Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Story

Common Rue

If one supposes that Hotel Point throve here, 11, rue Hazard à Sombreville, one supposes wrong. An ounce of chance ratiocination’d tell one that. That meretricious “establishment”? Home of naïfs, runaways, giddy bumpkins? With décor of daffy buncombe? Forget it. Here the ruddy featureless apothecary reigns, and the dispensary is punctual, measure’d rot, spansule by spansule of immeasurable rot. Oh boy.

One thing that’s needed: translation of a fat slice of Emmanuel Hocquard’s work. Here’s a selection of “Ma Vie Privée” (out of Ma Haie: Un privé à Tanger 2 (P.O.L., 2001), put raw, and roughly:

1. There’s that absurd story of the Chinese artist to whom the Emperor has offered a commission for a landscape that’ll go in one room of the palace. The painting finished, the Emperor is invited to come examine the work. Delighted by what he sees, he turns toward the painter to commend him. The painter, however, is nowhere in the room. He’s gone into the landscape. There’s something a little suspect about that story. I always get caught up there: there’s something suspect about that story.

2. Here, too, there’s something a little suspect. My sixth sense is warning me that this is a trap. I’m going to have to proceed on tiptoe. Or scuttle sideways like a crab up to the world of Official Literature.

3. [. . .]

4. Did you say Literature? Last night, December 32, 1994, in answer to the question, “What’s on television tonight?” Alexandre said: “Television! on every channel!” Well put! In answer to the question, “What is there to read in all these books of literature?” one’d say: “Literature, on every shelf!”

5. Anecdote I. A late afternoon walk around the playing fields. Light going down under the eucalyptus trees. Back to the house. Having along the way bought a roll, Life Saver-shaped, of red candies. With a hideous pharmaceutical taste. And eaten all of them. Nightfall. Disgust. Nausea. Terrible guilt. That day my life changed. Boredom and mistrust, the result of eating red candies.

6. Yesterday, aboard the Paris-Bordeaux express train, a little girl reads in a loud voice: “The chicken makes eggs, the sheep makes wool, the cow makes milk.” I am struck by the complete absurdity of what I hear. And the poet, what does he make? This is the way we become such liars. Through repeating such absurdities in loud voices on express trains.

7. Let’s suppose, for just a minute, that a chicken could talk. And that it says: I make eggs. Does anyone think, even for a minute, that its egg-making talk would have the same meaning as that of the little girl on the express train? No, of course not. The meaning could never be the same because the intonation wouldn’t be the same. If anybody asks, I’m in the chicken’s camp.

8. [. . .]

There are forty-two parts to “My Private Life.”


Any notes regarding fautes, sauts, howlers, Bowdlers, &c. appreciated. I make my French up pattes de mouches, meaning to say—heartily, on the fly, avoiding all but the most club-foot’d moochers.


How does hypervigilance differ from dilettantism? Something disagreeable about such agreeable even-handedness, particularly when coupled with no apparent gumption to indict malefactors.


Somewhere in late 1569 or early 1570, Montaigne, the essayist, had a brush with death “when he was knocked hard off his horse in an accidental collision on a narrow lane with a bigger man on a bigger horse.” Semi-conscious, ill, half-recovering, what Montaigne consider’d on th’occasion: whether he oughtn’t purchase a horse for his wife.


To work.