Sweet Mystery

It is easy to find people who know Agatha Christie, the famous english mystery author. But when A.L. Rowse talks about her, his biggest interest is her life, which he thinks is a far more interesting study.

Mrs. Christie’s husband once told Mr. Rowse that «she was an exceptional combination of outer diffidence and inner confidence», it means she had been so modest about herself, even though she was a famous writer all over the world.

Agatha Christie used to say that there was nothing immoral in her books, only murder, and there was no gloating over the crime in there. Her mais interest in writing a story was the unravelling of the puzzle and she had done it with splendour. She was an author with a strong combination of two gifts: her original talent at constructing plots and her notable gift for dialogue. These together with her instinctive understanding of human behavior made Agatha Christie a famous name and a succesful writer.

Mr. Rowse tells us that even though Agatha Christie had to be a friendly woman, nobody knew the inner woman and just a few understood her. As he wrote, «her reticence and reserve were instinctive and absolute, no one penetrated beyond them(…). As a real writer, not just a detective story machine, she had a secret life in the fantasy world of the imagination.»

Agatha Christie had bad moments in her life when, after eleven years of marriage and a much loved daughter, just after her mother’s death, her husband declared that he had fallen in love with another woman, demanding a divorce. Some years after her shock, she met Max Mallowan, an archeologist who felt in love with her. He was patient and this, together with friendship, companionship and love gave her the basis for her second and happy marriage.

With her new mariage, a world of experience came into her life therefore she had a new creative inspiration that could hardly have been hoped for and a far richer life than it could ever have been with her first husband.

Reading about Agatha Christie’s life is a pleasure. She used to be the first writer of our lives, when we were younger and had all the time to spend nights awake reading page after page, working together with Mr. Poirot, with Mrs Marple, to discover things that we couldn’t believe possible.

In my youth, Agaha Christie taught me how to think about different possibilities and how to look at the many sides of the same picture. This kind of thinking has been useful for real life when we have to make decisions about something ad sometimes is hard to choose.

MPV – outubro 1990 – UCSD – Report based on the article “Ah, Sweet mystery, the Agatha I knew” written by A.L.Rowse, published on the New York Times Book Review, on october 14, 1990.


Is this true?

The question is «how much of my story is true?» and it is asked every time after David Huddle gives a public reading. He thinks this is a naive question, but he also has a deep interest in the answer; not only when the question is made for him, but also when he asks this question to someone else. He admits that part of his reading pleasure comes from guessing about the personal experience upon which the author probably has based parts of his story.

When David Huddle starts to write a story, he usually bases it on something he had lived through, but as he is writing it, he quickly forget what actually happened. The limit between truth and imagination starts to shade. As he tells us «my memory of the truth of what happened has been clouded by my many alterations of it.»

He wishes he had had a chance to chat with some famous writers to ask them about passages from their books, what had been their personal experience and learn «a great deal about the mix of memory, imagination, language, and epistemology in the individual writer’s composition process.»

He also has writing colleagues who don’t like to be asked about the truth of their stories. He explains this point as if the author admits that the story is completely true, the audience feels that there wasn’t much to be writing. On the other hand, if the author admits the story is entirely imagined, the audience feels that there’s really not much to that writing.

What he really thinks about this contradiction is that what matters is «the quality of the story, not which brain cell produced it.»

I agree with the author, when he tells about the limit between truth and imagination, when you write a story. Each life experience is very personal and it can happen to more than only one person, that still it will be felt in different ways.

Writing a story is to use our personal experience as a base, and to change it as we desire to build stronger characters in a way that everyone has, at least, a little bit of themselves.

MPV – outubro 1990 – UCSD – Report based on the article “How much of my story is true? That’s a terrific question” written by David Huddle, published on New York Times Book Review, on october 7, 1990.