Posts Tagged ‘Éric Chevillard’

Éric Chevillard: “The writer I am was put on earth to foil the plans of the novelist I had hoped to be.”

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Éric Chevillard, born in the Vendée in 1964, is one of France’s most inventive writers. The new issue of Music & Literature – and if you don’t know that tony publication, you should – has a whole section on the postmodern novelist, who is published by the legendary Éditions de Minuit.

From an introduction by Oliver Bessard-Banquy and Pierre Jourde (translated by Sandra Smith): “Éric Chevillard has devoted his entire self to writing. Few writers have so entwined their lives with literature. At the age of twenty-three he published his first work, Dying Gives Me a Cold. He would never have another profession. Until recently, he refused all public appearances, and has since consented to only a select few gatherings. In a world that demands communication above all else, Chevillard seems to strive to perpetuate the image of an uncompromising writer … Nor is it a question of keeping a haughty distance: if there is a distance, it resides mainly in irony, in an all-pervading humor.”

From an interview in the same issue, “Exhausting the Form,” Jourde asks:

Would you define yourself as a novelist? Is the novel the form in which you’re most comfortable? More broadly, do questions of form matter much to you?

I’ve finally come to understand that the writer I am was put on earth to foil the plans of the novelist I had hoped to be. The writer I am wants nothing to do with the novelist. He thumbs his nose at the novelist, lampoons him, sets fire to his surroundings and pours sugar in his gas tank. He suspects the novelist of wanting to restore to fiction the particular order of reality that suffocated him and drove him to write in the first place. He has no desire to revert to what he strove so determinedly to resist, much less to revive it himself. Hence, a battle between the writer and the novelist. But the novelist is necessary for the writer, of course – as the emblem of a traitor, as the enemy to be vanquished, as the incarnation of all he detests and all he rebels against, without all of which he ultimately couldn’t exists. The novelist I pretend to be is a character invented, for the sole purpose of being obliterated, by the writer I am.

Would you say that there is always a tension in your novels between the fragments and the whole?

An inevitable tension, in that I still haven’t figured out how to fit a digression into an aphorism, these being the two apparently contradictory forms toward which my prose naturally inclines. But this opposition can, at times, be resolved: a story can come together suddenly in the phrase that concludes it, or, conversely, a wild unfurling might result from a brief, solemn utterance. Like a dissertation already contained in two lines on the topic.

Another Q&A in the same issue, “An Unquiet Place,” this time by Anne Diatkine, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, includes this question.

Do you need a room to write?

Perhaps even a matryoshka doll of rooms, a room within a room within a room. Like Proust’s nested rooms, the one he withdraws into in order to evoke the one his childhood self-occupied, the one from which the entire book proceeds. In a sense, Prous never left his room. We’re born in a room, we make love in a room, and ideally we’ll even die in a room. A room isn’t just a place to rest or a refuge for a frightened animal. Why wouldn’t one write better in a room than anywhere else?

The Q&A with Jourde is one of the online offerings here. Other online offerings here. And read a profile of the author over at Quarterly Conversation here.

Translation, Book Expo America, and le bruit du temps…

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The publisher...

Some of you may recall my visit to the innovative Parisian publishing house of Le Bruit du Temps and it’s founder, Antoine Jaccottet, during my recent visit to Paris, during the cold, cold, cold snap of last February. I also spoke at the American University in Paris, and visited friend and colleague Daniel Medin.

Here’s a podcast that entwines them both:  Daniel interviews Antoine Jaccottet at “That Other Word,” a series of podcasts on literature and translation, the result of a collaboration between the Center for Writers and Translators at the American University of Paris and San Francisco’s Center for the Art of Translation.

...and his admirer

Said Daniel:  “It surprised me to learn that it was a small press in France doing the complete works of Zbigniew Herbert … that it was a small press in France doing the completeIsaac Babel, a volume even larger than the [Peter] Constantine one that appeared a decade ago in English , and that it was a small French press discovering books like the Julius Margolin‘s gulag memoir, and bringing them to life.  And I wanted to meet this editor, because of the interesting books he was selecting, because of the variety.”  Now you will have a chance to meet him, too.

But first, you’ll get Daniel’s quick overview of this month’s Book Expo America in New York City, where “Russia was the country of honor this year,” he said. He and Scott Esposito discuss a range of contemporary authors and books, including Mikhail Shishkin‘s Maidenhair, which will appear in English this October; Polish author Marek Bieńczyk’s Transparency;  Julius Margolin’s gulag memoir, Voyage au pays des Ze-Ka; and Dalkey Archive Press’ Contemporary Georgian Fiction.  

Their interests do not lie entirely east of the Vienna: they also discuss Éric Chevillard’s Prehistoric Times and his Demolishing Nisard.

Then, on to Antoine Jacottet.  On the perils of translation, the French publisher said:  “You do well what you know a little. I worked myself as a translator. I might mention my father [Philippe Jaccottet] was – is still – a well known translator.  For me, it has always been very important to be attentive to the quality of translations. When we began the press, my idea was: if you are a very small press and if you want to publish works that you think are masterpieces, one way of doing it is to order a new translation, and then you have to find a good translator for it. It’s not always easy, but  I think it’s the part of my job that fascinates me most.”

The podcast is here.