I AM NOT THE TOPIC OF MY BOOK
Andrés Trapiello explains with these words the content of his presentation.
"There are two ways to be present in a book, in literature, in life. Those that try to be noticed, and those who don't; those that say: I am going to talk about myself, and those who say: I am going to talk about you. The former are those who, also when finishing a conversation, a conversation they find very interesting we should say, plea to to their interlocutors: now, will you please tell me a little about me? The opposite happens with the later, who in any case can get tired of talking about others, about the world, about reality, about what surrounds us, but would never ask someone else to speak about himself. On the contrary, they would say: please, tell me about yourself.
When Miguel de Montaigne writes in the heading of his famous Essais the celebrated sentence "I am the topic of my book", he was not being completely sincere, because there is too little of Montaigne in the book compared to the expectations caused by this sentence. Why did he decide to begin this way those original and strange writings, which now we know were pioneering in the history of literature and the starting point of a new literature genre? Partly it was due to modesty, as way to address the topics that concerned him, regardless of being elevated or simple, intricate or elemental. We could say it was a captatio benevolentia, as it showed all of us common readers, maybe the only thing we have all in common: the ego.
But we know that ego is hateful (le moi est ha,efssable as Pascal would say) and thus, the only real obstacle of the narrative process. Sometimes the ego is an uncrossable barrier, and yet we try to find our own voice in the narrator, something that separates it from the rest of voices. We do not seek a novel topic (universal topics in literature are basically half a dozen: love, death, treason, failure, honor, the quest for happiness and little more) but a different tone. Poetry, as Juan Ramón used to say, is expression, while prose, one would add, is a tone.
A person searches for years in life, in literature, in the book he writes (that eternal book that is always the same book) for his tone. A tone which holds at the same time the ego and the lack of ego, that book in which while we speak of ourselves we speak about everything else, and in which when we speak about everything else, we tend to speak of ourselves, the essential "you" that groups us all around it. It is the book in which the less important part is the book itself, while life is the most important part. The book that blurs getting blended with life in a way that it becomes life itself, born as a unique organism that finds its marvel in being perfect and imperfect at the same time, in opposition to incomplete mechanisms that in their imperfection they can only be perfect.
In summary, there is no way that a writer can be the core topic if his book if it was born alive, for the same reason that no human has been born being himself the entire life, the entire world, the entire history. Like truth, we end up finalizing the books collectively. Due to this, the first thing that is in excess in a book is the ego. And if Montaigne wrote "I am the topic of my book" it was only to avoid sounding pretentious by saying that he was in no way the topic of his book. Because the topic of a book is always life, and life is something to be divided and thus, as Nietzsche said, no one is legit to present false testimony. And normally in literature the most false testimony is precisely the ego".