I have started to write a series of short texts around lesser-known Italian authors. While working on En abîme I realised that many Italian writers have not yet been translated in English – many of them because of a certain magmatic quality in their language that resists translation, others because of a certain insularity in their work that does not make them appealing or easily accessed. Once more I struggled with the slipping away of many of my references.
I also thought of hegemonies and canons – even in the work of giants such as Melville: why always quote Bartleby and Moby Dick? Where are the meta-textual disguises of The Confidence-Man, the ambiguous guises and writing struggles of Pierre, the enigmatic, horizon-driven narrative in Daniel Orme? How to make space for the marginal, the less universal, the less appealing? Books and texts that cannot be easily converted into a slogan or a flag, that might be hostile on first read, that do not lend themselves. They draw you in as you read, insidiously: you cannot draw an extract from them. You have to be in them and be stuck and be aware there is no easy way out. They are marshy books, quicksand-texts: paludes (1). There might not be much to distil out of them: because they’re not always finished or coherent. These books and texts give me a full if uneasy sense of freedom because of their peripheral destiny outside of official histories and surveys – with no known followers or descendants, they are provocatory because of what I would call a heremitic quality – so precious today, where everything in art seems to be driven by the need to contextualise, fit into grant categories and strategies of visibility and coherence and networking.
There is no seeming coherence in my choice – perhaps these writers do not appear to mean much in my current research and perhaps they will not lead me anywhere in a linear logic of consequence. And this ability they have, to lead me astray in unpredictable turns: this is exactly why I want to read them.
Of course some writing always follows.
[Question: Oh, and where is sound? Answer: I would call this a voicing. Enough.]
(1) André Gide.