Thursday, March 08, 2007

I'd never heard of him either

Mr. Gracq is one of the more stimulating and original imaginations in contemporary French literature.”—The New York Times Book Review
'We know of hardly any painters who are born to their art already armed head to toe with their own technique, masters of their palette, touch, impasto, glazes. All of them seem to have arrived at their craft, which constitutes their signature, gradually, slowly, sometimes even in the public eye. Because writing and editing are the foundations of the scholarly institution, literature reveals an entirely different picture: a number of writers, beginning with their very first book, already write the way they will write their entire life. It is in their homework and school essays, from grammar school to high school to college, that one must seek the progressive maturation, which has remained private, and that, with their public debut, has placed them in possession of a complete instrument. But there is also a whole category of writers, not necessarily inferior ones, who emerge in public while still immature, and whose formation is completed, sometimes rather laboriously, under the eye of readers, the way the gestation of a marsupial is completed in the open air and in a ventral pouch. Eminent examples of writers of the first sort: Claudel, Valery, Stendhal, Montherlant; of the second: Chateaubriand, Rimbaud (who represents the extreme case of a literary premature baby), Proust, Mauriac.
There is a price to pay for this delay in development, which is to leave a part of one's published works in the state of rough drafts and exercises, even to drag around with oneself for a long time the remnants of an incubating cocoon. There is also a privilege to be had, which is to conserve in one's writing the vibration that is inseparable from the effort toward distinct form, a vibration that writers who have received the gift of an impeccable line of ready-to-wear do not know.'
And that's only the first page. It gets even better. Brought to us in a wonderful edition from the Turtle Point Press and the nice man in the brown jumpsuit from UPS. The trouble is I can't remember the website I read it being recommended.
(The alternative title to this post is 'procrastination'. I really do have a lot of paperwork to get through. But it's so boring. I'd much re-read that rather flawless passage one more time)

1 comment:

  1. I should have heard of him of course as we've had the Pushkin Press edition of Chateau d'Argol in stock for a while now. Oops.