Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


memory playing tricks

Thursday evening, as part of the program for Oulipo in NY, Jacques Roubaud gave a reading from the translation of The Loop, branch 2 of 6 of his 20-year memoiric [re]construction with interpolations and bifurcations, under the constraints of pre-dawn composition, truthfulness of the moment, and non-revision. Here he stuck to the main story, with two excerpts (the second the last, §50; the opening, §1, is excerpted at The Brooklyn Rail, with interpolation), before commenting on the depredations of age (command of both memory and English, in the latter case not knowing where the stress falls) and taking questions from the shop-packing audience. I asked how Memory and History play off against one another from the perspective of the Present, to which he responded that he had left behind such Theoretical Concerns in abandoning the Project (first described in the first branch, Destruction) for more particular, personal recounting. He also commented upon how the first branch had been received, readers seeking to console him for it well afterwards, how the choice of Destruction for an ENS examination was subverted by a bomb scare, and the more particular reader response when what he had recalled was at variance with the facts of the matter: To get a better sense, his translator, Jeff Fort, had travelled to the childhood home described in The Loop, only to find that he'd gotten the wrong house (and that the right one had been altered beyond recognition). Roubaud remains modest about his accomplishments, not just in his novels, but also in mathematics, poetry, and scholarship ("I just read things"), but reserves his intention in putting his prose forward. (My short take on the first branch here, the casebook thereon since moved here.)

Idlewild Books, the venue for this reading, offers about 50-50 travel guides and associated literature (current and classic); I took the opportunity to pick up both The Loop (kindly signed at my request) and Best-Translated-Bookwinner Tranquility by Attila Bartis, who will be reading there next week (I don't know that I'll be able to make it; I did not attend Wednesday's New School Oulipo panel discussion, but fortunately Andrew Hultkrans did; oh, and cf AGNI). Serendipitously, my reading for the train ride to the city was Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller. (Other March reading: Robert Graves' The White Goddess and Collected Poems ['61] [cf WLF], Robert Coover's Pricksongs & Descants, and Raymond Queneau's Eyeseas [Les Zioux] [trans Hurezanu & Kessler], selected poetry '21-'43.)


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