Narrative is boring

Jacques Debrot

Narrative is boring because it precludes the direct actualization of the world through our perception. But there is no alternative; narrative is both a disabling and a necessary condition of perception. For this reason, boredom is the affective condition that writing predominantly negotiates and exploits. However, it has always struck me that boredom, despite its stigmatization, is, in reality, a complexly ambivalent emotion. Somewhere Roland Barthes–in Roland Barthes I believe—describes boredom, suggestively, as a form hysteria (or is it stupidity that he calls hysterical?). Whatever the case, I try to make my writing both as boring and as stupid as I possibly can—in Barthes' words, "I agree to pluralize myself, to permit free cantons of stupidity to live inside me." Error, play, bad taste, incomprehension, artifice, and a lack of truth or reasonableness are, thus, the narrative potentialities I attempt to fulfill.

Paradoxically, with the loss of narrative's legitimizing and explanatory functions, in much of the most interesting contemporary writing there has been an increasing recourse to, rather than a retreat from, narrative forms. My own work is transversed by multiple, parataxic narratives and entangled discourses. Ideally (and impossibly) I would like to produce a narrative that would need to be read in the same way one "reads" a painting; that is, by orienting oneself gradually, by means of various intensities and expressive deformations of surface—the textual equivalents, if they exist, of the mechanisms of collaging, dribbling, scraping, scratching, scumbling, attaching, interposing, reversing, permutting, and so on—to the entire environment and atmosphere of the writing; a method aligned not so much with an aesthetics of fragmentation, but rather, one that proceeds through the accretion and flux of many ephemeral ruptures and stases.

This, obviously, entails a fundamental reconsideration of what is traditionally classified as narrative form. However, for me, the central question is not a taxanomical, or a typological one. More important than the question of whether writing such as mine is narrative, is the problem of how, in what sense, this writing can be read as narrative.

The situation of communication—the roles of author and reader, the relations of subject positions within the narrative itself, as well as the historical contexts in which the meanings of the narrative circulate—cannot be excluded from the kind of reading my work attempts to invite. But even more specifically, I am interested by the aesthetic situation in which my writing occurs. By this I mean I am concerned most of all with my feelings, and with my tastes and my preferences. Like everyone's, my experience of art, as Thierry du Duve argues, "begins and ends with aesthetic judgement.” It is impossible—at least on aesthetic grounds—to be insincere to one's tastes. However our preferences are not objective, and our feelings, although they are our own, are also social constructions. Inasmuch as literature and narrative are no longer given domains but generative practices, what I want to experience in the act of writing, or reading is to feel, as du Duve puts it, the conflict of values both within myself, and within and for the cultural field as a conflict of feelings, "to give in to the reflexive feeling of dissent. . . . To give my consent to the felt absence of concensus.”

It is this ongoing dissent--that is to say, my resistance to any single unitary or consummating construction—that is the self from which, as much as the goal toward which, I write.



Issue One
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