Prompted by “Getting Started“…
Une Femme Est une Femme
… to be continued…
Prompted by “Getting Started“…
Une Femme Est une Femme
… to be continued…
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Language of Things.”
For we are changing, mutating. So the thin dagger, the flat, grey handgun in its black leather holster, the smooth crossbow, and the witches’ jewellery, the narrow gold ring, all have their role in our transformation.
For you will become me, and I you, and us, that invincible creature, ready to cross the boundaries of time and space, when time comes.
Image: Nicola Alessandrini
You look at me, with the calm eyes of one who knows: soon the captain will read the instructions, and we will ready ourselves for the long voyage, but only us two know how far we will travel.
Everyone is getting on with their tasks, without haste, as our fragile vessel continues her journey through the night.
… The alert bell rings: an elegant blue hologram floats in the air, and the captain calls the crew to attention.
“I have to communicate to you the new direction we are now to take: we are not turning back, we continue to Epsilon of Cassiopeia, which means over the time horizon, through hyperspace”: the crew falls on their knees, in prayer, you, my love, hold my face in both hands – over the horizon, for us, means eternity…
In memory of Arthur C. Clarke (The Sentinel)
Space was unforgiving, and you had waited such a long time, in the absolute solitude of the desolated moon.
But now you are awaking, at your feet the small ants look up at you in awe, at the unstoppable thrust, at the slowly revealed mystery.
Rocks fall around you, and you are still, just the apex of this marvel:
A billion year-old artificial satellite.
I have not always be fair to him, and yet I depend on him more than I admit to myself… So, today, Julian holds the pen.
For us, creatures of a lower order, not free, not slaves, but prisoners all the same, facing our maker is the ultimate test. This is your space, yours, that is the author’s, not mine. I don’t belong here, and I am not sure I belong in your writing either: I feel like a passenger, stranded in the wrong teleport, perhaps in a time wrap.
You have borrowed from my (real) life, as fiction always steals from someone’s realities, or dreams. You, writers, have always done this. D’Artagnan was really a captain of the royal Mousquetaires, the élite body guard of the King of France, before Alexandre Dumas (père) span his web of intrigues. And somewhere in 1913, the young Marcel considered his status in life, before Proust drowned him in Lost Time.
You have painted me as a selfish, idiotic hedonist, who depends on his women, but do not respect them. This hurt me deeply, for it is not the person I am. I may lack courage, and do rely on the people I care for for support and patience. Selfish, egotistic, I am not: only your pen made me that. But your readers, who cannot know me, only know that Julian from your words, those slippery sentences that are as many distortions of my life.
Sadly, you will not redeem yourself, authors rarely do. Proust made a hopeless brat of Marcel, and sacrificed much of what that young man had to offer, in order to achieve fame and literary respect for himself. Little did it matter to him that, in so doing, he was destroying the idea itself of the introspective novel. I give you this: you are no Proust, but all the same you don’t strive to be published!
Enough said about myself. What about your writing? Of the young Proust of Jean Santeuil, Pierre Bergounioux (In D’après Proust, NRF March 2013) writes: “Besides being too young, Proust stays on the surface, describes, as before him, thoughts, gestures, feelings known, uncontroversial, when everything has changed, everywhere.” I won’t accuse you of the same weakness, you try to be current, recognising the mess the world is in, all those missiles, the fear, the surveillance, the arbitrary disguised as the norm, the lies. I don’t disagree with you on any of this reality. However you must ask yourself: aren’t you at risk of losing your readers in the labyrinth of time, all this meandering of your characters, back and forth, not only across their memories, but also retracing steps they may never have followed?
I give you credit for not totally confounding Julian, the “real” human being, and your character. Beyond the story – or is it the stories? – is the person whose memories provide the live substance of what, otherwise, would be a confusing ghost tale. But you know the difference. So, I may dislike the Julian of the novel, but you never claim he is the only one.
“Fiction has the interesting double sense of a kind of Imaginative Literature and of pure (sometimes deliberately deceptive) invention… A general use, ranging between a consciously formed hypothesis (‘mathematical fictions’ 1579) and an artificial and questionable assumption (‘of his own fiction’), was equally common. Fictitious, from C17, ranged from this to the sense of deceptive invention; the literary use required the later fictional. The popularity of novels led to a curious C20 back-formation, in library and book-trade use, in non-fiction (at time made equivalent to ‘serious’ reading…)
Novel, now so nearly synonymous with fiction, has its own interesting history. The two senses now indicated by the noun (prose fiction) and the adjective (new, innovating, whence novelty) represent different branches of development from Latin novus – new. Until C18 novel, as a noun, carried both senses: (i) a tale; (ii) what we now call, with the same sense, news…
(In) Fielding: – ‘What novel’s this? – Faith! It may be a pleasant one to you.’
It was from this range of senses that novelist meant successively any kind of innovator (C17), a newsmonger (C18) and a writer of prose fiction.” (Keywords)
It goes for colours, type-faces, places, objects, smiles, books… The human spirit is attracted, inspired, by “things”, in a fashion that appears random to the observer (“tastes and colours…” goes the French saying). But it isn’t. There are reasons for everything, and randomness is often a metaphor for “we can’t explain this”.
Julian is attracted by – universes. Worlds, galaxies, star systems… Or should I write “multiverses”: the existence of multiple universes that rarely intersect, merely coexist, and, mostly, in ignorance of each other? He knows, has read about, that most physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, are generally skeptical about the concept. Generally, but sometimes not. And Julian is attracted by those writers who are less than skeptical, the party of the “cosmic inflation”, and its far away consequences. Julian believes in the Two Moons of Huraki Murakami: he too has seen them…
Sarah, who’s a far better mathematician than her husband, is willing to discuss strings theory and other quantum wonders, and let him indulge in his quest. He too is after the “Ultimate Nature of Reality” [*]. I do understand, and she does, that Julian seeks his inspiration from serious subjects: history, science, philosophy, the “thinking” authors of weird and wonderful stories.
So it goes for time: our Julian is obsessed by it. His hero is, of course, Marcel Proust, and he’s often written about Marcel, and written him into his stories, as himself or as his little prisoner. I am fascinated by this, as it links to his other obsessions, his writing style, and, finally, his love for both Sarah and Melissa, the two women in his life, the inspiration for his writing. There are reasons to believe that, for Julian, his friend Melissa is a reincarnation of the docile Prisoner, dear to Marcel, his Albertine…
But Sarah has another theory: Julian wishes to be Albertine, someone’s property, or, to be precise, his wife’s. So that Melissa maybe Julian, in the end, just in another “universe”. This intrigues me too, as often Melissa has told me she wished to be Julian, to live in his skin. Poor soul. What I keep to myself, for now, is that Melissa has also claimed to be Sarah, to “merge” with her.
Sarah, Albertine, Odette, Julian, Melissa, Swann? Julian is “à la recherche”, in this universe, or, as necessary, in another. Which writer is not?
[*] “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality”, by Max Tegmark, was reviewed by Brian Rotman in The Guardian of February 1, 2014.
“He’s observed well, but his memory is failing. I doubt that he will write much more about his experience…”
“I would not be so sure,” Gabrielle replies, “Besides, he’s not on his own.”
“Do you mean, Sarah, his wife?”
Gabrielle pauses, as if recalling some distant event:
“Of course, but there is also my protégée… That young woman has not finished with her old flame yet.”
“Do you think she would push him to write on what he already has difficulties in remembering?”
“This could be one reason. But I expect what he may not remember, she will, and what he may then write, would be her version of the story. Possibly that we would not chose to publicise…”
Elga looks up at her friend,
“But surely you have so much influence on that girl, she would follow you on this?”
“Ah,” replies Gabrielle with a sigh, “Sarah may be convinced that her husband is deluded, in a mild and inoffensive way, but Melissa, she knows the truth, she knows where he went, what he saw, what he was told…”
“And you think she would take his side, as it were?”
Gabrielle gathers her thoughts. They are, after all, conversing in a language which is still alien to both of them. After a few minutes:
“She’s independent now, what the encounter with Julian has created, is a new outlook on life for her: she thinks for herself.”
“And she may not be that sympathetic to our views,” adds Elga with a rare gesture of annoyance.
“I think we may have to be a bit careful, from now on, with Miss Baudoin.”