By Warren Motte Jr.
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Extra resources for Small worlds : minimalism in contemporary French literature
In the following chapters I shall propose a series of readings of contemporary French texts that seem to me to be exemplary of broad minimalist tendencies. I have tried to contextualize each author I deal with, suggesting how he or she might be positioned on the horizon of French literature at the end of the twentieth century. And I hope that the affinities that prevail between the works of those writers will serve to give the reader a sense of the scope of the tendency I describe. I shall focus on the question of literary form in each case and more particularly upon the way each of these texts tells the story of its own smallness.
That is regrettable because here is my leap of faith in spite of its concision Récit is one of the most ample of Jabès’s writings, a text in which the various elements of his poetics are put into play in a combinatoric of reduced scale whose functioning is consequently all the more efficient. From Je bâtis ma demeure (I build my dwelling-place) on, Jabès’s writing may be seen as minimalist in character. His work offers a point of connection between the experiments of people such as Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Maurice Blanchot, and Nathalie Sarraute whom I have identified as precursor figures and the work of the younger writers of the s and s that I will read in the later chapters of this book.
In English literature, the most radical example of minimalism is undoubtedly Beckett’s Breath. It is a play lasting only thirty-five seconds. ” Brief effects of light and sound probe the dramatic time and space that Beckett stages, in what is certainly the most parsimonious of his theatrical experiments. As the lights come up, a recorded cry is heard, followed by an inspiration; five seconds later, an expiration and a cry identical to the first, accompanied by a decrease in light. The decor is arranged in unrelieved isotopy: “No verticals, all scattered and lying” ().