Jean-Philippe Toussaint on Writing in The White Review

April 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The White Review 10

Now out in Issue 10 of The White Review, my translation of the title essay from Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s book of essays Urgency and Patience, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive. An excerpt:

I like that moment at dawn when you cautiously open the manuscript of a book in progress, in a house still asleep. There are several strategies for trying to see the work with a fresh eye, to surprise it, catch it unawares, as if seeing it for the first time, to judge it with an unbiased eye. A nap can do the trick; a good night’s sleep is even better. I even suspect that part of reading a book over can happen during sleep. When you’re awake, a book etches itself into the brain with the precision of a chess position, but when you sleep at night, the study of variants continues, as with a computer you leave on to examine the immensity of the calculations in play in an operation (such that sometimes the answer comes to me on waking without any particular conscious effort). But no point doggedly deleting without end; only time truly cleanses and renews one’s vision. According to Palma the Younger, Titian always turned his paintings to the wall for months at a time without looking at them. Then, when he took them up again, ‘he would examine them with strict attention, as if they had been his mortal enemies.’ Oh, dear mortal enemies!

Toussaint needs little introduction as an author–he is, in his own words, “really famous, though no one knows about it”–but just in case: the Belgian writer and filmmaker’s eleven books have been translated into more than twenty languages and won numerous literary prizes, including the Prix Médicis in 2005 for his novel Running Away, and the Prix Décembre in 2009 for The Truth about Marie, the two middle books of the Marie tetralogy (both translated by Matthew B. Smith).

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