paperback/translated from the French by Lee Fahnestock/ 68 pages/ 14.95/ ISBN 0-87376-080-5
Published in 1942 and considered the keystone of Francis Ponge’s large body of work, Le parti pris des choses appears here in its entirety, in Lee Fahnestock’s stellar translation, as The Nature of Things. Ponge’s first full volume, it reveals his preoccupation with nature and its metaphoric transformation through the creative ambiguity of language.
“Things, the title says, but true to the wordplay used throughout, Le parti pris des choses translates as taking the side of or taking a resolute stand for things, as well as the side taken by things, for in Ponge’s view the objects speak for themselves. Yet how quickly it becomes clear that humanity is never absent from the page. In the first place, anthropomorphism is rampant, as Ponge grants unexpected human qualities to his protean creatures, not only qualities but passions too: trees are frantic to articulate, the oyster is steadfastly closed in upon itself. What is more, imprints of the searching mind and writing hand appear in the narration, either in suggestion, or in the first person singular, when Francis Ponge steps forward, watching the rain or holding a shell in his hand.”
from the introduction by Lee Fahnestock
Roughly the size of a rather large pebble, the oyster is more gnarled in appearance, less uniform in color, and brilliantly whitish. It is a world categorically closed in upon itself.
And yet it can be opened: that takes gripping it in a folded rag, plying a nicked and dull-edged knife, chipping away at it over and over. Probing fingers get cut on it, nails get broken. It’s a rough job. The pounding you give it scars the envelope with white rings, a sort of halo.
Within, one finds a world of possibilities for food and drink: beneath a mother-of-pearl firmament (strictly speaking), the skies above settle in on the skies below, leaving only a rock pool, a viscous greenish sack that ebbs and flows before the eyes and nose, fringed with a border of darkish lace.
On a rare occasion the perfect formula pearls up in its nacreous throat, and we take it for our adornment.
from The Nature of Things