Friday, 11 October 2013

Carlo Gébler in Conversation

Interviews from the Babble Journal 2013 by Antoinette Rock

In case you didn't get to see a copy of the Babble Journal, Antoinette has kindly allowed me to post the two interviews here. Second writer Carlo Gébler.
“I remember the sound of the typewriter clacking day and night, I suppose I found it soothing as a child. Both my parents were writers. One wrote during the day the other at night.”
After leaving school in London he enrolled in a typing school on Oxford Street to learn to touch type. He tells how there was a screen on the wall of the old cinema building with letters and the students typed these letters over and over again. Nowaday, Gébler sometimes likes to write long hand, but mostly he types. He finds it easier to type dialogue, “I always use Courier for clarity I have a keyboard which makes noise to emulate the sound of an old fashioned typewriter but of course it isn’t the same thing.”
He is interested in the physicality of the writing process itself, the piano-like musicality of the fingers finding a rhythm when pushing the keys. Posture too, he believes is very important to the creative flow.
Recently he has taken up yoga and finds this a great form of relaxation. “I believe the body needs to be in relatively good shape when writing.” He feels that a writer’s body needs to be aligned to the process and that walking and swimming or indeed any physical exercise that involves movement can help with this.

Gébler says, “When you read, you take material into your imagination, the characters wear the costumes of the period, all these things come from the lumber room of the memory.” When writing however, this process is reversed, “You cannot control it you have to be tolerant, you have to go with them.”
Language becomes a means of expression “When you are writing you have dialogue in your head, words come to you, fingers move, language is the master of the moment.” Gébler tells us you need to be ruthless to write you need to spend time alone away from other distractions. People have to be focused “Plough on to survive”. When writing is really good it looks like no effort has been made at all.

Gébler is writer in residence at Maghaberry Prison. According to him “prison is a place where narrative and text become a very important currency.” Indeed, prison sometimes helps people to write. “People only tell you what they want to tell you, everyone has the ability to tell a story whether they are literate or not.” Writing is important in prison as nothing happens unless it’s written down. Stories have an increased power or agency within prison walls.

One of his novels, A Good Day for a Dog, deals with prison life in a humorous way. Gébler has another book due for publication entitled A Wing Orderlies Diary - a collection of tales from a man who cleans the wing. In prison Gébler explains one goes inside one’s self, he says that prisoners are forced to have a close relationship with themselves. “You meet the one person you go in there expecting not to meet – yourself. You cannot help but eventually think about where you are and why you are there.” The aim of his work behind bars is to help prisoners write as well as they can. Some of their writings have been published. Yet, people have to struggle to free themselves from the category.

For Gébler all writing is a process where one goes into a dark underground. It’s not quite a film or a play. “Enchanting and exciting words come to say what you need to say without having to search for them.” Some things you don't see you just have to conjure up.
Memory and images are also key to his aesthetic. For instance, Gébler recalls the house in Dublin he moved to from Wicklow as a young child. He remembers the light streaming through the blue, yellow and orange glass windowpanes at the top of the stairs. He recalls the images reflected through the light. A feeling of being almost four years old again.

In his new autobiography due for release this September from Lagan Press he looks at memories of things gone wrong, of a pessimism that begets catastrophes. What it’s like to be the catastrophist of the title - always believing things can only go downhill. Despite the subject matter he assures us it is really quite a funny read.

Being a writer has changed how Gébler approaches others works. “I don't read for pleasure any more, I don't read innocently.” Reading for him is a thinking process. Currently he admits to reading four or five books each week. He cites many impressive post-recession Irish novels including Donal Ryans The Spinning Heart amongst his collection. Gébler also enjoys folk material. He produces a copy of Sean O’Sullivans Folktales of Ireland from the garden shed in which he now writes. He recalls the volume as a childhood treasure and remembers ‘The Children of Lir’ as a boyhood favourite. He says the Russian writers have been influential in his writing but admits to having yet to tackle Dostoyevsky. He has read all the classics Dante, Wordsworth, Chekhov, Camus and also mentions how he enjoys the work of Edward Bunker.

Advice for new and emerging writers, Gébler says, can be summed up in three simple words “Read, Write and Re-write. It’s also important not to take yourself too seriously.”
Writing should be done with simplicity and clarity. It should not warn readers off. “Anything you write people should be able to read, language should not be flowery, keep things simple bedrock.” These traditions Gébler says he got from both his parents.

When asked about the title of the journal Babble and the notion that “All sense is nonsense, All talk and written words are in some sense - babble”, he smiles and he assures us that he has no reason to disagree.

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