Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein.
…Then there is the problem of my creative choices, which I am not capable of explaining clearly, especially to those who might pick out of the text phrases and situations and feel wounded by them. I am used to writing as if it were a matter of dividing up the booty. To one character I give a trait of Tom’s, to another a phrase of Dick’s; I reproduce situations in which people I know and have known have actually been. I draw on real situations and events but not as they really happened; rather, I assume as having ‘really happened’ only the impressions or fantasies that originated in the years when that experience was lived. So what I write is full of references to situations and events that are real and verifiable but reorganized and reinvented as if they had never happened. The farther I am from my writing, then, the more it becomes what it wants to be: a novelistic invention. The closer I get, and am inside it, the more overwhelmed the novel is by real details, and the book stops being a novel, and risks wounding me, above all, as the malicious account of a disrespectful ingrate. Thus I want my novel to go as far as possible precisely so that it can present its novelistic truth and not the accidental scraps –which it nevertheless contains – of autobiography.
But the media, especially when it links photographs of the author with the book, media appearances by the writer with its cover, goes precisely in the opposite direction: it abolishes the distance between author and book, operates in such a way that the one is spent in favour of the other, mixes the first with the materials of the second and vice versa. In the face of these types of intervention, I feel exactly what you correctly define as ‘private timidity’. I worked for a long time, plunging headlong into the material that I wanted to narrate, to distill from my own experience and that of others whatever ‘public’ material could be distilled, whatever appeared to me extractable from voices, facts, persons near and far, to construct characters and a narrative organism of some public coherence. Now that that organism has, for good or ill, its own self-sufficient equilibrium, why should I entrust myself to the media? Why continue to mix its breath with mine? I have a well-founded fear that the media, which, because of its current nature, that is, lacking a true vocation for ‘public interest’, would be inclined, carelessly, to restore a private quality to an object that originated precisely to give a less circumscribed meaning to individual experience.
Perhaps this last part of the subject, in particular, merits discussion. Is there a way of safeguarding the right of an author to choose to establish, once and for all, through his writing alone, what of himself should become public? The editorial marketplace is in particular preoccupied with finding out if the author can be used as an engaging character and thus assist the journey of his work through the marketplace. If one yields, one accepts, at least in theory, that the entire person, with all his experiences and his affections, is placed for sale along with the book. But the nerves of the private person are too sensitive. If they are out in the open, all they offer is a spectacle of suffering or joy or malice or resentment (sometimes even generosity, but, like it or not, on display); certainly I cannot add anything to the work.
I would conclude this subject by saying, finally, that writing with the knowledge that I don’t have to appear produces a space of absolute creative freedom. It’s a corner of my own that I intend to defend, now that I’ve tried it. If I were deprived of it, I would feel abruptly impoverished…