“Happy Hours”, the marines of Pascal Quignard – Libération

by time news

2023-12-02 16:09:00

The Livres de Libédossier notebookThe question of time takes a central place in the sequel to “The Last Kingdom”.

Verses of poetry that flourish between the blocks of prose, memories that intrude, historical facts narrated (with a pronounced taste for the 17th century), almost cryptic essay pages… the Happy Hours, twelfth volume of his series “Last Kingdom “, disconcerting, by its disjointed aspect but also by the difficulty and obscurity, sometimes, of the text (“The dead interval is the only stay of humans”) and the immensity of a knowledge which intimidates. To best orient yourself between these pages, we must see Pascal Quignard as an author of memory, who mobilizes it in all its intimacy and intellectuality, making his writing complex and referenced. And the question of time, the central theme of the book, participates in this formal experimentation that the author articulates around memory.

The porosity of genres in his work is understood by the desire to reproduce the movement of thought; to do this, it relies on the association of ideas, thus introducing heterogeneity (evidenced by the succession of the memory of the last moments of Emmanuelle Bernheim with a sharp and subjective criticism of the month of November, month of the dead ). This movement of return is a signature element of the writer, which is coupled with his vision of memory: this circularity, like an undertow, is a property that he confers to time in Happy Hours, by refusing the linearity that is usually attributed to him.

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Water is a key element of his work, Happy Hours is no exception. When Quignard drifts through his memories with Emmanuèle Bernheim, it is almost always a seascape that emerges on the pages; and his memories become paintings, undoubtedly inspired by the vignettes from the Duke of Berry’s Book of Hours that he read at his grandmother’s house when he was younger: “She actually slipped into the ocean. She impassionedly entered the icy and always slightly windy water of the congested and immense Atlantic. As if water were air.”

This theme of water, of the sea, touches the writer more intimately than it seems: because when he writes that “[le] “past constantly returns in the form of strange waves that are never the same”, it is also his writing gesture that he speaks of. The sea, the water, are in the text an image of memory, of the “pure surf” which punctuate each page with themes (death), historical figures (La Rochefoucauld), details of memories (figs and the grape) which come back and go again, which stay in the reader’s mind for barely longer than the foam on the sand and guide him, through this endless return of motifs, into the vast and abysmal Quignardian memory.

Pascal Quignard, Happy Hours, “Last Kingdom” t. 12, Albin Michel, 235 pp., €19.90.
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