Someone—Robert Pinget (translated from the French by Barbara Wright)
Paperback/168 pages/ 14.95/ ISBN 0-87376-101-7
This book also contains Robert Pinget’s speech at NYU from A retrospective Colloquium on the Nouveau Roman which took place in 1982, and Barbara Wright’s thoughts on The “Trials” of Translating Pinget.
Someone, a benign and self-accusing presence, “a decent fellow on a rather small scale,” “a wet blanket,” moves through the rooms, corridors, and garden of a guest house, searching for a ball of paper, notes taken while, “herborizing.” In the course of the search we come to know the inhabitants—“If I hadn’t been obliged to let myself get embroiled in our existence”—and someone, himself; “I shall never be able to talk about their affairs…without scrutinizing myself.”
The co-proprietor of a guest house, he is continually making lists: “wine, canary, ball, what else?” having conversations with the neighbor who assumes different forms, inveighing against Marie (“letting yourself be messed about all your life by people who tidy up your papers”) who considers his botanical efforts “trifles.” He observes the guests: Reber from Alsace knitting “thinking about her life, …nieces, first communions…school friends, storks,” Mme. Apostolos, the perpetual refugee, who steals bog paper, M. Cointet one and a half heads shorter than his wife, Vérassou who has an unmistakable odor of chastity and Fonfon the idiot.
Someone, who must continue to search, if not for that note, for one equally indispensable is afraid that others are “treating me as a nobody” and afraid that they may be thinking “I took myself for someone.” His only comfort—the owl: “because I have a kind of feeling that it’s there when we aren’t.” It hoots “an insult like a ‘fish-face, mind your own business, eat your eggplants and leave the rats to me’... I have a kind of feeling that things become transformed when it hoots …. In short there’s movement everywhere.
“Someone is characteristically subtle, brilliant and obsessive, a splendid performance by a writer insufficiently well-known in this country.”
Writer’s Choice—Donald Barthelme
I wonder whether I’m right to describe everything in such detail. Yes, I am right. But it’s going to become insipid. And yet I have to find that paper. I’m already beginning to wonder whether I really did come down twice. I have to be on my guard against things that come back to me too easily. It would be better to start again. Calmly. Very calmly. As if I was talking about something else, or better still about someone else, so as not to get edgy. Let’s try to relax.