Posterity, Pleasure, Revenge: What Drives Writers To Write

There are countless reasons for becoming a writer or a poet, but thankfully very few that we could consider reasonable.

'Writing is an exercise of the imagination so exacerbated in nature as to have prompted Albert Einstein to declare imagination to be superior to knowledge'
"Writing is an exercise of the imagination so exacerbated in nature as to have prompted Albert Einstein to declare imagination to be superior to knowledge"
Antonio Acevedo Linares


BOGOTÁ — U.S. poet Allen Ginsberg said he wrote because he liked to sing when he was alone, because he had no reason and because it was the best way to express whatever had come to mind in the space of 15 minutes, or of a lifetime. Italian novelist Umberto Eco said his children had grown up and he had nobody else to whom he would tell his stories. Spanish novelist Juan Marsé wrote for pure aesthetic pleasure. For him writing was a way to feel alive, to create imaginary beings, live a life he could not live, or overcoming, if not erasing, an unhappy childhood. Through writing he could obtain oblivion, or recover certain images or feelings from his childhood. Venezuela's Miguel Otero Silva says he became a writer as he could not be a concert musician nor a painter, lawyer, engineer, sportsman, guerrilla fighter nor indeed a member of the Venezuelan communist party, parliamentary orator or senator. Nature, he said, had not gifted him with the abilities needed for those professions and as a politician he would only think of brilliant speeches once parliament had adjourned.

Brazilian novelist Rubem Fonseca says it was a love of fantasy (dreaming, inventing ideas and telling tales) that first aroused in him a love of reading, which in turn prompted a love of writing and a desire to create all those things he admired. He soon discovered that writing could be boring or frustrating at times, and always tiring. But he persisted, he says, because it was difficult to abandon a job that had required so much time and effort to learn. For Graham Greene writing was a need, while Nigerian novelist Wole Soyinka considers it a form of masochism.

The Spanish poet Rafael Alberti said he wrote to communicate as clearly as possible with his readers or listeners, while the late Mexican poet Salvador Elizondo made this labyrinthine observation: "I remember having written and also see myself as I wrote. And I see myself remembering seeing myself write and recall having seen myself remember that I was writing. And I am writing that I see myself writing that I recalled having seen myself write that I could see myself writing that I recalled having seen myself write that I was writing, and that I was writing that I am writing that I was writing. I can also imagine myself writing that I had already written that I would imagine myself writing that I had written my imagining myself writing that I could see myself writing that I am writing."

Their destiny is to write — inexorable like an explorer of new worlds waiting to be built and conquered.

The philosopher Emil Cioran wrote that "for me, writing is to take revenge. Revenge against the world, against myself. Almost everything I have written was the product of some revenge." Italy's Gesualdo Bufalino explained that one writes to overcome amnesia. But "does one not also write to be happy?" he wondered. You can write as a game, and why not? The word is a toy — the most serious and fatuous, and the most charitable of all adult toys. "I write because I feel I am fulfilling a function I deem necessary for me. If I do not write, I feel disappointment and remorse," said Jorge Luis Borges.

The Nicaraguan Tomás Borge described writing as akin to making love, and writing a first book was like making love for the first time. Nobody, he mused, could bear the temptation to keep doing it until the end of time. The Colombian Germán Espinosa chose to say that he writes to justify himself or that if he were to discover why he writes, he would stop. But in truth, he says, he writes because inside him fantasy trumps reason. Gabriel García Márquez said he wrote so his friends would love him more. The Russian poet Alexander Kushner found pleasure and happiness in writing, and believed the poetic gift is as biological and instinctive in a poet as pollinating is to bees.

Gabriel García Márquez — Photo: El Tiempo/GDA/ZUMA

The Argentine Osvaldo Soriano never knew exactly why he wrote. Yet, he said, taking a risk, that first and foremost come the pleasure and sensuality of the words he picks to open a space of freedom in the universe his text is constructing. That is to say writing for the pleasure of writing, without forgetting that it still generates anxiety. He knows the price he must pay, so he is also writing to share his solitude. Henry Miller compared writing to life itself, a voyage of discovery wherein everything is done for the joy of doing it. He was indifferent to both the common reader and critics, and was delighted as soon he discovered his own voice. That different, distinctive and unique voice kept him going.

Spain's José Agustín Goytisolo said writing helped him live and remain cheerful amid so many disasters and so much moral vileness, mediocrity and cowardice. Writing, he said, is inevitably due to deep-seated needs, to imbalance. Manuel Vásquez Montalbán said: "I began writing because I wanted to be great, rich and beautiful." Leonardo Sciascia said he wrote "because I like writing, because in writing one sees oneself writing, and feels one is living a life beyond existence."

Marguerite Duras said sarcastically that she had nothing to say to the bothersome question and had never given this strange activity a thought. Jaroslav Seifert said one writes perhaps because every being wishes to leave a mark. Peter Schneider observed more cautiously that he had not yet written enough to have reflected on the question. I too would like to say why I write, to end this hunt for quotations with a poem entitled: "Poem"

I love the words

with which I love you,

and I write because I am

in love with the rain,

with the afternoon wind,

with hand kisses

and the caresses of your eyes

that dream of me with your nights

beside me, with your voice whispering,

with your silences when you say nothing,

with your presence when

I have you, with your steps

when we are walking,

with your hair, swayed

by the wind, with your words

like burning embers,

I write to beg you not to die,

not to stop existing and stay

forever in this poem,

in this heart

and in this hand

that forever writes you.

Embarrassed or not, writers and poets write because it is their purest vocation, and they find through language a way to embellish the debased world in which we live. Their destiny is to write — inexorable like an explorer of new worlds waiting to be built and conquered. Language is both the continent to be discovered and a most marvellous instrument that permits them to imagine the most delirious and beautiful tales conjured by their mind, reality and history, which flow through their heart and writing hand. Writing is an exercise of the imagination so exacerbated in nature as to have prompted Albert Einstein to declare imagination to be superior to knowledge.

Writing is not the trade of saying pretty things, nor intended to seduce girls or an exercise in snobbery that allows the writer to rake in money. For we already know that in a society that has no respect for the condition of writer or poet, the writer cannot even hope for any compensation, should he seek to turn words into another product on the market or means of ingratiating himself with the powers, academies or establishment.

The writer's revolutionary duty is to write well, García Márquez said once. But this duty must include his and her literary ethics and aesthetics. Nor is it the work of privileged individuals, though their sensitivity has already marked them out from common folk, for not all men are sensitive to language nor love it enough to want to write. Does one write for love of language, as one loves a woman or life, and does it enthrall and mystify like the most fervent of human inventions? The day anyone is boggled by the power of words is when they become a poet, feeling this power every moment and learning to live and love life poetically.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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