Soluble Language and the Forward Momentum of Words: Prose Fragments by Dominique Quélen

Dominique Quélen

Dominique Quélen
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR



Comme quoi
BY Dominique Quélen
(L’Act Mem, 2008)

Translator’s Note

These poems are part of Quélen’s collection, Comme quoi (L’Act Mem, Collection “La Rivière échappée,” 2008), a book composed of small prose pieces having neither beginning nor end, in that the first and last sentences are incomplete. Readers may experience a feeling of being dropped into a scene or situation which has always already begun, and which seems to float in time and space. It can take the form of anything from a memory scene or impression to a quasi-narrative or series of precise technical instructions. A short section in italics and in parentheses is embedded at a variable position within almost every text block. The format as a whole acts as unifying principle for the inclusion of various types of material: “Tout l’art étant dans l’acte contenu, les formes les plus diverses ramenées à une unité d’aspect.” (“The whole art being contained in the act, the most diverse forms reduced to a unity of aspect.”)

Readers may experience a feeling of being dropped into a scene or situation which has always already begun, and which seems to float in time and space.

A recurrent theme in this book, as in all of Quélen’s work, is that of the bag or sack as a universal container. The skin is the body’s bag, and the body itself is a loose collection of substances on the verge of decomposition, of turning into seeping and oozing liquids. The body suffers, drowning in the ocean of memory. Everything is soluble in itself. At times, the bag becomes a textile, a pouch, a pocket carefully assembled. Ultimately, the bag is language: “Une poche de voyage qui capte les mouvements de la pensée…” (“A travel bag that captures the movements of thought…”) Language functions as a second skin or outermost layer. It also gives us the momentary illusion of being free of the body, before leaving us hanging in mid-sentence, having glimpsed nothing but isolated details: “Des détails gros comme une portion d’oeil.” (“Details the size of a portion of the eye.”) Each prose piece is a close-up or enlarged view of a mere fragment or remnant of a fragment. And there is nowhere to seek a better perspective or a broader meaning. All we have is the forward momentum of the words — “a rhythm of impeded prose” — that keeps the reader’s curiosity active even as his comprehension flounders in the fluidity of language. The reader may be following a path, but he is also a swimmer being swept along.

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