"Totally unknown": Gaëlle Obiégly gives up


The writer Gaëlle Obiégly, in March 2022.

“Totally Unknown”, by Gaëlle Obiégly, Christian Bourgois, 240 p., €20, digital €14.

Might as well say it clearly and without parables: totally unknown event in the literary field. Here is a book that spends lavishly on common thought, happily unravels it to free up access to a knowledge of which the author herself, no doubt, knew nothing very precise before writing this text, with a form of freedom powerful enough to challenge the very notion of literature.

With this eleventh book, Gaëlle Obiégly, which bewitches us with each new title since My next (Verticales, 2013) at least, really gives the feeling of having arrived somewhere. As the title suggests, this place that she clears is totally unknown to critical services, out of bounds, impossible to define: you will have to risk it just to begin to get an idea of ​​it. Admittedly, some are likely to resort to the expression used by short-term publishers when they speak of "book for writers", designating both an undeniable success and a mediocre commercial potential: as if they were unaware that these books precisely, being so new in their way and their stakes, will gradually spread among the writers who will read, in fact, and will not be able to prevent themselves from appropriating some of the inventions that they discover there. And what could, upon publication, confuse readers accustomed to current romantic automatisms will soon appear obvious, while the book will not have aged a bit, escaping the spirit of the times, which dates so quickly most novels.

Read also (2019): Article reserved for our subscribers "A serious thing", by Gaëlle Obiégly: the disaster, finally

Among the inventions of totally unknown, the first, if not the main one, is explicitly posed at the very beginning, when the narrator decides to submit to the authority of what is beyond her. It was in Rome, where she was in artist residency in 2015, she says, that a voice "has arisen" in his right ear " for [lui] make announcements and [lui] give instructions "starting with that of “Wear black clothes. Night and day. It attracts death. You will thus find Pascal. His hair will have grown a lot”.

Ambivalences of the language

"Past the shock of penetrationcontinues the narrator, playing on the ambivalences of language like the juggler of his balls, I gave up. And I even took pleasure in being possessed. My actions no longer made much sense. But they had more weight. The weight of necessity. It was quite confusing. »

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