One day, rue de Candolle, Geneva, in an apartment filled with books to a point incredible – the piano himself, a Steinway wooden light brown, was covered, speaking with Jean Starobinski, the single thinker or writer who I can say that it was my master : it is he who made me read The Anatomy of melancholy of Robert Burton and love for Diderot, I heard him speak of the image of the book torn apart, as an emblem of melancholy. Starobinski opened an old book and I read aloud a rondeau of Charles d’orléans.
When I write, it takes my ink
But fortune comes my paper tearing
And while threw his great treachery
The deep well of my melancholy.
“Transforming the impossibility of living in the possibility to say”
The bright presence of his voice revealed to me what I had always known without thinking about it : everything comes from this bottomless pit of melancholy, and everything returns to it. But Starobinski was corrected. A sentence which I never understood the meaning of that by reading it years later in his essay “The Ink of melancholy :” to Write is to form on the white page of signs, which only become legible because they are the hope clouded, it is monetizing the absence of the future in a multiplicity of words separate, that is to transform the impossibility of living in the possibility of say. “
Read also Jean Starobinski : “Without the melancholy, not of poetry”
Lesson on reading and writing : let us not be like those authors who spend their time dressing up as unable to write, unable to live. Largesse. I only have this word to speak of Work. This is the title of his essay on the gesture of the gift in the painting. This is the name of his relation to the world and to the other, wide, open, and generous. I’ll always hear someone repeat for me the word of Diderot, the writer of which he was the more brother, maybe. To his tutor, Clement de Ris, who asked him what he wanted to be later, the encyclopedist replied : “My faith, nothing, but nothing at all. I love the study and I do not ask for something else. “Starobinski, too, wanted to know everything, but be nothing or be everything, doctor, critic, teacher, musician, man of Letters and of letters…. All, but not a writer. As Diderot. Like me, if I dare compare myself to these two.
I have known Staro, that’s what it was called, in 1980, the editorial board of the New Journal of psychoanalysis founded by J.-B. Pontalis. Then, working occasionally in Geneva, I saw him often, for talk of melancholy and the literature. Of music especially. Sometimes, one or the other, we were at the piano, and deeper intimacy widened beyond words.
The library Starobinski was his place of life
there’s a little bit of time, passing in Geneva, I wanted to review it one last time. I knew that sick and he had moved out, leaving his habitation in a building of the university where he had taught French literature all his life. After a letter has remained without response, I learned that, at the age of 98 years, he had become unable to read as to play music. Even less to talk about with older interlocutors. He had stopped the piano when the sounds that came out of him seemed to be terribly wrong in relation to what he expected and heard from the inside, he had always had absolute pitch. For books, he had decided a few years earlier, during his move, to bequeath to the literary Archives of the swiss national Library the 40,000 books in his library, where they joined in the fund Jean Starobinski, the whole of his manuscripts, notes and correspondence. The library Work was his memory, his address book, his repertoire of ideas, his family tree, his drawers projects – and especially his mental space and his place of life.
Read also Jean Starobinski, the great intellectual and literary critic, has died
A man of books who disposes of his own, a man of letters who can no longer reply to those which he receives, is this the tragic fate of a writer ? If I couldn’t write, I will have the memory of Starobinski seeking her deep eyes and sweet words under the words. And his light hand, the notes under the notes. Good-Bye, John. Goodbye. There are no words to say that we’d like to hear a voice.
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