Two men once started talking at a bar. One of them was almost naked and said, when asked: “I write.” The other one was wearing a thick padded coat, filled with feathers, and he asked: “Why?” The former said: “I don’t know.” And he added: “Why should the one who writes constantly have to justify what he does, any more than the one who makes things with a hammer and anvil or knits, or the child who makes snowmen? Why should there be any need for justification?”
Here, off course, a speech could be made about the differences and likenesses between writing and being a blacksmith and knitting and making snowmen, about mortalities and eternities, about usefulness and futility and about beauty. But the thing is that the air was getting thick with something and the aforementioned man took it upon himself, as people sometimes do for no good reason or when they are being lucid or when something gets into them, to fire up. He told his companion in a loud voice that people who write bored him. “Those who write should push themselves more to the side and make room for fiction,” he uttered.
“But I have not said otherwise,” the one who wrote answered. It was bitter cold at the bar, going on with sleet, and therefore ample need for a padded coat. And probably not good to be naked, or as good as.
“I think you should announce a magical view towards writing,” the well dressed one said, “totally free from all theory. You should say it as it is, that words come to you, and that they are much greater than yourself. That all your work is subject to interpretation.”
“I could for sure do that,” the one who wrote said.
“You should deny all connection to political parties and declare that you are on the side of truth alone.”
“Without doubt that would be good.”
In addition to the terrible weather, the bar was so thick with smoke that hardly anything could be distinguished. This resembled fog, through which it is difficult to depict any forms. Still, it was crowded in there, that much could be seen, some people were carrying knifes that glittered, others equipped with writing instruments and still others seemed to bear no weapons at all. There was a lot of drinking and chattering going on, but no word could be made out. Most people were wearing padded coats or other thick garments.
“I think you should tell it as it is and refrain from all pretexts and evasions,” the one in the padded coat said.
At the same moment an ice-cold gust went through the bar.
“Maybe so,” said the one who wrote. “But I think you should take off your coat.”
Hermann Stefánsson, November 2008.
Translated by Kristín Viðarsdóttir.