Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

This morning, a commemoration

Chapter one of Jacques Roubaud's novel The Great Fire of London begins:

This morning of 11 June 1985 (it's five o'clock), while writing this on the scant space left from by the papers on my desktop, I hear passing, in the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, two floors below on my left, a delivery van which has probably pulled up in from of the former Nicolas store beside the Arnoult butcher shop.

A quiet opening. I still return to this book, despite numerous readings, intrigued by its quietness: quiet ambition, quiet intensity, quiet success.

You can read more about it in a rich online casebook published, like the novel itself, by Dalkey Archive. There's also an essay - Interlaced with Night - by me, and various blog entries at Spurious.

The novel is, however, only the first in a cycle of (at least) five in the original French:

Le grand incendie de Londres
La Boucle
Mathématique: récit
Poésie: récit
La Bibliothèque de Warburg


It's fourteen years since Dominic Di Bernardi's translation was published.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your piece on Roubaud, and the archived essay - reminded me of my first research readings, of going along to his 'radotages' in Paris (and of the Guardian I was carrying for cricket scores being spotted, leading to me becoming "l'anglais"), of reading Quelque Chose Noir (untouchable, in my view) and deciding my PhD wouldn't be about him.

    Nice piece on Will Oldham on Morose, too. I was just thinking of getting down to writing about him, based on a passing comment I saw calling him a 'wayward genius'. Throwaway line, perhaps, but made me think of Howard Bloom's 'the true artist swerves as he falls'; of Perec's maxim from Klee ('genius is the error in the system'); and now of your idea of Roubaud, succeeding through constraining himself to writing about failure.

    Thanks for the entertaining Sunday morning...

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