Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Roving Shadows

Grasset published Les ombres errantes by Pascal Quignard in 2002. In France it was greatly acclaimed, becoming the first non-novel in more than 60 years to win the prix Goncourt.

Chris Turner's translation called The Roving Shadows came out in 2011 from Seagull Books. The far-roving text is divided into 55 short chapters. Below are their titles, which can be read as a sort of poem-prelude to this past-worshipping collage of sensibility ...

 1. (The Young German Woman)
2. (The Shadow of Sexual Bliss)
3. (The tertium)
4. (Buddhas of Bamiyan)
5. Norstrand
6. (We)
7. The Nursling
8. (Last Kingdom)
9. The Ewer
10. (The Absent One)
11. Cras
12. (The Horse)
13. The Bark
14. (The Dark Sky)
15. Shadows
16. List from the Year 2001
17. (Television)
18. On the Arrest of Monsieur de Saint-Cyran on 14 May 1638
19. (Pluto)
20. (Mogador)
21. The Snuffers
22. (Ubi)
23. (The Region of Dawn)
24. (Dawn Mist)
25. (Banks of the Yonne)
26. The Immortal King of the Ages
27. Saint Bartholomew's Day
28. Last Farewell
29. Han Yu
30. The Vestals
31. (Mud)
32. Churches of Leyden
33. Post tenebras
34. Perditos
35. (The Keep at Vincennes)
36. The Barefoot Teacher
37. Terror
38. (The Bassin du Roi at Le Havre)
39. (Saint-Cyran)
40. (Lancelot)
41. (Monsieur de Merveilleux)
42. The Brouette
43. (Monasteries)
44. (Going from Bergheim to Frankfurt)
45. (Dream)
46. (The Hunter)
47. Emily
48. History
49. (Right of Asylum)
50. (Shoreline)
51. On the River that Flows into the Flowers
52. (Marc Antoine Charpentier)
53. The Other Kingdom
54. (Kingdom of Jerusalem)
55. Sofiius' End

... and a fragment from chapter 43.

"Books without pictures have become like the endowed Masses of old. The pious would pay, during their lifetimes, for church services to be said in perpetuity to ensure their survival. They had in their time left purses full of gold louis from the year 1640 with their lawyers. Or they had offset the cost of these services against still active estates bequeathed to an ecclesiastical living for its use or profit. 

Offices were sung for no one present. 

Unmarried men in black robes earned this money from the hands of corpses, then from the bones of skeletons, then from the dust of hands that no longer existed anywhere. 

Just as the priest would say Mass into the void, just as the organist would climb to the organ loft for a memory with no living connections in this world, so too a book is addressed to eyes that the person writing it does not see."