My series of interviews with Oulipian writers closes with Hervé Le Tellier. In these interviews I was especially interested in two topics: materiality and translation. What strikes me now, after going again through the six films I shot, is how diverse the approach of the writers are, something I didn’t anticipate. I believe I was expecting them to share the same views on these subjects and that the Oulipian philosophy or method would have provided them with a common set of believes.
The interview with Hervé Le Tellier focusses on his book Electrico W which is the one I chose to work on for my exhibition at UCL. Hervé explains that he decided to locate the story in a country, Portugal, because of its language. Not because of the richness of it but because of what it lacks of: there is no W letter in Portuguese. The book is a tribute to, and one can also say that it takes inspiration from, in the Oulipian manner, Perec’s own novel entitled W, or the Memory of Childhood. It is especially the first sentence that Hervé Le Tellier based his book on: “I have no childhood memories”. Both Ws are books on what is missing.
I found properly fascinating to hear Hervé Le Tellier describe how he combined this with the material structure of the letter and played with a series of associations: the railway tracks, the parallel lines …On the subject of translation, Hervé Le Tellier had a lot to say as his books have been translated to several languages and, what was extremely interesting for me, in languages using alphabets than the Roman one. He especially stresses the importance of genres and the difficulties posed by poetry. The latter is for him where the strong link between language and the author’s psyche shows with most clarity. He gives here his own interpretation of the concept of “the author’s private language” or even style and insists on the research for authenticity as a key imperative when writing.
Many thanks to Prof. Timothy Mathews for his English version of Hervé Le Tellier’s interview. I also want to thank Mirsad Hajder for the cinematography.