Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.
What can writers do with the subject of loneliness? Distilled, loneliness lacks the elements of a good story. It may be the product of drama — abandonment by a lover, loss of a friend, uprooting and relocation — but the feeling itself is nonnarrative and sedentary. When it comes to tone, loneliness is quicksand: attempt to represent its bleakness, and risk sounding like a Raymond Carver wannabe; describe its watery wellings-up, and be dismissed as a self-indulgent sap. It presents, on top of everything, a problem of knowledge: everyone feels it, but no one can share in it. Two lonely people in the same room are not together, and if one could grasp the full shape of the other’s loneliness, then would they really be lonely anymore? Writers must desire to connect to an audience, but, in loneliness, we are all solipsists.
Huge events may occur around us, but what matters at the end of the day are our loved ones, our family happenings and dreams filled with simplicity and happiness.
I began to write almost as soon as I could read: stories in my head, mini novels in my notebooks, tales invented and told daily to my little brother. I started school magazines just so I could write in them. I published poems and satirical pieces in real magazines for children. I was quite sure that my first novel would be out in the world by the time I was 18.
But all this nascent writing of mine was in Czech. I was growing up, very happily, in Prague; my dream of becoming a writer was crushed when, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, my family emigrated to Germany. The death of the intoxicating freedom that was the Prague spring is, in my mind, always synonymous with my own death as a writer. You can’t write when you lose your language.
To me, having a taste for well-done meat is like having a taste for generic seascape art: It’s your business entirely, and far be it from me to make fun of you, but we have established what you are, so please don’t criticize my taste in, say, poetry.