The Woman Behind the Words–Marta Merajver

Marta Merajver has several books to her credit.

Marta Merajver has several books to her credit.

Have you ever met someone online that you wish lived just around the corner so you could sip tea and soak in her wisdom whenever the whim whispered? Marta Merajver is that woman. We have never met and live continents away but have gravitated toward each other over the Internet in various ways. Today she has answered some of my questions wherein I’ve tried to dig deeper and find out what is behind this gracious and brilliant person. Welcome, Marta, to my blog!

  1. I see a bit of your life’s ink spreading over into your novel, Marta, with your own novelist mother not encouraging you to read and your character in Just Toss the Ashes trying to connect with his mother after her suicide. Why do you think it was your father who encouraged your affair with books and not your mother?

It’s not that my mother didn’t encourage me to read but that she felt certain books were beyond my comprehension and might disturb me at the time. My father was more permissive, not only regarding books. Still, the one who encouraged me to write was my mother, and I refused to do so precisely because she wanted me to. Relationships between mothers and daughters can be very difficult, and ours cost me years on the couch. Lucas, the son in Just Toss the Ashes, was trying to make sense of his mother after her death, while I came to terms with mine while she was very much alive. There are no points of coincidence between the mothers in my fiction and my mother, although I must admit she would make an extremely interesting character 🙂

2. To what extent do you draw on your own relationship with your mother in Just Toss the Ashes? Do authors use their background whether they want to or not?

As I said before, my mother did not come into the picture. I did draw on core conflicts, though; the ones Freud so well depicts in his writings about women’s complicated Oedipal stage. It is true that many women prefer to ignore their struggles in this field, without realizing that hidden wounds fester and expand into other areas of their lives.

In my opinion, an author cannot “take off” her background as if it were a garment when she sits down to write. We do not necessarily talk about it, yet it seeps through, often unrecognized by readers and critics. Taken to an extreme, sometimes the author herself is unaware of how her background, carefully omitted from the enunciated (her actual writing) becomes apparent in the enunciation (what is understood by the receiver.)

3. Which type of writing do you enjoy the most, non-fiction or fiction?

Fiction, definitely. The possibility to create or, in my case, recreate the world –for my fiction is realistic– is irresistible. I confine my characters to a space and time within whose boundaries they are free to do as they please. They quickly take their lives in their hands, leading me forward rather than the other way around. Things reach their momentum in my head. When I begin writing, it has all been said and done. The novel brews, leaving its traces on handwritten notes, character files, isolated chunks of dialogue. This may take a long time, but then the writing flows easily.

4.  Does your publisher suggest books to you that you might write? How does that work?

All my non-fiction has been commissioned rather than suggested by my publisher. He knows me well, so he never asks for what lies beyond my fields of expertise. I find this kind of writing rewarding in that it helps people understand themselves and others a little better, but I certainly don’t get “creative” except in the manner of broaching the problems.

5. Having been a translator and a lover of languages did you do your own translation of Gracias Por La Muerte (Just Toss the Ashes)?

What an interesting question, Elaine! In fact, I didn’t translate Just Toss the Ashes; I think I wouldn’t have been able to keep the right distance from the original version. Odd as it may seem, I would probably have taken undue liberties with the text, because it was mine. The job was done by an excellent translator whom I’d love to count on for future translations. However, it is also true that I might translate one of my own books if a long time passed before translation were required, the reason being that after years of having written something, some kind of alienation takes place. It is as though these old works had been written by someone else, which makes sense insofar I and my circumstances have changed.

6. I’ve often wondered if fiction illuminates the human condition much more vividly than non-fiction. For example, showing a theme of the best way to live, say in a novel, can touch depths a simple list of things to do to achieve our best life cannot. What are your thoughts on this?

Non-fiction may be perceived as intrusive in that respect. It probably works for readers who need to depend on others they deem wiser; people who feel reassured by a “what-to-do” list. My self-help books break with this idea, for I warn readers that I don’t know them, that they know themselves better than anyone else does, and that my aim is to provide them with clues to make such knowledge conscious so that they can make decisions that work for them. On the other hand, some fiction mirrors the human condition so vividly that it is next to impossible to ignore the lessons it contains. One can learn much more about moral suffering from Dostoevsky than from an ad hoc treatise. In a very modest way, since Just Toss the Ashes has often been mentioned in this interview, this particular novel seems to have helped many people who lost a loved one to suicide. It wasn’t my intention to write a healing book, but you cannot control the effects of your book once it starts circulating. This is the most wonderful feature of fiction: it has as many meanings as it has readers, regardless of what the author set out to do.

Finally, I’d like to thank you for showcasing me in your blog. You are one of my favorite writers, and I feel honored to be here with you.


26 thoughts on “The Woman Behind the Words–Marta Merajver

  1. Hello, Elaine and Marta,
    I had never thought of the difficulties of translation and resisting tweaking your own novel, but it makes sense to have someone else take on that task so you leave the integrity of the words. Not that I’m capable of such a translation anyway, I have no subtleties in any language but my own. Terrific interview and it sounds like a lovely, deep book to explore.


  2. I learn more and more about the intricacies and inner workings of such a lovely writer. I am in awe each time, sister. I agree with you on all points, especially about our experiences being part of our writing…you can’t “take off” what makes up your foundation, rather, you build from it, hoping others can relate and appreciate what you’ve constructed.
    Fantastic interview! Bravo sister❤️


  3. I met a writer online and through emails we found out that our lives were so similar in experiences that it was shocking. We have spent holidays and writing conferences together and met each others families & friends. We call each other soul sisters now. From a chance remark we have found a wonderful friendship.


    • Isn’t that wonderful, Mandy? I’m afraid I’ll never experience such joy because I live literally at the end of the world, but many of my online friends are much closer to me and know me better than others in my same country. I cherish their friendship and would feel totally lost without them 🙂


      • I never thought about the geography of where you live giving a feeling like that, Marta. And I am one who truly believes that we are most comfortable in the geography where we were born or have spent most of our lives. I always feel at home when we cross the border back into Canada and start up the 401 towards our home. Love to travel but love to come home.
        Thanks again for doing the interview, my friend!


  4. Hi,

    Again, I have read something from Marta that I had not read before, and it was brought out so beautifully in your interview, when she said, and I quote, In my opinion, an author cannot “take off” her background as if it were a garment when she sits down to write. We do not necessarily talk about it, yet it seeps through, often unrecognized by readers and critics.

    I truly believe that, writing which brings life, is not and cannot be separated from the writer’s person. It is not sterile. It engages the reader and Marta has said this beautifully.



    • Elaine, as I spent my youth traveling and living round the world, I lost that feeling of belonging you experience. If to that we add that I’m the first in my family to have been born in Argentina, it would be accurate to say that “home is where the heart is,” and my heart is seldom here.


    • Dearest Patti, thank you for holding my hand, as always. That you have read something new despite knowing me pretty well is due to Elaine’s matchless skill at thinking of challenging questions. She shouldn’t be thanking me for doing the interview, but I am most grateful to her for bringing out aspects that so far went unnoticed.


  5. This is my first time to read an interview of you, Marta, and you and Elaine both did very well at it. Add my vote to the rest for the passage about one’s experience not being removable apparel, etc. Plus the challenges of maternal relationships. Both are such universal experiences. I look forward to learning and reading more of you, Marta. Break a keyboard! 🙂


    • Belinda, how great to see you here on my blog. Thanks so much for your kind comments. Marta is a dream to interview as she always has such in-depth and unique answers. As for breaking a keyboard, I know you meant it for Marta but my own is losing the letters so I’m glad I learned to type using the home row method all those years ago. I bought this one a year ago but it isn’t holding up the way I’d like. Thanks again for your comment!


  6. What can I say that hasn’t already been said so eloquently here and, elsewhere? Your interviews, Marta, always bring me to tears, some, happy tears for your success, others, sad tears that we live so far apart. LIke Elaine, I have been drawn to you in a way that we would never have experienced before. The Internet has it’s problems, however, this is how we met and you have always proven to be a sister, friend, comrad, and mentor, without fail. Your constant encouragement and kind assessment of my work is what has kept me writing for the past four years. I hope someday to be the writer you are, my friend, moreover the person you are.
    My sister-in-law has a wonderful expression for great writers such as yourself: They write such, DELICIOUS WORDS.



    • Dearest Pat, we are so close in our hearts that distance doesn’t matter. It’s true sometimes I’d like to hug you, and that it saddens me that we cannot spend time together. But I’m optimistic that one day I’ll be knocking on your door, and we’ll talk for hours and hours. Everything you say I’ve been to you, you’ve been to me. Thank you for reading me once again!
      Tons of love!


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