A verdade de um romancista

Na entrada da Wikipedia sobre o seu romance A Mancha Humana (The Human Stain), Philip Roth encontrou uma referência a uma suposta pessoa real na qual se teria inspirado para criar o protagonista do livro, informação que chegou, nas suas palavras, «not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip». Quando se queixou ao administrador da Wikipedia, foi-lhe dito que embora ele, Philip Roth, seja obviamente a maior autoridade no que diz respeito às suas ficções, seriam sempre necessárias «fontes secundárias». Sem esconder um certo espanto e impaciência, o escritor decidiu então assinar uma carta aberta no blogue literário da revista New Yorker. O texto, extenso e detalhado, é de leitura obrigatória para quem queira saber como funcionam os mecanismos criativos e os «empréstimos» biográficos na obra de um grande romancista.
Eis um excerto:

«My protagonist, the academic Coleman Silk, and the real writer Anatole Broyard first passed themselves off as white men in the years before the civil-rights movement began to change the nature of being black in America. Those who chose to pass (this word, by the way, doesn’t appear in “The Human Stain”) imagined that they would not have to share in the deprivations, humiliations, insults, injuries, and injustices that would be more than likely to come their way should they leave their identities exactly as they’d found them. During the first half of the twentieth century, there wasn’t just Anatole Broyard alone—there were thousands, probably tens of thousands, of light-skinned men and women who decided to escape the rigors of institutionalized segregation and the ugliness of Jim Crow by burying for good their original black lives.
I had no idea what it was like for Anatole Broyard to flee from his blackness because I knew nothing about Anatole Broyard’s blackness, or, for that matter, his whiteness. But I knew everything about Coleman Silk because I had invented him from scratch, just as in the five-year period before the 2000 publication of “The Human Stain” I had invented the puppeteer Mickey Sabbath of “Sabbath’s Theater” (1995), the glove manufacturer Swede Levov of “American Pastoral” (1997), and the brothers Ringold in “I Married a Communist” (1998), one a high-school English teacher and the other a star of radio in its heyday. Neither before nor after writing these books was I a puppeteer, a glove manufacturer, a high-school teacher, or a radio star.
Finally, to be inspired to write an entire book about a man’s life, you must have considerable interest in the man’s life, and, to put it candidly, though I particularly admired the story “What the Cystoscope Said” when it appeared in 1954, and I told the author as much, over the years I otherwise had no particular interest in Anatole Broyard. Neither Broyard nor anyone associated with Broyard had anything to do with my imagining anything in “The Human Stain.”
Novel writing is for the novelist a game of let’s pretend. Like most every other novelist I know, once I had what Henry James called “the germ”—in this case, Mel Tumin’s story of muddleheadedness at Princeton—I proceeded to pretend and to invent Faunia Farley; Les Farley; Coleman Silk; Coleman’s family background; the girlfriends of his youth; his brief professional career as a boxer; the college where he rises to be a dean; his colleagues both hostile and sympathetic; his field of study; his bedeviled wife; his children both hostile and sympathetic; his schoolteacher sister, Ernestine, who is his strongest judge at the conclusion of the book; his angry, disapproving brother; and five thousand more of those biographical bits and pieces that taken together form the fictional character at the center of a novel.»


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