Jean Cayrol David Carroll

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David Carroll

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In the novels of Jean Cayrol someone speaks, but as Roland Barthes has already argued it is impossible to say exactly who. The Cayrolian voice hides as much as it reveals its source; it is never transparent. It works against the speaker who desires to affirm his presence by speaking. The Cayrolian figure may attempt, like Gaspard of Les Corps Etrangers, to remember his past and relate it accurately and completely in order to claim he is present as an identity at the source of his voice, outside and prior to it; but he is never successful. (p. 789)

The Cayrolian voice is a voice without origin, a voice whose source is in no fully constituted subject and which, therefore, cannot be conclusively identified. It is incorrect, perhaps, even to call it a voice because it has no specific origin and is never unique. Each voice is plural, not a voice at all but multiple, with multiple origins. The invasion of each voice by other voices indicates that it would be impossible to give any voice a sense or direction and it is in this way that the Cayrolian voice constitutes a text (a fundamental characteristic of any text being this absence of a definite source, the absence of any subject hors texte governing its sense). A text demands the absence or death of the subject in order to signify—it could be considered precisely as a voice (voices) without origin.

It can be seen already, therefore, that the status of the subject who speaks is similar to and perhaps the same as that of the writer in Cayrol's novels, for since the voice can be considered to be textual, the speaker is always in this sense a writer, even if very often it is in spite of himself. I will concentrate here on two of Cayrol's works, Le Vent de la Mémoire and Je l'Entends Encore, in which the writer appears directly as a figure in the novels, in order to see just exactly what status the writer has in the novels and what his relation is to the text, keeping in mind that he is a privileged figure only in the sense that all figures who speak are writers and all voices texts to be interpreted, never transparent in themselves. In Cayrol's novels the written (the text) has invaded the spoken (the voice) at its origin.

When the figure of the writer appears in Le Vent de la Mémoire, he is a mystified figure, a figure fleeing from the differences of the past and from the others, fleeing from the implications of his text, a figure trying to hide behind a mask and to posit himself as a unified presence, an identity complete in itself. Gérard wants to have no memories and to deny the difference at the heart of the present—he simply wants to be. He desires to be the same, identical to himself and, moreover, to make his sameness manifest to others. To realize this desire he takes on a mask, a role or personality (the "writer"), which supposedly defines him completely, which is the manifestation of his inward truth, the same as what he is. (pp. 789-90)

The "writer" from Gérard's mystified point of view writes in order to make manifest his own presence, to present his personal and private view of the world, the truth which he possesses. The "writer" is always present in his text because it says exactly what he wants it to say, because it is simply an extension of him…. [In order to continuously grasp this truth without interference,] Gérard constructs his "bureau" to be a wall against the others, a physical closure for the self, a space where he can be. (pp. 790-91)

Having made himself secure, the "writer" can now write and so the completion of the "bureau" should be a moment of triumph. Instead, he fears the moment because it is the moment of his physical absence from the world, an indication of his death. In fact, it does not free him from the others and permit him to write but closes him in on himself and imprisons him. (p. 791)

The "writer" feels that he must protect himself from the others because they threaten him by interfering with his desired unity and perfection, with his state of total...

(The entire section is 3,615 words.)