I have finally managed to create a kind of clearing in my study. I will now be able to look around me and get my philosophical bearings.
I thought I had understood the literary materials I had been working on. I had made perfect kinds of non-sense of them. The case was almost closed. It soon sprung open again. The more I thought, the more I had to read. And the more I read, the more I needed to read. And the more I needed to think and write.
The mystery novels were soon buried under a mass of other materials. Texts piled up on texts. I pushed various objects to the back of my desk. The photos of Proust and the old Broadwood piano were shoved away. One old postcard fell down the back of a bookcase. I did not retrieve it.
There, on the floor, were copies of works by Plato and Aristotle, arranged in piles. To my right, all the documents relating to one of my previous projects had spilled out of a folder and had not been replaced. Sheets of lined paper covered in faded, hand-written notes; copies of paintings; music; manuscript paper; the letters of some great author.
Now, though, I have got everything in something like an order.
Françoise is very happy with this change. She attributes this miraculous event to her own influence, her own pervasive sense of propriety. When she came into my study a few moments ago she almost fell over herself with surprise. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘it’s about time. I told myself you needed to have a good sort out. How could you ever have expected to get any work done with all that paper sitting around?’ I told her that I was a critic, a detective-critic, and that all these documents were essential to my thinking. Her face lit up with a smile that told me that she felt nothing if not sorry for me. ‘You call yourself a writer,’ she continued, her tone one of supreme condescension, ‘and yet you never write. You tell me that you are reading and yet you never read. All you ever seem to do, so far as I can see, is take books off the shelves – books that I will only have to put back.’ These were, I admit, hard words to hear – hard because true. Françoise sees through me.
I’m sitting in the clearing I have created for myself. I am calm.
The philosopher Heidegger speaks of standing in the clearing – a space in which Being is revealed. My clearing is not that kind of clearing. It is just a space in which to write.