Once more today, the first of the year, I try to write this text which has occupied me nearly exclusively for a week, but each day the difficulty of finding the words, of constructing sentences, of arriving at a whole becomes greater. Yesterday I sobbed with rage before the total deficiency of my means of expression, before those synoptic sentences, without weight and saying not at all what I want. Yet I must try and have done with it.
Alberto Giacometti's lines, so direct, are also kitschy. Suspicion: if I copied out some lines randomly from the Book of Disquiet, mightn't I find the same? My Beloved laughed at the lines by various Pessoan heteronymns at the museum in Lisbon; how could I defend them, I wondered. They're heteronyms, I said; they each have a different character, that quote, for example, is from a poet of nature. He's not a real poet, but a fiction. A fiction: and wasn't that clearest of all? That such poetry could and should not be written now (Pessoa, for me, occupies our 'now' - but isn't this the most laughable idea. 'Our' 'now' ... how pompous!) is clear from the first. But he is a fiction, you see, and that is everything. Pessoa did not hide behind masks, he was them, and one can say of him what Deleuze notes of Godard: that his is the most populous of solitudes, that it contains not so much 'dreams, fantasies and projects' but 'acts, things, people even'. Thus the lines and philosophical essays he attributed to himself (many of them rather bad) also belong to a heteronym.
We know all this. But Giacometti's lines? Too raw, too indulgent. He sobbed, imagine. A grown man, sobbing over some piece of prose. How laughable! There's nothing more laughable, more indulged! And in the end, more kitschy. He belongs to a different time, doesn't he? He's far away from us, isn't he? 'I sobbed with rage ...'; Beckett's pronouncements on his work were altogether more sober. More than sober. And Van Velde's ... and Bela Tarr's (I must collect more quotations from him) ... Finer than the work itself, I sometimes think (but only because I am the greatest kind of fool).
As if what was greatest about these artists (and there are others - Duras, say) is a kind of asceticism that leads them through their art as though it preceded it; as though writing (or painting, of filmmaking) was only a means, just as Zen can combine with both the art of archery and that of flower arranging. A kind of asceticism, a great sobriety that can lead a right-wing monarchist Catholic like Blanchot, young and privileged, very far from himself. Who is he, become writer? Who does he become?
Vague questions poorly posed. But I wonder in my foolishness whether there is not a kind of ethics in writing, in filmmaking, in painting ... an art of life and from the perspective of which (from its great heights) that one would not laugh at Giacometti's prose. This question, though: are we (this 'we' again - how laughable!) not too late for that, too late altogether? That asceticism must also be combine with a terrible self-mockery, an unsparing suspicion as the importance of writing, of painting, of filmmaking disappears altogether (only an idiot would call himself a poet; only a fool an artist. And who could call themselves a philosopher? Laughable, all laughable).
Blanchot lived in a society where literature was important (and by this I mean that it could be new, that new writing was important; everyone (the middle class?) would have to address themselves to it). Important, prestigious ... and not simply as cultural monuments to a dead past. And now? Today? Giacometti seems impossibly indulgent. I despise him even as I quote him, though I love him even in that hatred. Would I like to be able to write in that way? It is impossible, quite impossible.
Quote to set those lines on fire. Quote to sacrifice them, to let them burn right up. What heteronyms could a contemporary Pessoa find? There are none. A computer programmer in Bracknell? A management consultant in Staines? A strategic analyst in Winnersh Triangle? Laughter: there is no 'we', no one to deem literature important or unimportant (and even that word, literature - what pretension!). It really does not matter; nothing matters. It was all kitsch and this is a world without an art of life.
How is it possible to live except in corners and cellars? And in a corner of ourself, in a cellar under ourselves where the laughter - our own laughter does not reach. Because I am an idiot, I dream of a new kind of criticism, which begins with the total impossibility of anything like criticism. There's no perspective, no high place, reading is an activity among others, and a poor one. Which begins from that, to lead - where? To wreck itself - where?
Stab yourself in the neck, drink until you fall over. Copy out Giacometti's lines on the walls of your padded cell. Laughter, endless laughter: literature has a fever and is burning up. I have a fever and I'm burning up. And I'm dream of literature, of literature on fire, of a literature of those flames, written laughter, voices turned on themselves and at war, great, stupid battlefields that have long since torn us apart.