The Human Infinity: Literature and Peace

Writers often talk of the torments of writing, of “the fear of the blank page,” of nights waking in a cold sweat because suddenly they see the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, of the story that they have been writing, sometimes for years. This distress is certainly real, but I insist also upon the pleasures of creation, of inventing an entire fictional world out of thousands of facts and details. There is a particular kind of wonder that I feel when a character I have invented begins to overtake me, to run ahead and pull me forward: suddenly this imagined character knows more than I do about its own fate, its own future, and also about other characters in the story, and I must learn to follow, to catch up. In a way that I do not fully understand, my invented person infuses me with the materials of life, with ideas, with plot twists, with understandings I never knew I possessed. A creative work represents, for me, the possibility of touching infinity. Not mathematical infinity or philosophical infinity, but human infinity. That is, the infinity of the human face. The infinite strings of a single heart, the infinity of an individual’s intellect and understanding, of her opinions, urges, illusions, of his smallness and greatness, her power to create, his power to destroy — the infinity of her configurations. Almost every idea that comes to my mind about the character I am writing opens me up to more and more human possibilities: to a lush garden of forking paths. “To be whole, it is enough to exist,” wrote the poet Fernando Pessoa. This wonderful observation pours salt on the wounds of every writer who knows how difficult it is to translate a character born in the imagination into a character that contains even

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