Remembrance of Memoirs Past

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Thumb
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Thumb

When I was seven or eight years old, I wanted to write my memoirs. That’s right, my memoirs.

That is my earliest memory regarding rhetorical writing. I have no recollection about my school homework from that time (except for math, which I hated – and still do). I don’t remember what the teacher had us write back then. Whether she asked us to write about our parents, or our vacation, or what we would like to be when we grow up, I simply don’t know. I only recall the need, the urge to write. Why start with my memoirs? I have no idea. Maybe out of a precocious narcissistic sense of self-importance. The thing that I do remember is that I didn’t get past the first page, detailing when and where I was born, who my parents were, and where I lived. Then I got bored of my terribly adventurous life and left it alone. But I remember feeling very satisfied about my deed.

I started a journal when I was eighteen, and kept writing in it from time to time – those were writings about the present, various thoughts and feelings that I didn’t feel like sharing with someone else. I didn’t have any “writing teacher” per se. The only “teachers” I had were the writers I was reading and analyzing at school and on my own. When I was in middle school, my idol was Alexandre Dumas. I tried to imitate him any way I could, very unsuccessfully, and quite laughably, to be honest. In high-school I discovered the existentialists, and Albert Camus became the person who I was thinking when I used to say I wanted to become a writer. In college I have yet again betrayed my “mentor,” choosing André Gide and James Joyce as my new favorite writers. Right now, if I had to pick an author whose style I would like to imitate, that would probably be Gide, followed closely by Joyce (and, maybe, John Fowles). I am particularly fond of Gide’s so-called soties, the books he wrote almost jokingly, and in which he put so much humor and wit – Le Prométhée mal enchaîné and especially Les Caves du Vatican. His sense of irony and deadpan comedy are close to mine’s. I guess I feel that if I ever get to write a book, it would be some sort of weird combination between the symbolic, obscure, and abstract (but also ironic and somewhat parodic) style of Joyce’s Ulysses and Gide’s more direct and overtly funny lines (even though he’s not primarily a comic writer).

I majored in French and English Language and Literature. I became a translator. Needless to say, my work is as far away as one could possibly imagine from what I did in college. Or from what I’ve dreamed about doing. My days consist of translating utterly boring texts (with some, very few exceptions). People say I’m quite good at it. Some even say some nice things about my style. That always surprises me. I didn’t know I had a “style.” I didn’t know translators were supposed to have a “style.”

I’ve never entered a writing competition. I never had the courage. I love reading and writing (although in the past few years, I have less and less time for my beloved books). I loved studying various great writers in college. So, then, if I wanted to write, if I wanted to be a writer, what kept me? Maybe the feeling that I wasn’t good enough? Maybe I was too intimidated by my literary idols. Maybe I thought that I could never write as good as them, so why even try? Sometimes I wish I had a real live mentor. Someone who would guide me, and tell me what’s right and what’s wrong with my writing.

But something happened in the past couple of years. I began to feel the urge to write again. I don’t know whether it’s some sort of psychological defense mechanism, to keep me from going insane from translating so many awful texts, or whether it’s something else, but I’m glad it happened. I don’t know if I’m ready to call myself a writer just yet, but I’m writing, and that’s what counts. I guess, in the end, I’m still trying after all these years, to feel again that satisfaction felt by an eight-year old boy when writing his memoirs.

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