Jacques Roubaud

Correspondance is a piece by the French poet Jacques Roubaud. I can’t exactly remember how I got to this audio bit: it might have been through UbuWeb, as usual. What strikes me is the way it brilliantly conveys and makes fun of the anxious feelings that are somehow connected to any kind of exchange of messages, be it on paper or via bits, that make the exchange itself much more important than the content.

Je viens de recevoir ta dernière lettre et j’y réponds immédiatement. Tu me demandes si j’ai bien reçu ta dernière lettre et si j’ai l’intention d’y répondre. Je me permets de te faire remarquer que l’envoi de ta dernière lettre fait que la lettre que tu m’as envoyée précédemment n’est plus désormais ta dernière lettre et que si je réponds comme je suis en train de le faire à ta dernière lettre, je ne réponds pas à celle qui est maintenant ton avant-dernière lettre. Je ne peux donc satisfaire à la demande que tu me fais dans ta dernière lettre.

I’ve just received your last letter and am immediately replying. You’ve asked if I’ve received your last letter and if I intend to reply. If I may, please let me point out that your having sent your last letter makes the letter you previously sent no longer the most recent, and if I reply, as I am now doing, it is not in response to your second-to-last letter. I cannot, therefore, satisfy the requests you’ve made in your last letter.

After listening to Roubaud’s reading of the text from the Poetry International website, I felt I could never use the phrase “As-tu reçu mon dernier message?” again.  And when I did, I couldn’t help ending the message with a link to this page.

Photo by cyf on flickr.