Writing, writers, do not come out of houses without books.
There is the gap. There is the difficulty.
I have been looking at the speeches by some of your recent prizewinners. Take the magnificent Pamuk. He said his father had 1 500 books. His talent did not come out of the air, he was connected with the great tradition.
Take V.S. Naipaul. He mentions that the Indian Vedas were close behind the memory of his family. His father encouraged him to write. And when he got to England by right he used the British Library. So he was close to the great tradition.
Let us take John Coetzee. He was not only close to the great tradition, he was the tradition: he taught literature in Cape Town. And how sorry I am that I was never in one of his classes: taught by that wonderfully brave bold mind.
In order to write, in order to make literature, there must be a close connection with libraries, books, the Tradition.
Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a processor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.
If this writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn.
When writers talk to each other, what they ask each other is always to do with this space, this other time. “Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?”
Take a look!