On Literary Models and their Choosing

Excerpt from Article Titled: MISUNDERSTANDINGS SURROUNDING GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ by JUAN GABRIEL VÁSQUEZ
Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
Source: http://brickmag.com/brick-87/vasquez

Taking by storm a novelist whose method is useful for the telling of one’s own reality, that’s what influence is. Another way of saying the same thing: influences are only involuntary for bad writers. A novelist with a minimum degree of control over his material searches them out and chooses them fully aware of what those choices will allow him to do, aware of the risks he’s running and how to manage them. An analysis of the process of influences adopted by García Márquez sheds important light on the theme of the authentic tradition: for the successor novelist, tradition (from the Latin tradere, to hand over or transmit) is the receipt of a set of tools he chooses to inherit not by virtue of national ties but of literary ones: the tools he chooses to inherit because they will be useful to him in transforming his experience into literature. The writer, said Borges, creates his precursors. That’s how it is. The novelist, loyal to his parasitic vocation, takes from life the events that he can use to make novels, and takes from novels the instruments he can use to narrate those events, aware that the achievements of one’s predecessors belong to the successor. And in doing so he establishes a special relationship, a sort of search for identity that can sometimes pass for a confrontation with one’s literary fathers, and sometimes for their premeditated cold-blooded murder, but always passes for what Harold Bloom, in that marvellous and excessive little book, The Anxiety of Influence, calls the “act of misreading,” which can be translated as “misinterpretation” and also as “reading wrong.” The successor novelist, the novelist who receives the influence of an important book like One Hundred Years of Solitude, carries out a misinterpretation of the novel, a revisionist reading that departs from a necessary lie or, at least, necessary to the successor novelist: the father’s book is insufficient, defective, incomplete. The successor novelist says, My obligation is to fix it. This is the main difference between the mediocre writer and the genuine writer. “Weaker talents idealize,” says Bloom. Those with capable imaginations “appropriate” from other people’s books. Cheap imitators of García Márquez are incapable of this misinterpretation. They read in such an aseptic and respectful way that their products are mere pastiches, for they don’t have the slightest problem in repeating in their books the procedures they’ve read—repeating them, I insist, not correcting them. They thus become mere imitators when they should be critics.

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