I went to live in Barcelona in 1975, when I was twenty. Even before I went there, I knew more about the Spanish Civil War than I did about the Irish Civil War. I liked Barcelona, and then I grew to like a place in the Catalan Pyrenees called the Pillars, especially an area between the village of Flavors and the high mountains around it.
I never listen to music when I am writing. It would be impossible. I listen to Bach in the mornings, mostly choral music; also some Handel, mostly songs and arias; I like Schubert's and Beethoven's chamber music and Sibelius' symphonies; for opera, I listen to Mozart and in recent years Wagner.
I first went to Barcelona in 1975 after university, and I stayed for three years. I learnt Catalan because that's what everyone speaks in the mountains. They speak English to foreigners, but what people say to each other is much more important than what they say to you.
I like it that they [disciples] feed me and pay for my clothes and protect me. And in return I will do for them what I can, but no more than that. Just as I cannot breathe the breath of another or help the heart of someone else to beat or their bones not to weaken or their flesh not to shrivel, I cannot say more than I can say. And I know how deeply this disturbs them, and it would make me smile, this earnest need for foolish anecdote or sharp simple patterns in the story of what happened... Read more »
I do not know why it matters that I should tell the truth to myself at night, why it should matter that the truth should be spoken at least once in the world. Because the world is a place of silence, the sky at night when the birds have gone is a vast silent place. Words will make the slightest difference to the sky at night. They will not brighten it or make it less strange. And the day too has its own deep indifference to anything that is said.
The problem is once you've written the opening paragraph and worked out how the rest of the story will go in your head, there's nothing in it for you. I write in longhand using disposable fountain pens on the right-hand side of the notebook for the first draft, then I rewrite some of the sentences and paragraphs on the left-hand side.