Luxembourg, March.

The best moment on that visit to Luxembourg was the couple of hours spent with Lambert Schlechter, a superb francophone writer of essays, chronicles, diaries, meditations, “small proses” — an “écriture” that never lets itself be caught inside a given genre, but always migrates, nomadizes along & across the borders of whatever set genre would declare itself underhand. We have known each other (& each other’s ambition to be writers) since 1966 when we were students in Paris, he in French literature, me in medicine, and would sit around in famed literary cafés that we couldn’t afford, nano-sipping one espresso for hours on end while describing what our Collected Works would look like way, way in the future, i.e. now. Lambert certainly has kept on track, even if he probably thought back then that he would write more poetry as such. After teaching literature in a Luxembourg Lyçée, he now lives in the countryside, or, as he puts it on the back of his books “in Luxembourg, on the banks of the river Sûre, among the swans, geese and ducks” — though I would add “among the books.” On the train to Paris two days later I read his latest collection of meditations (a wearier, wiser, crazier, more traveled & more cracked Montaigne) called Le murmure du monde (The Murmur of the World) in one fell swoop; here Paul of Tarsus meets Winkelmann, La Bruyère meets Alban Berg, Saint Augustin rubs shoulders with W.G. Sebald, and Lambert’s knowledge and passion for classical Chinese art runs like a read (I meant to write “red” but let “read” stand) silk thread through these reflections. I hope I’ll find the time to translate some of his work sometime soonish — a selection of Schlechter’s work should be brought out by a US publisher. Meanwhile I am enjoying his latest, smoky, a gathering of what he calls “chroniques,” occasional time-bound pieces, published by Le temps qu’il fait.

After the reading in Luxembourg, held in the context of a “Romanian contemporary arts” season in the Grand-Duchy, where I represented the “local” Lux poet reading with two Romanian “guest” poets, after the three of us did a non-attended reading at the FNAC bookstore in Metz (that’s like having to do a non-advertised reading with, well, two Romanian poets, in the Barnes & Ignoble of a mid-sized Arkansas city), I shot up to Paris on the old TGV train — it took 3.5 hours, while in my student days that trip took 4.5 hours, and when I will next travel the same route on 25 June, the new TGV will take 2 hours and 10 minutes.

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