Intimate Journal, or Here’s a Manuscript

By X. I. Selene

A review of Intimate Journal, Or Here's A Manuscript by Nicole Brossard

Published on April 1, 2004

Intimate Journal, Or Here’s A Manuscript
Nicole Brossard

Mercury Press
$17.95
paper
113pp
1-55128-104-X

Intimate Journal opens a short but in no way minor work of Brossard to a new audience. Bilingual readers, however, can read the original Journal intime ou Voilà donc un manuscrit (Les Herbes Rouges, 1984). For those reluctant to read a book written in French, Journal intime would be an excellent starting point, for here ideas of striking complexity come across in peerless syntax. Accessible and immediate, Journal intime voyages everywhere, countering the mundane, inviting further reflection.

Journal intime was commissioned by Radio-Canada and broadcast in August 1983. Brossard confesses that she had never before kept a diary. Suddenly called upon to produce one, she shows a certain discomfort with the form. Of course, she remains diplomatic, deferring judgement on the transparency of Radio-Canada producers’ minds. Nonetheless, the essentializing notion that diary writing should come naturally to women is tactfully deflated.

It appears to be the everydayness or dailiness of the diary that makes it insupportable. Diary writing, like other routine tasks, belongs to that rapacious, insurmountable order of time, which seems rapidly to undo all human efforts. Like dust that settles on the shelf no sooner than it is wiped clean, thoughts and impressions accrue abysmally after the diary is shut and locked. “It’s obvious that keeping a journal is like keeping house,” writes Brossard on 28 January 1983. “You have to get used to the idea!”

To levitate the diary out of seemingly inevitable everydayness, Brossard constructs a crazy calendar. Time is reordered according to a world remade. “All utopias are synchronized in our gestures of love.” The future is easily visited. A bar in Mykonos melts into rue Duluth. All Junes are reunited in one spectacular year. Here is the most innovative vade mecum ever devised.

Intimate Journal is also a book for translators. Spiked with gallicisms, even straight French, Intimate Journal is an appropriate translation of a book that overtly, radically questions translation. Barbara Godard has fixed some exquisite, dexterous texts, but she could have done still more to preserve the wordplay and sonority in the “Postures” and poems marking the ends of sections. The English version also contains the concise, meditative “Works in Flesh and Metonymies,” as well as a palpitating bibliography that will provide all-night reading (and viewing) well into next year. mRb

X. I. Selene is a Montreal writer.

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