else but let me also share some quotes here from Opinder Nath Ashk, whose interview also appears in the same magazine. “I have written a lot,” he says, “I have written in Urdu and I have written in Hindi. We Punjabis are a very hard working people. I had to work hard at learning these languages. Should Bengali grow into an international language, I will set myself the task of learning it and in five/six years I will beat them at writing in their own language.”

And this about Krishan Chander: “There are only a few of his stories I still like, even though those are not A-1… He also plagiarised some stories. When I found that out I stopped reading him. I have no respect for a plagiarist however great he may be considered.”

After praising Manto for his contribution he adds: “All Manto’s stories are one dimensional. I have written multidimensional stories. Manto becomes a part of every story he tells, I don’t. I never interfere with the story. I pick themes that will be relevant a hundred years from now. I write about the primordial strengths and frailties in men. I don’t write a story just because I am mad at something today, Manto did.”

About Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi he says, “Unlike Qasmi, I do not claim to be the greatest…”

*Translated from Urdu

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2011.

Intezar Hussain

Intezaar Hussain

An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.