present tense, philosophy, the present, Pascal Quignard, philology, Quignard, historical present, Charles de Gaulle, Harvard University, Werner Hamacher, Philologie ist mithin schon unter dem Aspekt ihrer Fraglichkeit weder eine Wissenschaft, Immanuel Kant, Sie ist keine Frage der Philologie als Wissenschaft, philologist, classical philology, Les tablettes de buis d'Apronenia Avitia, Sigmund Freud, Paul de Man, Friedrich Schlegel, scientific discipline, Does Quignard, Cambridge University Press
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BEFORE DISCIPLINE PHILOLOGY AND THE HORIZON OF SENSE IN QUIGNARD'S SUR LE JADIS JOHN T. HAMILTON Were a philologist to consider the word philology itself, he or she might point out the peculiarity of its morphemic construction. At first sight, the term may be presumed to name a scholarly field or a scientific discipline, given the fact that the word's latter half (--logy) is generally taken to be a suffix denoting "the study of" the object indicated by the root--thus, for example, anthropology, biology, and cosmology signify the study of "mankind," "life," and the "cosmos." Yet, common usage already informs us that philology hardly deals with the study of "familiar love" or "friendship" (); the implicit verb of loving inclination and affectionate regard () does not constitute an object of research or analysis. Certainly, it would be absurd to suggest that the philologist is an expert or an authority on the meaning, structure or essence of personal attachments or relationships. Rather, the designated role of the philologist bears only a nominal resemblance to that of the zoologist, oncologist or physiologist. The development of institutional histories notwithstanding, philology cannot be reduced to logology. As every philologist should know, his or her discipline--if it is in fact one--is not modeled on the sciences but rather on the term philosophy. Just as philosophia expresses the "love" () of "wisdom" (), so philologia denotes the "love" of "discourse, argument, or the word" (). The disciplinarity of both, therefore, is put into question, precisely because the sophia and the logos do not occupy the position of an object known or possessed but rather one that is desired. Within the familiar horizon of Platonic discourse, philology's link to philosophy reveals this decidedly "erotic" character: , , , , ; , , , , . , , , . (Plato, Symp. 204ab)
"Who then, Diotima" I said, "are the philosophers, if they are neither the wise nor the ignorant?" "Well, that is already clear enough," she said, "even to a child, that they are between both of them, and Eros would be one. For one of the most beautiful things is wisdom, and Eros is love for the beautiful; thus, necessarily, Eros is a philosopher, and being a philosopher, he is between the wise and the ignorant."1
What is "already clear" is that the philosopher--and by extension, the philologist--are
caught between the same resourcefulness and penury that motivates and frustrates erotic
behavior: precariously poised between ignorance and knowledge, lacking understanding
() but at least wise () to the lack. Although they do not possess what they
desire--wisdom or the logos--they still realize the fact of their poverty. We could imagine
that Socrates, the self--styled "philological man" ( , Phaed. 236e), listened
well, knowing, ironically or not, that he did not know.
Like the philosopher, what every philologist should know is that his or her
knowledge encompasses a kernel of non--knowledge that inflames desire and motivates
persistent inquiry. Correspondingly, in the Theaetetus, philologia simply refers to a willing
disposition or an affective inclination for engaging in conversation, discussion or debate,
without presuming cognitive proprietorship of the topics broached, yet all the while aware
of what is or is not topical (Theaet. 146a). If a discipline entails a body of knowledge
learned, understood and mastered, if it marks out some intellectual territory that has been
acquired, some space that has been delineated by a particular horizon, then philology--and
by extension, philosophy--are perhaps better regarded as pre--disciplines, as modes of free
but rational questioning that, analogous to the university's "lower faculty" described later
by Kant, comprise the conditions of possibility for authorized, regulated, disciplinary work.2
For Kant, the pre--disciplinary quality of philology and philosophy underscores not only
their traditionally ancillary role in relation to the sciences but also their moral freedom
from every determined horizon of sense.
1 All translations, unless noted otherwise, are my own. 2 See Immanuel Kant
's last published essay, Der Streit der Fakultдten (1798), in Gesammelte Schriften, 23 vols. Akademie--Ausgabe (Berlin: Reimer/de Gruyter), 7: 1721. The question of philology and philosophy's relation to other scholarly fields--that is, the relationship between "Erkenntnis" and "Wissenschaft," is explored by Peter Szondi, "Ьber philologische Erkenntnis," in Schriften, 2 vols., J. Bollack et al., ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1978), 1: 263. For an engaging analysis of Szondi's essay, see Thomas Schestag, "Philology, Knowledge," Telos 140 (2007), 2844.
Despite their close relationship, often stressed throughout antiquity, philology is not philosophy.3 Although both are grounded in the loving motivation of philia, philosophy clearly differs from philology, insofar as the former reaches out toward wisdom, while the latter inclines toward the word. Whereas philosophy finds its end in knowledge, philology finds its end in logos. In addressing the employment of multiple languages, in pursuing their grammatical, morphological and lexical components, in tracing how these verbal and syntactic elements developed historically and cross--culturally, philology ceaselessly poses questions concerning human words, including of course the word philology itself. Indeed, philological research inevitably arrives at self--questioning, raising and formulating questions about its own functions and operations, about its relation to other disciplines as well as its own status as a discipline. As Werner Hamacher points out, philology is always also a philo--philology. Consequently, already beneath the aspect of its questionability, philology is neither a science nor is it a theoretical discipline with well--defined procedures that lead to the acquisition of knowledge. The question concerning itself can thus at best make use of the right of a propaedeutic and therefore proto--philological enquiry. It is not a question of philology as science, but rather--sit venia verbo--of philo--philology, which stays at the edge, in the fore--court or at the gate of philology, but whose interior it does not enter and whose law it does not know.4 Because philology approaches every aspect of language or logos as a loving question, it comes to question itself, to such an extent, at least according to Hamacher, that it undermines its own disciplinary stability. Philo--philology, provided we allow Hamacher the use of this term (sit venia verbo), underscores the non--disciplinarity of every philological enterprise. Indulgence (venia) is called for and readily granted, insofar as every word, once the questionability of philology is broached, emerges as something provisional. Philology has the right (das Recht), but is unfamiliar with the instituted law (das Gesetz). Philology, so to speak, particularly as philo--philology, stands "before the law"--vor dem Gesetz. The light 3 For a general overview of usage, see A. Horstmann's article on "Philologie" in the Historisches Wцrterbuch der Philosophie, 13 vols., J. Ritter, ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 19712007), 7: 55272. 4 "Philologie ist mithin schon unter dem Aspekt ihrer Fraglichkeit weder eine Wissenschaft, noch ist sie eine theoretische Disziplin mit wohldefinierten Verfahren, die zum Erwerb von Wissen fьhren. die Frage nach ihr kann deshalb allenfalls das Recht einer propдdeutischen und darum einer proto-- philologischen Erkundung in Anspruch nehmen. Sie ist keine Frage der Philologie als Wissenschaft, sondern--sit venia verbo--der Philo--Philologie, die sich am Saum, im Vorhof oder am Tor der Philologie aufhдlt, aber deren Inneres nicht betritt und ihr Gesetz nicht kennt. " Werner Hamacher, "Fьr--die Philologie," in Was ist eine philologische Frage? J. P. Schwindt, ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2009), 2160, here 28.
allusion to Kafka is not unimportant: Philology falls outside every disciplinary Gesetz, but also stands by, before the law closes the gates, before meaning is locked within its institutional limits. In reaching toward words, toward language itself, philology remains at the margins of every discipline, before every meaningful horizon. Its fundamental priority subsists in this reaching out--in this orexis--which can be either negatively or positively charged. On the one hand, it consigns philology to the outside, removed from disciplinary authority; while on the other hand, it diagnoses every discipline with terminal anorexia. In one Friedrich Schlegel
's aphorisms, cited by Hamacher, we read: "Es bleibt ewig wahr; als Affect und als Kunst ist die [Philologie] Fundament und Propдdeutik und Alles fьr die Historie"--"It remains eternally true; as affect and as art, [philology] is the foundation and propaedeutic and everything for historical science."5 Here, the eternal or timeless truth--das Ewig--Wahre--pronounces a philological pre--disposition informed by affect--laden distance and removal. If the objects of intuition appear through the categories of understanding, within the temporal and spatial horizons of sense, then philology is again situated before every horizon, before every beginning, and therefore at the foundation. Paradoxically, its horizon is without horizon. Radically outside or before every discipline, philology nourishes its desire, indulges in affect, and motivates its art, infinitely. Thus, Hamacher insists on philology's pre--semantic position, on its status as a preliminary mode, as a propaedeutic to study, as the non--disciplinary ground for every discipline. Philology is the ancilla theologiae et iurisprudentiae that serves the other disciplines by directing attention to language itself, by alerting us to language's formal conditions, by indicating how meaning is produced without bearing any meaning itself. Whereas scientific disciplines organize themselves within a meaningful horizon, philology suspends the moment of every stabilizing definition and thereby keeps the question of language open. As Hamacher concludes: "Invading horizons and fusions of horizons (Horizontverschmelzungen) are the death of language, not its beginning."6 Rather than construe philology as an epistemic discipline that fixes definitions or halts the flux of polysemy, Paul de Man appreciated its capacity to reinvigorate reading. He deeply appreciated its erotic energy, "the bafflement that such singular turns of tone, phrase and figure [are] bound to produce in readers attentive enough to notice them and honest
5 Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophische Lehrjahre, Nr. 929, Kritische Ausgabe, H. Eichner, ed., (Paderborn, 1967), 18: 106; cited in Werner Hamacher, "Fьr--die Philologie," 33. 6 Hamacher, "Fьr--die Philologie," 27.
enough not to hide their non--understanding behind the screen of received ideas."7 This philosophical wonder before the word itself, this astonishment that keeps definitive understanding in abeyance, should herald a "return to philology," namely, a return "to an examination of the structure of language prior to the meaning it produces"8 The investigator of words thus grapples with "the structure of language" and essentially removes texts from the horizons of authorial intention and hermeneutic engagement. For De Man, the return to philology reminds us that language is a rhetorical machine, one that operates beyond subjective control, and thus withdraws from the horizons that establish signification. If we accept that philology is a not a discipline but rather a mode of work that attends to the pre-- or proto--semantic production of meaning, then the writings of Pascal Quignard (b. 1948, Verneuil--sur--Avre) are philological in an exemplary way. Over nearly four decades, he has turned insistently toward themes and topics that conventionally belong to the sphere of classical philology, yet by means of an approach that would be barely recognizable to the profession of academic philology. His prolific output instead occupies the margins of classical studies, taking on forms that resemble the experimental novel, the fable, the treatise and the essay. All the same, this marginality has always been contiguous with more standard or central understanding of academic discourse. Having studied philosophy at Nanterre with Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Levinas, he went on to teach medieval literature at the Universitй de Vincennes and later a seminar on the ancient Roman novel at the Йcole Pratique des Hautes Йtudes. At the Bibliothиque nationale he applied textual criticism to establish texts by Maurice Scиve, Dom Deschamps and the sixteenth--century scholar of Syriac and Aramaic, Guy Le Fиvre de La Boderie. He regularly published articles on classical philological topics--on Heraclitus, Aeschylus, Aristotle, and others--including a critical edition and translation of Lycophon's Alexandra. Quignard's ostensibly more creative work began in 1976 with the appearance of Le lecteur, a sustained meditation that stems directly from his position as reader for the renowned publisher Gallimard. From that point, he embarked on a writing career devoted to increasingly original and idiosyncratic reflections, including two volumes of Petits 7 Paul de Man, "The Return to Philology," in The Resistance to Theory, 23. 8 De Man, "The Return to Philology," 24.
Traitйs, first published in 1984. His engagement with philological matters was subsequently transposed into a piece of HISTORICAL FICTION
, Les tablettes de buis d'Apronenia Avitia (1984), which purports to be based on notes inscribed upon wooden tablets by a woman of late Roman nobility on the eve of Christianity's rise and the Empire's decline. In Albucius (1990), Quignard focused on an earlier but no less crucial moment of Roman history in presenting the rather lascivious work of Caius Albucius Silus (b. 69 BC), whose collection of Controversiae were produced during the last days of the Republic. Here, Quignard's translations provide a springboard for a series of literary musings, generally on individual words--for example, amicus and satura--or on Albucius' concept of the "fifth season," which altogether result again in a kind of novelistic essay or an essayistic novel. The recent five volumes that make up Quignard's Dernier Royaume, published 2002-- 2005, continue this trend. They rehearse, elaborate, and modify themes and motifs long familiar from the author's considerable oeuvre. Irretrievable loss and transience; silence and the human voice; uterine existence and birth; rhetoric, reading, and musical resonance; horror, nakedness and the constitutive secret--all surge forth over the course of these books, formulated in Quignard's usual kaleidoscopic and aphoristic style. As expected, deeply personal reflections and autobiographical details commingle with obscure allusions, provocative etymologies, and peculiar anecdotes drawn from the full range of the world's nearly forgotten cultural legacies. The accumulated material is presented in verbal mosaics that closely reflect Quignard's creative, wandering abandonment, his renunciation of mastery, his attentive submission to texts, history, and memory. In other words, at least for Quignard's devoted readers, both the form and content of Dernier Royaume amount to a return to the same, a restitution of the similar, something at once new yet not without a haunting sense of dйjа lu. That is not to say, however, that this pentalogy has simply succumbed to a flat, stylistic homogeneity or that the work has fallen into self--scripted routine. Although the terrain may be familiar, it is in no way comforting or reassuring. On the contrary, it affords the recognition of the disruptive power of the same. As Quignard has persistently demonstrated, the return to the same hardly offers respite, for the familiar is often the harbor for that which at any moment may surge forth with frightening force. Like Freud's Heimliche, the familiar may be the secret (heimliche, geheime) container of das Unheimliche, the uncanny, l'inquiйtante йtrangetй. With Quignard, as in the Freudian model, the return to the same may always be but a cover for the return of the repressed. Indeed, Freud's well--known "repetition compulsion," which unconsciously drives
him again and again to the same sordid neighborhood of Rome, shares many analogous traits with Quignard's sordidissimes, those pieces rejected or abjected from the literary-- philosophical canon which ceaselessly attract the author's concern.9 Yet, where Freud sees a symptom, Quignard discovers a method; where psychoanalysis works toward a cure, Quignard works on registering the incurable. While Freud approaches the unconscious in order to master it and thereby put life back into working order, Quignard attends to what has almost been obliterated in order to rescue it and thereby bring his writing back to life.10 This salvific program is explicitly expressed in the note Quignard appended to the back cover of his Petits traitйs: [Les Petits Traitйs] йtaient de courts arguments dйchirйs, des contradictions laissйes ouvertes, des mains nйgatives, des apories, des fragments de contes, des vestiges. Je ne retenais que ce qui du temps йtait rejetй par l'Histoire tandis qu'elle prйtendait йcrire sa grande narration mensongиre. Je ne retenais des livres des Anciens que ce que la Norme expulsait des littйratures du passй pour asseoir son autoritй collective et acadйmique.11 Referring to this text, Jean--Louis Pautrot comments: "Ce geste annoncй pour les Petits Traitйs informe l'oeuvre. Les exclus de l'Histoire, dont les travaux ne firent `pas une ride sur la surface du temps,' coupables de singularitй pour leur йpoque, sont innocents de la doxa."12 Needless to say, in order for these rejected, paradoxical pieces to have an effect, it is necessary to present and maintain the frame of doxa, which serves as the horizon for the resurgence of the expelled.13 The abnormal can be defined as such only in relation to the norm. Counter--currents require something to counter. Could one then argue that the typical form and content of Quignard's later work, particularly in Dernier Royaume, constitutes a familiar, more or less expected setting for staging the reappearance of the unexpected? Or is it not rather the case that the return to the same, the realm of the similar, is coincident with the return of the suppressed? That the unexpected is nothing but the expected viewed from 9 Sigmund Freud
, "Das Unheimliche" (1919), Gesammelte Werke, 18 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1999), 225--68. 10 On Quignard's indebtedness and reconfiguration of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, see Chantal Lapeyre--Desmaison, "Pascal Quignard: une poйtique de l'agalma," Йtudes franзaises 40:2 (2004): 39--53. 11 Pascal Quignard, Petits Traitйs II (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), back cover. 12 Jean--Louis Pautrot, Pascal Quignard ou le fonds du monde (New York: Rodopi, 2007), 9. Pautrot is quoting from Quignard's "Traitй sur Esprit," in Jacques Esprit, De la faussetй des vertus humaines (1678) (Paris: Aubier, 1996), 26. 13 "Cette oeuvre se bвtit а contre--courant de ce que son auteur perзoit comme la doxa de notre йpoque: paradoxale, donc, au sens que lui confйrait Barthes." (Pautrot 8).
a new perspective? Does Quignard's stated distinction from collective and authoritative authorities not already suggest that he simply sees or strives to see `the same' in a truly different way? An adequate response to these questions would have to rest on how we read this simplicity. A particularly rich example, which might address the problem, comes straightaway on the very first page of Sur le jadis, the second volume of the Dernier Royaume series. With the opening sentence, Quignard describes a very recent walk through the mountainous regions of Pйrigord: "Hier je suis descendu au fond du vallon sous le causse qui prolonge le lac de Garet." Cela faisait vingt--deux ans que j'йvitais cet amas de pierres en ruine qui йtaient entourйes d'herbes folles et de mousses. De ronciers. [...] Je ne pus m'empкcher de me dйrouter de mon chemin. J'avais encore envie de voir. Je voulus y jeter les yeux un instant. J'entrai sans le pouvoir tout а fait. Ma gorge se serre. J'ai un lйger vertige. Je ressors presque aussitфt.14 As my epigraph reminds us, where Rimbaud opens his descent by turning to the Jadis, Quignard begins his reflections "on the Jadis" with a descent.15 Analogous to Rimbaud's hesitant hellish, damning qualification ("si je me souviens bien"), Quignard's experience is fraught with ambivalence: the return to the same, to a place visited over twenty years before, is in fact a return to an old evasion, to something once suppressed; the will to self-- prevention or self--preservation is weakened, yet the desire to carry on is checked by some fundamental incapacity. The repeated confrontation suddenly causes dizziness, which goads him to leave almost immediately. The fact that this scene confronts an old avoidance and presents a vague but powerful resurgence only partially explains the force of this brief, opening narration. A far greater nuance rests in the shifting verb morphology, which will allow this incipit or re-- commencement to be taken as programmatic for the present reading of Sur le jadis. The text quickly runs through an entire range of tenses the passй composй ("Je suis descendu"), the 14 Pascal Quignard, Sur le jadis: Dernier Royaume II (Paris: Gallimard, 2002), 7. (SJ). 15 Across the Dernier Royaume series, Quignard suggests his artistic kinship with Rimbaud, for example in Sordidissimes, where he cites directly from Une saison en enfer (Dйlires II: alchimie du verbe): "Liste d'Arthur Rimbaud: La littйrature dйmodйe, latin d'йglise, livres йrotiques sans orthographe, romans de nos aпeules, contes de fйes, petits livres de l'enfance." Pascal Quignard Sordidissimes: Dernier Royaume V (Paris: Grasset, 2004), 257. On Quignard's indebtedness to Rimbaud's style, see Gaspard Turin, "`Entre centre et absence': fragmentation et style chez Pascal Quignard," Littйrature, 153 (2009): 86--101; especially 92--93.
imparfait ("Cela faisait," "j'йvitais"), the passй simple ("Je ne pus," "Je voulus," "J'entrai") before moving directly into the prйsent ("Ma gorge se serre. J'ai un lйger vertige. Je ressors presque aussitфt"). How should we account for this confusion des temps? Tense--shifting, especially from the past to the present, is generally understood as a deictic gesture, one that achieves an effect of vividness, referred to in Greek poetics as enargeia and in Latin variously as illustratio, evidentia or demonstratio.16 With the sudden intrusion of the present tense, the story is no longer felt to be a story but rather an event unfolding in the here and now. Distance is overwhelmed. The scene demands alertness. What this vividness entails, it should be specified, is nothing less than language's readiness to disappear, to allow its words and voice to yield its place to the vision it evokes. The medium hides its mediating role. The listener or reader becomes a spectator, a participant in the scene, an engaged witness; and the statement thereby acquires greater force, more urgency. To employ the terms famously defined by Йmile Benveniste, the histoire the story given without indication to the context of its telling abruptly turns into a discours, marked by personal pronouns and verbal tenses that allude to the narrating act.17 The technique is discernible throughout classical literature, for example in the following passage from Vergil's Aeneid: vix prima inceperat aestas et pater Anchises dare fatis vela iubebat. litora cum patriae lacrimans portusque relinquo (Aen. 3:8--10) The onset of summer hardly had begun and father Anchises ordered to set sails to the fates, when I leave my country's shores and harbors, crying My literal translation of the verb tenses
should emphasize the effect. From a purely grammatical point of view
, we would expect the coordination of the pluperfect (inceperat) and the imperfect (iubebat), where the former supplies information that situates the narration in the past. The pluperfect and the imperfect work together to maintain that this is an histoire that has taken place sometime beforehand. The subsequent intrusion of the present tense (relinquo) appears to pull the narration out of the past, effacing the distance that separates the temps de l'йnoncй and the temps de l'йnonciation. Traditionally, 16 The term enargeia is first found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Commentaries on the Attic Orators: Lysias, 7. See also Longinus, On the Sublime, 15, and Quintilian's remarks, Institutio oratoria 6.2.29--32. 17 Йmile Benveniste, Problиmes de linguistique gйnйrale, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), 238--42.
philologists would classify this use as the "historical present" (praesens historicum), which appears to heighten dramatic tension.18 In considering modern usage, some linguists explain that the contrast distinguishes background from foreground material.19 In this brief
example from the Aeneid, the shift from past to present tenses would simply mark the summer's onset and Anchises' command as non--events that provide background to the event
of Aeneas's lachrymose departure. Other language scholars would regard Vergil's tense
shifting as a progression from a more static, depictive narration toward an increased dynamism.20
All of these interpretations of the role of the present in past narration are
compelling and have at least some bearing on the opening sequence in Sur le jadis. The non--
event of a hike through Pйrigord, the background experience of returning to the same, could
indeed be read as preparation for the impingement of a powerful event. Yet, as we continue
to read, we see that Quignard complicates any straightforward account by imposing even
further shifts in tense: "Ma gorge se serre. J'ai un lйger vertige. Je ressors presque aussitфt. Mes yeux se portиrent d'eux--mкmes prиs de l'autel des Romains. Je ne vis rien. Rien ne se
leva, venant d'autrefois" (Jadis 7). The reintroduction of the passй simple ("se portиrent,"
"vis," "se leva") would appear to expel the scene back into a prior time, reducing the vertiginous discours back into a mere histoire. The foreground seems to dissolve into the
background. As the passage continues, however, it becomes quite clear that the move back to the past tense hardly diminishes the effect of vividness or dramatic tension: "Dans l'ombre de la branche je vis surgir soudain le visage d'une femme" (Jadis 8). The suddenness that accompanies the passй simple disproves the claim that the present tense alone can communicate intensity. In fact, restricting vivid effects exclusively to the present tense and
denying the past tense this power would be valid only if we read the verbs as expressing time alone and thus ignore their qualities of aspect. Like all Indo--European languages, Modern French
verbs exhibit aspect (continuous, completed or aorist), even if these
18 Richard Heinze writes, "The more vividly [Vergil] produces the illusion in us that we are facing immediately [unmittelbar] the events themselves, the more perfectly he believes that he has reached his goal. An external feature of his narrative, but a very characteristic one, is the overwhelming use of the historical present [...] intended to paint the events for us as truly present." Virgils epische Technik (1915) (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1982), 374 (my translation and emphasis). For a comparative account of the narrative implications of the historical present in Caesar's Gallic Wars and Charles de Gaulle's Mйmoires de guerre, see Sylvie Mellet, "Le Prйsent `historique' ou `de narration,'" L'Information grammaticale, 4 (1980): 6--11. 19 See Paul Hopper, "Some Observations on the Typology of Focus and Aspect in Narrative Language," Studies in Language, 3 (1979): 37--64. 20 Robert Longacre, "A Spectrum and Profile Approach to Discourse Analysis," Text, 1 (1981): 337--59.
assignations are no longer assigned unequivocally. Rather than take the shift from the present to the past as conversion of discours to histoire, it would be better to understand it as a modulation from continuous to simple or aorist aspect, from an on--going situation to one that occurs forcefully "at once." A reading of Sur le jadis should reveal that aspectual difference plays a central role
not only in the book's stylistic presentation but also in its thematic organization. As the title already suggests, the volume is not only a study of time but more precisely a study of temporal aspects. In brief, to approach Sur le jadis critically is to witness and assess what happens when a particular species of time, the ongoing now of writing and reading, intersects or collides with another kind of time, the completeness of a past conceived as space. To employ Latin terms, Sur le jadis performs the dynamic encounter between the infectum of the now and perfectum of the historical past. Moreover, and even more crucially, the book grapples to express the ground or foundation of this temporal confrontation. It attempts to evoke that which makes this concurrence possible. In reaching for this potentiating origin, this potent source of temporal experience
, we need to have recourse to the third verbal aspect the one that attracts Quignard's attention above all namely the already or iam that characterizes the simple aspect discernible in the Greek aorist. Early on in Sur le jadis, Quignard confirms the completed, spatial quality of History ("Histoire") by reconnecting the word page (or pagina) with pagus ("country, pays"), "la demeure la plus vaste oщ l'вme puisse se mouvoir, voyager, comparer, revenir" (Jadis 14). By means of the written word, temporal experience is transformed into a landscape open to repeated visits and return engagements. The page, and this would of course include Quignard's pages, invites exploration, or better, in--vestigation; it is the past as a "nouvel espace" where vestiges of absent presence are accessible to the present eye: "Le passй est un immense corps dont le prйsent est l'oeil" (Jadis 17).21 A broad horizon stretches out before the journeying spectator. History is there as that which has taken place. It is complete. The present the present time of writing, the present now of reading penetrates the surrounding space of complete, perfected history; it springs forth and takes "from this horizon," hence the eminently Quignardian aphoristic style, which literally arrives at its observations by marking itself off, by creating a boundary (horos), aphorizein. One could readily claim, then, that the horizon or boundary is there only because there is an eye to regard it. That is to say, the present does not merely encounter this 21 For Quignard's reflections on the relation between vestigium and investigatio, see Sur le jadis 62.
horizon, but also decisively creates it. The present itself has constituted the horos, which suggests that the past is already contained or lodged in the now. Conversely, the spectacle of the past could be understood as giving birth to the now that arrives to greet it. Quignard's zoomorphic metaphor the present as the eye of the body that is the past proposes that the two aspects, the infectum and the perfectum, are organically conjoined, distinct but inseparable, held together by the horizon that gives both sides their definition, their contour. If it is true that the past is already in the present, then it also holds that the present is already in the past. Within the vast frame of the horizon, the two aspects of time are bound together. What permits this boundary, this horizon, to be recognized as such? What is the constitutive exterior that allows the bounded area to be thus identified? What is the ground or the foundation of both the present and the perfected past? It can only be that which is already there, the iam that is beyond the bounded scene, or beyond boundedness itself. The term for the boundlessness that allows the horizon to take shape is the aorist, literally that which negates the horos: a--oriston, "without horizon, without boundary, without limit." Quignard offers a very concise series of definitions: To horizon dйfinit ce qui limite ou dйlimite le site au sein de l'espace. To aoriston, ce qui est sans limites. Ce mot dйfinit ce qui ne connaоt pas de frontiиre et qui ne connaоt plus d'horizon. To ek--statikon dйfinit ce qui se tient en dehors de sa place. Ce qui est hors de soi. Le site en extension de toute situation. Le mot ek--statique dйfinit le temps mкme. (Jadis 129) The aorist is the already that defines both the progressive present, which already contains the past, and the completed past, which already contains the present. It is "ecstatic"; it is "time itself." The force of the aorist is therefore consolidated in the key term Jadis: "La forme franзaise jadis se dйcompose comme Ja--a--dis qui peut elle--mкme se traduire comme Dйjа/il y a/des jours. Source qui renvoie а une source qui antйcиde. C'est ainsi que le Jadis structure le temps comme avant." (Jadis 139) As the "fount of time" ("fons temporis," Jadis 138), le Jadis can neither be located nor dated. All the same, le Jadis is everywhere, coursing through the paginae of Dernier Royaume, living on or surviving precisely as the non--localizable, as the interminable "Le Jadis erre sur tout l'espace de la terre."22 For Jean--Luc Nancy, this errancy specifies the meaning of Quignard's provocative neologism, the verb jadir: "Le jadis 22 Pascal Quignard, Les Paradisiaques: dernier royaume IV (Paris: Grasset, 2004), 18.
jadit c'est--а--dire qu'il survient dans sa perte, en tant que perdu, un paradis perdu [...], ainsi toutefois survenant, faisant encontre et rencontre dont au moins il peut trouver, lui, attestation elle--mкme archaпque."23 Nancy's allusion to "a paradise lost" is relevant, insofar as Quignard eventually turns to theological language, albeit in a thoroughly non--Deist fashion. Specifically, he borrows terms from negative theology and the Plotinian method of apophasis, an utterance that reverently refuses to utter anything in positive and therefore reductive terms. In an analogous way, affirming only by means of negating, Quignard elaborates the force of jadis, which is distinguished from the past: "Le jadis par rapport au passй a pour premier trait de ne pas avoir nйcessairement йtй. Le jadis ne figure ni au nombre des йtants ni au nombre des ayant йtй car il n'a pas encore fini de surgir. Le jadis est un puits plus vaste que tout le passй" (Jadis 140). Le Jadis participates in the origin that antedates all that is originated. It is prior, already there before the beginning ("Ce qui prйcиde le dйbut, tel est le jadis," [Jadis 55]). That is to say, le Jadis precedes the language and the borders and the limits that define experience through polarization and discrimination. Accordingly, it is linked to the apohatic, alpha--privative terms that Plotinus employs to point (negatively) to the origin: "Alogos, aoristos, apeiros, tels sont les mots de Plotin" (Jadis 129). In contrast, the passй is riveted to the boundaries imposed by language. The key distinction between le Jadis and the passй is therefore best understood in light of aspectual rather than temporal difference. The passй is replete with that which has been, with actions completed or perfected from the perspective of the present. For this reason, it is grammatically represented by the "present perfect" or passй composй, whose aspect explicitly diverges from the aorist force of the passй simple. The acts that comprise the perfected past do so by being taken from the horizon of lived experience
. They are aphoristic. The contents of le Jadis, however, are aoristic, simple. They are associated with a prior, liquid source that does not suffer the cuts, divisions or contours featured in language's sculpted accomplishments ("Il y a un pressentiment de la prйxistence, substantielle, liquide, obscure, ontologique, inconnaissable а la vision, au langage, а la conscience," [Jadis 236]). The aorist surge of le Jadis is without the temporal or Spatial Boundaries
that compose the verbal sense of "present perfect": L'aoriste est liй а l'achronie. On dit aussi: le passй simple. [...] Les simples n'opposent pas comme les mots du langage se discriminent et se polarisent.
23 Jean--Luc Nancy, "Jadis, jamais, bientфt (l'amour)," in Pascal Quignard, figures d'un lettrй, Philippe Bonnefis et Dolorиs Lyotard, eds. (Paris: Galilйe, 2005), 384.
Face а la simplicitas du passй simple, si simple, presque aoristique, il y a un passй composй, si complexe, si composй qu'on peut presque le dire dйcomposant. C'est le passй du langage. (Jadis 120) Therefore, guided by aspectual difference, we discover that two contrasting types of the past have been operative throughout ("il y a deux sources du temps" [Jadis 28]): there is the past as "irrйversibilitй" ("le passй--а--jamais"), which Quignard identifies as "deuil," and the past as "rйversibilitй," which is characterized as "thйophanie," as the limitless ever resurgent past "Le passй de ce monde comme printemps а faire sans cesse revenir" (Jadis 29). This latter past "n'a pas encore fini de surgir." Quite explicitly, Quignard grounds the simple aspect of the aorist in the dйjа that resounds in le Jadis and promises an encore: "Il n'y a aucun Jamais--plus dans le Jadis. Il y a un jour. Un jour dйjа. Un jour encore" (Jadis 141). Whereas the simple ontology of le Jadis must be differentiated from the completed, ontic phenomena of the passй, it is important to see some deeper relation between le Jadis and the prйsent, whose radical transience should also be defined or affirmed negatively, that is, as passing constantly between the no longer and the not yet. As Laurence David notes, "Dans le cycle du Dernier Royaume, Pascal Quignard dit que le prйsent n'existe pas. On ne peut penser а la seconde mкme. Le prйsent serait tout au plus un passage entre deux intervalles."24 In order to distinguish, then, the constitutive negativity of le Jadis from that of le prйsent, it again appears necessary to stress a difference in verbal aspect. The negative force of le prйsent is through and through durative or continuous, fluctuating ceaselessly between what has been and what is to come, between mourning and theophany. As cited above, "Le passй est un immense corps dont le prйsent est l'oeil" (Jadis 17); but this past should now be understood in its two, distinct aspects: the irreversible past of the perfect; and the reversible past of the aorist. By means of its continuous movement, le prйsent, consistently associated with the eyes, can train its gaze either on the limited, visible past or the unlimited, invisible past. In a much earlier text, his "Prйface" to Colette Lazam's translation of Apuleius's De Deo Socratis, Quignard privileges the latter option: "Aimer, dormir, lire c'est ce `voir l'aphantos'. Lire, c'est suivre des yeux la prйsence invisible."25It would appear that the negative constitution of present's durative aspect (no longer, not yet) is precisely what attracts it to the privative substance (alogos, aoristos, apeiros) of le Jadis.
24 Laurence Werner David, "La Mйmoire la plus lointaine," Critique 63 : 721--722 (2007): 508. 25 Pascal Quignard, "Petit traitй sur les anges," preface to Apuleius, Le Dйmon de Socrate, Colette Lazam, trans. (Paris: Payot, 1993), 28.
To illustrate, Quignard alludes to the story of Gyges. In the first book of his History, Herodotus relates how the Lydian king Candaules, eager to confirm that his wife was the most beautiful of women, turned to his trusty bodyguard, Gyges. With some difficulty, Candaules tried to persuade Gyges to spy on her as she undressed for bed, so that in beholding her nakedness he would agree that there was indeed no one fairer. Yet, Gyges wisely protested: (Hist. 1.8) in Quignard's translation: "En mкme temps qu'elle se dйpouille de sa chemise, reine ou non, la femme quitte sa gкne" (Jadis 57). Apart from the interpolation ("reine ou non"), which does not appear in Herodotus's Greek, the translation is perfectly accurate and literal. For Quignard, the crucial term of the passage is aids, "gene," which he takes to be an alpha-- privative noun: shame is that which should not be seen (a--ids). Herodotus appears to support this etymology further in the episode, not cited by Quignard, when the queen rebukes Gyges for "seeing what he should not" ( , 1.11). In Quignard's text, this brief story yields a series of observations that pursue the path of key negative conceptions, beginning with the word for truth altheia, which eradicates forgetfulness (lth): "La vйritй se disait en grec alиtheia. Est vrai ce qui ne parvient pas а s'oublier. [...] A-- lиtheia est le Non--oubliй comme A--oriston est le Non--fini et comme A--idиs est le Non--visible" (Jadis 57). Continuing along this line, altheia is connected with the Latin revelatio, literally a lifting of the veil, which corresponds to the undressing scene in Herodotus. For Quignard, it is within the logic of revelation that we recognize how the eye of the present relates to the body of the past: "Non--oubli qui arrache le voile (le velum) sur le passй. La souche du vrai est le nu. C'est encore le mot de Gygиs : quand elle se dйnude, reine ou non, la femme arrache la vйlation sur la zoomorphie" (Jadis 58). In respecting no boundaries, like the line that divides what should and should not be seen, like the border that separates humans from beasts or predators from prey, the aorist aspect is revealed in the present's encounter with the past; not with the past of what has been but rather with the past of what is already there, "le jour dйjа": le Jadis. The continuous aspect of the present is interrupted and disrupted by the simplicity of this past that invisibly surges into view. As Simon Saint--Onge expresses it, le Jadis is "un processus de figuration qui fait йclater le continuum de la temporalitй."26 To follow with one's eyes this invisible presence is to read the page, the pagina, which becomes the scene of the past as 26 Simon Saint--Onge, "Le Temps contemporain ou le Jadis chez Pascal Quignard," Йtudes franзaises, 44:3 (2008): 160.
simultaneity, as something all at once, "en mкme temps," and decidedly not as the repository of that which has been completed in the past and will never come again. To refer again to "le mot de Gygиs," although Quignard does not call attention to it, Herodotus's adverb, hama, "en mкme temps," is in fact cognate with the Latin iam that yields the French dйjа--dиs et jа, de jam. And "at the same time" concisely recalls the effect of returning to the same. It broaches the profound relation between simultaneity and similarity, simul and similis; as well as the simultaneity and similarity evoked in the simple (semel plex) aspect of the aorist (Jadis 120). To return to the same is to wrest the past free from its stable location in History. It is to dissolve its delimitations and thereby return it to time itself. "Les formes sont des limites. Dans la mйtamorphose les formes ne connaissent plus de limites. Elles sont devenues aorista. Leur horizon est sans forme: c'est le temps" (Jadis 131). To return to the same is to remove the veil that consigns the past to a chain of accomplishments, of perfected acts that will never return, acts that have been expelled from living time. Hence, to return to the same is to enjoy the simultaneity and simplicity of the past, the past in its aorist aspect, which overwhelms every limit, unveils itself as the all--at--once, and radiates in its invisibility. In a word, it is to throw an eye onto that which is already there before the beginning, to witness the vivid splendor of the now, to place the present "sur le jadis"--before discipline and before meaning, upon the ever--retreating margins of philology.