Truly, madly, obsessively

Listening to the wireless today I heard filmaker Abdel Kechiche (La graine et le mulet) talking about writing. He said he didn't know when he started but if there was a way of investigating they would probably find that he had written on the inside of his mother's womb.

Have a very merry christmas and a magical feeling of renewed possibility at midnight on the last day of the year.

"A nightingale who happened to have no home of his own decided that he would try to settle in a certain forest. The birds who were already there, however, had their own ideas about the matter, and soon drove him out.

One day, sitting disconsolately by the dusty road nearby, he was spied by another nightingale, who stopped to ask why he looked so forlorn.

"I tried," said the first bird, "to make my home among the other birds, but they pecked, and they mobbed me, and they flapped at me until I had to leave yonder forest."

"Perhaps you were boastful," said the other nightingale. "When in a similar situation, I sought a tree of my own, all the birds first collected and asked me what I was doing, why I was singing."

"Yes, those birds did the same with me," said the first nightingale.

"And what did you say?"

"I said: 'I am singing because I simply cannot help it.'"

"And then?"

"And then they attacked me, as I have described."

"Ah," said the other bird, "that was your mistake. They thought you had no self-control, that you might be mad and that you might try to make them behave in a similar manner. When I was asked the same question, I said: 'I am trying to please you with my song.' That was an aim which they could understand.""

as collected by Idries Shah


No kidding

I was driving my son and his friend somewhere in the car the other day when he said to his pal: de toute façon, c’est simple ; ma mère va se tuer si elle continue à fumer, et si elle arrête, c’est moi qu’elle va tuer”. (“my mother is going to kill herself if she keeps on smoking and if she stops, it’s me she’ll kill”.). The word nutshell comes to mind. Realising that there were in fact murderous pulsions at work, progress indeed, I decided I don't want to kill myself or my son or my analyst or any other significant Other. So the thought crosses my mind that I need an anonymous victim or scapegoat. Bouc émissaire in French.
The Chinese birth sign for my year is usually called the goat but the animal is more like a male sheep. They obviously have trouble
separating the sheep from the goats. Ram, in English, belier in French. She-goat would be Chèvre or Billy goat, Bouc (which sounds awfully like book). Last week, my friend Joëlle Sambi was presenting her novel called "Le monde est gueule de chèvre"

And imagine my surprise when I read Patricia’s blog post in which she relates that Dakar is being invaded by sheep!

I'm feeling sheepish, as well be hanged for a goat as a ram. A goat by any other name would smell … like a bouc-A of roses…



Left Marie-Claude’s party at 3 a.m. I had had a few glasses of wine at the party, and they gave out books of French drinking songs. Different tables picked different songs and to begin with there was more shouting of “what page number is it?!!!” than actual singing; then we all decided just to go for it and ended up vying with each other to be heard above the din. The evening finally disintegrated into a whirling round crossed arms jig-like dance till I got dizzy and had to stop. I was pleasantly disorientated till my car came into sight and I thought “oh no, not again”. I walked calmly towards the deer-related bump in the middle of the bonnet, not knowing which door to get in; I couldn’t remember which side of the car the steering wheel was on. I tried to imagine myself inside the car, turning to speak to the passenger to work out what side they would be on and reverse it but before I could come up with an answer the steering wheel came into sight. This is all Napoleon’s fault. I daresay I am not the only soul stranded in left-right ambivalence. I am glad I was not in Stockholm on Dagen H.

Lying in the bath I glanced at the steamed-up mirror and saw a face with spectacles. I’ve always been fascinated by anthropomorphism - "common examples of this tendency include naming cars or begging machines to work" - mainly by the seeing of faces or human shapes in everything from cloud formations to steam on a mirror.
As I looked at the face, which changed shape as I watched it, I felt frustrated at not being able to draw it. Maybe the fact that I can’t draw is what draws me to abstract art. I do occasionally play with lines that suggest human shapes but I often seem to take the standpoint of deliberately excluding any suggestion of representation.

As a student I worked in the laboratory of a cheese factory and I collected the used blotting paper below a piece of equipment because I was fascinated by the multicoloured blotches created by the chemicals. Rorschach.

By the way, the photos in the previous post were taken on the moors on the road to Muirkirk in Ayrshire. I have always felt the scenery was particularly desolate, and, again, it seems I am not alone in this: "With environs bleaker perhaps than those of any other town in
Scotland, Leadhills and Wanlockhead alone excepted”.


And its one, two three, what are we writing for?

Today’s headlines - "Another Eight killed and five wounded in US mall massacre" – "The woman described the killer's behaviour as bizarre, including his shooting the stuffing out of a teddy bear". – I wonder if it was the bear called Mohammed.

Connections. Last night I read a magical passage in a book by Nancy Huston, Le Journal de Création, which Françoise lent me. It was about being in the middle of writing a novel and on a kind of semantic plateau where everything makes sense, where every detail is highly significant. I immediately felt pangs of nostalgia for that feeling. I don’t have much time to write at the moment. Fascinated by the prose of an Anglophone woman who writes in French, I started to look for information and found an article about one of her books:

“focusing on language, especially bilingualism (broadly understood as the capacity to communicate in two languages) as a site where trauma is expressed and mediated.”

In a recent personal crisis I felt supported by my mother’s words which came to me in French. Apart from a few songs she learnt from the Free French soldiers stationed in her village during the war and the ability to order a café au lait and a croissant on her frequent trips to visit me in France, she does not actually speak French. Why, then, were the words that provided me with comfort in a foreign language?

“Ta force c’est dans ta capacité de travail”.

I remember the day she said this to me, in English of course. I do not remember the exact words. I mentioned this to my analyst and mentally pinned it on the wall inside my cave to take a closer look at sometime. It seems to me that it is a sign of something not being straightforward in my use of language or affect or emotion… my immediate impression was of a crossed wire or a snag in a circuit.

Also, when she said it, I was hurt. I did not want to be told I was a good pack horse, I wanted to be praised for my wit, intelligence, beauty or something else exceptionally meritorious. The same thing happened near the beginning of analysis when BM congratulated me on being a good translator and I felt crestfallen. What possible good could it be to anyone to be good at their job? I thought at the time. Feels like a million years ago…

Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder (SPD) is a developmental disorder that many experts believe is closely related to autism and Asperger's Syndrome. The name refers to the fact that people with SPD have special challenges with the semantic aspect of language (the meaning of what is being said) and the pragmatics of language (using language appropriately in social situations).