A Successful Fragment

Stéphane Mallarmé, letter to Paul Verlaine, 16 November 1869

Patient as one of the alchemists, I’ve always imagined and attempted something else, and would be willing to sacrifice all satisfaction and vanity for its sake, just as in the old days they used to burn their furniture and the beams of their roofs to feed their furnace for the magnum opus.

What is it? Difficult to say: simply a book, in several volumes, a book that is truly a book, architecturally sound and premeditated, and not a collection of casual inspirations however wonderful that might be…So there, dear friend, is the bare confession of this vice which I’ve rejected a thousand times…But it holds me in its sway and I may yet be able to succeed, not in the contemplation of this work as a whole (one would have to be God-knows-who for that!) but in showing a successful fragment…proving through finished portions that this book does exist, and that I was aware of what I wasn’t able to accomplish. [via]

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