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Monday, December 1, 2014

On dreams: Wajdi Mouawad and Antoine Volodine

I had a dream where a cat fell from my arms -- it had writhed and then slipped from my hands. On the ground, it lay immobile, belly up. It happened in an instant, it seemed, and I rushed down the stairs to pick it up. The dream was in my parents' backyard, and I had been coming down the stairs that lead to the roof. I knelt down and picked the cat up. I held it against my chest, stroking its back, muttering words of affection. In the dream I could see my face, pale, my lips dry; there was anxiety in my eyes.Then I was in the street, walking fast, trying to find someone, anybody who could help. After a minute I turned my head to check on the cat and I froze, stopped completely in the middle of the street. I was no longer carrying a cat but a woman, her hair pulled back and wearing golden earrings; she was smiling at me. "Where are we going?" she asked in Spanish.

Dreams like these make me wonder: how did that happen, my brain, how did it create those images, that sequence where I managed to surprise myself, not knowing what was going to happen? As I write this, by the window, at my friends Erika and Oscar's place, I can't help but being mesmerized by those dreams.

And of dreams is also made the work of novelist and playwright Wajdi Mouawad. Last week I had the chance to attend one of his workshops where he talked about his way of working, the challenges, the uncertainties that every writer has to face. One evening he decided to present a French film from 1963 called Méditerranée by Jean Daniel Pollet.
"There is no narrative," Wajdi repeated three times before the film started, more than a warning, an invitation to "enjoy the poetry of the images."

An exercise for most of us, viewers used to a narrative thread, the film presents a collage of images that gives the audience space, freedom to interpret the forty four minute film without any constraints, only our own thoughts, experiences and sensibility. The film ends without warning, it just freezes -- a wide shot of a sailboat in the Mediterranean sea.

A similar experience, that of suspension, I had the following day when, thanks to my friend Nathalie, I had the chance to meet Antoine Volodine, winner of the Medicis prize 2014 in France for his novel Terminus Radieux. His work, unknown to me, came as a pleasant surprise with his use of interrupted phrases, long sentences and unusual syntax. Excerpts from one of his previous novels, Le Post-exotisme en dix leçons, leçon onze, were shown on a screen along with the translation in Spanish. Carefully selected by the philosopher Agnès Mérat, those passages made me feel dizzy, elated, even a bit jealous. They leave the reader hanging, as it were, just like Jean Daniel Pollet did with his film. Here are some of the examples that Agnès chose and that have stayed with me.

          D’où, quand la pression atmosphérique baissait, la puanteur qui.

          Il n'y avait plus un seul porte-parole qui pût succéder à
          C’est donc moi qui

I hope you can find the magic in these sentences, enjoy them as much I did. Because it's you who

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