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FEATURE INTERVIEW CAMILLE DE TOLEDO

In 2012, Theseus departs the “City of the West” and embarks on a new life to escape memories of his family. He takes three boxes of archives, abandons everything else and, with his children, boards the last eastbound train of the night. He believes he is moving into the light, towards regeneration. But very quickly, his past catches up with him. Theseus perseveres. He clings to the present and resists the self-inquiry his body is demanding of him, one which threatens to throw wide the windows of the past.

From the back cover ofThésée, sa vie nouvelle (“Theseus’s new life”)by Camille de Toledo, published by Verdier in August 2020.

© Oren Eliav, Listener (2011), oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv – www.oreneliav.com

DELPHINE HORVILLEUR I was very moved by the musicality of your book, the repetition in the prose. In the Jewish tradition it is often thought that it is only through repetition that change is possible. The verb “to repeat” is leshonen, and its root, shone, means “change.” Similarly, in your work, it is repetition that allows the writing to move forward. I was also struck by your choice of third person narration in reference to the main character. The effect is to keep the reader in a state of uncertainty, trying to work out whether the narrative is describing you or someone else. Are you describing yourself in the third person? And what does it mean to write about yourself as if you were not, in fact, yourself?

CAMILLE DE TOLEDO The element of repetition comes out of a practice of inquiry. A personal inquiry, because it means continually returning to the place where the wound is, and because it’s the way I heal myself. I don’t speak about it in the book, but part of my spine is damaged, and I have rituals of very deep meditation that I have to do daily.

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