Reading, loving, rewriting

Bad faith on the part of an author who cannot accept seeing himself so desecrated or who cannot admit that his heroine can be desired by others? ‘It was almost a scene of jealousy,’ smiles Jacques Dubois. ‘We both got caught up in the game. He took it in a good spirit. But it’s rather a question of me not being happy with him. I tell him all the time that he is wrong! At the same time it is critical freedom. But in reality it is not a case of value judgements. There is never any malicious intent. The writers I cite must understand that I am paying tribute to them and should be happy that their works have produced such effects.’ Before adding maliciously: ‘the majority of them are in any case no longer with us. I don’t have too much to worry about...’

A tribute, then, to their writing, but also to their timelessness. ‘If so many old novelists are no longer readable today, it is because what they write is complete, flawless, too explicit. For me a good story is precisely a history which leaves room for interpretation. That is what explains why we can still read certain novels of the past, as you have to put a little bit of yourself in them.’

It is for this reason that Jacques Dubois could not have loved others within them, or in any case not so ardently (the carnal aspect being the guiding thread which connects all these characters). It is also because of that that he loves certain of them less than others. Anna Kupfer, for example, seems to find less favour in his eyes. One can feel, in his interpretation of Train that he is finding it more difficult to dig out from it certain hidden responses. ‘Doubtless because everything is already said a little too much. That is why Simenon, who is certainly a great author, will never be a very major author.’

covers romans

Towards a liberated reading

The concept of critical-fiction is not entirely a new one. The author moreover reminds us that certain works – from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe – have been subjected to numerous rewritings. The book is also inscribed in the tradition of interventionist criticism championed by the French writer Pierre Bayard (3). Like him, Jacques Dubois pleads for a personalised reading. If he had a message for readers it would be the following one: ‘feel free in relation with what you are reading.’ ‘Very often,’ he explains, ‘people cannot stand jumping a paragraph or losing the page they had reached. And yet I think we have to skip the lines. We are too subservient to the authors.’

His procedure could moreover be compared to cinema adaptations carried out by the directors. They also reappropriate a story and generally allow themselves a certain latitude concerning the original text. More often than not to the great displeasure of purists and critics who thus complain about not finding in them anything of the ‘original’ work.

The same will be true for Figures du désir. Certain people doubtless will not make much head or tail of it. Others, not having read the works examined, will maybe get lost in trying to separate the ‘false’ from the ‘real.’ ‘My work,’ concludes Jacques Dubois, ‘was maybe in a way a manner of regretting not being a novelist: I’ve never tried my hand at fiction. And yet what pleasure I experienced in ‘playing’ with these characters!’

(3) A professor of literature and psychoanalyst, the author in particular of the work Comment parler des livres que l’on n’a pas lus (Les Éditions de Minuit, coll. « Paradoxe », 2007).

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