A Mini Manifesto of the World Writer

A hundred years ago, Communist Parties were founded all over the world, including Italy. On November 9, 1921, also the Fascist Party was founded in Italy. Filippo Marinetti, the poet who wrote the Futurist manifesto in 1909, co-authored the 1919 Fascist manifesto.

Manifestoes, as a genre and a form of communication to spell out party ideologies, existed long before 1921. But it is perhaps over the decades of the twentieth century that we see a growing production of manifestoes in the artistic community. We have Tristan Tzara’s Dadaist Manifesto (1918), the manifestoes of the Guerrilla Girls (1985-1990), Le Corbusier’s Three reminders to architects (1931), Marina Abramović’s An artist’s life manifesto (1997) and many more.

While manifestoes differ in length and style, a manifesto feels like a manifesto when it is written in the staccato style, single sentences capable of declaring desires, intentions and visionary needs.

Today, a poet or philosopher may not write the manifesto of a political party. But just what might a writer’s manifesto look like in our contemporary times in which books seem to multiply, like plastic containers, and too many people seem to call themselves writers? Is less still more? How are writers speaking truth to power, and are they even doing so?  What is the role of writing in the digital age when going viral and becoming an influencer seem to be the end goal of writing and writers? How can writers around the world show they have shared concerns and goals if not through a manifesto?

Here is a meagre attempt at writing a writer’s manifesto. It is a work in progress. Progress after all, is always in progress.

We write in the language(s) we know best, irrespective of our national identities. Thank goodness for translators.

We are happy to have the name of the translator next to ours on the book cover.

We can use all the words of the alphabet: the A-word, the B-word, the C-word, the F-word, the K-word, the N-word, the R-word, the Z-word. What counts is how we use them, not that we use them.

Some of us are good writers, but not all of us are. Let those who know what good writing is decide.

We may write for money, but we need not only and always write for money. We also write for reputation.

We are not afraid to write about sensitive, taboo, transgressive topics.

We want to show what people actually do in real life, not preach about what they should do.

Writing is a place; we will get the names of places right. We will call it Palestine and Israel.

As long as we continue to write about what men do to women and people do to each other, we need gendered nouns and pronouns.

We will not pass off as our own ideas and styles we stole and copied.

We will not try too hard to get the grammar right at the expense of the sense or the story.

Avoid excessive description. It turns us into passive spectators.

If you are a true writer, there is no need to tell the world this. Let the world tell on you.

If you are a tree writer, you believe the paper book has more value than the ebook. Scrap that idea. No, recycle it.

We write the truth. We care about truth. We want the truth. For Giulio Regeni. And not only.

We will write with courage and confidence, the antidote to a sense of inferiority and dependency.

We can use the future with the conditional, like in Italian. This would give us two futures. Because one future is not enough. If I will survive, I will come back to you.

Masturah Alatas is the author of The Life in the Writing (Marshall Cavendish, 2010) and The Girl Who Made It Snow in Singapore (Ethos Books, 2008). She is currently working on a novel about polygamy. Masturah teaches English at the University of Macerata in Italy, and can be contacted at: alatas@unimc.it