A Conversation with Claude Simon By Anthony Cheal Pugh

From “The Review of Contemporary Fiction,” Spring 1985, Vol. 5.1

ANTHONY CHEAL PUGH: Claude Simon, a remark you made during our conversations in Dublin a year or so ago particularly interested me. You said that you did not consider that French writers were very strong in the field of the novel, but that they excelled, on the other hand, at autobiography. You spoke not only of Proust, whose A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs you were rereading at the time, but of Rousseau and Chateaubriand. Could I begin by asking you to comment upon this observation, from a reader’s point of view?

CLAUDE SIMON: Andre Gide says somewhere in his Journal that France is most definitely not the home of the novel. And in fact, if one compares the works of nineteenth-century French novelists and their inferior contemporary imitators (Mauriac, Sartre, Camus, etc.) with for example those of Dostoevsky, whose characters, as in life, are eminently ambiguous and contradictory, incarnating at once good and evil, torturers and victims at one and the same time, then the French “realist” novel, deriving from the fable, the comedy of manners, or the philosophical tale with its didactic intentions, appears desperately flat, putting on stage univocal social or psychological types, bordering on caricature. It was Strindberg who noted in his preface to Miss Julie, not without irony, that Harpagon is avaricious and nothing else, whereas he could at the same time be a great financier as well as a miser, a perfect father, an excellent public official. . . . Personally, this kind of novel has always produced in me a boredom only attenuated by the descriptive passages (and this is something I experience more and more). For example, it was only because during the Occupation I bought the complete works of Balzac second-hand from a bouquiniste (books were hard to find then through lack of paper) that I read my way through La Comedie humaine, and what is more, despite several attempts, I have never been able to get to the end of a novel like L’Education sentimentale. In works of a biographical kind, a character reveals himself, deliberately or otherwise, in all his rich complexity, with all his contradictions, and without any manner of teaching standing out at all from his adventures. Anais Nin said somewhere that the everyday world seemed to her so devoid of interest that she preferred to take refuge in “the imaginary” and “the marvelous.” No doubt she never took the trouble to look at the incredible marvels all around us, a simple leaf, a bird, an insect. She really should have meditated upon Picasso’s remark: “Kings do not have their most beautiful children with princesses, but with shepherdesses,” for if ever you apply yourself, as Proust did, to examining attentively the life of anyone in your entourage, it’s not long before you notice that it presents a thousand times more complexity, richness, and fascinating subtleties than the fictive and summary lives and the spectacles staged in so-called “imaginative” novels.

Thus, Rousseau, who never stops moralizing, and acts with great meanness, if not with great brutality, devotes himself lovingly, for example, to the problem of the education of children, even writes a complete work on the subject, and abandons his own, without a second thought, to the state orphanage. Chateaubriand, although he is a sincere Royalist (he will prove his fidelity to the royal cause right into exile) and a sincere liberal as well, gambles away, as quickly as he can, the sum of money his family had collected, with great difficulty, in order to allow him to join the emigre army, and what is more “mislays” the wallet containing the little money he had remaining in the carriage bringing him back home, none of which prevented him from nevertheless going off to fight for his king and getting severely wounded. . . . In the same way, L.S.M., who risks his life for the Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, finds it quite normal that his wife be given a negro as a present; a fervent Jacobin, he contrives to get an ardent Royalist out of prison and marries her—and what author of fictions would ever have unleashed his imagination to the extent of inventing the episode of the heart cut out of the General’s corpse!!!

Finally, and as a corollary to this, container and contained being, in art, one and the same thing, the form of these works (let’s say, for simplicity’s sake: their style) is always admirable. It is not a matter of chance that Chateaubriand and Proust are the writers of the most sumptuous prose in French literature.

ACP: What is it that one is looking for when reading a text calling itself an “autobiography?”—an imaginary identification with an author (or with someone else, quite simply)?—or does the special pleasure of the reader not come from the loss of a stable identity, to the extent that autobiographical writing seems to lead to a dissociation of the writer’s “self” and to the production of “doubles”?

CS: Certainly not, as far as I am concerned, an “identification” with an author, but other than the pleasure of the text itself, a pleasure whose nature you have just defined quite well.

ACP: Is not the reader of an autobiographical text in search of echoes from the past, echoes of experiences he might himself have lived, perhaps at an unconscious level?

CS: Perhaps.

ACP: You said in a recent interview that all your novels since The Grass were “practically autobiographical1“, while stressing that you did not tell all about yourself, and that it was always necessary to choose between the multiple possibilities that memory offers. You have often said, besides, that this raw material was necessarily transformed by the work of writing, by the act of putting it all into words. If, therefore, your novels are “practically autobiographical,” we have to understand at the same time that they in no way constitute acts of self-revelation, and that your aim is not to “confess yourself” to your readers, nor to explain yourself, let alone give your opinion on this or that subject. There is nevertheless in your novels a strong element of plot, even what appears sometimes to be an element of parody of the detective story, and this has repercussions upon what the reader guesses to be the underlying auto biographical story. To the extent that a text which is “practically auto biographical” inevitably encourages a kind of latent voyeurism in the reader, the part of the plot that remains concealed (what you do not say) causes a “blockage” in his reading, and he finds himself (I certainly find myself) in the same situation as the narrators and characters (Georges in The Flanders Road, the student in The Palace, or the narrator in Histoire) wanting to know “how it was, exactly.” This is of course just a schematic account of how readers come up against gaps in the autobiographical text and find “knots of meaning” that resist interpretation, but such a situation does seem to be typical of some of your more celebrated novels. Does what I have described correspond to any deliberately demonstrative strategy, or is it a question of a phenomenon that occurs during the writing process, something uncontrollable? Does each descent into the past—your past—lead to locked doors? Is not the fictional enigma (the detective story element) a kind of allegory of the impossibility (at the psychological, epistemological, and teleological levels) of the impossibility of the autobiographical project?

CS: I really cannot see what elements of a “parody of the detective story could be found in my novels. Are you not somewhat bemused by Robbe-Grillet’s theories and novels?

ACP: Quite possibly, but it has been shown that the detective story follows the pattern of the Oedipus story, and it has been claimed, even (by Barthes, for example), that all narratives correspond to a similar archetypal structure, and autobiographical narrative, it seems to me, can hardly be an exception here.

CS: It is certainly clear that in all narrative there is a “quest” of some kind: it is what the word “istoria” means in Greek—a “quest,” or “inquiry. ”

ACP: Actually, when I spoke of elements of “parody of the detective story,” I was thinking of the plots of, for example, The Wind, The Palace, Histoire, and in particular the story of the execution of the General’s brother in The Georgics—novels where a narrator tries to piece together a story out of things that happened to someone else, or to himself at another period in his life. In each case a “double” emerges—something that corresponds to the situation in the detective story, where the detective and the criminal could be said to represent, symbolically, aspects of a split “self.”

CS: That does apply to some extent to the situation in Histoire, but to tell you the truth, when I was writing the novel the “I” and the ’ “He” became so mixed up that the “inquiry” reached a point beyond which it could not progress.

ACP: The kind of questions I have been asking should not really be put to an author, as I well realize; readers must decide for themselves how they react to the “autobiographical” element.

CS: Yes, that is the reader’s decision.

ACP:I also had in mind, when I used the term “parody,” a specific passage, on page 340 of The Georgics, where History is described as “outdoing in its mischievous perversity those authors who amuse themselves by plunging the reader into confusion by attributing several names to the same character, or, round the other way, the same name to different protagonists.” In the immediate context, it is of course the agents of the N.K.V.D. who are being referred to, together with the comic element in their false identities and pseudonyms, but can one not also discern there a parody of a tendency in the New Novel, and in modern fiction in general, to deliberately confuse the question of characters’ identities? Perhaps even an element of self-parody (after all, in The Georgics the narrative “He” covers several characters and several narrative instances)?

CS: No, on page 340 of The Georgics I am not parodying the tendency in the New Novel to “confuse” (we will have to come back later to this term) the question of identities. There is the hint of a wink there, yes, but it serves largely to confirm what I was saying to you earlier when speaking about autobiography: reality is far superior to fiction. There were in fact in Republican Spain at that time agents of the N.K.V.D. whose names and pseudonyms are exactly those I quote in the novel. You can check in La Revolution et la guerre d’Espagne, by Broue and Temine2. I copied them straight out of the book.

ACP: In the interview that I quoted just now you said that humor, in your novels, sometimes had a “distancing” function3. Would it not be more accurate to speak of irony which is very present in your novels? If indeed it is “irony,” do you make use of it in order to keep your distance from your characters and your narrators, and to dissociate yourself from what they could appear to be saying on your behalf?

CS: I prefer “distancing” to “dissociation”: it is not my intention to conceal myself from the reader. I don’t much like irony. Irony is cruel—it is a French defect—I prefer humor. But once again, what you call “irony,” or “parody,” is a way of showing how, always, reality is stranger than fiction. I could never have invented the extraordinary things that are related in The Georgics. History had a way of mocking the whole of the General’s life, but it’s a kind of natural irony: it’s grotesque, it’s derisory, but that’s the way it was. To have invented such things would have appeared to me to be very vulgar. A detail sums it all up: he once lived at an address in a street called “La rue du Hasard.” To come across something like that, well it makes me feel dizzy, you get a feeling of vertigo. The only novelist capable of inventing something similar is Dostoevsky: Mishkin is a totally ambiguous character—you will never know whether he is an idiot, or is supremely intelligent.

ACP: So we would be wrong to think that you sometimes adopt an ironic stance with regard to your readers?

CS: Yes. Mine is quite the opposite of the attitude of the God-like novelist. The novelist today tries to make his way through a kind of fog; it isn’t really a question of irony, but one of vertigo: he just doesn’t know the answers. You are faced, always, with the unknown, the unknowable.

ACP: Can irony not be the escape route for the novelist: a way of avoiding any responsibility for anything?

CS: A writer can never avoid his responsibilities. How could he? He is always present in, and committed to and by everything he writes.

ACP: The feeling of vertigo you mentioned makes me think of the effects of the mise en abyme, for example the feeling the reader gets at the beginning of The Georgics, when confronted by the ironic smile of the man who is being shown the door and who seems to know something that the reader will never know: the contents of the letter the seated man is reading.

CS: That’s it. Actually, it is the General reading the letter telling of the execution of his brother, but it is not stated in the text.

ACP: Yes, the reader will always be “outside,” and in any case, if he knew the identities of the persons represented and the contents of the letter, the whole allegory of representation would collapse. How soon, during the composition of the novel, did you write those introductory pages?

CS: Quite early on, after writing the first fragmentary accounts of the General’s campaigns.

ACP: If the two characters in the drawing are never identified, it is because they ask fundamental questions about representation and fiction. . .

CS: The point is, as with parody and irony, to “distance” the fiction.

ACP: So the confusion of identities we spoke of a moment ago does not correspond to any deliberate strategy, but to a feeling of fundamental uncertainty. . .

CS: I do not set out with any “demonstrative strategy,” deliberate or otherwise. I do not even know, when beginning a novel, what is going to be said (I stress the passive here). I adopt completely Paul Valery’s declaration: “If, therefore, I am asked; if people are anxious to know (as it happens, very anxious to know) what I meant in such and such a poem, I reply that I did not intend to say anything, but that I intended to make something, and that it was the intention to make something which was responsible for what I said4“.

ACP: Is this also the case when you go back over your own past and use autobiographical material in your novels?

CS: Writing is never a “descent into the past,” but an exploration of its own present. On this point I have recalled Stendhal, trying in Vie de Hen Brulard, to describe the passage over the Great St. Bernard Pass with the Imperial Army, bound for Italy, and his sudden realization that he is busy describing an engraving representing this event, an engraving which he has seen subsequently and which, he says, “has taken the place of the reality5“. And if he had reflected further, he would have understood that his description (which does not even fill a page) is far from accounting fully for the engraving in which one can imagine that there must have been represented a multitude of characters and objects (soldiers, horses, guns, wagons, glaciers, rocks, etc.) whose enumeration alone (let alone their description) would have required several pages—so that what Stendhal was describing was again something which, at the time when he was describing it, had taken the place of the engraving. Any “realist” project or attempt at truthful rendering (autobiographical or otherwise) is hopeless. One can never tell everything, just as one can never tell everything at once. All writing (like all painting) is firstly the result of a choice, then of an ordering process, a selection of priorities (therefore involving eliminations and deformations)- without mentioning the weight of unforeseen meanings that words bear with them in their connotations and the relationships language establishes by means of its “figures” (tropes, metaphors, metonymies).

ACP: William Burroughs, writing about Kerouac, went as far as to say, “Kerouac and I are not real at all. The only real thing about a writer is what he has written, and not his so-called life6“. What do you think of this observation?

CS: I leave to scientists and philosophers the task of defining “reality.” They appear to have some difficulty doing it. To come back to the written (or painted) work, it seems to me to be a reality in itself, and to that extent, to be a part of reality as such.

ACP: Perhaps we could talk a little more about The Georgics now. At what point, for example, did you decide to include in it your “corrected” version of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia? Was it something you had wanted to do for some time, or something dictated by the work in hand?

CS: When I conceived the (very vague) project of The Georgics, I was already thinking of including in it a “rewriting” of Homage to Catalonia, which seemed to me (and still seems to me) to strangely reduplicate the story of L.S.M., because of its themes (revolution and war). It does not appear to have been noticed how much the two adventures (of L.S.M. and 0.) in the midst of tumultuous periods of history, presented similarities, up to and including the decision, taken by both L.S.M. and 0., to go back and fight in spite of everything, after the collapse of their illusions.

ACP: Some critics think that the fourth part of The Georgics breaks the aesthetic unity of the novel, above all to the extent that you seem there to become engaged in a political and historical polemic against another writer—who cannot make any reply to you—using the implicit “I” of the author which elsewhere in the text is distanced by the use of the third person (e.g., when we read about “the cavalryman,” or the future novelist addressed in the second person by Charles). Why did you intervene in this way?

CS: I have a rule about never getting involved in polemics with critics. However, since it is you who are asking the question, I am for once going to do violence to this principle.

Briefly, I shall say to you that I am to some extent in agreement, on a literary level: the chapter dealing with O. includes, in my judgment, about ten pages too many for the general balance of the work.

On the other levels (moral and political), I find it rather amusing to discover that Orwell plays the same rather comic role of idolized hero-figure for a certain section of the English intelligentsia as Malraux did in France.

Quite obviously (as is in any case generally the custom) the critics in question did not read The Georgics properly or even (as is also the custom) did not read it at all, as one can realize straight away from the reproach of having used “I” in it, which never occurs.

There is an element of fellow-feeling in my response to Orwell’s personality, and I have a profound admiration for his personal courage. I would unfortunately not be inclined to go so far regarding his intellectual courage and honesty. Without making too much of it, and mentioning only for the record his idyllic description of Barcelona in November 1936, which is little more than a comic tourist guide, I should point out to these same critics that Homage to Catalonia is a work (or rather a piece of special pleading on his own behalf) which is faked from the very first sentence: “In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia,” etc7. If these critics find, after analyzing it, that this sentence is innocent (what it says, and above all what it carefully omits to say) it is because they are singularly ignorant of the political circumstances in Barcelona at that time, and, in general, of the circumstances in revolutionary movements in Europe at that same period. I shall restrict myself to informing them that one did not just wander casually into Republican Spain at that time, and that if there did exist in Barcelona something called the “Lenin Barracks” (or rather a “Cuartel Lenin”), there was also, not far away, a “Cuartel Karl Marx,” and another invoking the name of Bakunin. The respective occupants of these various barracks considered each other to be “counter-revolutionaries” and thought only of the best way of eliminating them (as happened in May 1937 to the benefit of the Stalinists) . To give an idea of the idyllic proletarian unanimity which then reigned in Barcelona, it should be recalled that the occupants of the Cuartel Karl Marx called the occupants of the Cuartel Lenin “hitlero-trotskyites.” Finally, it was not “by chance” that a foreigner made for one of these cuartels rather than another: thus it was because I had a communist party membership card in my pocket at that period (September 1936) that I went straight to the Hotel Colon, which was then the headquarters of the P.S.U.C. All these things (including the motives which led him to the Cuartel Lenin) are carefully suppressed by Orwell, until he gets to the account of the May insurrection, about which the uninformed reader will understand very little (however, I have been told that the commentaries on the political situation, which in the French edition are grouped together in an appendix, are spread throughout the text in the original edition: what is more, I did not call my character “Orwell,” but “0.”).

To conclude, may I be permitted to suggest to the English intelligentsia (and to its French counterpart likewise) that the time has perhaps come to get rid of a certain kind of crude, naive, and stereotyped imagery (“imagerie d’Epinal”) together with a certain holier-than-thou attitude which, already disastrous enough in literature (as Andre Gide said, “You cannot make good literature out of good opinions8“, is not proving much more positive in the world of politics.

ACP: Is that a reference to recent events—in Lebanon, for example?

CS: Well, what do you think of the collective hysteria and the whining and sniveling which has taken hold of the whole of the French press since the Beirut affair? Even Le Monde spoke of a “cowardly attack against our soldiers while they were asleep”(!!!). That’s another example of what the holier-than-thou attitude leads to. Words seem to have lost their meaning. Yet they speak for themselves: as soon as you send soldiers somewhere (a “force” of men as we say), you are having recourse to force (intimidation, or some other kind of force) and in that case you should not be surprised if the other side uses it as well. It was therefore an attack (against armed soldiers) and not a “terrorist outrage.” What is more, it is an elementary feature of tactics to surprise the enemy (all manuals of military strategy teach this), and the best surprise of all is to attack while the enemy is sleeping. And finally, I do not find it “cowardly” to drive a truck full of explosives and blow yourself up with it; on the contrary, I find it supremely courageous9. Decidedly, I must be a bad Frenchman. . .

ACP: Do you think that it is necessary to have experience of violence, in war for example, to have an accurate vision of the human condition?

CS: Alas yes. Or at least to have experienced one of those situations (like prison for Dostoevsky, or being in a prison camp) where human nature is revealed in all its primitive brutality. But there are equivalents: extreme poverty, for example.

ACP: Going back to your criticisms of Orwell, did you want to show, by “rewriting” his account, something more general: that all narratives, whether “historical” or “autobiographical,” end up as forms of fiction? Or was it to show up the inevitably relative and subjective character of the kind of “truth” presupposed by historical narrative as a linguistic and cultural institution?

CS: As I said, I did not so much evoke O.’s Spanish adventure, in the novel, in order to criticize it, as to put it in parallel with the experiences of L.S.M.

ACP: In saying that in The Georgics you had “put everything in question10”, were you alluding to the influence that a certain kind of criticism, let’s say of a “Formalist” kind, is said to have had upon your writing between about 1969 and 1975? Where do you stand at present with regard to the notions that were fashionable then, such as textual “production,” “self-reflective” writing, etc.?

CS: As I had occasion to say a little more than a year ago in New York, I have been a sort of “Monsieur Jourdain” of the New Novel. As for the notion of textual “production,” I am more attached to it than ever, but not at all in a Roussellian perspective, not a “production” where the whole text is derived from its own elements.

ACP: But you still make use of what could be called “objets trouves”. . .

CS: Yes indeed! Histoire was composed like a collage of post cards, and in The Georgics there are also a multitude of collages made up from the unaltered raw material of documents which are copied word for word.

ACP: What factors made you decide to use your ancestor’s papers in order to produce a novel from them?

CS: It was because there seemed to me to be “writing matter” there.

ACP: Do you think it important for a novelist to establish a genealogy for his characters, whether real or fictional, or a series of historical relays, from father to son?

CS: No.

ACP: But I gather that in the novel you are now writing, you have gone back to some of the scenes in your first novel Le Tricheur (The Cheat11) where the central character recalls being taken, as a boy, to the cemeteries of World War I battlefields, as his mother searches for her husband’s grave. . .

CS: Those are quite simply my first memories. My parents came from Madagascar when I was barely one year old, and my father was killed almost immediately, during the second battle into which his regiment was sent, on 22 August 1914. It is not surprising that it marked me. But if I am now writing about my father’s death—it may seem shocking to some for me to put it this way—it is because the subject is a “stimulus” to me: it is “writing matter” again.

ACP: When your narrator in The Georgics lifts his hand from the page and stops writing (47), doubting the possibility of communicating to a reader what it feels like to be under enemy fire- unless, as he says, the reader has experienced something similar—are you expressing there a doubt concerning that particular experience, or a more radical doubt over the relationship between what is lived and what is written?

CS: A doubt over the relationship between what is lived and what is written. In The Idiot, Dostoevsky says that the experience of a man who has thought for twenty minutes that he was going to be shot is uncommunicable.

ACP: I wonder if “experience,” in the sense of states of mind, is ever “communicable”: Merleau Ponty wrote that it was “inevitable that consciousness be mystified, inverted, indirect: its principle is to see things round the other way; its principle is not to know the nature of Being, and to prefer the object12”.

CS: We would have to see the context of that remark, and what Merleau-Ponty meant by “Being.” For me, there is no object without a subject. As for the “unknowable,” we are, and always will be, grappling with it.

ACP: It has been claimed that in The Georgics “Nature” was “the main character13”. As I see it, History has the principal role, especially since it is regularly personified. But History is defined in so many ways in the novel, in contradictory ways even, that one might be tempted to see in it a figure standing for the Absurd. Is History for you the repetition—in the life of every individual—of certain experiences which could be seen as so many “rites of passage”?

CS: Why do people always want to make what is “contradictory” into the same thing as “the Absurd”? Is it not rather absurd to consider the world and human beings who are in their very essence made up of contradictions, as “absurd”? Is that not to fail to see that the very salt of the earth comes out of conflicts between contradictions?

ACP: If History is characterized by repetition, do you see this as tragic, or as farcical—in the way Marx described certain historical cycles?

CS: It seems to me that there is never any “repetition,” but rather that History unfolds like a spiral whose definition is a curve rising progressively as it winds itself round a cylinder and which always passes over the same generating lines but with a greater or lesser degree of slippage. As for considering these “repetitions” (I use the word for the sake of convenience) as farcical, that is equivalent to forgetting that they take place amidst blood and tears. But of course one can laugh at everything—if one is a philosopher.

ACP: I was thinking, amongst other things, of the feeling of political impotence which is characteristic of the present period.

CS: Yes, the period of great political figures is over; there are just administrators now. We are at the end of an epoch.

ACP: May I ask you, in conclusion, what you think of the following remark by Blanchot: “The writer never reads his work. It is, for him, unreadable, a secret before which he cannot dwell14”?

CS: It is a perfect image of the position of the writer in relation to his work. The expression “before” appears particularly pertinent. He finds himself indeed always “behind” (I have myself compared the work of the writer to that of an artisan embossing copper or bronze, beating it out from behind, condemned to never being able to contemplate the result from the other side).

November 1983, and June 1984
INTERVIEWER/TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

1 In an inter-view with Alastair Duncan, forthcoming in Claude Simon: New Directions (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press).

2 Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1961.

3 As note 1.

4 Paul Valery, “Au sujet du Cimetiere marin” in Variete III (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1936), 68. My translation.

5 Claude Simon, quoting the passage in question from memory, has in fact used here the phrase which Stendhal underlines in relation to subsequent accounts of the refuge where he remembers only that he drank some wine, other descriptions of the interior of the refuge having “taken the place of the reality” (“pris la place de la realite). The passage concerning the engraving runs as follows:

“For example I can see very clearly the descent. But I do not want to hide the fact that five or six years afterwards I saw an engraving of it which I found resembled it very closely, and my memory of the descent is now only the engraving.”

“That is the danger of buying engravings of the beautiful scenes one sees on one’s travels. Soon the engraving shapes the whole memory, and destroys the real memory.”

Stendhal, Vie de Henry Brulard, in Oeuvres intimes (Paris: Editions de la Pleiade, Gallimard, 1955), 378. My translation.

6 William S. Burroughs, “Creative Reading,” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 3, no. 2 (1983):6.

7 George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (London: Penguin Books, 1962), 7. It is perhaps worth noting here that Orwell’s biographer, Bernard Crick, also doubts the authenticity of many sections of Orwell’s “autobiographical” works, including parts of Homage to Catalonia, and is also skeptical as to whether he ever witnessed a hanging or shot an elephant. On the other hand, Crick considers the short stories and the invented or embroidered parts of other works as superb pieces of fictional writing (see Bernard Crick, George Orwell: A Life [London: Secker and Warburg, 1980]). Crick expressed the views outlined above in a BBC radio broadcast on 29 June 1984.

8 “On ne fait pas de bonne litterature avec de bons sentiments.”

9 Claude Simon would like it to be stressed that he is commenting here, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks upon the French and American contingents in Lebanon (Autumn 1983), upon self-righteous attitudes among politicians and the media, and is not in any way impugning the honor of the victims.

10 In a conversation reported by Stuart Sykes, prior to the novel’s publication.

11 Claude Simon, Le Tricheur (Paris: Editions du Sagittaire, 1945). The novel has never been reprinted and is not translated into English.

12 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le visible et l’invisible (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1964), 302. My translation.

13 In the priere d’inserer to Les Georgiques, signed by Jerome Lindon.

14 Maurice Blanchot, L’Espace litteraire (Paris: Editions Gallimard, Coll. “Idees,” 1955), 13. My translation.

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