Friday, August 26, 2005

A Bug

Continuance of rough translating: Emmanuel Hocquard’s Ma Haie. Here’s another selection of “Ma Vie Privée” (“My Private Life”):
3. Entering a bar, the Continental Op sees a sign posted:
He reacts by observing: “I am trying to count how many lies I can uncover in that statement and I find four of them, just for starters.” (Dashiell Hammett, cited by Steven Marcus.)

[. . .]

8. Suppose you stumbled on my letters and read them: what I wrote my girlfriend is not what you’d read. Because you are not my girlfriend. On that subject, one could say something like: you’d see only our profiles, while we saw face to face.

9. Anecdote II. Nightfall. In the distance, behind the house on the rue du Village, the blackening contours of Old Mountain. Paul and two friends are getting ready to camp there overnight in a tent. They ask if I’ll come along. Though I want to go the thought of it fills me with fear. I don’t dare say no and so hide myself in a bed of periwinkles, where I see them depart without me after some lengthy calling out and looking for me. Lights flicker up on Old Mountain, whose outline is now invisible against the night.

10. Nobody ever insists enough on the one who’s addressed. Everything is there. In my end is my beginning, dear Thomas Stearns. Dear Mademoiselle Lynx. And the madman of an Author who reads Kierkegaard to the chickens. Then when the grey wolves everychone / Drink of the winds their chill small-beer / And lap o' the snows food's gueredon, dear Ezra. My intention is the one who’s addressed.

11. I’ve never had a calling card. However, there was a period when I told myself that if I had to have one engraved, I’d put “television viewer” under my name. Just as television is aimed not so much at people as at television viewers, so the Literature Machine is aimed at its Readers. The reader is a piece of that machine. A machine that runs on itself and for itself. The chicken makes eggs and Literature manufactures Readers. When I write to my girlfriend, I don’t write to a Reader.

12. In the course of producing Readers, the Literary Machine produces Authors. Cows make milk and Literature makes Authors. These days, they’re even seen on television. And there’s where the superiority of television over literature lies: it goes further in the same direction: toward the obscene. When I write to my girlfriend, I am content to sign my letter. I am not the Author of my letter.

13. I don’t reproach television for being what it is. It is very good such as it is and if it didn’t exist someone would have to invent it. Television shows not things as they are (cf. Battman, in Le Commanditare), but television as it is when it intends to show things as they are. It seems to me one would need a huge helping of hypocrisy or ignorance to imagine that Literature could be more pure, in Mallarmé’s sense of that term. Literature, too, is a corrupt place, though its corruption wears a mask of all that is honorable. It’s that mask that interests me.

14. Literature is a machine to produce Literature, not thinking, not critique. In order to study, or to critique, I have no need of Literature. No more than I do philosophy. To tell the truth, for thinking, nobody needs it. I have no need of Literature for critical thinking, but I need to think critically about Literature seeing as how I’ve so imprudently fallen into it. To think critically about Literature is not a way to make it; it’s a way to remove it, to rub it out, to undo it. And, by doing so, remove it in me, undo it in me, rub a hole in the paper of my faults. I’m in the camp of the chicken and the cow, but I think about what the little girl reads. About what there is a little suspect in what she reads.

15. [. . .]

Stray notes, translating. Th’impulse is mostly to avoid the literal: disappointment with the loss of exoticism of the French results in a certain tendency to gussy up th’English. Tant mieux. I’m trying to make a device as thrilling to the tactile tongue of the ear in English as I find even the most maladroit or mundane French original. La camionette est en panne, il me faut marcher. It is an unutterly untenable comme but. I cannot decide if my meretricious English combined with my slaughterhouse French is “up” to the task. That is, if th’execrable is of service.

It is preposterously slow work, even done “messily.” Am I entering into Hocquard’s head? No. I am riffing, rambunctious, one way to begin. Le Commanditaire, and Battman: completely unbeknownst and mystifying. The Pound lines: wolfishly aping filler for Loup qui fait sa cour pour de la nourriture. The Hammett via Marcus: “somebody ought to check that.” Don’t ask, as Philip Levine’d say.


Needed: a method for “desaturating” a whole landscape. Whole memory palaces of ghost shrews under echinacea, &c. in want of expunging. In need.

Found: a cicada, perfect specimen, green iridescent tinged wings, that moist chalkiness underslinging th’abdomen, perfect, dead. When I tried to place it back down into the long grasses, it stuck to the smooth skin of my hand, its pattes hooks. Unbearably tiny hooks.


To work.