Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of literary fiction, is brought to you by historical novelist João Cerqueira.
Throwing A Literary Punch
When I started thinking about the plot and the characters I should include in The Tragedy of Fidel Castro, I established two criteria: I had to create an original story, something that nobody had ever written before and I had to write it with great literary quality – the best I had in me. Only then would I have any means to stand out in contemporary literature. Repeating what had already been written hundreds of times, introducing slight variations to convince myself that I had created an original story was not the path I would be taking.
Unfortunately, there is always a price to pay for anyone trying to create literary fiction, instead of stories about vampires, zombies or Vatican conspiracies. A talentless scribe who skilfully glues together all the necessary pieces of a plot – following rules set out in creative writing courses and befitting manuals – may find a literary agent and get published by a major publisher, while a writer gifted with great imagination and a great command of the language, may never get to publish his or her manuscript. As I have already written in another text, vampires are sucking the blood out of literature and zombies are rotting it away. And, as to another conspiracy in the Vatican, I refer to the words of Jesus Christ himself: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
On the other hand, after having written the satire, A culpa é desta liberdades!, I realised that humour and irony where the literary tools that most naturally spewed forth from my creative mind. In the same way that during a conversation this way of replying to someone or of making a comment on something comes out of my mouth without even thinking, my texts can’t escape this desire to satirise the world and human behaviour. And it’s not hard to find a source of inspiration, because the human being is, in part, a ridiculous being – a simple pair of socks is enough to ruin a reputation.
Recently I read a critique of Shakespeare’s work, where it was said, among other qualities, his genius lay in the subtle movement from comedy to tragedy, catching the reader unawares. Well, this is the same as what I’m trying to do – especially in the next book I am going to publish, The Second Coming of Christ to Earth. Throughout the work I try to make the reader laugh, satirising politics and region – in The Tragedy of Fidel Castro I imagined existentialist exchanges between God and Jesus – before going on to throw a powerful punch right in the reader’s stomach. I admit it; I want to punch my readers, but before I do, I try to make them laugh. Could there be anything more perverse?
People may be right when they say that behind every crime writer stands someone with an itch to kill, or that writers who torture their characters reveal some unconscious desire to do so, or even that if some writers were not to write, they would be in an insane asylum or out committing atrocities. There is a tiny Marquis de Sade hidden behind every writer.
And there you have the true motive behind why there are more and more people taking up this profession. Nevertheless, those who write about shades of grey, shades of vampires, shades of zombies or shades of conspiracies aren’t the most dangerous ones. Those are the other ones.
Thank you, João. Literary fiction covers such a broad spectrum, often used when a book can’t be allocated to a specific genre. I’m one of those who loves killing off my characters and sometimes they’re inspired by people in real life so anyone I meet should be nice to me. 🙂
João Cerqueira, who has a PhD in History of Art from the University of Oporto, has published a number of books in his home country of Portugal. These include scholarly works on history and art – Art and Literature in the Spanish Civil War (published in Portugal and Brazil), a biography of the Portuguese queen, Maria Pia of Savoy, and three satirical novels: A Culpa é Destes Liberdades (Blame it on to much Freedom, 2007); A Tragédia de Fidel Castro (Saída de Emergência Edições, 2008) and Reflexões do Diabo (Devil’s Observations, 2010).
The second of these, translated here as The Tragedy of Fidel Castro, was voted book of the month and book of the year in 2009 by the literary magazine Os Meus Livros and selected for the BOTYA 2012 Finalists in Translation. Excerpts were published in the magazines, Contemporary Literary Review India, Danse Macabre, The Liberator Magazine, All Right Magazine, Literary Lunes, South Asia Mail, Sunday at6 and Toad Suck Review #2.
João’s website is www.joaocerqueira.com.
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