Tuesday, November 27, 2007



PaulValery, Arno Schmidt and Julian Rios have created three great literary monuments that are inconceivable in these United States of America.

I was in the library last night to pay again homage to two of those monuments: the CAHIERS of Paul Valery and ZETTELS TRAUM by Arno Schmidt.

Paul Valery wrote something every morning of his life. After his death 29 volumes of a facsimile edition of these jottings was published. 26,600 pages.

Valery himself never fully organized these jotting but recognized that they did fall into certain areas. He believed that it was very hard to draw distinctions between philosophy, literature, art, science and mathematics and that any civilized man would of necessity be interested in everything.

To make a long story short, Valery eventually came up with 215 sub-classifications under which this massive mountain of writing could be organized.

But the monument is on the shelves in the form of those 29 volumes, each approx 900 pages, measuring 8 x 11 inches...

In more recent years a Pléiade edition has appeared in which those pages are transcribed and arranged into broadly based categories. Those two books comprise 3248 pages... and are serving as the basis of the English language version that is slowly making itself available from Peter Land Editions. Two volumes have been published and a third is coming out as I am typing or is possibly on its way here right now.

"I have a unitary mind in a thousand pieces (p62) from the section Ego in volume one of the Lang edition.

Valery would have taken to the bog. There can be no doubt about it. But there is one little disadvantage to the bog: if you hit the wrong key, words, sentences, sections disappear never to be... in those printed volumes there is a strange permanence that no electronic media can equal.

An earlier version of these words got lost. There is a sadness that falls down upon me. These are not the inspired words of that previous version. They come from afar.


A reader can begin to read PAUL VALERY with his short book MONSIEUR TESTE. Valery "speaks" or "writes" in/of the "character" of Monsieur Teste. Everything is called into question.


In that lost bit of the bog I had been writing about John Jay College of Criminal Knowledge and about having to repatriate my academic book collection, my folders of student essays, long lists of long gone students, and my collection of wall clippings. One such clipping quoted Andrey Platanov's thought that a writer should know, "what God is thinking about."

I was also writing that the powers to be have decided that those who do not hold a sinecure in the form of lifelong tenure are to no longer have an office in which to meet students, gather our few wits about us, to organize ourselves for the teaching. I am sure they know what they are doing and it will be of a great benefit to the students and the college as a whole. It will allow us to arrive each day with our offices on our backs in the form of tightly bound bundles which will contain the tools of our vocation. I will miss that office that I have occupied with a few colleagues for these 19 years but one must move with the times... I will remember one of those clippings of a photograph of Celine standing near the gate of his house in Meudon and under which was a slip of a quote from some interview he must have given, WASH YOUR HANDS.
Like a heteronym of FERNANDO PESSOA I will set up my office at a far table in the student cafeteria...


I will come to Arno Schmidt some other day. His ZETTELS TRAUM is an even greater monument...


But to the living. This morning as every morning Julian Rios looked down from the front window of his house in Saint-Martin-la-Garenne at those trees midst the Seine that Monet had discovered in paint.

LARVA is Rios's great book and is available in English. To say it is a novel like FINNEGANS WAKE, like ZETTELS TRAUM...

but again all of that is for another day. Unlike them, it comes with a fold-out map, a pictorial section and index.

Julian Rios signed a copy for me: TOM LE MOT