cover image Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books

Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books

Marcel Benabou. University of Nebraska Press, $45 (111pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-1239-8

Of course Benabou has written his books, 10 of them aside from this one. But this is the kind of playful treatment of constraints, certainty and language that one might expect of a longstanding member (and Provisional Definitive Secretary) of OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle). Benabou details the anguished writing process and describes what The Book, if it could be written, would be like. ""There would commence a long sentence in the conditional,'' he says at the beginning of a long sentence in the conditional, that ends after the promised twists and turns in ""a clausula that concludes nothing."" In very few pages, Benabou, addresses conflicting impulses between writing and reading, writing and living, following great models and being original. And he has a great deal of gentle self-deprecating fun while doing it. But this isn't just about the wordplay beloved of French modernists. At base it is a lovely book about the love of books and of language and all that goes into making them, be it paper or words. ""Most of the words I used were already almost entirely detached from their natural ties to things, and for this reason I found them intoxicatingly light. The ones I loved the most (bergamot, nacelle, botargo, galoubet, caillebotis) were attached to nothing I had before my eyes. They were beautiful, shimmering, iridescent bubbles, and their emptiness made them all the more precious to me."" (May)