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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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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Camille Bloomfield and Claire Lesage, curators of the « littérature en jeu(x) » (literature in play) exhibition at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal.

Gallery of portraits of Oulipo writers.

During my last trip to Paris, I had the chance to interview the two curators of the Oulipo exhibition at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Camille Bloomfield and Claire Lesage. It was a real privilege to have access to the rooms, and to be authorized to film at the Arsenal before the doors opened to the public. The exhibition has aroused a lot of press interest and has also been a great success with the public.

Exhibition "La littérature en jeu(x). Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris.The Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal has an exceptional collection on the Oulipo, since a large part of the group’s archives are held there.

As part of my series of interviews on the Oulipo, I wanted to ask the two curators about how they dealt with the materiality of the Oulipian texts in the exhibition. They explained the work they had carried out with exhibition space designers, and we spoke a lot about the Oulipian games they had installed. Visitors to the exhibition were able to play a number of games with words or phrases printed on wooden stands or plastic-coated fabrics. These games were aesthetically very pleasing.

Camille Bloomfield and Claire Lesage are also in charge of the catalogue (now completely sold out!) and they have tried as far as possible to make it an Oulipian object in itself: they have included play with cut-outs on the cover, and also original texts especially written by several Oulipio writers for the catalogue (identifiable through a yellow colour code).

I will soon post extracts from this interview online: watch this space!

Catalogue Exhibition "Littérature en jeu(x)", Bibliothèque de L'Arsenal, ParisCatalogue Exhibition "Littérature en jeu(x)", Bibliothèque de L'Arsenal, Paris

The success of this exhibition is well-deserved, Camille Bloomfield, Claire Lesage and their team have taken up the challenge of displaying manuscripts, books and objects not designed for museum use, and they have made the experience playful and fun.

The exhibition littérature en jeu(x) was held at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris from 18 November 2014 to 15 February 2015. For more information, the press kit is available at: http://www.bnf.fr/documents/dp_oulipo.pd

You can also have a look at: BNF

Key words: Oulipo, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Camille Bloomfield, Claire Lesage, « littérature en jeu(x) », materiality of writing, play, interview

With many thanks to Theano Petrou for the English translation of this post.

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