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Gabriel García Márquez: Le metier d'écrivain (Entretien)

Le célèbre romancier colombien Gabriel García Márquez, un des maîtres de la littérature moderne, prix Nobel de littérature (1982), précise pour le Courrier son rapport avec la création et la conception qu'il se fait du métier d'écrivain. Il s'entretient ici avec Bahgat Elnadi, Adel Rifaat et Miguel Labarca.

Is it possible to protect culture?

The major question that governments and people interested in culture should ask is what kind of protection the state can offer to culture without interfering in it and manipulating it or, most important of all, without making it subservient to the government's political philosophy. The trouble with culture ministries in Latin America is their subordination to the vicissitudes of national politics. A cabinet crisis has repercussions on cultural activity. Power struggles within the government result in the appointment of a culture minister who has no interest in culture or is opposed to the previous minister's policies. Consequently culture depends on a series of comings and goings that have nothing to do with culture but everything to do with politics, and worst of all, with partisan politics.

Culture should be helped by establishing the conditions in which it can develop freely. But in practice this creates big problems. It's impossible to pre¬ dict the workings of creativity or to plan anything creative. What's more, how can you do anything about culture without defining what you mean by culture?

According to UNESCO, culture is what people add to nature, everything that is produced specifically by human beings. I believe that culture is the social use of human intelligence. Deep down we all know what the term "culture" means, but we have a hard time summing it up in a few words. Culture may be  – I think it was France's former Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, who said this all kinds of things – cooking, a way of being, of makinglovc, of living, and mixed up in all this, the arts. Every act has cultural overtones. The danger is that the wider the concept of culture, the harder it is to know how to protect it.

Can culture be taught?

At the moment I'm wondering how the arts, literature, journalism (which, to my mind, is a form of literature) and the cinema (which is most certainly an art) should be taught. Education of this kind must be a one-off, it must be informal.

At the cinema school in San Antonio de Los Baños in Cuba I have a workshop called "How to tell a story", where I sit a maximum of about a dozen young men with scenario experience round a table. We try to see if it is possible to create stories collectively, to see if the miracle of creation is possible round a table. Sometimes we've brought it off. I start off by asking one of them about the most recent film he's seen. "Tell me what it's about," I say. Some of them know how to tell a story, others don't. One might answer, "It's the story of a country girl faced with the contradictions of modern city life." Then his neighbour will say, "A country girl is bored with her family, so one day she hops onto the first bus that goes by. She runs off with the driver and meets..." And he starts to tell the girl's story episode by episode.

The first young man is gifted, but he'll never know how to tell a story. He hasn't been born with the gift of storytelling. The other fellow, who knows how to tell a story, still has a long way to go before becoming a writer; he's got to acquire the technique and something that's extremely important basic culture. I cannot imagine how anyone could even think of writing a novel without having at least a vague idea of the ten thousand years of literature that have gone before, if only to know his or her own standpoint. And then the writer must settle down to a daily routine of work because inspiration doesn't fall from the sky. You have to work at every word, every day of the week.

Writing is a craft, a difficult craft that requires a lot of concentration and discipline, as do painting and composing. By working at it, someone who knows how to tell a story will become a writer; someone else, however hard he or she works, will never make it. It's the same with music. If you teach your children a melody, some will be able to repeat it exactly; others will never learn.

Do you regard yourself as an intellectual?

Lisez également notre entretien avec Gabriel García Márquez, paru dans le numéro d'octobre 1991. Cliquez ici.


Gabriel García Márquez

Prix Nobel de littérature 1982, l'écrivain Gabriel García Márquez, né à Aracataca (Colombie) en 1927, s'est affirmé dès 1967 comme l'un des maîtres du roman contemporain avec le succès de Cent ans de solitude. Principales œuvres traduites en français : L'Amour aux temps du choléra (Grasset, 1987), Chronique d'une mort annoncée (Grasset, 1981), L'Automne du patriarche (Grasset, 1977), Les funérailles de la Grande Mémé (Grasset, 1977), Cent Ans de solitude (Seuil, 1968).