DISTANCE AND INTIMACY

cixous on the telephone

On Tuesday I was lucky to attend a telephone conversation between French writer and thinker, Hélène Cixous, and our own Professor Nicholas Royle of Sussex University. I’m aware that a telephone conversation does not sound so very thrilling and it was certainly a shame that Cixous could not be there in person, as was originally intended, yet even so, everyone I have spoken to about the event agrees that it was a very curious and special thing indeed, something that even now I’m not sure I’ve caught the full meaning of, and to which my thoughts have kept spiralling back.

What I’ve got here are the notes I took from the conversation, and I was scribbling away as fast as possible trying not to miss anything. But of course it’s inevitable that I would miss some things and mishear some things. Maybe this is me joining the conversation, or extending the conversation, another act of translation and preservation; but maybe also creating something new again, and I thought my notes might be interesting for those who attended and hopefully for some who did not, those who already have some interest in Cixous, or language. It might be of no use to anyone, but I thought that in a way it might be interesting as an extension of the performance that was.

[EDIT 3rd January 2012] Hear the original conversation between Prof. Nicholas Royle & Hélène Cixous on the University of Sussex website: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/video/schools/english/HeleneCixousOnTheTelephone.mp3

On the telephone
transports across sea and sky
telephone connected to metamorphosis; the telephone is in a state of metamorphosis; a ship, a butterfly, ‘telephant’ with large ears … mythological
living vs. dead
is the telephone a living object or a figure of death?
as a figure of undeath
the solitary beings we surrounded by death, the telephone a lifeline, we hang on the telephone … a thread of life. The telephone is help.
God in Eden calling Adam on the telephone…
a seagull calls, yes I am here,
‘Here I am.’
Psyche and the figure of the telephone. Psyche too good to be loved, too beautiful to be loved. She is given to death and carried away by a terrible monster
Carried to the other side.
And an invisible lover; to be blessed with not seeing
(Tiresias, Orpheus)
is she in Paradise or is she the toy of a treacherous monster?
Betraying her vow, breaking the promise she sees that her lover is love itself
but beholding him she loses him
love must be without sight
Faith and the sightless voice: doubt and faith
‘Faith is doubt, is our way of escaping doubt, a strange couple, faith is always trembling, it cannot lie.’
Return to the seagull
to hear and see the seagull … A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
to see the voices
literature is the place where you see voices.
Literature cannot be destroyed, it is protected by distance, the distance it creates and the distance within it.
In writing literature you are always asking .. what am I, am I good … the telephone by contrast is direct: question
answer
distance and closeness
Invention of the telephone and psychoanalysis
Freud’s work as an act of telephoning, to a voice within
invisible
a way of being with the other without the other being there; the best relation.
When in a room with another we beg and are distracted by the face, the eyes, interference…
the telephone is pure, direct line.
On the telephone with Jacques Derrida
everyday, almost, early in the morning before the world is awake
not coded, but this communication creates its own rites, and telepathy
catching moods before a word is spoken; hypersensitivity to breath, the linguistics of breath, an intimacy which is lost communicating face to face.
Answerphone, the ability to leave messages that play with time
tragedy and comedy, the theme of being out of time
(the time is out of joint)
telephone, coincidence, and literature
when not calling we are in-between calls, a journey of a kind
there is no interruption for the telephone, in real friendship and real love, like a whale, and sometimes it comes to the surface.
A dream.
I woke up startled. Dream, I tell you; I wrote it down.
Ophelia’s dream, getting lost, old clothes, a cat (grey and white flecked … seagull?) – metamorphosis
but how can we telephone if you are already here?
An exact replica of what is happening now, prophetic
Cixous’ cat listens, an extended telephone
Tea with exotic herbs. T. Telephone.
Ophelia, communicating through Shakespeare, another language. And in the medical school, where we are, while Cixous home become a hospital (Coincidence)

The fallibility of translation (Lauren’s question)
translation, telephone to the text; the possibility of mishearing or misunderstanding
‘mockeur’, for instance, cannot be rendered in English, it laughs but also speaks of words (mots) and heart (cour)
suffering requires the analysis of/beyond analysis, requires the analysis to come, a movement
the untranslatability of texts: a text, as we say it, is untranslatable… the danger and pleasure of reading
(Dulcie)
Motherhood and blindness; mother being too close to see her child clearly; and the child cannot see the mother because she is too close. Love and blindness. Create distance by unchilding and unmothering oneself. (What is it to do this; what is it to be a role, a mother, a child)
Not ‘I write’ but ‘they write’ and
a writer must be humble because she cannot pretend to master the thing, the inside, outside.
(?)
‘Love itself in the Letterbox’
‘Love loves me in the letterbox’ (the untranslatable, the French) in the plural of plurals; as plural as possible, is love(s) and writing(s)
H.C. says, I have never written a novel, doing away with storytelling, which is much more common in French writing than English. The impossibility of telling a story, of rendering a collection of scenes (dramatic scenes) rather than the stories; and not a collection, she does not collect, rather they gather (a gathering of ghosts) And she does not write to genre, but chases, and the loosening of (and in?) knots
‘Had I not written my poems in English would you have loved me?’
Fiction. ‘English’ is a fiction. Nothing truer than fiction.
An accident, that it be English and not another language.
The moment a French person writes in French, the language becomes foreign; always write in a foreign language, although there is a difference in the level of foreignness.
Is English more, or less, foreign to a French person than French?

hands of a clock, the seagull.
pins, in French.
(Lucy Ella)
telephone and the possibility of death, as inscribed with death.
Answerphone messages from beyond the grave (9/11 victims, famously) … the ringing or the dialling tone of the unanswered telephone, haunting, or hopeful, suspense, a void.
D had a tragic sense of life and death; the thought that things do nost last was death itself for him.

And clapping to the telephone
like running heels on a stairs.

An event, a performance, the theatricality of a telephone conversation… and clapping.

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