Ernest Hemingway sobre la literatura (The Paris Review Interview, 1954)

Los cuentos de Ernest Hemingway son de lo mejor que hay. La entrevista completa acá (se le nota incómodo en la mayoría de la conversación).

INTERVIEWER

So when you’re not writing, you remain constantly the observer, looking for something which can be of use.

HEMINGWAY

Surely. If a writer stops observing he is finished. But he does not have to observe consciously nor think how it will be useful. Perhaps that would be true at the beginning. But later everything he sees goes into the great reserve of things he knows or has seen. If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story.

The Old Man and the Sea could have been over a thousand pages long and had every character in the village in it and all the processes of how they made their living, were born, educated, bore children, et cetera. That is done excellently and well by other writers. In writing you are limited by what has already been done satisfactorily. So I have tried to learn to do something else. First I have tried to eliminate everything unnecessary to conveying experience to the reader so that after he or she has read something it will become a part of his or her experience and seem actually to have happened. This is very hard to do and I’ve worked at it very hard.

Anyway, to skip how it is done, I had unbelievable luck this time and could convey the experience completely and have it be one that no one had ever conveyed. The luck was that I had a good man and a good boy and lately writers have forgotten there still are such things. Then the ocean is worth writing about just as man is. So I was lucky there. I’ve seen the marlin mate and know about that. So I leave that out. I’ve seen a school (or pod) of more than fifty sperm whales in that same stretch of water and once harpooned one nearly sixty feet in length and lost him. So I left that out. All the stories I know from the fishing village I leave out. But the knowledge is what makes the underwater part of the iceberg.

INTERVIEWER

Archibald MacLeish has spoken of a method of conveying experience to a reader which he said you developed while covering baseball games back in those Kansas City Star days. It was simply that experience is communicated by small details, intimately preserved, which have the effect of indicating the whole by making the reader conscious of what he had been aware of only subconsciously . . .

HEMINGWAY

The anecdote is apocryphal. I never wrote baseball for the Star. What Archie was trying to remember was how I was trying to learn in Chicago in around 1920 and was searching for the unnoticed things that made emotions, such as the way an outfielder tossed his glove without looking back to where it fell, the squeak of resin on canvas under a fighter’s flat-soled gym shoes, the gray color of Jack Blackburn’s skin when he had just come out of stir, and other things I noted as a painter sketches. You saw Blackburn’s strange color and the old razor cuts and the way he spun a man before you knew his history. These were the things which moved you before you knew the story.

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