The importance of elsewhere

There is no greater pleasure than to travel abroad and realize that all the French writers you believe to be important are but fleeting ripples on the surface of a lake. Not that you hold anything against French writers, not that you indulge in some kind of masochism. You just love the idea of an ever-expanding literary world, a limitless galaxy of stories waiting to be unfolded in the intimacy of your newborn solitude.

There is this moment, you step inside a bookshop in a foreign country, and the universe seems to start afresh. New names, new titles, new stories. Specialits tend to lament the sluggishness of the translation market, but I’m so glad so little is being translated, it makes our voyage into languages a daunting task and a thrilling adventure. Literature has to be an effort, something one has to conquer over the immediacy, the easiness, the comfort of one’s mother tongue. I’ve been in Paris for two weeks now, and I can’t wait to feel a foreigner again. I don’t really know why, I’m just utterly thrilled by this beautiful sequence of sensations : the black front of a bookshop in South Kensignton, the door bell that turns on the chime, so to speak, as you step in, the avalanche of names you have never heard of as you slowly snake your way through the stacks of books. This is as good as the creation of the world before sin – a state of joyful innocence that can only be compared with the undressing of a woman you love.

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