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Interview with Pierre Guyotat

There seems to be a general consensus about Pierre Guyotat: barely anyone reads him. Those who do read him agree that his is an important body of work. His sensational 1967 novel, Tombeau pour cinq cent mille soldats (published as Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers in 2003 by Creation Books), his third book, came out when he was 27. Fashioned by his experiences in the Algerian War, where he was stationed with the French army from 1960-62, it presented the motifs that became recurrent in Guyotat’s work – namely sex, oppression and misery.

 

Guyotat’s second big book, Eden, Eden, Eden, was also inspired by wartime Algeria. Published in 1970, it was banned from being advertised and sold to minors, despite containing three prefaces by Michel Leiris, Roland Barthes and Philippe Sollers (with whom Guyotat was a member of the avant-garde literary collective Tel Quel, which was very close to the French Communist Party from 1968-71). An international petition in support of the book, signed by intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Max Ernst and Joseph Beuys, and a handwritten letter from French President Georges Pompidou also failed to move the censors, who maintained the restrictions on Eden.

 

Guyotat’s radicalism can be ascribed as much to the violence of the scenes he describes as to his formal exploration of the French language: he attempts to reconcile its epic and oral dimensions, while rejecting psychology. The intensity he demands from his writing is such that he has constrained himself to total sexual abstinence for close to thirty years. He is a writer of living tableaux, both vivid and crude, that usually take place in brothels populated by masters, (mostly) masculine slaves, ‘whores’, and clients gone astray. The whores, condemned to receiving the bodies of others from the moment of their births until death, are the incessant repositories of genitals, semen, excrements and flies. This perpetual motion is enacted through dialogues with both tragic and comic dimensions. Marked by the Marxist materialist ideology of the Seventies, Guyotat’s work depicts the permanence of situations of exploitation by dominant peoples to the point of obsession. We find this again in Prostitution (1975), Le Livre (1984), and Progénitures (2000), works which reinvent a poetic patois and demand an attentiveness to the sonority of language from the reader.

 

Later, Pierre Guyotat devoted himself to three more accessible autobiographical narratives, each set at a precise moment in his life. Coma (2006, translated by Noura Wedell and published by Semiotext(e) in 2010) recounts the psychological and physical collapse which almost did away with its author in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Formation (2007) is a partial account of his childhood growing up in an educated, Christian family that took part in the Resistance. In Arrière-Fond (2010, published by Semiotext(e) in November 2014 under the title In the Deep), Guyotat confesses his discovery of the indivisible nature of sexual pleasure and literary creation, made on the occasion of a trip to England at the age of 15.

 

Two major unpublished works by Guyotat are known to exist: Histoires de Samorâ Machel, written at the end of the 1970s, and Géhenne, which he continues to work on. He nonetheless gave himself ‘six months of respite’ to write Joyeux animaux de la misère (published in March 2014 by Gallimard), the story of a brothel and three of its whores, set ‘in an intercontinental and multi-climactic megalopolis made up of seven megacities of which at least one is at war.’ We met Pierre Guyotat at Gallimard, his Parisian publisher since 1967. The interview took place in Claude Gallimard’s old offices opposite the Pléiade pavilion, an old colonial exhibition space. Guyotat’s soft, almost childlike voice is sometimes at odds with the convictions of an accomplished writer, certain of the meaning he gives to his work.

 

Q

The White Review

— In 1960, at the age of 20, you were sent to Algeria with the French army, where you stayed for two years. In 1962, you were found guilty of encouraging desertion and possessing forbidden material and were imprisoned for three months.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— I went back to Algeria frequently after independence, particularly to the Sahara. Since then, I’ve only returned through my fictional characters, or at least those that can recognisably be identified as ‘Algerian’. As a soldier over there, and immediately afterwards, I’d reached saturation point with France. I was very anti-Europe and anti-West. It was the great era of thirdworldism and ethnology, a period that is very controversial today because some see it as an avatar of colonialism. One can read very surprising things about this period nowadays. Everything becomes neo-colonialism and it has become impossible to consider nations that were colonised as free – free to reject their dictators – and proud. Every time something bad happens to them, we see the hand of the ex-coloniser behind it and we continue to treat them like children.

 

No one is perfect: it’s worrying that there is today this desire for everything to be perfect. The fewer things that happen, the fewer things are possible – and still we want even more perfection. To be politically perfect, which means that you can no longer be anything. Someone taking an interest in an African tribe will be seen as a colonialist. No one knows what to do any longer. There are committees, charities, councils representing who knows what… it’s astonishing. All of these entities would be interesting if they had no vested interests, but the charities are generally supported by the state, which means they are accountable for their actions. A certain number of scandals and controversies justify this state support, just as policemen have to hand out a certain number of traffic fines.

 

I understand very well, I’ve always supported the idea that slavery should be recognised as a crime against humanity – and, as we know, the West is not the only guilty party with regards to this abomination. I’m not saying there should necessarily be legal recognition of this fact, but we should agree that it was a crime that was perpetrated continuously over the course of 300 years. Involving the law in something like this is very complex, but when people’s desire for publicity leads them to speak lies…

 

It is unbearable to live in this kind of environment. Someone trying to live an honest life can no longer live. He can be honest, he can watch everything he says, everything he thinks even – but he will be dead. One cannot live when one is constantly ordered. There is a contradiction at play here: people always talk about multiculturalism in France but at the same time you have to stay politically correct on every single topic… We have to accept some form of disorder. It’s impossible to control a population through interdiction, it’s impossible. On building sites, for instance, you sometimes hear terrible things and often people shout at each other in an incredibly rude but also funny manner, and things are settled in good humour. Things can go very well. We have to let people express themselves. Otherwise, they die. We are always facing language barriers built by ignorant people. We cannot let some societies make laws and create interdictions: there are enough interdictions as it is. It’s strange that people are so infantilised. We have to let them speak for themselves, to let them learn for themselves what not to say because it hurts others, history, a History, the honour of man. And we can say certain things and laugh at them up to a certain point, which time will decide.

 

Q

The White Review

— In Carnets de Bord you wrote: ‘Great works (or great men) are those which bear the mark of the brutality of the world. Not those which conquer their serenity and gentleness on the most profound chaos and the most acute solitude. Otherwise, one does not feel civilisation (the moment of conquest) but already decadence (i.e. the habit of benefits conquered in the past).’ This idea still applies to your work, in which violence and gentleness are both present.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— I’ve always said that. The premise of my work is brutal, but it does become gentler.

 

Q

The White Review

— But is cruelty its fundamental reality?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— It is one of its realities. Cruel acts don’t need to be shown explicitly. There are also implicit cruelties. Inequality is an implicit cruelty, the most terrible, the most violent cruelty. One might wish to abolish it, to abolish what makes a man not know he can do anything. One has to seize what lies close at hand, what is urgent. The transformation of humanity into ‘strata’ or ‘masses’ – an avatar of scientism that has done so much harm – can only inspire disgust. I’ve long thought that in every human being there is a sleeping genius and I endeavour to continue to believe this. I wrote something, long ago, along these lines: ‘So long as man has five fingers on each hand, we cannot do anything about it.’ Unless a great organic and bodily mutation occurred. Man isn’t everything, either. We need to look beyond the human too. It’s a necessity. I do it a lot. I force man outside of his humanity.

 

Q

The White Review

— Your work appears to be a cosmology made up of different orders of being (divine, animal, human). Within this cosmology, prostitutes are almost divinities.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Whores rather than prostitutes. Prostitution is something else entirely. ‘Whore’ is a state of being which is a non-state, which has something to do with a theological reality which goes beyond ordinary social categories. That’s possibly the biggest driving force in my work: to take individuals outside of the social, to place them beyond social categories and labels.

 

Q

The White Review

— Does the whore figure allow you to do this?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Exactly. It allows me to really get humanity out of the inevitability of the social system. When I write, I try to reach beyond the social, and even beyond the human state. It’s something that I’ve been doing for a long time.

 

Q

The White Review

— Does this lead you towards more order or more chaos?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Towards reason. That’s what guides me. I’m not a logician, I don’t know much about it, but I’m haunted by reason. You can see this in my recent work, in which the search for rationality, for logic, is always present, even for very small things, which have a great importance for my characters.

 

Q

The White Review

— Do you read much? Philosophy, or contemporary literature?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Not much because I don’t have much time. My characters, the form I employ to write, the fate of others takes up a lot of this time: to think through something or someone, to think through a being outside of oneself requires one to be in a state of awakened dream, but also some sort of elevation or idiocy. This ‘dream’ enshrouds thought. I do read a lot of history books and detective novels. Quite simple detective novels. I like neat things. I go through phases of reading them. I think detective novels are important. There are some very powerful books that stay with you, and also images that stay with you as strongly as in the great novels and epics. In detective novels there is a confrontation with tragedy, which is real because the police gets involved and plays an integral part in it. I don’t like books that are too sophisticated, too polished. The other thing is you learn a lot from detective novels, on social, urban, financial and sexual realities.

 

Q

The White Review

— How important is working as a collective to your work? Does collective work have as much value as the work of an individual? You were part of the Tel Quel movement at one stage.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Yes, Tel Quel was my generation’s collective. It remains the only time I have been part of a collective. It fitted me quite well at the time, especially in terms of the movement’s discourse. From an artistic standpoint, it was quite different. The overall discourse suited me at the time – that’s clear – and I think I suited them, too. Later, things changed, quite quickly. As always in the history of literature.

 

Q

The White Review

— Was it an alliance of sorts?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Yes, it was during the brief moment when – this was the high point of Tel Quel – there was a division between two sides, broadly speaking: those favouring convention, and fiction, and the avant-garde, who favoured anti-fiction. I was very much in the fiction camp, full of characters, places, and scenes. I was more aware of the constructive aspects of the movement: the future, a more material fiction which would be open to the world, a transformation of language to be effected immediately rather than to be vainly wished for…

 

As I have often said, I read very few nouveau roman books. I knew their authors, but I didn’t read them much. The important thing was to know that these books existed. That was enough. It was a kind of tabula rasa, a fresh beginning. That, I knew, but I almost felt like there was no need for me to actually go out and read the books. I got a sense of those books instantly by just looking at them. I’ve always had the eye of an illustrator, I can tell immediately whether something is right or not. If it’s not good enough, I can tell straight away. I should have read a lot more, as I had as a child and adolescent, before really starting to write like I do now. I read a lot of British and American authors, like everyone else. But I read the authors people like to match me with much, much later.

 

Q

The White Review

— Do you see any proximity between your work and that of writers like Bernard Noël or Jean Genet?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— With Bernard Noël, none whatsoever. As for Genet, we’d known each other for a long time. I met him in the Gallimard offices on the day I met Antoine Gallimard for the first time, forty years ago. It was a very open first meeting, we laughed a lot. I met Genet several times afterwards, I ‘loaded’ him in the Volkswagen I had at the time. I felt very free with him, and I also witnessed his ordinary human suffering. But, you know – and I’ve explained this often – I read most of his work later. I read a lot of the books that were compared to my work after I had already produced a consistent oeuvre. I first read Leiris and Genet only then, and Sade, much later. I would read someone’s work after I met them. For example, Leiris himself gave me his Afrique fantôme, in the beautiful blue Gallimard edition of the time. When someone gave me their book, I would read it. Mascolo gave me his Communisme, which I maybe would not have read otherwise. It doesn’t always work out like that, only sometimes. I like it when people give me their own works.

 

Q

The White Review

— In terms of English-language authors, were you into Faulkner and Joyce?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Yes, among others. Dos Passos was formally very interesting. In Faulkner’s work, there is a kind of matter, a kind of idiocy, it’s wonderful. His is a world that suits me perfectly. Joyce too, especially Finnegans Wake, a wonderful book which bears little relation to what I do, but which has such freedom, such visual language! I’ve always felt a greater affinity for that kind of literature to modern French literature, where language is a matter of state. Shakespeare and Molière are the couple who educated me.

 

Q

The White Review

— When speaking about your recent autobiographical narratives, Coma, Formation and Arrière-fond, you talked about them being written in a ‘normative’ language, as opposed to the ‘language’ texts you wrote earlier in your career. What do you mean by this?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— I mentioned ‘normative’ language for the fun of it because a lot of readers are still thrown by it. It’s my vision – optical and otherwise – of the world, of the scenes that I describe, and it’s different from the literature you see promoted on TV and in its journalistic satellites. Vision and language are inseparable.

 

Q

The White Review

— The language in Arrière-fond is very different from that in Joyeux animaux de la misère, your latest book.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— The object and the intention are no longer the same. The language in Joyeux animaux evolves throughout. That book was not written in one day and even then, from the morning to the evening one changes, one learns and experiences things – by the end of the day you’re not the same person. During the time spent writing something, that thing is also transformed. Even when it’s short, like Joyeux animaux, which took me six months to write, there is an evolution. The middle passages and the end have nothing to do with the beginning: the characters, the places are the same, but they have taken on an added dimension. It’s like arriving in a place unknown to you in the morning and by midday, it has become familiar: the geography etc. Once you’ve written the last word, you have to go back and even the text out, so to speak, which is quite tragic. You almost have to rewrite the beginning, or the sketch of the beginning, because by that point the beginning has become a sketch in light of what you’ve achieved later on. A lot of people don’t understand that when you are writing something there is a moment for form, just like when you are constructing a building or a painting. And the form of the work evolves. For some people this isn’t a problem because they are always writing the same thing. They always write in the same way, to please. It’s not the same for me, I trust myself and I trust that the thing I begin with will become something and that I have the strength to get there. That’s one of the biggest pleasures you can derive from the practice of art.

 

Q

The White Review

— Do you go through this process with all the books you write in one spurt?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Even then, when it only takes six months, yes. It’s a bit like a pregnancy, they are all different. Things evolve. First of all the book is a sketch, an embryo, and later it organises itself, naturally. I’ve been consciously writing naturally for close to sixty years… In this instance I rewrote very little. It was very spontaneous. Incidentally, I’m continuing to write like this – I am very happy writing this way. But I did leave a lot of questions unanswered.

 

Q

The White Review

— Was the switch to a more accessible language in Coma, Formation and Arrière-fond compared to your earlier works a concession, or a quest for readability, perhaps even an attempt to reach for more readers?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— If you’re asking me that question you must think it’s the truth! It isn’t for me, obviously. I was trying to explain and assess things. When you write someone a letter, you take that person into consideration. So in this instance a less formally sophisticated language was a necessity, or else I would have veered into ‘language’ text again, and I can’t write ‘language’ texts about my life: it wouldn’t be interesting.

 

Q

The White Review

— In an interview with Artpress in 1973 you said: ‘I went from fortress-writing to barricade-writing. … I wrote Bond en avant to defend myself and to attack.’ Is this polemical dimension still part of your work?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— It was a different time. Now, for example, some of the copy-editors at Gallimard, who have become friends of mine, are delighted when they get to work on one of my books. It breaks their routine. They understand what I’m doing – they read properly, entirely. Simply put, only those who read me quickly and superficially say my work is incomprehensible. I’ve reached a point where I don’t give a damn about the critical reception. It’s impossible to fight against editorial boards and television… They are run by ghosts, temporary ghosts animated by the vindictive and bitter feelings of someone whose reign is coming to an end. There’s no point in trying to change this. You can change things by continuing to write as if none of it existed, if I may say so.

 

Q

The White Review

— What do you think of your reception in general? And do you expect anything from your readers? Catherine Brun, in the biography she wrote of you, evokes the cathartic effect your work had on her in a difficult period of her life. Is that kind of reaction something you plan or wish for?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— I don’t really ask myself how a work will be received. I don’t know whether major artists ask themselves that. It’s absurd to ask oneself, ‘Do I write for my readers or for myself?’ It betrays a total misunderstanding of the artistic act, which is above such petty considerations. You can think about it afterwards though, once you’ve overcome that duel with beauty which is the writing of a work. That’s why you have to get back to work quickly!

 

As for Catherine Brun, a number of people have had that reaction. I’ve met some writers who stopped writing after reading my work, and others for whom on the other hand it was an encouragement. In this very study, when the opening section of Eden, Eden, Eden appeared in the first issue of the Cahiers du Cinéma, a young woman assistant who was reading it fainted and collapsed on the floor. She fell unconscious, and doctors had to be called. This was someone who was used to the act of reading. I understand what she experienced because as a child – I must have been 10 years old – I read a three-line description of a decapitation that had failed in Alphonse de Lamartine’s History of the Girondists, and I passed out. I used to faint quite a lot when I was a child, but that time I was unconscious for a long time.

 

It was Lamartine, who is not the writer he is perceived to be, who did that to me, and that’s why I still have a great sympathy and a great admiration for that book. I also feel great admiration for Lamartine himself, a courageous man – and for his work which has been unjustly brushed aside. Having said that, it was his fault in the end because he didn’t revise his writing enough, particularly his poetry: it was too aristocratic, even though he was from the lower ranks of nobility. But he was the most inspired of all, and a continuous inspiration for me, politically too.

 

He is one of the greatest French political poets – his writing, like La Marseillaise de la paix, is extremely beautiful – but, alas, you still get those insufferable old formal constraints and other remnants of the eighteenth century in his work. History of the Girondists is a fascinating book, with an astonishing visual element to some of the scenes it describes: the flight of the Girondists who hide in a vineyard – it’s written with such simplicity – doors closing, staircases: you can picture it immediately. It’s very sober writing, almost white. I have great affection for this man who made me faint.

 

Q

The White Review

— So you don’t try to have a specific effect on readers then?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— No, but I completely understand that someone could be totally aghast about what they’ve read, even in, say, the beginning of Joyeux animaux. The writing immediately hits you. I know my writing has that effect, but I don’t take it into account when I am at work. Journalists used to say I was trying to be provocative but that’s not the case at all. It comes naturally to me. To some extent, without censoring myself, I do tend to prevent myself from overstepping the limits I set, to stay within the hierarchical limits of the world that I have created. I’m very careful about this, but it does come quite naturally because I exist in all the characters, and all the characters exist in me – which is how it should be for every human on earth, as each human being exists in another human being, exists in all the others. Every time one of my characters speaks, it’s me talking, in front of this other ‘me’ who it talks to.

 

Q

The White Review

— How attentive are your readers? Do you have any contact with them?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Sometimes I bump into them on the street or on the metro. Some recognise me but don’t say anything. I also receive letters, from readers who have really read me properly. I trust that these readers exist – I think that an illusion is created in this regard by a certain section of the media. Beyond that, there are still readers, of course. There is no reason for that to change because there is this desire for fiction, for language. I saw this when I used to give readings. People would come without preconceptions. Preconceptions are a problem. People with preconceptions say: ‘It’s too complex for you.’ Those in the universities say that to their students. The press also plays a part in this – even if it is almost entirely discredited — because the printed form still has a little bit of prestige. The ‘illegibility’ reproach is an old classic, which reflects only consumers’ inability to read anything.

 

Q

The White Review

— You seem to believe in a physically and historically materialist idea of writing, but without a higher framework – it’s something that comes up in Vivre.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— There was a time when I was very politically engaged – when there used to be spaces for that kind of engagement, collectives – and in a very precise, partisan way if you will, so this kind of thing comes to me naturally. I used to have a more generational political vision, influenced by the fairly simple international context of the time. My writing remains very political but in a deeper, more reflective sense, rather than with the aim of trying to make an immediate impact.

 

Q

The White Review

— In that same Artpress interview, you said, ‘One’s work becomes independent, lives its own life, like an organism, and it is the work, rather than the author, that influences him, and, for the greater part, steers his life.’ You sometimes say that your work overtakes or even crushes you, but at the same time you exert great control over what you write and in your ability to justify all of your artistic choices.

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— There is great control in my work because it is not completely natural. People have always mentioned the body when talking about my work, but this connection with the body has been over-emphasised and it’s actually more complex than what critics have said, or rather it’s the very notion of the body that is a lot more complicated than people think. All the rest of it – history, metaphysics – have a strong presence in my work. Other than that, I don’t quite know where it all starts. The characters are the ones that attract me to begin with. As soon as they are created, so to speak, they impose themselves.

 

Q

The White Review

— What is more important in your relationship to your work: your control over it, or its independence from you?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— One’s work, everything one does in life – it all overtakes you in the end. It’s particularly true of politics, for example. A lot of people, a lot of politicians, practically acted in total emptiness. Nowadays it’s not really the case anymore. Before people stepped out into the abyss without really knowing what would happen. Nowadays nothing like that happens because speech is so weak, so miserable, so controlled that it annihilates itself, and no one takes risks any more. Without being conscious of urgency, speech can no longer have the same strength. Acts have practically disappeared. Apart from in the civilised world where, day to day, those left behind by politics have to act day to day to survive. We are no longer ‘children of God’, but voters.

 

Q

The White Review

— Will your next books be Géhenne and Samorâ Machel?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— I finished Samorâ Machel a long time ago but I haven’t revised it yet. It’s all there but I don’t want to publish it. It cost me too much. It’s just like when a painter holds on to one of his paintings. Samorâ Machel is the book with which, as I said, I practically went over to the other side with my characters and my places. I could publish it but I would have to confront a period of my life that I don’t really want to go close to. I have a lot of unpublished or unseen works, that are more or less finished.

 

Q

The White Review

— Are you waiting to publish them?

 

A

Pierre Guyotat

— Yes, but I’d have to revise them first, to make them up to date, in accordance with my current style. Alain Resnais said recently that some of his films weren’t any good, and that others were interesting. I sometimes feel that way. I can’t help but feel a little bit of fear when looking back on older writings. But in the end, when I’m brave enough to dive back in, I can make it work. For me, everything that is in the past is over, even if it was just yesterday. Especially for those texts I write in a sort of trance. One shouldn’t deny the hallucinatory aspect of artistic practice. You’re present and absent at the same time: one eye is inside the work, and the other keeps it in check. There are moments when it’s very clear that I’m in that altered state. I don’t properly see what I write, and therefore I fantasise the denial of what has been done. I think about what I’ve done, but when I go back and check, I see that it works, that it has a polish.

 

There’s a period in my work, after 1979, which I find problematic. I need to ‘reconquer’ it, to ‘tame’ it – it was a very radical period for me. Now I can see that people are interested in it again – Le Livre was translated into Russian, for example – but it remains a problematic period for me. I could very well reread it – I reread Le Livre a lot at one stage. It gave me great pleasure to reread it while amending it a little. When I reread my own work I need to act on it. I can’t be content with passive reading. When I read something quite old, it usually comes back to me and I am able to find the right tone to return its ‘madness’ to the piece. I always have to act and transform things.

 

Q

The White Review

— Have you ever given readings of Samorâ Machel?
A

Pierre Guyotat

— Yes, and some extracts were published in theatre or dance magazines. I read portions from it abroad in the 1980s. When you read something, it’s like an act of creation. It’s not easy to be at ease with work that is formally advanced, with such rich textures, with work that speaks about you, your mind and body and impulses. A reading is very beautiful but it is gruelling. It’s very nerve-racking before, rather than during the reading. Stage fright is not at all what people think it is – it’s, essentially, whether there is an audience or not, fear of yourself, of whether you are up to what you expect from yourself. The audience does not know what to expect so you can mislead it by performing an ordinary reading – which is impossible for me – but if you want to do it really well, then this reserve becomes a force and gives your reading an added dimension. I am afraid, embarrassed, and sometimes I mispronounce certain words. This kind of tension is palpable and it adds to the beauty of the reading. A reading has to be beautiful, it has to be an artistic act – otherwise it’s not worth it. Most people don’t do it this way, but when I read I have to do it with a certain intensity. Overcoming the obstacle of your own prudishness gives what you are doing that intensity, that’s clear to hear. You can also feel the fear.

 

When I give a reading, after two or three minutes I always have a moment when I feel like I am about to faint, it’s very radical. It’s a very intense emotional phenomenon, and the feeling falls away once it’s started, when a liberation occurs, some sort of decompression, and the upper part of my body collapses onto the bottom half. At that moment, you resist, and of course you become irresistible, because people feel it even if they do not know it. It’s automatic. When I go to the theatre or to a concert, I always go through that sensation after three minutes: I start to be afraid for those who are on stage because I know what it feels like. I go through a moment of panic and I have to resist the urge to leave. It even happens to me at the cinema sometimes. So for me reading is never harmless. It can be, but with my texts, you have to go for it.

 

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is a writer and translator from English to French.

is a freelance editor and critic based in Paris.

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