vendredi, mai 09, 2008


L’art de la fugue, les derniers quatuors à corde de Beethoven, l’Othello de Verdi, Parsifal….Adorno s’était intéressé au « late style » des compositeurs, le quatuor Brentano s’est intéressé aux « late works » dans une série de concerts données ce printemps. « Examining late style » : parmi les intervenants conviés à écrire un texte pour le programme, Richard Powers. Un texte intitulé dénouement.

« Stories start in last things. As T. S. Eliot writes at the end of “East Coker,” “In my end is my beginning.” I hear in this conclusion no supernatural paradox, but simply the everyday fact of how narrative works. We wait to see where a story lands. Only then can we say what the journey means. The act of reading consists, in Peter Brooks’s memorable phrase, of “the anticipation of retrospection.” In the unreflective time of daily life, the past is fixed and gradually forecloses on the open future. In the reflexive time of narrative, the pre-existing future constantly changes the mutable past. You read page ten, already knowing it will mean something very different by page 300. And sure enough, by page 300, page ten has changed utterly, although it remains word for word the same. Page ten posts itself forward, waiting for page 300 to intercept and reinterpret it. And every new page added to a story alters every page that generated it, all the way up until the end, when the last page changes all. So it goes when we listen to the story of an entire life: late style seems to hold the secret of arrival, the key to reinterpreting everything that has come before. The Tempest magisterially deepens all previous revels. Finnegans Wake reveals the consummation of a process now retroactively clear in the earliest experiments of Dubliners. We can’t help ourselves: we carry along inside us the sense of an inexorable narrative arc: exposition, development, climax and denouement. But for all that we know of growth — its broadening and deepening, its sometime slowing, perhaps its darkening — the shape of the final work is never inevitable. Shakespeare, in fact, wrote more drama after Prospero. Joyce died planning another book about adventure and the sea. Perhaps half the meaning that we find in last wills and testaments lies not in late style but in ourselves. Frank Kermode opens his consummate book, The Sense of an Ending, with a question: what sound does a clock make? Many languages say something like English’s tick tock. But for the clock, of course, there is no tock. Listen closely, and be surprised: it’s pure tick, all the way out to the horizon. As Kermode says, “Men die in mediis rebus, and to make sense of their span they need fictive concords with origins and ends.” We are born in the middle of things, we grow in the middle of things and we die in the middle of things. It’s not enough. We want a bigger story, some truth that only a transcendent last word can deliver. We age, yes. Grow, certainly. We stumble forward toward some obscure destination. We rewrite always, given more time. But maybe it’s just that provisional, interrupted, eternal revision that we’re left with. Perhaps when we listen to an artist’s last word, we might give it space to mean something even more than consummation. Maybe we should hear in arrival just the draft of a draft of something else that might have come along, given more time. Remember that denouement does not mean summing up. It’s just a fancy term for untying. There is no end, except in again beginning. » Richard Powers


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