BODY OF TIME
“On 11th March 2011, when I came home from the fields, I realised that burglars had been into the house and had taken two large trunks in which I had stored the whole of my past: several decades of private diaries, twenty years’ worth of work notebooks, all my photographs and correspondence. In fact, an unprecedented situation in peacetime: I had just lost my memories in their entirety. A peculiar bereavement to cope with: I had lost my most precious possession and yet, at the same time, what I had lost was… myself.
Confronted with such radical nakedness, such appalling sadness, the very evening I discovered the loss I started to keep a diary about it to try and assimilate it. What exactly is memory? And what is forgetting? Why was I so attached to private diaries? What had I lost in losing all those love letters? What is the present? Etc. In every instance the answer related to the nature of that sort of writing: connected to the living, to the individual, to his or her uniqueness, they form a sort of body of time, something perishable and, precisely because of that, infinitely precious.
I had to resist my overwhelming sadness. I confronted it with the urge to write a book.”
Belinda Cannone is a novelist and essayist. She has had six novels published (the latest, Entre les Bruits, by editions de L’Olivier) and several essays including L’Écriture du désir (Académie Française Prize for an essay, 2001), Le Sentiment d’imposture (the Société des Gens de Lettres Grand Prix for an essay, 2005), La bêtise s’améliore (Stock, 2007) and La Tentation de Pénélope (Stock, 2010). Her last book, Le Baiser peut-être was published by Alma éditeur in September 2011.
Face à dépouillement si radical, à tristesse si atroce, le soir de ma découverte j’ai commencé à tenir le journal de ma perte pour essayer de l’assimiler. Qu’est-ce donc que la mémoire ? Et l’oubli ? Pourquoi être si attachée à des journaux intimes ? Qu’est-ce que j’avais perdu en perdant toutes les lettres d’amour ? Qu’est-ce que le présent ? Etc. Chaque fois la réponse tenait à la nature de cette sorte d’écrits : liés au vivant, à l’individu, au singulier, ils sont comme la chair du temps, périssables et pour cela même infiniment précieux. Il fallait résister à la mélancolie. Je lui ai opposé le désir du livre. » B. C.