Saturday, February 7, 2015

the last book I ever read (Michel Houellebecq's The Map and the Territory, excerpt seven)

from The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq:

He left at Montargis Ouest, parked about fifty yards before the motorway tollbooths, dialed the writer’s number, and let it ring a dozen times before hanging up. The sun had disappeared, and the sky was now a milky white above the snowy landscape. The dirty-white tollbooths completed this symphony of light tones. He got out and was struck by the cold, which was much sharper than in urban areas, and walked for a few minutes on the tarmac of the hard shoulder. Noticing the titanium case to the roof of his car, he suddenly remembered the motive of his journey and imagined he would finally be able to read Houellebecq after it was all over. After what was over? At the same time as he asked the question, he answered it, and he understood that Franz had got it right: Michel Houellebecq, Writer would be his last painting. No doubt he would have other ideas for paintings, daydreams about paintings, but never again would he feel the energy or motivation necessary to give them form. You can always take notes, Houellebecq had told him when talking about his career as a novelist, and try to string together sentences; but to launch yourself into the writing of a novel you have to wait for all of that to become compact and irrefutable. You have to wait for the appearance of an authentic core of necessity. You never decide to write a novel, he had added; a book, according to him, was like a block of concrete that had decided to set, and the author’s freedom to act was limited to the fact of being there, and of waiting in frightening inaction for the process to start by itself. At that moment Jed understood that inaction, more than ever, would cause him anguish, and the image of Olga floated back into his memory like the ghost of a thwarted happiness; if he’d been able to, he would’ve prayed for her. He got back in his car, started off slowly toward the tollbooths, and took out his credit card to pay.

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