L’équilibre entre la force et l’espace

Last week, I’ve reviewed Frank Smith’s excellent Guantanamo. Here is a new interview with the author on the remarkable blog De seuil en seuil. Extract below, for the full interview click here. For a De seuil en seuil – review of the same book that is way better than mine, click here.

Sans doute l’émotion soulève-t-elle parce que les textes sont portés par des voix. Le travail d’écriture, entamé après la réalisation radiophonique, avait, lui, pour but de présenter l’objet de la parole, de donner (et non faire) sensation en restant réticent vis à vis de l’émotion. Je voulais me méfier des effets encore plus. Paradoxalement, par le passage à l’écrit je pensais pouvoir gagner aussi en force. Ce qui est compliqué dans toute activité, c’est l’équilibre entre la force et l’espace dans lequel on intervient. Comme le dit le général Giap, connu pour être le vainqueur de la bataille de Dien Bien Phu qui a sonné la défaite et le départ des Français d’Indochine : plus on prend de l’espace, plus on perd sa force.

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10 thoughts on “L’équilibre entre la force et l’espace

  1. Je n’avais pas tout à ait compris votre compte rendu ni celui dans le lien que vous avez fourni. Mais de nature curieuse je suis allée plus loin et j’ai trouvé le lien suivant qui a servi de m’éclaircir mes lanternes.

    http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com/20100504/19023
    /guantanamo-de-frank-smith

    L’incompréhension entre intérrogateur et intérrogé me paraît résumée dans la phrase suivante de Ludwig Wittgenstein:

    Quand bien même un lion saurait parler, nous ne pourrions le comprendre

    D’après ce que j’ai lu, le tout est basé sur les vraies intérrogations. Là la question se pose – où commence la fiction? A quel point est-ce l’oeuvre des faits, à quel point l’oeuvre du poète?

    Une phrase pourtant m’a frappé plus particulièrement dans le compte rendu pour lequel j’ai donné le lien ci-dessus:

    Souvent, les interrogations, réponses, et affirmations démarrent par le pronom personnel indéfini ON, à tel point qu’on ne sait plus qui parle. Est-ce le présumé terroriste ? L’interrogateur ?

    Je trouve le fait que intérrogateur et interrogé se confondent à ce point grâce à l’utilisation du ‘on’ est certainement le travail du poète et non du scribe judiciaire.

  2. (I hope it’s ok if I answer in English)

    No, it’s always clear who talks. There is never a doubt who talks, and what’s more the rhetorical structure including the prefatory note even clarify who narrates.

    The book is never less than extraordinarily, cruelly even, clear.

  3. Strange that the reviewer should have underlined the fact that the two become indistinguishable – quite the opposite of what you are saying. Guess I shall have to read the book myself to be able to judge. But then again, every book has as many interpretations as it has readers…

  4. Maybe he meant they become formally indistinguishable, which they do, but a reader would have to be very tired and confused not to see who is talking at every point of the book, I think. I forwarded this link to AF, hoping for another opinion from her.

  5. I can quite see that the book would be impossible if the reader did not know who was speaking. I think the reviewer I quoted probably meant that the style is indistinguishable – the same ‘voice’ but, because of what is being said, the reader knows whether it is the interrogator or the prisoner.

  6. Merci, Clarissa, d’avoir lu ces trois textes aussi attentivement.Now I’ll try to answer in (bad, I fear) English, as a guest on Shigekuni.
    I finally read the review you mentioned in your comment (the link didn’t work on my computer), an interesting review, but I agree with Marcel when he says that it’s always clear who talks. Of course, there is no direct indication about who really speaks, no names, no role, no theatrical presentation for the dialog. But subtle signs are given – by the way you mentioned (what is beeing said), but also by a wide range of different means (“Question” / “Réponse”, “On dit” / “L’interrogé dit”, “Je” – which always designates the prisonner-/ “on”, “L’interrogé” / “L’interrogateur”… Sometimes the question is in italics but not the answer).
    And even if not mentioned, the right to ask questions is denied for the prisoner – he has only to answer tirelessly… The prisoner is the only one, in these dialogs, to make use of tones (moving, sometimes quite agressive etc.).
    Frank Smith’s writing is clearly influenced by objectivistic poetry (it appears from the beginning, with the epigraph (“No ideas but in things”); in his interview, he refers to Charles Reznikoff’s works… I think it’s a trail for you.
    I’m really, really sorry for my English and hope this comment is understandable.
    And I must disagree with you, Marcel : your review is the most interesting, the most complete, the best on Gunatanamo… True!

  7. But subtle signs are given – by the way you mentioned (what is beeing said), but also by a wide range of different means (“Question” / “Réponse”, “On dit” / “L’interrogé dit”, “Je” – which always designates the prisonner-/ “on”, “L’interrogé” / “L’interrogateur”… Sometimes the question is in italics but not the answer).

    As I said earlier, not having read the book,I cannot judge. Your explanation clarifies the question of who is speaking.

    What I find most interesting in your reply:

    And even if not mentioned, the right to ask questions is denied for the prisoner – he has only to answer tirelessly… The prisoner is the only one, in these dialogs, to make use of tones (moving, sometimes quite agressive etc.).

    Being fairly politically minded, I find this particularly shcking. No question of a ‘fair trial’ under these circumstances.

    The Nouvel Obs review also raised the question of the opposing cultures – total incomprehension on both sides, an angle I would be interesdted in exploring.

    Guess I shall have to read the book now!

  8. FS denies his book has a political purpose (see his interview), but I think his writing is political. He describes himself as a “poetic war reporter”, considers himself as a witness, but, though the book tries to avoid giving points of view, the way the dialog is “staged” clearly describes the relation of domination between the questioners and the detainees. In my review I pointed a passage which shows a real gap of cultural misunderstanding (the camera).
    Clarissa, I hope you’ll have time to read Guantanamo, and maybe write a review about the book…

  9. “And even if not mentioned, the right to ask questions is denied for the prisoner – he has only to answer tirelessly… The prisoner is the only one, in these dialogs, to make use of tones (moving, sometimes quite agressive etc.).

    Being fairly politically minded, I find this particularly shcking. No question of a ‘fair trial’ under these circumstances ”

    I think this misses the point. Yes, he needs to answer, but that’s because it’s a formal interrogation. you don’t get to ask questions. I mentioned that in the review: Smith relies on our capability to understand formal situations. See, in an exam, why would you ask the examiner a question? You’re there to answer theirs.

    However, and there’s the Agamben reference I used, the fair trial stops where the answer is not heard. What you notice is not that the questioners do not understand the prisoner. That is factually incorrect. The problem is not “incomprehension”. It’s that the interrogators establish a narrative that has little to do with what the prisoners tell them. That’s why, as the book continues, the ‘imposed’ narratives become stronger in tone and conviction. This is the nature of these kinds of interrogations, it’s no accident and it’s no cultural issue. The Oppenheimer play I mention has a very similar gap, and this is between American citizens.

  10. FS denies his book has a political purpose (see his interview), but I think his writing is political.

    The mere fact that he chose this as hs subject is a political act, whether he denies it or not.

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