Indirect Expression, Circumlocutions, Abstractions

Suddenly, during a pause in his monologue, Federico Pérez cautioned me not to become too lost in circumlocution. I should lay everything on the line, he said … I do not remember his exact words, but he did allude to the evasiveness and circumlocutions in my speech. He added that he thought it was a manifestation of insecurity, a defense mechanism behind which I was hiding. I do not know if the doctor’s intervention, his interruption and description of the structure of the story, which unbeknownst to me had become unnecessarily and painfully labyrinthine, was part of the treatment, an attempt to stimulate a particular reaction, the beginning of subjugation. I defended myself with literary arguments. I took refuge in the fact that my writing was fundamentally built on those devices. That is its visible expression. I feel incapable of describing any action, no matter how simple, in a direct way. I said that other writers were able to do that, which did not mean I was less competent than they. In my case, plain and naked exposition, without flourishes, without detours, without echoes or shadows, fatally diminishes the efficiency of the story, converts it into a mere anecdote; a vulgarity, when all is said and done. From the very beginning, what I had always done was scatter a series of points onto the blank page as if they had fallen there by chance, with no visible relationship between them; until one suddenly began to spread out, expand, sprout tentacles in search of others, and then the others would follow its example: the points would become lines running across the page to find their sisters, either to subordinate or serve them, until that initial group of solitary points morphed into an increasingly complex and intricate character, with gaps, creases, ironies, blurrings, and glaring darkness. That was my writing or, at least, the ideal of my writing. I could have added, but I restrained myself, that my exposition could be the reflection of a specific way of conceiving literature, or rather, that the apparent loss of direction in language had created in me a second nature from which I could not escape. To the extent that I did not know how to talk about anything, not even the weather, without detours, and that, in itself, had nothing to do with personal insecurity, as it is usually understood, but rather with a lack of confidence, abstract, of course, in the possibility of communication and persuasion in the ontological loneliness of being. The narrator who, as a rule, appears in my novels rehearses several starting points in the pursuit of a truth, a revelation, and in the effort will lose his way a thousand times, stumble constantly, and will maintain the pace with great difficulty between suffering hallucinations and sleepwalking, only in the end to declare himself defeated. He will come to know that absolutes do not exist, that there is no truth that is not conjectural, relative, and, therefore, vulnerable. But searching for it, no matter how ephemeral, partial, and inconstant it may be, will always be his objective. The narrator might be Sisyphus and Icarus at the same time. His only certainty is that along the way he might have touched a few strands in a marvelous and deplorable tapestry, obscured sometimes by ominous stains or by a sudden and immediate iridescence that, upon seeing it, gives meaning to his efforts.

  • Sergio Pitol, The Art of Flight