Monday, May 20, 2019
May '68 and the Prague Spring were political failures which profited us much more than any victory, by virtue of the ideological vacuum they created. Not knowing where we were going, as happened to us in the street those days, but knowing only that we were going, that we were on the move, so to speak, without fear of the consequences and the contradictions - that's what we learnt. [...]
Do you believe in God?
To know that, if there's a divinity, it can only be within us, seeing that there's only emptiness around us, is no help in solving the problem. not believing in God is just one more credo. I doubt whether it' possible not to believe at all. That would be like removing all meaning, all eternity from the great passions of our lives. everything would become an end in itself, with no consequences. Though we can't rule out the future of humanity being just that, either. [...]
The title [of The Lover] isn't original.
I decided on it after I'd finished the book, as a reaction against all the books with that same title. it isn't a story about love, but about everything in passion that remains suspended and incapable of being named. The entire meaning of the book lies there, in that ellipsis. [...]
Memory, digressions and flashbacks have always been an integral part of the narrative structure of your works.
It's often thought that life is punctuated chronologically by events. In reality, we don't know their significance. It's memory that restores their lost meaning to us. and yet all that remains visible and expressible is often the superfluous, the mere appearances, the surface of our experience. The rest stays inside, obscure, so intense that we can't even speak of it. The more intense things are, the more difficult it becomes for them to surface in their entirety. Working with memory in the classical sense doesn't interest me - it's not about stores of memory that we can dip into for facts, as we like. Moreover, the very act of forgetting is necessary - absolutely. If eighty per cent of what happened to us wasn't repressed, then living would be unbearable. True memory is forgetting, emptiness - the memory that enables us not to succumb to the oppression of recollection and of the blinding pain which, fortunately, we have forgotten.
Citing Flaubert, and with him a large part of the contemporary literary tradition, Jacqueline Risset has spoken of your work as an uninterrupted series of 'books about nothing'. Novels built precisely on nothingness.
To write isn't to tell a story, but to evoke what there is around it; you create around the story, one moment after another. Everything there is, but everything which might also not be or which might be interchangeable - like the events of life. The story and its unreality, or its absence. [...]
The events of our lives are never unique, nor do they succeed one another unambiguously, as we would wish. Multiple and irreducible, they echo infinitely in consciousness; they come and go from our past to the future, spreading like an echo, like circles rippling out in water, constantly exchanging places. [...]
Could you define the actual process of your writing?
It's an incorrigible inspiration that comes to me more or less once a week, then disappears for months. a very ancient injunction - the need to sit oneself down to rite without as yet knowing what. the writing itself attests to this ignorance, to this search for the shadowy place where the entirety of experience is gathered.
For a long time I thought writing was a job of work. I'm now convinced that it's an inner event, a 'non-work' that you accomplish, above all, by emptying yourself out, and allowing what's already self-evident to percolate through. I wouldn't speak so much about economy, form or composition of prose as about balances of opposing forces that have to be identified, classified, contained by language like a musical score. If you don't take that into account, then you do indeed write 'free' books, but writing has nothing to do with that kind of freedom.
So that would be the ultimate reason you write?
What's painful is having to perforate our inner darkness until its primal potency spreads over the whole page, converting what is by nature 'internal into something 'external'. That's why I say that only the mad write absolutely. their memory is a 'holed' memory, addressed totally to the outside world. [...]
I write to be coarsened, to be torn to pieces, and then to lose my importance, to unburden myself - for the text to take my place so that I exist less. There are only two ways I manage to free myself of me: by the idea of suicide and the idea of writing.
As for his use of language, Bataille's greatness lies in his way of 'not writing' while still writing.
The Lover, The Malady of Death and Emily L. are difficult books, where the text advances by ellipses, silences and innuendo. An almost amatory collusion between text and reader is needed that's able to go beyond mere understanding of the sentences in themselves.
Q. Your characters lie beyond all typologies or objective descriptions. They're beings disconnected from any reality, contingency or definition. Engimatic , hovering between madness and normality, screaming and silence, they emerge suddenly on the scene without any of that inevitability and necessity that normally underpin the classic mechanisms of fiction. A form of ceremonial, something ritualistic pervades their actions and the unremitting flow of their speech. But there is no defined psychological framework for the individual character.
A. The hero of the traditional, Balzacian novel posses an identity that's all his own, a smooth unassailable identity pre-established by the narrator. But human beings are just bundles of disconnected drives and literature should render them as such.
I lay hold of [my characters] at this unfinished stage of their construction and deconstruction, because what interests me is the study of the cracks, of the unfillable blanks that emerge between word and action, of the residues to be found between what's said and what remains unsaid.
With the result that the reader will never be able to identify with them, contrary to what is usually done, by yielding to a surface psychologism. But the words my characters speak - like the words all characters speak, perhaps - conceals their essence more than it reveals it. All they try to say and think is merely the attempt to muffle their own true voices.
Q. what are the differences between your activity as a writer and as a film-maker?
By its 'external' nature - being a collective work, a way of being in life, with other people - film doesn't have that urgency, that obsession that there is in writing. It might be said that the film distances the author from her work, whereas writing, woven out of silences and absences, throws her irremediably inside it. No one is as alone as a writer.
I've often made films to escape that frightening, interminable, unhappy work. And yet I've always wanted more than anything else to write.
Why, in your opinion, do people begin drinking?
Alcohol transfigures the ghosts of loneliness. It replaces the 'other' who isn't there. it stops up the holes that have opened up in us at some point, long ago.
And I’m not writing for MEdia Dragon ....
Thomas Bernhard, interviewedAnd I’m not writing for dorks who need descriptions of everything, right? ‘There’s some grass growing there, over there is an orange tree that carries oranges, and the oranges are initially green, and then they turn yellow, and eventually they receive an orange colour’. Well, I always have the feeling, whenever I’m writing, that I am in a certain place, and everyone knows anyway where that is, and I spare myself the necessity of all that. That way, I give the people leeway – right? But the people who describe all that – right? – ‘They enter through the door, then she meets Doctor Uebermichl, and he’s got a briefcase, and it’s a Pierre Cardin briefcase, and inside the briefcase there are seven files from the company Soandso. And then he’s even wearing a hat with a black band, and towards the rear it is tied together in a bow’. All that is uninteresting, but that is what most of the writing industry is made of. Because people cannot think in big acts and large steps, but can only take extremely tiny small-bourgeois, conclusive mini-steps. That’s horrible! Well, describing nature is nonsense anyway, because everyone knows it, right? That’s stupid, right? Everybody who’s been in the countryside or in a garden knows what’s going on there. Consequently you don’t need to describe that. The only interesting thing is what’s happening in the countryside or in the garden, right? ‘Omit’, they say, right? But nowadays it’s modern again that you … you know, every little thing is being included, right? Sixty pages have already gone by before someone has even left through the front door or the garden gate. And that’s even uneconomic, right? And constantly people are going crazy because the poet has no imagination and no idea how the story should go on.
Marguerite Duras, interviewed
Style is ... all rhythm. Once you get that, you can't use the wrong words. But on the other hand here I am sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas and visions ... and can't dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A slight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing ... one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has noting apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.
Woolf to Sackville-West, 1926
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