The Project

Daniel Levin Becker, Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature

The centerpiece of Roubaud’s oeuvre is a lifelong endeavor called le Projet (the Project), which began with a dream he had in 1961 about deciding to write a novel called The Great Fire of London. He started to act on his decision in waking life but eventually abandoned the project, and has now spent way more time writing about that abandonment than he did working on the novel. There are seven books that collectively constitute the Projet, in that they elaborate, in a pseudo-autobiographical style filled with digressions and interpolations and bifurcations, Roubaud’s failure to stick to the initial Projet. (Very Roubaldian distincrion: the imagined work, which he abandoned in 1978 for reasons he explains in a book called ‘the great fire if London’ (lowercase and in single quotes, to differentiate it from the unrealized dream-novel), is the “bigger project”; the actual published work is the “minimal project.”) “Everything I speak about is, in a way, linked to the old abandoned project,” he told an interviewer in 2008. “And if they’re not true, at least the events are told truthfully, as I remember them.”