Monday, 9 February 2009

Sunday at The Writer's Residence, Le Diable Vauvert

Life's Trivialities and its Moments of 'magical charm'

In Milan Kundera's magnificent essay The Curtain, he writes about the evolution of the novel, citing Fielding as saying that the 'realm of reality (which the novel) should illuminate, explore, grasp' is no less than 'an enquiry into "human nature"'. Kundera suggests that 'All we can do in the face of that ineluctable defeat called life is to try to understand it. That - that is the raison d'etre of the art of the novel.' He talks about life's - and our - insignificance, but points out that 'the everyday' is not something to be despised or overlooked for as well as 'repetition, triviality; it is beauty as well...the magical charm of atmospheres...a strain of music heard faintly from the next apartment...'

I try to write a letter but my words are wearing much more substantial boots than the ones I wear on my feet. Hey ho go the word-boots, and chug chug goes the obstinate keyboard of this ageing computer. What can I say about what has happened to me in the past few days? A few steps into a stretch of water that should have been a dry road, with those less substanial boots wrapped in plastic bags in an attempt to keep the water out? (an absurd, hopeless attempt because the water got in and my feet were soaked, hence only a few steps.) The sight of a ragondan along Ragondan Route (or Bat Alley) - which dropped quickly into the water when it saw me coming, even though I tried to walk very quietly? The huge moon reflected in a pond which I could not photograph because my camera batteries had run out? My nuit blanche where I ended up getting out of bed and making cocoa in the middle of the night, then reading some of Dominique's poems for children, such as -

In my log cabin I will invite
all the animals I know...
Even the wild boar
that's still snoring on the staircase..
But not the stinkng skunk
that still han't washed itself.


the frog up its ladder
looks a little sadder...?

Cycling along la voie verte, with the old railway on one side, and a canal on the other? Or the joy, after searching through the whole town of Vauvert (it isn't big) and finding every single shop closed (for it's Sunday) the joy of coming across a boulangerie that's open and so being able to buy fresh bread? (baguette ancienne yes I know it doesn't sound very fresh but it was). Such is the everydayness of life, its insignificances, yet its beauty and magic too - the sight of a black dog curled up against the dun-coloured wall of a farmhouse, a horse grazing in the vineyards, having escaped from its field and its owner coming along and slipping a rope round its neck and leading it back and greeting me with a bonsoir, il a échappé and I reply bonsoir, il a échappé? as well. The bulls lying in the afternoon sunshine in fields which have returned to being fields after the overflowing lakes and ponds had claimed them.

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