the writing bug

বাংলা English
Rui Zink
Rui Zink
Portuguese writer Rui Zink was born on June 16, 1961. "Writes books, gives lectures, imagines  things." - Rui Zink in his own description. He continues to write one story after another, novels, plays, graphic novel and much more. His language has become beyond its own boundaries. The structure of his written text also goes beyond conventional grammar. A different world came to life in subjective language. 'Torkito Tarjoni' has been  published on the occasion of his upcoming  60th birthday on June 16.Presently a lecturer by profession. His first novel was ‘Hotel Lusitano’(1986). Zink is the author of ‘A Arte Superma’(2007), the first Portuguese Graphic Novel. Also his ‘Os Surfistas’ was the first interactive e-novel of Portugal. He is the author of more than 45 published books all over. 
 Zink achieved prestigious ‘Pen Club’ award on 2005 for his novel ‘Dádiva Divina’. His several books has been translated in Bengali like ‘O Livro Sargrado da Factologia’(‘ঘটনাতত্ত্বের পবিত্র গ্রন্থ, 2017), ‘A Instalação do Medo’(‘ভয়’, 2012), ‘O Destino Turístico’(‘বেড়াতে যাওয়ার ঠিকানা', 2008), 'Oso'('নয়ন') etc.

The writing bug

THE WRITING BUG
Translation from Portuguese: Richard Zenith

All my fri­ends write. Great. All my fri­ends love to write. Fan­tastic. Even I don’t dis­like wri­ting, though I no longer do it. Ah, to write! To write words. To write things. To write the world. The world in­side us. And the world out­side us. All my fri­ends write. All my fri­ends are wri­ters. All my fri­ends pro­duce books.

And it’s not just my fri­ends, it’s everyone else as well. My neigh­bors write poems, the wai­tress at the café writes de­tec­tive no­vels, the bank em­ployee writes love sto­ries, and the grocer writes his­to­rical ro­mances. The man who used to de­liver my mail has also taken to wri­ting – travel books, I think it is. My mother writes sci­ence fic­tion, my brothers write comic books, and even our dis­tant cou­sins write – best-sel­lers, if I’m not mis­taken, or maybe they’re just es­says on neo-eco­lo­gical her­me­neu­tics.

Only my father doesn’t write, be­cause he’s al­ready dead. If he were still alive, he’d write for sure, and I know just what – pi­ca­resque no­vels. In hos­pi­tals all the pa­ti­ents write, and the doc­tors who give them pres­crip­tions write too. Even the nurses, the am­bu­lance pe­ople, the po­lice on duty and the em­ployees at the re­cep­tion desk are fo­rever wri­ting li­te­ra­ture, even if it’s just me­dical li­te­ra­ture.

Only my father doesn’t write, be­cause he’s al­ready dead. If he were still alive, he’d write for sure, and I know just what – pi­ca­resque no­vels. In hos­pi­tals all the pa­ti­ents write, and the doc­tors who give them pres­crip­tions write too. Even the nurses, the am­bu­lance pe­ople, the po­lice on duty and the em­ployees at the re­cep­tion desk are fo­rever wri­ting li­te­ra­ture, even if it’s just me­dical li­te­ra­ture.

The si­tu­a­tion is dire. The go­vern­ment has al­ready an­nounced that it’s going to take me­a­sures. It’s pos­sible, ad­mitted a go­vern­ment spo­kesman, that a na­ti­onal state of emer­gency will be de­clared. The spo­kesman no longer speaks – he him­self con­tracted the di­sease. I hap­pened to read what he wrote, but I don’t know if what he said – if what he wrote – was se­rious or if it was just another chapter from his new (and ut­terly fas­ci­na­ting) po­li­tical novel. In fact I was pro­bably the only person to read it, or rather, one of the few, since there must be others like me. I mean, I have to hope there are. The fact that I don’t know anyone else like me shouldn’t be con­fused with the fact, still un­proven, that there is no one else like me.

The di­sease is highly con­ta­gious. It makes Ebola seem like child’s play, so fast does it re­pro­duce and spread. The in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod is three to six hours, after which the victim sud­denly goes from being a normal person to a… a writer. The hos­pi­tals, burs­ting at the seams, are glutted with pe­ople aching for their next dose of pen and paper. And they have to write more and more, in­cre­a­sing the do­sage, since they have ever more ideas, more and more love for Li­te­ra­ture, for Be­au­tiful Words, and for the Se­cret Po­etry lur­king behind the Be­au­tiful Words – and even behind ugly words, say the ter­minal pa­ti­ents.

Sci­en­tists have yet to iso­late the virus or find an an­ti­dote, and they can’t even iden­tify the di­sease’s origin or des­cribe its patho­logy, since… That’s right, they’re all too busy wri­ting. There are even pe­ople who’ve wasted away and died from star­va­tion. It’s shoc­king but hardly sur­pri­sing: they write, they don’t eat, they die.

The number of traffic ac­ci­dents has so­ared. Coun­tless cars drive right off the road. Taxi dri­vers will be all set to switch into third gear when they re­member a ph­rase, start wri­ting, let go of the wheel and… Yes, it’s frightful.

Even chil­dren are wri­ting. Those who still haven’t le­arned the alphabet in­vent one, or they scribble sym­bolic fi­gures, and in­vent sto­ries, sto­ries, sto­ries. One-year-old tod­dlers, even ba­bies of just a few months, grab pens or pen­cils and move their tiny fists back and forth with unheard-of dex­te­rity. Of course they end up te­a­ring th­rough the paper and scrib­bling beyond its white bor­ders all over the floor, but they don’t care, they keep on going, wri­ting the Sym­bols of the World. And their pa­rents don’t care either, since they them­selves are busy wri­ting. Be­sides, what does a scrib­bled floor matter if the scrib­bles are a bril­liant chil­dren’s story about a prin­cess who, by of­fe­ring a strand of her be­au­tiful golden hair, is able to help a knight not get lost in the black fo­rest where he has to fight an evil dragon? Well?

Nothing like this has ever been seen be­fore. The si­tu­a­tion is ca­tas­trophic and shows no signs of let­ting up. I’d like to say this in another way, but there’s no other way to say it: the world is in danger of col­lap­sing under the weight of so many no­vels, no­vellas, short sto­ries, es­says and poems. Poems in par­ti­cular are like a plague of lo­custs: odes, pa­li­nodes, ele­gies, eclo­gues, epi­grams, epodes, qua­trains, cou­plets, dithy­rambs, pen­ta­me­ters, he­xa­me­ters, ale­xan­drines, bal­lads, ron­dels, ron­deaus, son­nets, so­na­tinas, ses­tinas.

I’m not exag­ge­ra­ting. The Earth has al­ready shifted slightly out of orbit. And the number of wri­ters and poets keeps growing each day. Along with the number of written words. And in­no­va­tive sen­tences: short ones, long ones, sen­tences of just one word (“He. Said. To. Her.”), sen­tences without commas that run on for two hun­dred pages (“There’s no point in pro­vi­ding an example here it would have to take up two hun­dred pages but this little sample may give some idea or better yet I’ll waste a few more lines on this idi­otic sen­tence so that the point I was trying to make will be­come cle­arer and more con­vin­cing and I think that’s enough now the point has been ade­qua­tely con­veyed I think”), ca­prices and laby­rinths of syntax we wouldn’t think pos­sible or re­a­so­nable.

One always won­ders: “What will they in­vent next?” Or: “Is there still so­mething else to in­vent?” At least that’s what I always used to wonder – be­fore the epi­demic. For if there’s one thing the di­sease has proven, it’s that the pos­si­bi­li­ties of in­ven­tion are en­dless, along with our in­ven­tive ca­pa­ci­ties. It’s sad but true: the human ima­gi­na­tion is in con­ti­nual ex­pan­sion, like the uni­verse. The human ima­gi­na­tion is a black hole that con­sumes everything, that swal­lows everything. And hu­ma­nity runs the risk of ex­tinc­tion pre­ci­sely for that re­ason. For ha­ving too much ima­gi­na­tion, too much ta­lent, too much cre­a­ti­vity.

There’s a limit, for he­aven’s sake, to how much ar­tistic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion we can take. Or there should be, since there evi­dently is none.

And, what’s more, it’s qua­lity work. Yes, who am I to deny it? Not only are pe­ople wri­ting ob­ses­si­vely, they’re wri­ting things that are ac­tu­ally quite good, in­te­res­ting, solid, worth re­a­ding, with a per­sonal style, fil­ling a space in the space of li­te­ra­ture that hadn’t yet been filled since no one knew that the space existed or was fil­lable until it was filled. Each person cre­ates his or her own niche with the same an­xi­ous­ness and the same mil­li­me­tric pre­ci­sion ob­ser­vable in the swallow when it builds its nest. And if it’s true that one swallow doesn’t make a summer nor one writer a li­te­ra­ture, many swal­lows to­gether – thou­sands, mil­lions, bil­lions of swal­lows to­gether – can make not one but a whole slew of sum­mers, which will in­clude, like a free bonus, a ge­ne­rous hel­ping of spring, fall and, of course, winter. And there’s the rub.

There’s the rub, and the ge­nius of this virus. It makes pe­ople write – and write well. If it gave them the urge but not the ta­lent, we could rest easy. A doctor who dis­co­vers, after hun­dreds of pages, that he’s me­rely pro­duced a bad pa­rody of Robin Cook may well go back to prac­ti­cing me­di­cine, which is what he’s re­ally good at. And a lawyer who re­a­lizes that not every woman can be Agatha Ch­ristie has a good chance of co­ming to her senses and going back to hel­ping her cli­ents. But what about an obs­te­tri­cian who writes ori­ginal, be­au­tiful pages? Or an at­torney who can keep us in sus­pense about the killer’s iden­tity until the very last pa­ra­graph? What then? It’s sad. It’s tragic. It’s un­be­a­rable. Well-cons­tructed sto­ries, with per­fect con­trol and be­li­e­vable cha­rac­ters, em­bodying the es­sence of ge­nuine li­te­ra­ture – which isn’t in the words but beyond them, and which makes a piece of wri­ting be­au­tiful.

*

At first there was a kind of col­lec­tive euphoria. The news­pa­pers spoke of a “New Re­nais­sance”, the cri­tics of an “Un­pre­ce­dented Mo­ment” in our li­te­ra­ture, the po­li­tical powers of a “new, exu­be­rant ge­ne­ra­tion of cre­a­tors”. Be­fore long there were some small signs sug­ges­ting that this new flowe­ring of ta­lent wasn’t without its pro­blems, but no one could grasp – or wished to grasp – what was hap­pe­ning. The fact is that many pe­ople were al­ready con­ta­mi­nated and had begun to write, he­si­tantly and with a sense of res­pon­si­bi­lity at first, then ever more fu­ri­ously – until the ine­vi­table novel.

And now? Now the world is a dreary place. Yes, these are gloomy times, and they’ll get worse when winter ar­rives. In summer we don’t no­tice the ab­sence of ants, only of gras­shop­pers. But when winter comes… The mar­ket­places are de­serted, bread and other basic foods are no longer dis­tri­buted, nor is bread even baked. The shops are empty – with their doors wide open to the street, but empty. With no one to look after them, no one at the cash re­gis­ters, no one to turn the lights on and off. In the su­per­mar­kets you can take away wha­tever you want in the shop­ping carts, but if you don’t have a coin you can’t get a cart, since there’s nowhere to change money.

There are, to be sure, some po­si­tive as­pects. Te­le­vi­sions have stopped wor­king, so that there are no more soap operas or “re­a­lity” shows. And the irony is that they ended pre­ci­sely when the number of script­wri­ters in­cre­ased a thou­sand­fold, such that there would at last have been some va­riety in the in­dustry. The pro­blem is that there’s no one to make scripts into films: no ac­tors, no ca­me­ramen, no ma­keup ar­tists, no di­rec­tors, no as­sis­tant di­rec­tors, no pro­du­cers, no ligh­ting crews, no war­drobe per­sonnel, and no one to do post­pro­duc­tion or edi­ting. They’ve all gone off on their own to write the novel of their life. There are also, less po­si­ti­vely, no more we­ather re­ports. I shudder to think of boats set­ting out to sea with no idea of the bad we­ather that awaits them, but I im­me­di­a­tely re­a­lize what an idi­otic thing I’ve just said. There’s no­body left to set out to sea. The fishermen have all aban­doned their nets, har­poons, decks and baits. They’re busy set­ting down on paper their tales of ship­wrecks and ad­ven­tures with fish whose names are un­pro­noun­ce­able, se­quels to Moby Dick, im­proved and up­dated ver­sions of He­mingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Did I say ear­lier that I’m perhaps not the only one to have read the go­vern­ment’s la­test com­mu­niqué? Perhaps I’m re­ally not, but I don’t know where the others are – the others who weren’t af­fected by this col­lec­tive in­sa­nity – nor if they’re like me or if they’ve suf­fered some sort of mu­ta­tion. I can’t say why I’ve re­mained im­mune to the virus. So­mething to do with my DNA, with my ge­netic code, with my blood type, with a shor­tage (or ex­cess) of cho­les­terol in my blood? I lack the sci­en­tific data to ven­ture an ex­pla­na­tion without run­ning the risk – to be es­pe­ci­ally avoided, given the pre­sent si­tu­a­tion – of lap­sing into sci­ence fic­tion or into a de­li­rious fan­tasy passed off as ob­jec­tive kno­wledge.

If I’m not the only person in the world who at this mo­ment – perhaps the final mo­ment of hu­ma­nity – reads what other pe­ople write, then where are my com­rades in arms? Is there a chance we can join to­gether and create a bas­tion of re­sis­tance, an un­der­ground mo­ve­ment to fight against the epi­demic, to se­arch for a cure – th­rough study, re­a­ding, theory and ex­pe­ri­men­ta­tion – that will res­tore he­alth to man­kind and get the world wor­king again? I don’t know, but I con­fess I’m not too op­ti­mistic.

I know what I am: I’m a re­ader. I read what other pe­ople write. I do it com­pul­si­vely. It’s a habit I’ve had for many years. In the mor­ning, at bre­ak­fast, even if I don’t have the pages of a news­paper with their still fresh ink along­side my cup of coffee, my eyes ins­tinc­ti­vely scan the table in se­arch of words, let­ters and ph­rases to read: “Corn Flakes”, “rich in vi­ta­mins and mi­ne­rals”, “Shop 18 – Rua Ca­milo Cas­telo Branco, 15-A”, “Mar­ga­rine – 100% Ve­ge­table Oil, 250 grams”. Going about the rest of my day, I read everything: all the news­pa­pers, all the signs, all the num­bers on all doors, all the names of all the doc­tors on the plaque out­side the clinic on the street where I pass by – and my eyes pass by – every day. I read all the no­vels and poems that pass th­rough my hands and as many es­says as I can du­ring my lunch hour while gob­bling up the daily spe­cial at the counter of the snack bar near where I work, and my job at work is to read all the do­cu­ments placed on top of my desk for that very pur­pose – for me to read them.

I don’t know by what mi­racle I stayed im­mune to the virus. And the funny thing is that I wasn’t always this way. When I was young I my­self tried to write. Yes! Not even I ma­naged to get th­rough life without ha­ving tried my hand at wri­ting! But the fact is that, back then, a lot less pe­ople wrote. The times were dif­fe­rent, il­li­te­racy was still wi­des­pread, life was mostly spent wor­king. Later on I re­a­lized that I pre­ferred re­a­ding to wri­ting. It was ea­sier, more re­la­xing, less time-con­su­ming. Su­pe­rior in every way. But in the past I my­self, I con­fess, was ho­oked on wri­ting. A few poems, a couple of short sto­ries, two or three scenes for plays – nothing spe­cial. But there’s no use hi­ding the fact: I was con­vinced I knew how to write.

Perhaps that’s how I gained im­mu­nity. Perhaps my youthful folly – I wanted to be a writer! – func­ti­oned as a vac­cine. Yes, that may be what has pro­tected me so far, but I’m not sure if this is a bles­sing or a curse. I’m a re­ader in a world of wri­ters, and that makes me feel – poor me! – all alone. Be­cause everyone writes, but no one reads what others write. No one but me. They don’t have time. They’re so en­grossed in tel­ling their story, in con­cei­ving their mo­nu­ment of Art and Ima­gi­na­tion, that they have no time to read. In fact it’s not even a ques­tion of ha­ving time, it’s that they’re in­ca­pable of ma­king them­selves do it. They can’t make them­selves sit down and read. And soon they won’t even know how to read. Thus lan­guages will come to an end, even be­fore the world does, be­cause everyone will write in­cre­a­singly in his or her own lan­guage, in his or her own pri­vate code, for­get­ting that com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a two-way pro­cess and that, to be un­ders­tood, one has to use ele­ments that both par­ties un­ders­tand. No one reads. They just write. They die. Such is the po­tency, the de­mented per­ver­sion, of this virus.

*

And you, my fellow sur­vivor? I don’t know if you exist in this world that’s col­lap­sing. If you read this, then evi­dently you do, and now you’ll know that so­mewhere on the planet, perhaps in your own city, there’s so­meone else who shares your fears and an­xi­e­ties, but also your hopes. And perhaps we can meet. It would be great to ex­change ideas on the sub­ject, to join forces and to se­arch for other pe­ople like us: re­a­ders with im­mu­nity to the wri­ting bug. I know that your ini­tial re­ac­tion will pro­bably be to think: “This guy is trying to pull a fast one. He him­self is a writer, not a true re­ader. He him­self was con­ta­mi­nated and is trying to con­vince me otherwise, pro­bably for some de­vious pur­pose.”

You have every right to think that way, and it’s what I my­self would think if I ran across a story like this one. We’re not sus­pi­cious by na­ture but we learn to be so, and a cer­tain wa­ri­ness vis-à-vis our neighbor is pro­bably not a bad thing. All I ask you is to give me the be­nefit of the doubt. Ask you? No, I beg you. Here I am on my knees, beg­ging you to be­lieve in me. This isn’t a story, it’s not a work of fic­tion. I am me­rely, ge­nui­nely, trying to make con­tact with so­meone who exists on the other side of the page. I’m re­a­ching out my hand to you. Please con­sider the pos­si­bi­lity of re­a­ching yours out to me.

One last thing. Don’t res­pond in wri­ting. I re­a­lize you’re pro­bably im­mune, but you never know. Just show up. I’ll know how to re­cog­nize you, and you’ll have no pro­blem in re­cog­ni­zing me. We’ll be the only ones – in a pu­blic square, in a park, on a street, in a café, or whe­rever it is we meet – who will be pe­a­ce­fully sit­ting there with a smile on our lips and a book, open wide, in our hands.

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