Tribute: Brian Burland, 1931-2010
In his own words
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 12:47 PM
Quotes taken from an interview with Brian Burland by Tony McWilliam, which appeared in the May 26, 1995, edition of the Bermuda Sun.
On literary talent
"I'm far better at writing books than selling them!"
"The greater the talent you have, the less you think of yourself... but it does get better as you get older because you have more mementos of success."
"I can complete a book in three months, or sometimes in a month... It's very important not to do more than four hours [per day], because it becomes the law of diminishing returns. Noel Coward told me that; he asked how many hours I worked and I said 'eight, the same as when I worked at my father's [yacht building] firm'. He said 'you can't do that, you will kill yourself'."
Asked about distinguishing good writing from bad: "I only have to pick up a page or two or to look at a title - I know just by passing it whether it's God-kissed."
"When I paint a picture or write a poem, I'm in ecstasy, I'm in the presence of a higher power."
On religion (Mr. Burland became a Baha'i in 1949)
"It's been an inspiration for all my writing and painting; it's a connection with a higher power."
Referring to Baha'i founder Baha Ullah: "God every so often sends us a divine physician who diagnoses the illness and prescribes a cure. He lets us know that God has never left man alone - it's just his inability to pay attention."
On health struggles
"I have had a tremendous struggle all my life with two diseases which I think come with creativity - alcoholism and depression."
"If you're depressed, nothing helps you so much as being a celebrity."
On his island home
"I know Bermuda better than anyone else; it's been my life's work."
"In contrast to Bermuda's interest in cash only, I'm a monument to art."
On cricket as a metaphor for life
"In cricket, you have to accept death and if you are good, you accept death twice in every game."
On life and death
"People have three births and deaths and I'm a success about to happen again - I'm about to have my third birth."
When he was two, Brian Burland fell off his father Gordon's boat in the harbour and went underwater three times before being rescued by a crewman who gave him the kiss of life: "I experienced death by drowning and it's not a pleasant way to go; I call it strangulation by the sea... It's as if the root cause of being creative is some terrible pain, some trauma in childhood, and experiencing drowning at two was the root cause for me."
During World War Two, when he was sent from Bermuda to school in England, aged 12, he crossed the Atlantic in a wartime convoy of 48 ships of which only 19 arrived in England: "I got traumatized by the terror."
"...The near-death experiences were like rocket lift-offs into art, and they caused me to come into contact with the higher power... I have never had a prayer go unanswered that was sincere."
"Everyone has to admit to their own vulnerability. Then you can go on living and growing. When Ernest Hemingway was about my age he blew his brains out, because he was not able to face his terror of death. My faith has removed that terror of death... I'm under sentence of life, under sentence of creating, and it's very painful. Life is very painful."
"Somerset Maugham said a writer's greatest asset is his longevity and I know I have that now... But I'm looking forward to death because it will release me into the light and I will see my father again. I always knew that in order to create the best art I would have to pay with my life."
Push to give writer his due
'He was such fun to be around'
A durable talent