Edith chérie, Je passe des journées bizarres, à deux doigts du dé- sespoir. Peut-être ai-je voulu chercher trop loin, peut-être y a-t-il des choses qu’il ne faut pas chercher à penser, je ne sais pas trop.Lettre (feuillet 1) de Jean Paulhan à Edith Boissonnas, 28 Octobre 1962 – Edith Boissonas, Henri Michaux and Jean Paulhan | Mescaline 55 | Editions Claire Paulhan | 2014
I imagine my mind as an ever-changing surface where matter moves at intense confusing speed. It is a beautiful ground, but it swallows its content with a violence: it absorbs it simply: then it throws it out in irregular movements: explosions. Tiny explosions strongly violent: followed by deep silence. I loose track of these thoughts: they fluctuate fast: the matter is soaked into the surface like into quicksands. I cannot tell what mental gymnastics I put myself through to witness this mind space: In order to understand I project these moving sands to it: and at those times I get a feeling of profound vertigo. A mind like this makes me dream of a savannah: An open field, the perfect field where winds and tornadoes move without friction. A minimal smooth surface that scares speed away.An open field that would scare the speed away, a dread of open space. The idea of dread of open space is something I discovered in Wilhelm Worringer’s work “Abstraction and Empathy” (1908). The way I imply it here is better explained by quoting the note Worringer makes on his own text. “In this context we may recall the fear of space which is clearly manifested in Egyptian architecture. The builders sought by means of innumerable columns, devoid of any constructional function, to destroy the impression of free space and to give the helpless gaze assurance of support by means of these columns.” (Cf. Riegl, Spätrömische Kunstindustrie, Chapter I.) – Wilhelm Worringer | Abstraction and Empathy | Elephant Paperbacks | 1997
I come out of a delicate time with a song: a self generated fever. I swallowed my music in the form of a capsule. It is very difficult to explain. The first listening: Comme au bas-fond je m’en allais roulant, Devant mes yeux vint à s’offrir quelqu’un Qui semblat enroué apres un long silence.Dante, La Divine Comédie, L’Enfer, Chant Premier Dante | La Divine Comédie | Editions Garnier Frères | 1962 | 13
There was silence in the track profoundly but then I could not tell: now I know this silence threw me in the loop. Each last measure made me crave the first again: the sound had this hold-pause to it. I started to live in these 4”: the first day, the second, the first two weeks and the month that followed, it followed me. Deep feverish on the streets of Bucharest: I took my song as a shelter: those streets have a history of making me feel uncomfortable for confusing reasons. It helped me: I took it on the streets of Lisbon: just as a hit.
The decrease came first as a soft fear: afraid that my abuse of listenings would run the song dry. I loved these 4” and it felt almost as if they loved me back. I kept it long enough and I started hearing myself in them: the music had an excess to it that I knew from within myself: I recognized a peak, an explosion of my own into this very sound: it feels very difficult to explain. The repetition did not drain my sound however: it converted it to something gradually more familiar: from a song to a foil: to a membrane of my own.
Tout à l’entour je portai mes yeux frais, Je me dressai debout et je regardai bien, Pour m’assurer de l’endroit ou j’etais.
Je me trouvai, de fait, sur le bord meme De la vallée du douloureux abîme Que remplit de tonnerre une plainte infinie.
Abime obscur, profond et nebuleux, Tant qu’a fixer mon regard dans le fond Je n’y pouvais discerner nulle chose.Dante, La Divine Comédie, L’Enfer, Chant Premier Dante | La Divine Comédie | Editions Garnier Frères | 1962 | 13
I could not separate things very well but there was no need: There it was my smooth surface.
The decrease came as an emergency. I needed to write out this collision: my encounter with the song: because it was going to disappear and it had to have a body of its own. A definite body: neither mine nor the one of the song: a body that I could see in front of me now and that I could look back to without much alteration. A new capsule: a flashback wouldn’t do. I started to build it from the membrane: the meeting point between me and the 4”: the fusion field. The chaos: le vertige de la page blanche: the speed of ideas and thoughts perforating the membrane: I could not explain. The 4” foil of sound so intense: pierced by language. In front of me: but cracking.
Elle ainsi me parla, puis se prit à chanter Ave Maria, et chantant s’evanouit, Comme un corps lourd dans une onde profonde
Mes regards, eu premier, la suivirent si loin Que je le pus; mais, quand ils la perdirent, Revinrent à l’objet d’un désir plus ardent.Dante, La Divine Comédie, L’Enfer, Chant Premier Dante | La Divine Comédie | Editions Garnier Frères | 1962 | 13