The lack of working time was a continual source of stress, as it still is. The frustration worms its way through rage and bitterness, and can lead to breakdown, and silence. I returned to the lives, as well as the works, of writers and artists, particularly Franz Kafka.
I saw it as the fundamental and shaping struggle in each, the need to do your work in the face of the socio-economic reality. There was no place in society for your work, as with Cézanne, van Gogh and the rest. Your only requirement was to do their work. Who the fuck were they? These bastards. Who wants to do their work? Let them do it themselves, tell them to go and fuck.
Young writers seek bonds of solidarity with older generations; we look for things in common. If a writer comes to mean something to us we want to discover affinities. How did they live their life? What hardships did they endure to pursue their art? How long did it take them to write a story? Kafka did The Metamorphosis in a couple of nights. Oh, I don't believe it, no, no, for godsake, no.
Yes. Now pick yourself up, brush yourself down. Van Gogh did not even begin until he was 28. And look at Tolstoy, a hero at 22, a hero at 72. Phew.
I still found difficulty in connecting with writers who had no reason to worry about money and job security. I was prejudiced against Turgenev for years, until it dawned on me how influenced I had been by Dostoevsky's judgment, arrived at through a suicidal gambling habit. I would have sat down for a game of poker with Dostoevsky but knew I would not have enjoyed it. I aye imagined him jumping up from the table and flinging a cape round his shoulders, This is too slow, too slow! and marching out into the night.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
James Kelman recalls his early days as a writer in The Guardian: