The Empty Armchair (work in progress)

On one of the corners of rue des Abbesses and rue Aristide Briand, there is a café called La Villa. The decor could be described as gentlemen’s club stroke colonial chic. African masks look down, with long faces, from dark oak panelling. The lighting is always subdued, as though some hallowed mystery had to be preserved from the cold light of day. In the first section, there are twelve black leather armchairs on either side of six black round tables. The armchair where Emilie once sat is in front of me, by the window. It is impossible to say for sure if it is the exact same one, or if the armchairs have been moved around. It is a question of belief. I believe this is the armchair in which Emilie is no longer sitting. I believe that everything must leave some kind of mark, and that her buttocks are haunting the leather seat. The distance separating the armchair in which I am sitting from the armchair in which Emilie is no longer sitting is absolute. The journey between the two refuses to draw to a close as I draw close.

On the Edge of Self-Erasure

Iain Sinclair, Review of Night Thoughts: The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne, by Robert Fraser, The Guardian (Guardian Review, p. 7) 31 March 2012:

…Without labouring the thesis, he [Robert Fraser] manages to suggest that Gascoyne’s lifelong interest in conspiracy, covert sexuality, the occult, is an extension of the rituals and disguises of London suburbia. Poems, on the edge of self-erasure, fret over the impulse that pushes them towards publication and exposure. The visionary poet, a Christian existentialist, was prolific in his silences. He contrived enough white space for others to mythologise a consistently aborted career. He traded in the distance between his own reluctant muse and the conviction and swagger of the great ones he sought out, echoed and honoured.

…Gascoyne’s rescue, his return to life in the suburban house on the Isle of Wight, was brokered by two remarkable people. Judy Lewis, a vet’s estranged wife, who read his “September Sun: 1947” to a depressed group at Whitecroft Hospital, provoked the previously mute writer to speech. “I am the poet.” “Yes, dear. I’m sure you are.” But it was true. He was the poet and it was always 1947. He became a living quotation recovered from a midden of fragments: “All our trash to cinders bring.”

The Importance of Retelling

Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, 1969:

In the first place, no one dreams that works and songs could be created out of nothing. They are always given in advance, in memory’s immobile present. Who would be interested in a new and non-transmitted speech? What is important is not to tell, but to tell once again and, in this retelling, to tell again each time a first time.


“There’s nothing terrible inside us or on earth or possibly in heaven itself except what hasn’t been said yet. We won’t be easy in our minds until everything has been said once and for all, then we’ll fall silent and we’ll no longer be afraid of keeping still. That will be the day.”
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night