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!
- 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.