A New Man

Big Love birds. Image by The Wren DesignLast week was Frankfurt bookfair. It was a wonderful fair. One of the best.

Because I met a new man.

It’s been a long time since I felt this kind of attraction. Schopenhauer in fact was the last. A few years ago I was besotted by him. Don’t get me wrong. Since then I haven’t exactly suffered from loneliness. There have been a few passing flings. A brief love affair with Lacan, a one-night stand with Roland Barthes. But no one had such a profound effect on me as Schopenhauer and ‘The World as Will and Representation.’

But this is all history now. Maurice Blanchot has captured my heart. I started reading him on the plane to Frankfurt last Tuesday. He hasn’t left my side.

Admittedly, I’ve encountered him before. Fleetingly. Reading extracts here and there. But I’ve never devoted my full attention to him. And now I am hooked. On Thursday I even skipped the biggest party of the night to rush back to my hotel where he was awaiting me.

So what do I like about him? Quite simply, he understands literature the same way I do. But unlike me, he can express his view clearly.

For him literature is the experience of language as language. While every day communication reduces language to literal meaning so that we can relate to each other, only in literature do we experience language as unique and self-sufficient. Each work of literature struggles to reinvent language, according to Blanchot. And it can only do so by relying on itself.

These are words straight from my heart. When I look for new Peirene books, I want stories that are anchored in the cultural, historical and social environment of the writer. But I always want to feel that the author has created their own literary reality.

That is easier said than done in a world of social media and global communication. I have just listened to three days of international agents and publishers talk about books. Most of their authors seem to aim more for a literal than a literary truth. Good but ultimately not what I am looking for.

‘I’m not sure I like your new man,’ the Nymph remarks. ‘you’ve now become even more choosy than before looking for our next titles.’

‘My criteria haven’t changed,’ I tell her. ‘Only, I have finally found a man who understands me. How many women can claim that!’

Image by The Wren Design.

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