Hervé Le Tellier : Clip from the interview

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.

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Olivier Salon : Clip from the interview

When I went to interview Olivier Salon, I knew I was meeting an Oulipian writer and an actor, but I had no idea I would also find myself in front of a translator! It was fascinating to hear Olivier explain how he understood his work as an actor as an experience in translation from a written text into spoken language. In the following video, he talks about the difficulties he faced as an actor and also as an Oulipian who understands the subtleties of the text when he was rehearsing for a theatrical adaptation of Georges Perec’s famous “W”.

For me, it was particularly interesting that the problems he pointed out as the most important when transforming one matter into another (writing into sound) were very similar to the ones Ian Monk said he encountered as a translator from French to English (see interview here).

As you, Dear Reader, know, Olivier Salon’s Cri printanier, an antonymy of Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’Automne, was the inspiration behind my “Cities after hours” work (see link here). In the video, he talks about another Oulipian constraint, the “Beau present” (the Beautiful gift), and explains how he used it in his own poems and what were the specific difficulties he encountered. Needless to say, great material for me!

Many thanks to Prof. Timothy Mathews for his English version of Olivier Salon’s interview

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Ian Monk : Clip from the interview

Today I am posting a clip from my interview with Ian Monk, a British Oulipo writer and a translator.

I was especially happy that he accepted to come to my place after a long flight from Canada to talk about his practice, as it was a unique occasion to talk to a member of the Oulipo who actually writes in the two languages I was exploring for the project and who also is a translator of Oulipian texts from the French to the English.

As he explains here in a very tongue-in-cheek way, Ian initially wrote only in English but after many years living in France, he decided to start writing in French too. He even has a work in both languages now.

I was also very interested in his experience as a translator, which is quite unique. Ian is the translator of several fellow Oulipiens: Georges Perec, Jacques Roubaud and two writers I also interviewed for the project: Hervé Le Tellier and Frédéric Forte. He gives here his views on what the work of the translator is about and I chose a passage where he draws an engaging parallel between constraint and style.

Many Thank to my sister Dr. Mariana Saad for the french version of Ian Monk’s interview

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Marcel Benabou : Clip from the interview

I am especially happy to post today this clip from Marcel Benabou’s interview. He is Oulipo’s provisional in perpetuity and in perpetuity provisional secretary and he was the first of the Oulipian writers to be so kind as to answer my questions. I am utterly grateful for that!

Marcel Benabou gives here important insights into his writing process. He explains what materiality of the text means to him and he describes his work with words. He actually handles words as objects, turning them in all directions, and simultaneously plays with the meaning of words and of the letters that form them.

The examples he gives here are all taken from Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books, a title that is already extremely funny but that also forces the reader to reflect on what it is to write a text.

Editing this interview was for me a formidable occasion for playing with the alphabets signs to illustrate Marcel’s own playing with words.

Many thanks to Prof. Timothy Mathews for his English version of Marcel Benabou’s interview

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Fournel Workshop in Pau University

This 27th April, a workshop took place at the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour to celebrate Paul Fournel and I had the pleasure to present there for the first time the complete version of my interview of Fournel.

The title chosen by the organizers, Mmes Bérengère Moricheau-Airaud and Vanessa Loubet-Poëtte, was particularly appropriate: « Paul Fournel, goûteur de formes”, as Fournel has just published a booked inspired by his love of good food Le Bel Appétit.

The event was on the occasion of the literary award Prix Heptaméron, of which Paul Fournel was this year the president.

The workshop gave me the opportunity to present the Translation, Transcription project to a new public and make new acquaintances. I was delighted to meet the writer and translator Eliana Vicari, a member of OpLePo (Italia), who gave the opening presentation.

In the interview, of which you can see an extract here, Paul Fournel raises important topics. He talks in particular about the close links the Oulipo members always maintained with the English-speaking world. There have always been British and American writers at the Ouvroir, and the French members have always shared a common interest for the English language (Queneau and Roubaud, to give just two quick examples).

Paul Fournel makes also important remarks on the problems arisen by the translation into English of La liseuse – Dear Reader was just being published in the UK at the time of the interview-, and he speaks about what materiality of writing means to him.

All this was extremely useful for my own artistic work. The presentation of the interview also gave me the occasion to show to Paul Fournel the series of works inspired by Dear Reader I created for the project exhibition at UCL. He had never seen them before!

The Reader/La liseuse

matériaux mixtes, a partir du livre The Reader/La liseuse de Paul Fournel, Leverhulme Trust, UCL, UK 2015

I will finish this post on a very personal note: Pau is very dear to me as it’s the town where I spent my childhood and my teen years. At the time, I visited the University regularly and it was a real pleasure to go back to the “Faculté des Lettres” building, as it was known then, quite an outstanding example of beautiful modern architecture due to André GREZY.

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Frédéric Forte: Clip from the interview

As promised, here is the second clip from the interviews I made last winter in Paris.

I met Frédéric Forte as he had been working on the English edition of his collection of poems Opéras-Minute, published under the title Minute-Operas this January in the States. It’s after the publication of this book in France in 2005, that Frédéric was elected a member of the Oulipo.

In this extract, Frédéric discusses his methods of writing and his particular approach to the materiality of the text. He has a lot to say on that subject and you’ll see how challenging and exciting his use of Word can be! His experiments with simple Word functions like “forms” and “lines” create very graphic poems. The materiality of the text might seem an obscure concept to many and what I find extremely interesting is that his poems make it visible.

He also talks about the specific problems he, and his team of translators, encountered when translating his poems into English. This time it was not so much the exact words or their order on the page that they had to be careful about, but the length and the volume of each poem that they had to replicate.

If you want to know more about the English translation, for the release of Minute-Operas Jacket2 published a very original review, written in the style of Frédéric’s poems, that you can read here: http://jacket2.org/reviews/objects-motion

Jacket2 is an online multimedia magazine focussing on modern and contemporary poetry and based in Philadelphia. I was very happy when their team contacted me and asked for illustrating their article with my portrait of Frédéric I published in the blog last April. Blogs really create unexpected exchanges and encounters!

Many thanks to Tim Mathews for his help with the English version of Frédéric’s interview.

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Paul Fournel – Clip from the interview

As I already said in an earlier post, I had the great chance to interview several Oulipo writers for the project. I asked them about their relation with writing and the translations of their books, especially in English.

Here is the first clip from my interview of Paul Fournel, the président of the Oulipo. He discussed his novel, La liseuse, of which the English translation was published during my residency under the title Dear Reader. I was specially happy to have this English version, as it allowed me to put it in my corpus for the Translation Transcription, Oulipian Art from French to English project.

The clip is subtitled in English, thanks to Prof. Tim Mathews who did the translation.

Paul Fournel explained the constraints he chose for this book and commented on the work done by David Bellos, the translator.


I will be posting in the next months more clips from these great meetings.

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