Monday, March 3, 2008

French Writing

Someone once told me I was too much of "a should-person." In her opinion, I tended too much to tell myself I should do things. Sometimes I'm multiply focused, a condition which often exhibits the symptoms of distraction, because I tell myself I should be doing x, y, z, and, oh yea, w, too--and why not a and m? Sometimes I'm ultra-focused on one task or project, a trait I learned and/or inherited from my father, who could be dogged, determined, and relentless when he wanted to be so. At other times, I simply take on too much. And at still other times, I invent almost-preposterous "shoulds." For example, I tell myself I really should publish the two novels I have, finally, completed, but to a large degree, that matter doesn't rest with me. That is, I really should try to get the two novels published; easier said than done. (A friend of mine just "sold" her novel to a big publisher. The news absolutely delighted me. It was lovely to learn of the breakthrough. I was vicariously ecstatic.)

For another example, I tell myself I really should read more French writing--in translation. My opportunity for learning to read French well passed long ago. I did take one year of French in college, and my teacher praised my accent in this way: "Your application of a Spanish accent to French is interesting, Monsieur Ostrom." Lo siento mucho, Mademoiselle.

I have read and do like Balzac's fiction. Balzac's writing is a bit like Dickens's in its panoramic, manic vision of society and its layers, but it has somewhat less melodrama and a lot more earthiness. I have read and do appreciate Descartes' philosophy. I think I have read almost everything by Camus, and I like both his fiction and his nonfiction more than a lot. A bit of Zola and some Stendahl. Colette: I love the Claudine novels; they're so smart, so quick and alive. I've taught them (in the one-volume, translated Penguin set) twice. Sartre, who leaves me cold, for some reason. Some of Jacques Prevert's poems. I tend to read about Simone Weil, as oppose to reading what she herself wrote. Quite a lot of Baudelaire and some of the French Symbolists. Vast heaps of Simenon novels. As terrific as they are in English, they must be heavenly in French. An anthology of translated surrealist poetry, which I loved. That's about it, I'm afraid. Awfully spot. I really should read more French writing. (I've seen a lot of French films. Does that count?)

So many shoulds, so little time.
Post a Comment