Green believed that well-groomed, well-behaved English was an obstacle to expression. But his style wasn’t a merely negative exercise, a winnowing or clearing out: he delivered a gorgeous, full-bodied alternative. (via)
May '68 and the Prague Spring were political failures which profited us much more than any victory, by virtue of the ideological vacuum they created. Not knowing where we were going, as happened to us in the street those days, but knowing only that we were going, that we were on the move, so to speak, without fear of the consequences and the contradictions - that's what we learnt. [...]
Do you believe in God?
To know that, if there's a divinity, it can only be within us, seeing that there's only emptiness around us, is no help in solving the problem. not believing in God is just one more credo. I doubt whether it' possible not to believe at all. That would be like removing all meaning, all eternity from the great passions of our lives. everything would become an end in itself, with no consequences. Though we can't rule out the future of humanity being just that, either. [...]
The title [of The Lover] isn't original.
I decided on it after I'd finished the book, as a reaction against all the books with that same title. it isn't a story about love, but about everything in passion that remains suspended and incapable of being named. The entire meaning of the book lies there, in that ellipsis. [...]
Memory, digressions and flashbacks have always been an integral part of the narrative structure of your works.
It's often thought that life is punctuated chronologically by events. In reality, we don't know their significance. It's memory that restores their lost meaning to us. and yet all that remains visible and expressible is often the superfluous, the mere appearances, the surface of our experience. The rest stays inside, obscure, so intense that we can't even speak of it. The more intense things are, the more difficult it becomes for them to surface in their entirety. Working with memory in the classical sense doesn't interest me - it's not about stores of memory that we can dip into for facts, as we like. Moreover, the very act of forgetting is necessary - absolutely. If eighty per cent of what happened to us wasn't repressed, then living would be unbearable. True memory is forgetting, emptiness - the memory that enables us not to succumb to the oppression of recollection and of the blinding pain which, fortunately, we have forgotten.
Citing Flaubert, and with him a large part of the contemporary literary tradition, Jacqueline Risset has spoken of your work as an uninterrupted series of 'books about nothing'. Novels built precisely on nothingness.
To write isn't to tell a story, but to evoke what there is around it; you create around the story, one moment after another. Everything there is, but everything which might also not be or which might be interchangeable - like the events of life. The story and its unreality, or its absence. [...]
The events of our lives are never unique, nor do they succeed one another unambiguously, as we would wish. Multiple and irreducible, they echo infinitely in consciousness; they come and go from our past to the future, spreading like an echo, like circles rippling out in water, constantly exchanging places. [...]
Could you define the actual process of your writing?
It's an incorrigible inspiration that comes to me more or less once a week, then disappears for months. a very ancient injunction - the need to sit oneself down to rite without as yet knowing what. the writing itself attests to this ignorance, to this search for the shadowy place where the entirety of experience is gathered.
For a long time I thought writing was a job of work. I'm now convinced that it's an inner event, a 'non-work' that you accomplish, above all, by emptying yourself out, and allowing what's already self-evident to percolate through. I wouldn't speak so much about economy, form or composition of prose as about balances of opposing forces that have to be identified, classified, contained by language like a musical score. If you don't take that into account, then you do indeed write 'free' books, but writing has nothing to do with that kind of freedom.
So that would be the ultimate reason you write?
What's painful is having to perforate our inner darkness until its primal potency spreads over the whole page, converting what is by nature 'internal into something 'external'. That's why I say that only the mad write absolutely. their memory is a 'holed' memory, addressed totally to the outside world. [...]
I write to be coarsened, to be torn to pieces, and then to lose my importance, to unburden myself - for the text to take my place so that I exist less. There are only two ways I manage to free myself of me: by the idea of suicide and the idea of writing.
And I’m not writing for dorks who need descriptions of everything, right? ‘There’s some grass growing there, over there is an orange tree that carries oranges, and the oranges are initially green, and then they turn yellow, and eventually they receive an orange colour’. Well, I always have the feeling, whenever I’m writing, that I am in a certain place, and everyone knows anyway where that is, and I spare myself the necessity of all that. That way, I give the people leeway – right? But the people who describe all that – right? – ‘They enter through the door, then she meets Doctor Uebermichl, and he’s got a briefcase, and it’s a Pierre Cardin briefcase, and inside the briefcase there are seven files from the company Soandso. And then he’s even wearing a hat with a black band, and towards the rear it is tied together in a bow’. All that is uninteresting, but that is what most of the writing industry is made of. Because people cannot think in big acts and large steps, but can only take extremely tiny small-bourgeois, conclusive mini-steps. That’s horrible! Well, describing nature is nonsense anyway, because everyone knows it, right? That’s stupid, right? Everybody who’s been in the countryside or in a garden knows what’s going on there. Consequently you don’t need to describe that. The only interesting thing is what’s happening in the countryside or in the garden, right? ‘Omit’, they say, right? But nowadays it’s modern again that you … you know, every little thing is being included, right? Sixty pages have already gone by before someone has even left through the front door or the garden gate. And that’s even uneconomic, right? And constantly people are going crazy because the poet has no imagination and no idea how the story should go on.
One cannot emphasise enough just how crucial was the mass domestication of the car, ensuring the transition from what might be called 'traditional solidarities' to the unprecedented unleashing of modern individualism. What does it matter if the car kills, pollutes, and often makes people into total jerks, its proliferation destroying every urban space worthy of the name, when what is at stake is to ensure the domestication of gigantic human masses, the forging of thousands of psychologies of average men on wheels, 'highway mentalities', aping day and night the fluidities and competition of the Great market, etching it into the landscape ....?
This sounds very pessimistic and hopeless and seems at variance with your mystical and religious tendencies.
Well, there is a higher order, but man can separate himself from it because he is free—which is what we have done. We have lost the sense of this higher order, and things will get worse and worse, culminating perhaps in a nuclear holocaust—the destruction predicted in the Apocalyptic texts. Only our apocalypse will be absurd and ridiculous because it will not be related to any transcendence. Modern man is a puppet, a jumping jack. You know, the Cathars [a Christian sect of the later Middle Ages] believed that the world was not created by God but by a demon who had stolen a few technological secrets from Him and made this world—which is why it doesn’t work. I don’t share this heresy. I’m too afraid! But I put it in a play called This Extraordinary Brothel, in which the protagonist doesn’t talk at all. There is a revolution, everybody kills everybody else, and he doesn’t understand. But at the very end, he speaks for the first time. He points his finger towards the sky and shakes it at God, saying, “You rogue! You little rogue!” and he bursts out laughing. He understands that the world is an enormous farce, a canular played by God against man, and that he has to play God’s game and laugh about it. That is why I prefer the phrase “theater of derision,” which Emmanuel Jacquart used for the title of his book on Beckett, Adamov, and myself, to “theater of the absurd.”
... under wage-labor, nihilism has entered production. It is no longer a question of modernization producing rootlessness, contingency, uncertainty, anomie as side effects of a rational core. Rather, productive activity uses those very effects as resources. “Nihilism, once hidden in the shadow of technical-productive power, becomes a fundamental ingredient of that power, a quality highly prized by the marketplace of labor.” (GM86) The result is the affective prevalence of opportunism and cynicism. The post-Fordist worker moves from one thing to another; negotiating rules of the game, responding to rules not facts. Money makes these things equivalent; the general intellect is always something else. It is a qualitative potential that forms the basis of all production.
Direct self-observation is not necessarily sufficient for us to know ourselves: we need history, for the past flows on within us in a hundred waves; indeed, we ourselves are nothing but that which at every moment we experience of this continual flowing. Even here, when we want to step down into the flow of what appears to be our ownmost and most personal being, the dictum of Heraclitus is valid: one does not step twice into the same river.
What you are seeking is a better age, a more beautiful world. It was this world that you embraced in your friends; with them you were this world…. It was not human beings that you wanted, believe me, you wanted a world. The loss of all golden centuries, as you felt them compressed into a single glorious moment, the spirit of all spirits of better ages, the power of all heroes’ powers: those were to be replaced for you by a single human being!
Strange! I am dominated at every moment by the thought that my history is not only a personal one, that I am doing something for many people when I live like this and work on and write about myself this way. It is always as if I were a multiplicity, which I address in intimate, serious, and comforting terms.