I have been completely laid out by one of those strange French strains of a cold they call a rhinopharyngite. But today I feel a bit more lucid than I have, just in time to take a look around and see what's been going on.
Here in France, the teachers' strike continues, and the manifestations are getting more and more original. On Friday, in honor of Valentine's Day, a group of people stood outside Valérie Pécresse's office holding red and white balloons, which they then released. Yesterday a group of people read La Princesse de Clèves out loud (see here for video, starts around 43 seconds in) in front of the Pantheon. (They did this because Sarkozy has a weird little fixation with this book that I don't entirely understand.) And tomorrow there will be a "flashmob" at 12 noon exactly at Place St Michel. Here's what to do:
"1. Bring your favorite book (or any book)
2. Show up at Place St Michel at noon on the dot, Wednesday February 18th
3. When the whistle blows, begin reading aloud from your book as loud as you can
4. When the second whistle blows, scatter!"
The whole thing will last precisely 5 minutes.
I was very shocked to learn via Caroline Weber that it was apparently Grégoire Bouillier who sent Sophie Calle the infamous "Prenez soin de vous" [Take Care of yourself] text message, the one that inspired a hundred creative interpretations, a Biennale exhibit, and many deconstructions of whether or not it is still appropriate to vousvoyer someone you're sleeping with. What's even more shocking is the cavalier way Weber tosses off this information– as if everyone knew about it. Did everyone know about it? I knew she was a central figure in his memoir L'invité mystère [The Mystery Guest], but didn't know they were ever involved. It makes me think he did that just so she would turn it into one of her projects. Does that make him more or less of a cad? I can't decide.
Earlier this month was the 100th anniversary of the Nouvelle Revue Française. For the anniversary issue, Jonathan Littell provided an appreciation of Maurice Blanchot, which This Space is currently featuring, in a translation by Charlotte Mandell. An excerpt:
Writing does not describe, does not relate, does not signify, it does
not represent a thing, existing in the world of men or even only in the
world of the imagination; it is neither more nor less than "the test of
its own experience" (Blanchot again, I forget where, unless it's
Bataille – so indistinguishable is their thinking on this point), the
faithful account of what happened at that moment, the moment
when the one who, seized by the desire to write, sat down in front of a
blank piece of paper and began putting language onto it. It's not that
the text that results from this experience – poem, story, novel – is
deprived of meaning, is not shot through with elements referring to the
reality of life; rather it's that these elements function (to use a
comparison that Blanchot would no doubt have discreetly avoided) like
what Freud called the manifest content of dreams: the rags of reality
they cloak themselves with so as both to manifest and veil their truth,
their very reality. Thus, if writing is related to truth – and it
certainly is, it has to be, or else not be at all, or in any case fall
outside of the realm we designate by that mysterious word, literature
– it is not by way of knowledge. Literary writing does not explain,
does not teach: it simply offers the presence of its own mystery, its
own experience, in its absence of explanation, thus inviting not some
illusory "understanding" ("Reading either falls short of understanding
or overshoots it," writes Blanchot), but precisely a reading.
[UPDATE: Charlotte writes in to let us know the original French is here, and there's lots more on Blanchot at Pierre Joris's blog. Thanks!]
Finally, Wyatt Mason gives a very patient explanation of the differences between reading as a reader and as a writer, and what this means for ltierary criticism.