Michel Vachey | Short Texts

Opening

Craven came up past the Achilles statue in the thin summer rain. It was only just after lighting-up time, but already the cars were lined up all the way to the Marble Arch, and the sharp acquisitive faces peered out ready for a good time with anything possible which came along. Craven went bitterly by with the collar of his mackintosh tight round his throat: it was one of his bad days. —Graham Greene, “A Little Place Off the Edgware Road”

Perfect opening, impossible to improve. One would like to linger there, forever in the beginning. Likely influence of film, the eternity of the moment captured by technique, with art, the illusion and reality of everyday life, the flowing account of the fatal. Everything is there, everything there will be. A kind of menacing exhilaration that leaves off the background of a professional storyteller, who leads you among cars to the Marble Arch. Not the slightest nausea, only bitterness. Certainly everything is crafted, arranged, shown more than implied. So we like or not, we enter or not, we accept or not this ordinary but very able descriptive and psychological equivalence; we enjoy the spell or we stanch it. It all depends on the personal talent for play, literary judgments, social choices, one’s own fear and frivolousness, etc. The mackintosh, all the same, a lost era. But dating dates also; and besides, what clothing isn’t custom? Not only did I turn up my collar but I fastened it (round my throat, to be exact). It’s one of my bad days. Someday I’ll have to read The Odyssey, maybe first The Trojan War, for starters, to see Achilles in action. A dictionary entry is soon forgotten. What the heck’s this statue doing here? I like seeing it, as I do the cars lined up along the way, thinking of nothing except that one day the people driving will be, sans statue, as little recognized as mythological heroes but available to look up in records (films, magazines, etc.), or rather digitally preserved.
My name is Craven, I do not really understand why I wander along this street (avenue?) but this very non-understanding is exciting; I’m only my own prey and that of a “shadow” peered out of by sharp acquisitive faces, not that of the sociologist and the historian who have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY regarding the variety of openings. Of course we don’t encounter any individual without type and vice versa, which is to say Craven is wedged into at least two scenarios (historical, literary . . . ), but the sociologist, let’s say, is also an individual, and maybe a character, and someone who knows one more than the other.
I imagine Craven is aware he’s in the crosshairs and that he fully appreciates, say, the anxiety of the sociologist on the lookout for someone—anyone—halfway decent. How to transform an awful time into a good one? Obviously, the answers differ, as many as there are people; we’re also entitled to shrug at this sort of question. Craven possessed vague notions of the human sciences vaguely updated by his reading of newspapers, but his thoughts were on something quite different, or rather on nothing more precise than the appearance of women, an undetermined promise beyond his former bitterness. No one would know how this ray of sunshine felt to him, although now everyone can read the preceding statement, each also reading it in their own way, without evading the use of a super-stereotype of a super type no doubt, proof there’s no escaping it, not in this way, since this way or that there’s always at least one. Still, the artist has employed certain details and not others; without him Craven would never have come up past the statue of Achilles; in Achilles’ day there would have been no author of like genre, no opening, no Craven. But another genre, etc. So I prefer to think I’m going out in the thin summer rain hardly aware of the streetlights, because for me it’s afternoon. This thin summer rain—in a minute I’ll put the matter to Craven.

 

A Trap

Whoever endeavors to write seeks to dismantle a trap. A trap can be inadvertent—this haze-sketch of real things and events that have happened to him so far. The everyman (we’ll call thus one for whom an imperative passion, absurd or time-marked, does not impel him to blacken paper as if his life’s at stake) will end up instinctively knowing the beautiful people, the pleasant streets, the best gestures and the opportune times; he will smile to avoid the insolvable question, will link the spirit of the stairway to the water of his mill, for personal reasons change sidewalks, sidestep some predicaments, futilely manifest stratagems, learn callousness and laughter, give to his middling shames the convivial or fateful name that erases all suspicion. The everyman, loser or fighter, takes life as it comes; even if he doesn’t conceive any kind of project he believes in those of others, in their tying of loose ends. To him there exist positions good or bad, states of the world, climates, policies, systems, etc.—all this is plain. The mention of traps evokes an ambush, or a rat; no doubt he appreciates the image, its realism giving weight to the
term.
Naturally, anyone writing also acts like a regular person, but it’s no longer enough for him to change sidewalks, and he knows that it will not be enough to change cities, or even continents, although a continent can help, simultaneously as land and as image. Whoever writes walks and no longer walks in the street where you see him walking. He walks at the same time in the street and in the image of the street; between this street and yours, he creates himself a land and a mind, he invents this street within this street, next to this street, or in front of this street, a street that perhaps later you will be forced to walk down “in your turn” without suspecting it was he who laid it for his own use, to escape from you. Whoever writes doesn’t deem himself an architect, even less a town planner, he flees, he has no wish to destroy, he means to slide the loose earth in others’ heads. Whoever writes flees from writers, won’t stop at himself anymore; the one who writes grows tireless because he’s thrown himself out. Whoever writes ceases to wish to reform and to fear, he moves the surface landmarks of his lungs. Without hate, whoever writes sees you in the night of clear days, can no longer tell day from night and yet continues to see night in broad daylight, like you enjoys the nighttime, but his own comings and goings are no longer close, he roams somewhere else here in his streets, in the absolute-relative of his streets, which have incidentally become yours. Never again will he borrow the same cars—so obsolete, so real because obsolete, and yet neither more nor less . . . interesting than what, as a matter of urgency, he writes. Whoever writes has no pressing matters, all your own matters having become so much his; whoever writes only writes for you that’s watching him write, because he does not write, any more than you who unwittingly make his life hopeless—you everyday fate, you the Trap you do not even lay. You who without knowing it have condemned him to write. Whoever writes knows he’s an accidental victim, unassigned. His writing not murder’s ventriloquist anymore. Whoever writes no longer weighs on the terror and the timesheet. No longer measures up to pathetic, mathematical limits, to ruined big names in delight and fiascos. Whoever writes turns invisible yet doesn’t vanish, turns everyman to make human your deaf spider legs.

 

Please Insert

The Error, on its padded tires or at Mach I, laden with stray lyricism, throws into a fit the one who doesn’t like being given, at his own expense, the wrong change. Error is peculiar to man. Needless to say. Like canned beer. When you don’t know math, you can always distinguish yourself in error metaphysics. Actually, it’s hard for me to see what Error is (eRROR?). Because I see poorly, more and more poorly, what Being is, or History, or—it doesn’t matter. Useless words. Cultural redundancy. Announcements of allegories. Certainly, the mistake . . . There’s no doubt, we make mistakes . . . The mistake . . . the truth . . . Lucky error versus pseudo-truth . . . Which perhaps means the error in question wasn’t an error (as for pseudo-truths, they aren’t necessarily errors!). Poetry . . . error . . . Poetry plays the role of a signal error (in the cybernetic sense) but it’s also a signal of truth (in the highest sense . . . and the most banal). The poet, who understands nothing, who will never understand anything (which, indeed, is why he writes), in his heroic idiot’s questioning provides a personal answer, that is to say erroneous (neither practical truth nor mystical truth, etc.—yet a link to the political exceedingly hard to parse) . . . and absolutely true. Poetry then appears to be a SECOND-DEGREE ERROR.

The error (the E….?) . . . By making a little effort, it’s possible to say smart things. But everyone is smart. You’ve read (or haven’t read) as well (as badly) as I Hegel,,,.,.,.,.,.,.,Derrida, or—we can have fun combining their sentences (paraphrased or not) in different ways, or replacing one word with another (with its antonym for instance—guaranteed effect). Not to mention analogy’s potential. And you progress into a sort of Rousselian device in which breaches, malapropisms, erasures, contrasts, shouts and shots, silences—are dully anticipated.
PREDICTABLE.
ASAP please make a mistake.

We’ll walk afoot awhile, and ease our legs” —Shakespeare

 

(Untitled)

As I approached the earthen mound, its contours grew sharper. At first glance, the inordinately dramatic image of large bird torn out from the mud; suggestion—silhouette of reddish acre. Then I observed leaden volutes pounding cymbals, a green-pink candy wrapper, fragments of a loudspeaker, a sheet of kraft paper (vague clayey guts digesting a pattern that seemed familiar). Three feet from the pile, a purple piece of candy had rolled away sans wrapper. Then, I had the absurd feeling, very stupid and absurd I know, that candy and earthen mound faced off. The bare candy, ready to dodge, able to leap. While the mass watched its comical prey m-o-u-t-h w-a-t-e-r-i-n-g. As this sort of impression isn’t sustainable for long, I continued my walk. Nevertheless, I returned to the candy. I crushed it. Making a sugary sound I never did much like.

ASYMPTOTE

 

 

Orange

Air France stewardesses are in danger

carmine strokes the dried blood near some petals slams into the sink of the crime now softly blazes on crimson curtains

pink only belongs to pink roses

why does orange gall us, revolt us, sicken our stomachs and our hearts to the point of despairing of a varnished and vanquished rage?

color that, henceforth, symbolizes most of all chemistry, which is the plastic reality of modern life beyond any philosophical and political concern, the obsessively familiar brand of industry reducible to its emergence without art, wholly practical and for the sale

what person, without ridicule, without incurring scorn for emergency ideologies, could have denounced as dreadful this orange invasion, the objective obscenity of an expansion?

orange, all the pure rising up of a techno-chemistry, the pure acquiescence to pure product, the terror that no longer terrorizes, the mild death in its utensiled forms and its public renderings, the lawful homogenization of looks

yet some flowers, some marvelous animals are orange, but their living and integral beauty does not decompose

even before the modern-day orange invasion, people here did not commonly wear orange

are there colors that aren’t easily transferred, that aren’t well received?

yes, depending on the place and the people, the era

some colors also need, much more so than others, a means of bearing them (regardless of the rituals that have their grace, or a formalism that transforms everything)

tender purple, ecclesial, so ugly or kitsch when painted on the front of a shop, when setting off inelegance, so drab or depressing on old women’s clothes

purple, mauve, you succeed at scaring painters

between dark red and orange, vermilion, an intermediate red-yellow (one thinks less of yellow than of the nauseating proximity of orange), a red truly red, real and convincing, without luster, visible like anything is visible, life that throws off abomination and joy

vermilion is there, without proof or proving, dropped down from flowers and from fire, on the verge of orange, like an irritation to overcome, a slippage to prevent—in short, the opposite of temptation

here, orange denotes the chromatic view of “shared” murder, the absence of community, its brute presence, its thickest indifference, one of those fundamental omissions that has no name or unfortunately fortunately, political interest.
Fire-starter of the Méharis [1]

30 08 83

[1] Camel corps whose members ride méhari, a type of dromedary used for patrols and transport.

 

 

SOUTH 2

Autofascination of the artist for his work, spirited scatology.

and this southern wind stirred up all the foul smells of ravaged gardens

Indifferent beauty. Calm. Where all the furies are calmed.

Sounds reached here, optified, paper.

Perplexum[1] mobile. The eye gets lost in the distance, nose to the wall.

Thought is fresh. Like the walls.

Between subversion and immersion. Nothing and nothing.

Sun of the mathematical lizard. Collusion of bounds and spaces.

Venetian stocks, all the world’s cultures, or flavors, chemistries, blinds. Small Puerto Rican–inflected French villages,
half-summers of fancy. Inertion.
Sudden arbitrary union of debris-turned-agents.
But the debris is not debris, the whole city is ruin and invention. Even destroyed.

24 11 80

[1] Latin word meaning thicket.

LIT MAGAZINE

 

 

 

Playfulness, or The Waste Land

To begin with, for example, several players on a soccer field or on an empty lot—the distinction isn’t essential since it’s the game that marks off the field, since to be a player it’s enough for one to play. But it’s not enough to somewhat know how to play; sometimes, in fact, it seems the vagueness of boundary lines and the nonstandard number of players make them all the more exacting in technique and in fairness. The game’s irregularity, its groundlessness exalt the unseen principle, laughter puncturing the outer drama and restoring the point of honor. Terrible joy in several men kicking a ball in the middle of a lot by the edge of a road, or on a soccer field without any spectators.

Is it soccer? Certainly, because soccer is being played there, even with a rubber ball—a hollow, elastic sphere that occasionally bounces too far, in effect escaping the playing zone. In this case the closest player goes after it—the implicit, undisputed law of the game; it would take an especially and routinely clumsy player for another player to transgress it because of his degree of bad mood. Moreover, regardless of the game, one notes that in general those playing are at the same level, all having the same concept of the game, and, in the case of those I’m focused on, are the same age. Whatever their age, I notice—strange impression—persons of uncertain age.

 

None of these aspects, perhaps, define a unique situation, one that distinguishes these sports amateurs from real players in an actual match, except for one major detail: they are their own audience and their own referees. Everything changes the moment the ball is kicked far enough, shooting down an embankment, rolling along a path only to come to a stop three feet before a rushing pedestrian or random walker upon which, at that moment, the stares of a dozen men converge. The person isn’t playing and yet now, neither is he outside the game—he’s needed to facilitate it, to return the ball. If he doesn’t act accordingly, it would be hard to call him a bad player, since he isn’t a player. If things are to remain civil, let the players begin, in the depths of their eyes this death glint goes out—the one that separates the game from all else and that chooses a Ballboy. At this point a Gang of Men eye One Man who seems bound to respond to their power and his connivance; a sort of communal, exceedingly bestial and moral intelligence is practiced here, the credibility of the world and the cosmic chaos at stake. Evidently, every man deserving of the word returns the soccer ball without delay, without seeing the abject fraternity of the blackmail. It’s simply a gesture to fulfill, a gesture that’s nonbinding, the gesture the nonplayer makes in order for the game to continue—that of the others as well as his own, upon which nothing is asked. Outside the game, the game becomes unplayable, too much; only playable games are played well, which is why the most exciting games, like every game and every activity that’s random, are to some extent inherently tedious.

 

In street slang, to play it up means (or sometimes meant) to play hard at it, to act as though you’re somewhat better than you are, to take on a role that’s beyond you, or to simply give the impression that you think you’re better than others. Sometimes this is the clear effect of an accusation meant to humiliate, to dissuade one from wanting to be more or other (in such a frame of mind, these come to the same thing). In one stroke someone’s ascribing to you that which you’re being denied, giving you a warning: you are like us, exactly like us, and you will be less if you try to be more, if you so much as appear to in our eyes. Sometimes it’s enough to live in a different neighborhood, to have a certain way of talking or pair of shoes. Showing off is too indulgent, too complicit in the sham, or too knowing of the illusion. To play it up is to put on airs in a manner intolerable for those who note or speak on it; there’s always provocation and menace while hardly comprehending its source. Inevitably, one must play it up in order to accuse someone else of playing it up—playing at what, if not at life and death. The announcement that someone’s playing it up might possibly precede a good thrashing.

 

Nothing of the sort with the few soccer players; the “it” in “play it up” is a game as well as its field, their common stake. And when, on its path, the ball rolls toward the feet of the walker, in a sense the “it” rolls with it. I could never return a ball, neither by foot nor by hand. I know this look of scorn in the more able player, the sarcasm toward any show of readiness. One time I started to limp; this craven trick exempted me from returning the ball, but will I repeat such an act again? I’d watch the all-important ball as if it were a planet loosed of my own mad rebellion; I’d feel several eyes, incredulous as I wavered. (We can make up conversations more or less truthful or likely.

—You want some help?

—Hey, dickhead . . .

—Please, you couldn’t . . . ?

—We know you’re not a slave but . . .

—Say, sir, if you’re a good sport . . . ?

—You want a fuck in the ass or something?) I’d study a thin, discrete light—fearsome, a warm threat, an atmospheric shame filled with tenderness. (How I’d recall the wonderful exhaustions following a game, when Bill would shuttle the team thirty miles.)

 

But no, contempt has no scorn, terror merely makes way for calmness, the masses oppress so as to lose themselves in their communal allegiance, you must return the ball any which way without a thought; clumsiness constitutes an added guarantee of belonging and therefore also of freedom. You move on to rejoin your games or end up nowhere: it’s the equivalent of the ball’s point of view. Moreover, not to execute a simple gesture others expect of you is not only to show misunderstanding and be incomprehensible but also to create an absurd difficulty, ultimately disqualifying yourself from manhood. It is in this game of intergame, in the need of the discretionary and the unwritten, unspoken decision that a man is recognized.

 

I could quip: “It’s lovely, your ball,” and dash off, or: “I’ll get my sneakers dirty,” leaving them to their childishly murderous speculations on my merriment, on the extent of my idiocy. Dubious inanity in these purely formal challenges, anticonformist demagoguery. Bizarrely, I was also afraid of hurting them, of undermining a principle worse than that of a game that’s still more or less visible or invocable: the bad character, the black heart risked waking as a third-rate philosopher. And wisdom, cowardice, daring . . . to be found in resisting or in obeying? To scorn and distrust or rather . . . ? Something genuinely revolting involved in this alternative, in the waiting for others or in my hesitation (and still I hesitate to underline one of the two final words).

 

The time (the last?) when I saw very quickly there was nothing to be done, I shot. All of spring’s excruciating beauty lasting mere seconds. Or fall’s.

 

 

Amanhecer [1]

He’d advance, believe he advanced; certainly he’d walk along this beachfront or skirt this mythical town, where he enjoyed himself indefinitely, there shortly before noon without hurrying, people in swimsuits playing ball on the pebbly beach on Christmas Eve—what staggering serenity (what force); he possessed the reason of all reasons, the physical joy of sinking, lovely vibrant orange, immortal dye, Lobaria pulmonaria.[2] To put it mildly, the sea air was doing him good. He knew he’d lose, that he was about to lose, and the certainty of “running toward his fate” sapped the gall of his own obstinacy. Beauty, putrefaction only a question of intervals, of happy or unlucky mishaps; now useless to imagine the dull tide, the foul depths beneath his nibbled legs; no, no illusion reigned but things, people would more or less linger on, quicker or slower, managing well or not so well, knowing or not how to come to a decision, how to take a shortcut. To find the oblique or the thread, or the audacity, or the understanding of death; for in fact, what counted was the existence of pleasure in the crowning gesture, in the drawn design, and now this design, the landscape itself, might have been someone’s life, an art object—strictly speaking a landscape though able to mean anything outside others’ ken, beyond humiliation. His chest is hollow, carved out of myriad sapphire geodes on which blackened the yellow of marigolds, spreading into a field of jennet, a tranquil hive, some women coming toward him, surprised in extremis by his burning gaze—distant, how very distant! and hard like pillars of lava—frightened, frightful. People would know. And even that would no longer matter. They know those films showing the sped-up life of a flower from the bud’s formation to the drop of faded petals, shriveling up, all in a few seconds. How many hours for a man or woman’s life? It’s said that the flower, so exquisite, is already a death (botanically speaking, though who speaks botanically?—neither humans nor plants). So where’s the tragedy, the catastrophe? Where’s the great design, or what does it even become? Nothing. Or like now, the sea air, the ball players Lobaria pulmonaria backing the air, sheer velocity of appearance and transformations, the certainty of the fall. Amanhecer. The titanic battle between sunrise and sunset resolved in waves and plumes, burnt oranges plunged in sapphire water, the breathing of an intrinsically guileful being, beguiling with the light that would have the last word, the last image—whatever that might be. With eyes half-closed, a woman admired his fine pullover sweater. In reality a sweater quite plain, flower to represent speed, you’d need several for a full biography; the one here, like so many others, the fine sweater, etc., becomes a human image—any form, whatever its source, as if already borrowed. She admired.

[1] Portuguese word for dawn.
[2] A lichen that grows in damp climates and, when boiled, produces an orange dye.

KENYON REVIEW

 

 

The Fifth Rupture Between Us, Before Assembling

Yes Claire I sense it too, this taste of chlorine in the bread, all the water of the trees, the heart’s light flutter after crunching the coffee bean atop a minaret of Chantilly cream. And you the speed, the stuffiness of the too-cramped train, poorly air-conditioned, the nauseating sugar of the swayed beer, their odor? Some dare not open their mouths, preferring to croak rather than to change cars, pointless. What they do not feel does not exist, or they decide to unexist so as to no longer feel, for sake of form, their own. If we are deceitful, phony, they are there to reform us, to advise us, we are their figments, their cowards or their crackpots, their X-phobics, their fugitives, the stock of their laughing. Do you detect Claire the scent of paper, this brainwashing in front of the TV’s vacuum tube? We are too careful, it’s clear, we are fussy, we do not abide the prescribing of medicines, the side effects have been specially devised for us, tailored to our social flaws; despite the varied benefits of any orderliness we provide they don’t much appreciate our “small deficiencies,” our funny emotions that can’t shake off the anesthesia. Yes the wind, sometimes the air, the tongue enormous or small, sharp, docile, my warped feeling, your back like a cat’s, mathematical inscrutability, the earth that turns, but yes that also acts on me, the drinking glass atop the stream. What do they know of the stirred, of remanences, of effluvium, of hesitancy, of the small and the ellipse? Are they pretending not to know, are they jealous, are we implicitly the race-object of their craft, their art? Their names fascinate us because they pin us down, it’s true that we fancy the inchoative and the waning, that with all our reptile senses we wallow in the aspectual, the coalescent, the labile and the fuliginous, the delicious fears at the edge of the world yet unborn, the divine freedom of a taste of the great and mad abyss. Yes Claire no need to insist, tell them nothing, we well know their expectations and their method, we’re not ourselves, we embody their vessels of hormones, of neurons, we’d be incredible, time has a scent like old cash. So then, who knows if the van was clean! There exists a great variety of invisible clubs, the members of which are unaware of each other, however joined by an indiscernible frailty, a wild perversion, a rite too close and likely to be perceived by themselves and by anyone else, appetence for the four-o’-clock penumbra; metabolic prescience of rain. And once more I forsake the one who nibbles a fresh meringue while hearing organ music a little slow and graceless, I prefer the small-time dreamer to the wearer of hidden jewels, to haters of green and of redheads, to the ardent fool for Yellow. I love you Claire because we can be ALONE TOGETHER without needing to decide when to talk. Yes Claire this vagabond who could be in his forties, a handsome face, who in truth is always searching for his words only to sometimes find the same ones again, the little blonde girl—when she is blonde—“golden tressed.” Genuine affection (which vaguely frightens smiling mothers), obsession, at the same time the trick. In private, he threatens the imagined aggressor of “such a pretty little girl.” Claire, do they force us to simulate what within us can least lie? No one, the vagabond becomes everyone by dint of will; how then does he manage to compose his voice? Claire, to be a vagabond one need only feel, from the outset our difference constitutes romanticism, our thought the hardest drug. No Claire, I’m not forgetting the Soft Things, the Sweet Things, the stroll along the river, the unhurried street, the pleasure of the newspaper and the eternity of the benches, the color of a film in that of dawn, the wine, the potted meat, the charm of new skirts, the jumping ropes before the row, the words that fly off walls. You know Claire the hards mixed loosely with the softs, that doesn’t give a full account, the timid that the fools take for fools carefully avoid the vapids that the pusillanimous believe are right, and while these menaces prowl about not having the slightest notion of risk, one sees the crowd of fickle scholars capable of anything except this kind of formal fidelity to the uncertain, the innate knowledge of Danger. Claire, I do not want chaos, nor am I innumerable, we live with THEM on some invisible continents, membranous, fluvial; indeed in links of light horrors, we weave through the daily emergence of conversations and designs the impalpable netting of incongruous similarities—our incomparable weaknesses. Claire, who is more alien to me than my child? After so many years I know with the same precision that my upper incisors are false. You see, I want joy, to follow or not follow is not a problem, but why must we dive in? We seek a form that perhaps we’ve found, without particular hope we are able to admire all the admirable forms, without reciprocation. Yes Claire I feel the infinite duplicity of men, the wholesomeness of women, the whole duplicity of the genre I practice. We have form sickness; do you see how we complicate, as if out of mere whim, their most famous tale? Claire, we are not outdone, let’s not give them any ground. Above all they begrudge our seeing without shame how they TOO give up on each other … quite simply, in order to breathe the air in their own way.

The time when friends no longer saw each other, no longer wrote, for whom the telephone could no longer function, restored to its original status as a mysterious new invention, to its intrusive capacity, its avid banality unleashing instrument and emotion—one inside the other—like night through faces. Nothing would be felt, nothing unusual, except at best a loss of poise feigning curiosity. They could grow in lores, in works and adventures, they no longer wanted to learn more about themselves, could no longer bedazzle themselves. In the kingdom of old lovers, frayed at every seam, something seems drab. Naturally we lost our way in life without losing touch with one another, one changed interest, drive, system or memory, one forever sublimated some childish vengeances more and more misplaced and effective—inane and as if still sublime—one zigzagged so as to better charge forth and see nothing, an eye opened in fits, at the wrong time besides, one became more and more profound or richly superficial, one emerged in the strange bosom of their own indifference, while pseudo-unsung, one basked in the joy of being so, strained by subtle aggressions; having wildly but methodically mistaken her white wolf for a tiger, he incomprehensibly reached the brink of metamorphosis, and he—rather tired, happy, nondescript, his mustache uncombed—the last to return from it. At one time or another it no doubt concerned a like individual … which each of them also knew. We were wary but we left time blank, we did not want to conclude, not for prudence’ sake, by way of these lamentable, willful silences (and this negative image of whatever “withdrawal” strikes those on the sidelines tortured by the comeback) but rather for a kind of fidelity that remained forever tacit. Time relieved you of the dear witnesses, you could see yourself as the loveliest of walk-ons, you unburdened yourself of them, you were the dream and the sting, the sweet look that scolds, a bare sky proceeding amongst the others. On a rainy day you take cover in a library, open a magazine at random, read with a negligence excused by the downpour, clouds emerge from the blue and fly past, you’re about to take off, yet you continue to read, in spite of yourself you follow the rails, the line, the cloud, the bland music and the bass pipe, the familiar unknown of the slopes, you saw the film the landscape three days ago three centuries, you see the new faces, you hear the same voice. Horrified, you then wonder if you’ve looked after yours. Words? Less the images than what they convey. Some ideas? No, fit for joes and janes. A manner then, the way, a kind of sort of manner of way … In short the style and tone, the imitable particularity, a rigorous lack of taste. The false innocence, the benign proposition, the naturalness of guileful references, ambition as modest as it is eccentric, made to pass unnoticed so its polish can be noted, art of tying the brief and the lengthy, the invisible to the invincible moving module, which gracefully drags along so as to realize its performance, a thin stroke and then a thick one (one is everywhere among peers, the non-arty excuses the thinker); fang gleaming, not too much, fur, purr, mechanics, the sweet talker gets a-rolling, eye slit, wink, reserve, the shadow of a feint, dodging calls for perfect parry, in the distance a soft bang, we’re in a jam already, held at gunpoint before arriving, we saw nothing, from the first lines we were aware. So melancholically we leaf through backwards, not for some confirmation of simple order but for fear of being right, through grim fortune, and the name is there. We are all alike or all namable, we’ll always be, we will never be the same. This is the fifth rupture, again the first.

CHICAGO REVIEW

 

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY S.C. DELANEY AND AGNÈS POTIER

ARTWORK BY MICHEL VACHEY

From “Limite Sanitaire” (1972)

 

Elusive often comes to mind when reading the short texts of Michel Vachey. Some seem more essay than fiction, while others soar off, their language pure poetry. And with a style by turns brilliantly vivid and veiled, they give readers’ minds space to roam, to link up details that spark stories—in effect, making us co-creators of their worlds. A founder of the group Textruction (whose artists, in the 1970s, “destroyed” text to assert its physicality), Vachey proposed a language freed of given meanings—an art taking aim at bourgeois messaging by worrying its power-rigged codes. Spurning traditional labels, Vachey merged genres and media as he broke down their elements and walls. His artwork—including paintings, collages, and custom-printed book art—estranges normative language and recasts it. Similarly, his multiform writing questions and exploits its own features. As we read, non-narrative elements like words’ forms, arrangements, and sounds add to the experience, coloring it as they give it more layers. Vachey’s methods bridge domains, they make us rethink our assumptions about reading, about how we parse and view, and, as their worlds shimmer in our mind’s eye, make us wonder at the language at work. – S. C. Delaney & Agnès Potier

 

 

Michel Vachey (1939–87) was an experimental French artist and author. He was a founder of the Textruction movement, which sought to blur the line between image and text, and his writing likewise probes expectations of genre. His work includes poetry, novels, collages, and hybrid story-essays.

 

Further reading:

QUI SE SOUVIENT DU POÈTE MICHEL VACHEY ? / Entretien avec L.L. de Mars

Michel Vachey: Un texte de présentation de son oeuvre — d’écrivain, de plasticien — nécessiterait bien plus q’un simple page web. C’est pourquoi l’équipe du Terrier prépare un dossier consacré à Michel Vachey, et collationne les tapuscrits épars et une grande quantité d’inédits.

 

Michel Vachey | Archipel plusieurs 1967-1987

“De son vivant, Michel Vachey (1939-1987) a occupé une place étrange, un peu fantomatique, dans le paysage littéraire français – ce qui tient autant au caractère expérimental de son œuvre qu’à l’intransigeance de sa démarche. Circulant entre les genres (de la poésie au roman, tour à tour mis en pièces), adepte du collage et du détournement, il a publié quelques livres au Mercure de France, puis chez Bourgois, collaboré à plusieurs revues majeures de l’époque, travaillé avec les peintres de Supports/Surfaces et s’est consacré dans les dernières années de sa vie à des travaux plastiques (estampages, caviardages, lacération de ses propres livres…) avant de se donner la mort en 1987. Malgré son amitié avec Michel Butor, Alain Borer, Pierre Pachet notamment, aucun de ses livres n’était plus disponible depuis des lustres. Le but d’Archipel plusieurs est de redonner à lire cet auteur inclassable, à travers un choix de textes et d’images qui mettent l’accent sur son travail poétique, y compris dans sa dimension visuelle.”

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