A while ago I read a French novel called Voyage au centre de Paris (Journey to the centre of Paris), by Alexandre Lacroix, which is full of very well-knit sentences and interesting trivia about the city, of wandering philosophers and of clever references to lots of lovely books and essays and poems.
Anyway, one phrase jumped out of the page when I was reading
that novel. The narrator's talking about Rilke, and about being a young
writer, and he says that when he started writing he felt a kind of 'nostalgia of books to come.'
course that's an oxymoron, since nostalgia, by definition and
etymology, is famously the 'pain of return', homesickness. How can you be nostalgic of something that hasn't happened yet?
And yet it resonates perfectly with me - and with lots of other writers, I'm
sure. I also feel just like that; like I've got a clear picture in my
mind of my 'books to come'. Children's books, non-fiction books,
academic books, books for adults... They seem so real to me that they're almost tangible, I 'see' them there on the Bookshelf of All My Books, they already exist,
I'm sure - even though I couldn't tell you what they're about. They're
just waiting to be written, so I'm keeping a trustful eye out for them.
But the trouble, of course, is that this bookshelf of predicted books keeps getting betrayed by the real bookshelf which is slowly building itself. No book I write is judged good enough by me to be part of the real bookshelf of books to come; so I mentally pile all my actual books on a fake bookshelf, while the true bookshelf, currently empty, is waiting for the true books to come.
Those are the ones I have 'nostalgia' for - those are the ones I 'ache
to return to' every time the euphoria of having written a new actual book has passed... and that I identify that new baby, once again, as fake, as not-quite-there-yet.
So of course if someone is talking about my latest book I always want to say no, no, wait for the next one, it will be better, it will be a true one!
. But of course the next one will be just as not-quite-that-yet and therefore a
fake, a mistake, a fraud, it will join the pile on the fake bookshelf
while the true empty one waits for the true books to come.
serious, I'm sure. Wouldn't life be boring without that kind of nostalgia?
See you in a month. I promise the next blog post
will be better. And then eventually I'll write the true blog post, I promise...
Clémentine Beauvais writes books in both French and
English. The former are of all kinds and shapes, and the latter, for
now, a humour/adventure detective series, the Sesame Seade mysteries. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.