Contenido y estilo

Jueves, 17 de octubre de 2013

William Faulkner sobre escribir:

I think the story compels its own style to a great extent, that the writer don’t need to bother too much about style. If he’s bothering about style, then he’s going to write precious emptiness–-not necessarily nonsense… it’ll be quite beautiful and quite pleasing to the ear, but there won’t be much content in it.

Lo que dice Faulkner puede parecer obvio, pero no lo es. Escritores y críticos tienden a sobrevalorar el estilo y subestimar el contenido. ¿Por qué? Porque el estilo es lo que más se ve. Es la fachada de la literatura. Evaluar el contenido es más difícil.

Déjenme ilustrar este punto con una escena del primer capítulo de Luz de Agosto, mi novela favorita de Faulkner.

Lena Grove, una muchacha humilde e ignorante de Alabama, lleva ya un mes en una travesía -a pie y pidiendo aventones- para encontrar a su pareja Lucas Burch. Lena está a punto de dar a luz y, como todavía no se ha casado, la traumatiza que su bebé llegue al mundo sin apellido, un pecado mortal en Alabama.

Su pareja, Lucas Burch, la abandonó cuando quedó embarazada, diciéndole que necesitaba mudarse para buscar fortuna  y prometiéndole que, apenas consiguiera un ingreso estable,  la mandaría a buscar. Pero Lucas nunca aparece, razón por la cual ella emprende su travesía, sin tener mayores pistas sobre dónde está su novio.

En el camino Lena conoce a Armstid, un hombre que le da un aventón en su camión y luego la hospeda una noche en su casa. La esposa de Armstid, Mrs. Armstid, enseguida intuye que Lena no está casada a pesar de estar a punto de dar a luz. Y, agresivamente, le toca el tema:

“Is your name Burch yet?” Mrs. Armstid says.

[Lena] does not answer at once. Mrs. Armstid does not rattle the stove now, though her back is still toward the younger woman. Then she turns. They look at one another, suddenly naked, watching one another: the young woman in the chair, with her neat hair and her inert hands upon her lap, and the older one beside the stove, turning, motionless too, with a savage screw of gray hair at the base of her skull and a face that might have been carved in sandstone. Then the younger one speaks.

“I told you false. My name is not Burch yet. It’s Lena Grove.”

They look at one another. Mrs. Armstid’s voice is neither cold nor warm. It is not anything at all.

“And so you want to catch up with him so your name will be Burch in time. Is that it?”

Lena is looking down now, as though watching her hands upon her lap. Her voice is quiet, dogged. Yet it is serene.

“I don’t reckon I need any promise from Lucas. It just happened unfortunate so, that he had to go away. His plans just never worked out right for him to come back for me like he aimed to. I reckon me and him didn’t need to make word promises. When he found out that night that he would have to go, he—”

“Found out what night? The night you told him about that chap?”

The other does not answer for a moment. Her face is calm as stone, but not hard. Its doggedness has a soft quality, an inward lighted quality of tranquil and calm unreason and detachment. Mrs. Armstid watches her. Lena is not looking at the other woman while she speaks.

“He had done got the word about how he might have to leave a long time before that. He just never told me sooner because he didn’t want to worry me with it. When he first heard about how he might have to leave, he knowed then it would be best to go, that he could get along faster somewhere where the foreman wouldn’t be down on him. But he kept on putting it off. But when this here happened, we couldn’t put it off no longer then. The foreman was down on Lucas because he didn’t like him because Lucas was young and full of life all the time and the foreman wanted Lucas’ job to give it to a cousin of his. But he hadn’t aimed to tell me because it would just worry me. But when this here happened, we couldn’t wait any longer. I was the one that said for him to go. He said he would stay if I said so, whether the foreman treated him right or not. But I said for him to go. He never wanted to go, even then. But I  said for him to. To just send me word when he was ready for me to come. And then his plans just never worked out for him to send for me in time, like he aimed. Going away among strangers like that, a young fellow needs time to get settled down. He never knowed that when he left, that he would need more time to get settled down in than he figured on.

¡Qué escena! Primero que nada, déjenme decir que cada vez que leo ese “tranquil and calm unreason” siento, de un modo casi visceral, la grandeza de Faulkner como escritor.

Pero regresando a mi argumento, ¿qué es lo especial de esta escena? ¿Qué es lo creativo?

Lo especial es la situación que imaginó Faulkner. El autoengaño de Lena, producto de su ignorancia, falta de educación y desesperación. La cruel agresividad de Mrs. Armstid (“The night you told him about that chap?”). El peso de los dogmas religiosos o cómo a Lena la mortifica dar a luz sin estar casada. A esto llama Faulkner contenido. Ahí está el poder real de la escena, más que en el estilo.

Pero ¿no es esto obvio?

No, no lo es. Lean, por ejemplo, El otoño del patriarca de Gabriel García Márquez. Fíjense en las largas secciones donde el estilo triunfa sobre el contenido o quizá, diría yo, lo asfixia; donde lo especial no es lo que está debajo sino la superficie: la riqueza en el vocabulario, los ritmos de las oraciones, las metáforas audaces, la perfección en las formas, etcétera.

A mí todo esto, por mucho tiempo, me deslumbró. Pero con el tiempo, conforme he ido definiendo mi escala de valores, se ha ido destiñendo porque, simplemente, no veo mucha riqueza debajo de la fosforescente superficie.

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