We live in a culture at war with itself, and I don’t mean the War on Drugs. I mean the thousand-year war between the rhetoricians and the dialecticians (as McLuhan had it), between the Ciceronian, elaborated style and the plain style of Peter Ramus, between writers who believe in the aesthetic joy of linguistic play over those who think words are just for communication (how dull and, well, Soviet that word can sound). Andrew Gallix offers here a dazzling and provocative note, a report from the front, on literary Modernism and Paul Valéry’s famous sentence “The marquise went out at five” conceived as a critique of the traditional, conventional, realistic, well-made (pick your own epithet) novel, or, really, anything that smacks of the prosiness of prose, of mere communication. Valéry’s line cleaved to the centre of the debate: Would you write a novel or a story or an essay containing a sentence as mundane as “The marquise went out at five” or not? As Gallix points out, the marquise has become a shibboleth in France for a certain kind of traditional (dull) writing. Not so much over here where prose dominates the market place. Something to think about. Andrew Gallix is the brilliant founder of 3:AM Magazine, he teaches at the Sorbonne, he writes for the UK Guardian. It’s a great pleasure to present his work here.