Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Spark of Light on a Spotless Mind

There is a quotation by Pablo Picasso that says “Everything you can imagine is real,” and if we think about it carefully, it is true. Most of the books we read and the music we listen to was inspired by a little piece of reality. Have you ever wondered, what did inspire an author to write a book or an artist to create this masterpiece? What factual bit of information made this writer jump in his/her chair and start sketching the frame for his/her next novel?

What inspired a good book is not always known but in some cases, when writers tell us the source of their idea, the story they tell us is equally or more fantastic than their work itself. Such is the case of the book “Of Love and Other Demonsby Gabriel García Márquez. In the preface of this book he tells an amazing story about a convent in Cartagena, Colombia that was going to be transformed into a five star hotel. The tombs of those whom 200 years ago were considered important people were still there and were being exhumed. When they opened one of the graves, they found the skull of a young girl with a splendid head of hair that measured 22 meters long. García Márquez was very young at that time and was a witness to this event which he was covering as a journalist. At that moment he knew he would be writing a book based on this story sooner or later.

Sometimes, the beginning of a book can be as simple as a stewardess asking you “Beef or pasta?” That’s what happened to Andrew Rimas and then he wrote the book: "Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World." Or like in the case of Russell Banks who wrote his novel “Continental Drift after reading a newspaper clipping about refugees from Haiti arriving on the shores of Florida. In some other cases, authors have found their inspiration in their personal interest like in "Halide’s Gift" a novel by Frances Kazan written because its author’s fascination with a particular time in history: when the Islamic and Ottoman Empires were about to collapse and a woman named Halide played an important role during this chaotic time.

Inspiration is an elusive friend: sometimes it will show its face in every corner, but it could also hide for months at a time, leaving without notice which could be an author’s or artist's nightmare. In the meantime, let’s sit back and enjoy a reflection of reality in the books we read.


La Princesse de Clèves said...

A previous blog was about how a painter was inspired by novels.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Great post.