Fragment uit: The Argonauts van Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson schrijft in alle genres, over alles. Ze beschrijft de manier waarop haar proza tot stand komt zo (in dit interview): Usually I do a lot of reading or research until something takes possession of me. I think of research like throwing lots of crap in a cauldron — bones, feathers, blood, everything — and turning up the heat: eventually it has to come to a boil. (Whether you make something edible is a different question.) Or, let me put it this way: Often a baby in a subway station will scream back at a loud train hurtling through. If you send a train of information hurtling through your brain often and fast enough, and if the train screeches loudly enough, you may eventually find yourself yelling back.

The Argonauts is een boek over een grote liefde, over het krijgen van een kind én over de grens tussen verschillende genders, een grens die diffuus is en op allerlei manieren kan worden overschreden. Daarnaast is het boek een ode aan de (feministische) literatuur. Ik heb nu drie boeken van Nelson gelezen, naast The Argonauts nog The red parts en Bluets. Alledrie boeken die je kijk op literatuur van het ene moment op het andere omgooien en toch helderder maken. Zó kun je dus, óók, schrijven. Schrijven alsof je leven en je lichaam ervan afhangen. Want zo is het, of hoort het te zijn. Nelson maakt in één klap een einde aan een heleboel van die fijnzinnige romans, ‘au fond dieppsychologische romans’ bijvoorbeeld, vol met verhalen, over ‘het oude Europa’- romans die bedoeld zijn om de lezer met zoiets als ‘empathie’ op te zadelen. Het proza van Nelson is het mes op de huid.

A day or two after my love pronouncement, now feral with vulnerability, I sent you the passage from Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes in which Barthes describes how the subject who utters the phrase ‘I love you’ is like “the Argonaut renewing his ship during its voyage without changing its name.” Just as the Argo’s parts may be replaced over time but the boat is still called the Argo , whenever the lover utters the phrase ’I love you,’ its meaning must be renewed by each use, as ‘the very task of love and of language is to give to one and the same phrase inflections which will be forever new.’

I thought the passage was romantic. You read it as a possible retraction. In retrospect, I guess it was both.

You’ve punctured my solitude , I told you. It had been a useful solitude, constructed, as it was, around a recent sobriety, long walks to and from the Y through the sordid, bougainvillea-strewn back streets of Hollywood, evening drives up and down Mulholland to kill the long nights, and, of course, maniacal bouts of writing, learning to address no one. But the time for its puncturing had come. I feel I can give you everything without giving myself away,I whispered in your basement bed. If one does one’s solitude right, this is the prize.

A few months later, we spent Christmas together in a hotel in downtown San Francisco. I had booked the room for us online, in the hope that my booking ofthe room and our time in the room would make you love me forever. It turned out to be one of those hotels that booked for cheap because it was undergoing an astonishingly rude renovation, and because it was smack in the middle of the cracked-out Tenderloin. No matter—we had other business to attend to. Sun filtered through the ratty Venetian blinds just barely obscuring the construction workers hammering away outside as we attended to it. Just don’t kill me, I said as you took off your leather belt, smiling.

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