Failure, A Writer’s Life


Duras writes: “Published literature represents only one percent of what is written in the world. It seems worthwhile to talk about the rest, an abyss, a black night out of which comes that ‘bizarre thing’, literature, and into which almost all of it disappears again without a trace.” I can imagine the whoop of joy Milutis must have hollered when he read the term Duras uses for this Gehenna of ­Letters: “virtual literature”. Failure, A Writer’s Life is a pere­grination through the unpub­lishable, the unreadable, the abandoned, the abortive, the illegible and the indecipherable. He takes in both the esoteric (Charles Fort, HP Lovecraft, the brilliant Christian Bök, who has “written” a poem into the genetic code of a virus) and the canonical (Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, John Ashbery), as well as digressing to cover photography, film, spam, archives and the nature of the digital text more generally. ­Duras may have imagined her “virtual literature” as a sealed, silent place of the utterly lost; we, nowadays, have her abyss in perpetual, blaring, online Technicolor.

more from Stuart Kelly at The Scotsman here.