Monday, March 05, 2007

An instant of extreme happiness

Last month I was slightly hasty in heralding the release of A Voice from Elsewhere, a collection of late essays by Maurice Blanchot, beautifully translated by Charlotte Mandell. However, I understand it is now available. SUNY Press even offers a PDF of the first chapter. It reveals a rare Blanchot moment as he begins with a biographical reference.
When I was living in Èze, in the little room (made bigger by two views, one opening onto Corsica, the other out past Cape Ferrat) where I most often stayed, there was (there still is), hanging on the wall, the likeness of the girl they called "The Unknown Girl from the Seine", an adolescent with closed eyes, but alive with such a fine, blissful (but veiled) smile, that one might have thought she had drowned in an instant of extreme happiness. So unlike his own works, she had seduced Giacometti to such a point that he looked for a young woman who might have been willing to undergo anew the test of that felicity in death.
He then goes onto discuss the poems of Louis-René des Forêts which also refer to this mask.

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