The doubt and the pretension

“Let’s move forward in the genesis of my claims”. Thus opens the first chapter of Tiny Livesby Pierre Michon: one of the most beautiful incipit that I know. One of the most mysterious, too. A backwards Incipit, let’s go backwards, towards genesis? So what are we moving towards?
Tiny Lives are entirely devoted to the desire to write, to the impossibility of writing, to the feeling of illegitimacy that suffocates us when we take up the pen, without feeling armed, built, or dubbed for it. The narrator (who looks a lot like Pierre Michon himself) will therefore look in his family past, in certain characters who surround him or whom he has known, as well as in his own experience, the circumstances of his claims, that is, writing. This plural imperative of the incipit, let’s move on, which might seem maestatisof majesty or rather pudoriout of modesty, seems to me to take the reader by the hand to carry him, to the end, in the modesty of this Rimbaldian torrent that are the Tiny Lives.

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Let’s move forward in the genesis of my claims. But if we’re moving forward, we’re already there – it’s not let’s go into the genesis, let’s penetrate the genesis of my claims, but let’s move on : what precedes this incipit ? Of what nature is the silence that this secret phrase tears: let us advance in the genesis of my pretensions? In any case, here is what follows this first sentence:

Do I have some ancestor who was a handsome captain, an insolent young ensign or a fiercely taciturn slave trader? The claims become clearer on the side of the novel. The autobiography seeks a precedent. Is there in me some adventurer who would justify on his own that I take up the pen to tell his story? Do more or less notable ancestors adorn my genealogy with eccentricity or heroism? And if this sentence – do I have some ascendancy, in which the “ans” knock against the “que” and the “t”, the nasals against the dentals, so musical – and if this sentence, therefore, was the real incipit? Can we open a novel on a question? By indecision? Can a novel, instead of asserting a truth, of affirming something, open onto the pangs of doubt?

Samuel Beckett the Great debuts the nameless by questions: Or now ? When now ? Who now? Without asking me. Say I.

Affirmation commands. Where, when, who, what for. “I” stands alone and solitary like a Cartesian meditation. The unmistakable, at least as much as the unnamable. say i. I as the only evidence. Maurice Blanchot reads in The unnamable “this original point where the work is undoubtedly lost, which always ruins the work, which in it restores endless idleness, but with which it must also maintain an ever more initial relationship; under penalty of n to be nothing.”

But where to found this I, in what to “ink” it, if we want it to hold as much as it is written? In the swamps of the past? In the autobiographical fog?

This I, Pierre Michon chooses to drape it in doubt. To wrap it in sublime uncertainty. Let it stagger, hesitate, appear, disappear, flee. Rely on immodest modesty to advance towards the work: advance in the genesis of one’s pretensions.

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The doubt and the pretension

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