The Cahiers/Notebooks of Paul Valery are a unique form of writing. They reveal Valery as one of the most radical and creative minds of the twentieth century, encompassing a wide range of investigation into all spheres of human activity. His work explores the arts, the sciences, philosophy, history and politics, investigating linguistic, psychological and social issues, all linked to the central questions, relentlessly posed: 'what is the human mind and how does it work?’, 'what is the potential of thought and what are its limits?' But we encounter here too, Valery the writer: exploratory, fragmentary texts undermine the boundaries between analysis and creativity, between theory and practice. Neither journal nor diary, eluding the traditional genres of writing, the Notebooks offer lyrical passages, writing of extreme beauty, prose poems of extraordinary descriptive power alongside theoretical considerations of poetics, ironic aphorisms and the mast abstract kind of analysis. The concerns and the insights that occupied Valery's inner voyages over more than 50 years remain as relevant as ever for the contemporary reader: for the Self that is his principal subject is at once singular and universal.
Cahiers: Notebooks (Volume 1) by Paul Valery, chief editor and translations by Brian Stimpson, translations by Paul Gifford, Sian Miles, and Robert Pickering (Peter Lang) not yet published
Cahiers: Notebooks (Volume 2) by Paul Valery, chief editor and translations by Brian Stimpson, translations by Rachel Killick, Robert Pickering, Norma Rinsler, Stephen Romer, and Brian Stimpson (Peter Lang)
Cahiers: Notebooks (Volume 3) by Paul Valery, chief editor and translations by Brian Stimpson, translations by (Peter Lang) not yet published
Cahiers: Notebooks (Volume 4) by Paul Valery, chief editor and translations by Brian Stimpson, translations by (Peter Lang)
Cahiers: Notebooks (Volume 5) by Paul Valery, chief editor and translations by Brian Stimpson, translations by (Peter Lang) not yet published
Cahiers: Notebooks (Volumes 1-5 set) by Paul Valery, chief editor and translations by Brian Stimpson, (Peter Lang) not yet published
Valery's Notebooks are one of the most remarkable and original works in twentieth‑century thought and writing. The excitement with which they have been received in countries as far apart in distance or cultural tradition as Japan, the United States, Brazil, Australia and Israel, or, in the European orbit, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Bulgaria, has been extraordinary. Just as remarkable has been the attention given to the Notebooks by the media (press, radio and television) in many different countries, as well as the award of special prizes (including the prestigious National Translation Prize in Japan and the coveted Paul Celan prize for 'translation of a masterpiece' in Germany).
When Valery was close to death, he wrote movingly that he was 'sure of (the) value' of this gigantic sum of reflections accumulated over a lifetime and of its 'importance'. Certainly their publication in the 29 large and magnificent volumes reproduced in facsimile by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique confirm their unique standing. Since then, they have opened up whole new vistas of research to countless scholars in a variety of disciplines, subject only to the constraint of access; which is why, across the world, the interest generated has been strikingly intensified wherever translation has made them available to a wider public.
Valery's overriding passion was to examine, not so much the nature (too metaphysical a term for his taste), as the functioning of the human mind in all its 'phases', as it moves, for instance, through the daily cycle of sleeping, dreaming and waking. The Notebooks chart these minutely analysed moments, as Valery himself woke each dawn, returning to lucidity, coordination and control, attacking the mental problems of the moment or the day, feeling again their own particularities and specific characteristics. Here especially we encounter that highly‑charged word 'f, common denominator of all the phases and employed with all its possible complementary verbs: 'I feet, 'I see', 'I hear', 'I touch', 'I look', 'I fear', 'I tremble', etc., and then, at a higher mental level: 'I think', 'I disagree', 'I do believe it', 'I hope', 'I want', 'I wonder', 'I've decided', 'I'm sure', and so on, until we reach the highest levels of all, which are superimposed levels of consciousness, as in the line from 'Le Cimetiere marin':
O pour moi seul, a moi seul, en moi‑meme...
Oh just for me, for me alone, within myself...
or, even more strikingly, in La Jeune Parque:
Je me voyais me voir, sinueuse, et dorais
De regards en regards, mes profondes forets
I saw myself seeing myself, sinuous, and
From gaze to gaze gilded my innermost forests
As Valery realised when very young, there is a direct correlation between each of these affirmations and the activation of complex neuronal networks in the brain: this highly evolved, self‑organizing biological process, involving as well the operation of intricate feedback mechanisms, has become one of the chief areas of research in the neurosciences in the second half of the twentieth century.
The apparently simple statements or proclamations above remind us that every one of them, preceded by the pronoun T, implies not only thought, but also will, emotion, intention or desire. And the Notebooks are full of desire: the mind's desire, in Valery's case, was a burning desire ‑ as strong as the need to assuage hunger or thirst ‑ to understand its own hidden functioning, its own ultimate goals, the 'LAST POINT' to which it is capable of leading us. The whole of Valery's adult life, looked at in its overall design, is made up of an active, unremitting urge to address such issues.
The Notebooks can, in fact, be perceived as an infinite succession of attempts to analyze, experiment with, and theorize all the questions raised by the mind's reflections upon itself, always with the greatest possible scientific rigour, which involved the search for the most appropriate models and theories, and the most effective ways of testing them. In this respect Valery was vastly ahead of his time, when excellent researchers were convinced either that 'man will never be able to define the mind' or that the only way of beginning to understand it was by studying its normal or pathological manifestations. Very rare indeed were the men who dared, as Valery did, to treat the mind as the functioning of a single, psycho‑physiological organism, as a coherent living whole.
The Notebooks indeed emerge as precursors of modern neurobiology as a result of the relationship, which is constantly stressed, between 'Corps', 'Esprit' and 'Monde, Body, Mind and World. These are not distinctions which make any concession to dualism; on the contrary, by distinguishing between Body and Mind, Valery is drawing attention to the difference in function or degree between bodily and mental activities, to the fact that without the body there would simply be no birth and no death, no human thoughts, acts, memories or emotions. It also serves as a benchmark or reference point, enabling us to judge the veracity of external objects or events; it permits us to translate into our internal human scale the minute, invisible movements of its component elements or the constant molecular activity which takes place within it, maintaining it (and therefore us) in a state of equilibrium, but also of healthy growth.
These same distinctions permit the famous statement: 'The mind is a moment in the response of the body to the world', This key sentence stresses the inseparability and interpenetration of these three ever‑present variables, body, brain and environment. The result may be physical, chemical, biological or neuronal, or any combination of these different partners, collaborating in the maintenance, development and extension of human 'reality' as experienced by us all. As Valery points out, the body is what we often tend to cling to because it is both immediately visible and tangible. The mind ‑ as a capacity to think, feel and react‑is what the brain 'makes' or 'extracts' from the internal states of our body, and it thus plays a particular integrative role.
That all these processes are possible only because of the production and transmission of energy, Valery never doubts. Sometimes he calls it 'electrochemical' or conceives of it in 'thermodynamic' terms; specialists of the brain and the nervous system now call it 'neuronal'. But his recognition of the inseparability of these processes is in complete accord with the most important current research in this field.
The Notebooks, however, take us much further than this discovery of all the concepts and methods that Valery had come to master. They open up to us a most extraordinary reading experience, left completely open to each individual's initiative. In this edition a deliberate decision, of which I fully approve, has been made to reorder several of Valery's chapters in comparison with my original edition in the 'Bibliotheque de la Pleiade', thereby establishing a new configuration that is both valuable and stimulating. Like all truly great minds, Valery's was very open, and this is indeed reflected in his own projected classification. He spent much of his adult life hesitating as to how to organize the Notebooks (or not organize them, depending on the mood of the day, or the period of his life); he experimented with different sequences, designing different 'architectures of the mind', structuring and unstructuring, in search of a model that would encourage a diversity of pathways and itineraries through the Notebooks, hence a multiplicity of readings.
With Valery's thought, everything is possible, and there are as many ways of reading as there are readers. His thinking operates within a constant tension between synthesis and sequence, continuity and discontinuity, the self‑negating dynamic being one of the main distinguishing features of his supreme form of self‑consciousness. An idea that prompts total admiration one day may arouse disagreement, either in part or in whole, the next day, only to be followed later by a return, perhaps from a different angle of vision. The reader's attention espouses the rhythms of Valery's own and participates in the creative energy of his thinking. In these infinitely rich and profound texts we experience things that are found in no other author in quite the same way: the sensation of exploring, in the immediacy of the first person, the functioning and space of a remarkable mind; we marvel at its rigour, its sweep, its creativity, its touching need to comprehend even the most dauntingly complex phenomena, its unswerving determination not to give in. And it does not give in, except at the very end, before the terrible onslaughts of 'my heart. It triumphs. Stronger than anything, than mind, than organism. ‑ That is the fact of the matter... The most obscure of facts. Stronger than the desire to live and the ability to understand is after all this damn, sacred ‑ H ‑ ' (AFFECTIVITY, XXIX, 908‑909).
These words, written in the final pages of the Notebooks, with their tremendous charge of understated pathos and even tragedy, bring Valery even closer to us, in admiring and sympathetic warmth. Rarely in the history of European literature has the intimacy between reader and writer been more searching. And, just us rarely has it helped readers the world over to believe in the potential for thought latent within them, to discover with delight and astonishment a sense of their own human possibility, creativity and worth. There is no greater gift that a writer can offer to his readers.
The Cahiers/Notebooks of Paul Valery are a quite unique form of writing: unparalleled in scope and form, vertiginous in their sheer volume as in their abrupt shifts of focus between a relentless probing into the innermost recesses of the mind and a vast, overarching interrogation of the human enterprise. They fit none of the pre‑established forms or genres of writing: neither literature nor philosophy, neither autobiography nor preparatory workbook, neither scientific paper nor political statement, neither reading notes, poetic manuscript nor sketchbook ‑ and yet at the same time all of these things, and more.
For Valery takes us at once behind and beyond the public forms of expression; we move into the realm where the mind engages with its own processes and where the functions, the operations, the assumptions, the aspirations that drive all these different manifestations of human activity may be observed, analysed, decomposed and launched anew. It is a realm of interconnectedness, where the barriers between discrete areas of knowledge are broken down in the search for the underlying forms of operation, where schematic divisions between analysis and creativity, between theory and practice, between art and science are systematically undermined. Labels of 'classicism' or 'modernity', classifications in schools of thought or cultural clans are irrelevant when the purpose is a radical redefinition of terms, a refocusing of attention and an exploration of the continuity located across these boundaries.
The lifelong quest of Valery was to explore this terrain and understand its functioning in terms of the inner dynamics of the Self: a quest to fathom the inner cosmos of the mind, as closer and more unknown than the cosmic universe to which it is often seen as analogous and even reciprocal. During the early 1890s, when he was ambitious but lacking direction, at once inspired and cast down by the achievements of Mallarme, Poe and Wagner, pursued by all manner of pressures and anxieties ‑ by the emotional turmoil of illusory love, the impossibility of rivaling artistic idols, the disappointments of personal life ‑, then it was that the young Valery conceived his vast project to understand the world by means of understanding himself looking within in order to look without. But this was no introspective, self contemplating gaze. By scrutinizing the inner structures and workings of the self, and by employing the most advanced tools of scientific analysis, he might, so he hoped, at once free himself from the tyranny of ideas and emotions and formulate a unitary, mathematically expressed model of mental functioning, a rigorous, comprehensive understanding of the mind and its products. 'Other people write books. I am making my mind', he noted at an early age (EGO, II, 840). Much later in the mid-1930s he notes with evident appreciation this phrase of Bergson's, this 'honorable line' that he will retain as a motto: 'What Valery has done, had to be attempted' (EGO, XVII, 792).
If the early hopes for a systematic formulation of the whole were to become attenuated, the quest remains a driving principle and offers above all a way of looking, a practical and personal method whose richness lies in the very breadth of its applicability, an approach whose strength is located precisely in the diversity of areas that may be subjected to the analytical gaze. 'No‑one has stood back from everything and everyone more than I have. I'd like to turn them all into a spectacle ‑ and rid myself of everything except my way of looking' (EGO, IV, 248). It is above all, Valery's foregrounding of the dynamic between a perceiving subject and all that it perceives, that makes his notion of 'le Moi' so crucial and so original. For him, the observing (and self‑observing) consciousness of the subject is the integrating factor in the triadic equation of 'Body‑MindWorld', constantly responding to the exigencies and stimuli of the body and the world, while simultaneouly projecting its own modes of perception.
The objective is that of exploring, elucidating and mastering the functioning of the human psyche, in so far as it knowable to subject consciousness and may be plotted on to the threefold axis. The galvanizing challenge is Monsieur Teste's radically simple question, assumed very concretely, in fullest analytical rigour and unblinking lucidity: what is the cognitive, creative and spiritual reach of the human mind? The Notebooks are, first and foremost, the locus, the mirror and the graphic trace of the fundamental awakening occasioned by the question of human potential or possibility:
My two questions: What is a man capable of?
How does that'work'? (EGO, XI, 558.)
Such is the project which the Notebooks reveal to us, a novel regime of writing and a strikingly singular practice of thought. For over 50 years, Valery rose at the crack of dawn, refreshed in mental powers and driven from his bed by 'the vipers' whip of ideas'. With only coffee and cigarettes for company ‑ but the renewal of the physical world at dawn is the increasingly present frame of reference also ‑ he would spend the undisturbed interval 'between the lamp and the sun' writing his experimental analyses in the exercise books, jotters and registers which by the time of his death number 260: such are his 'scales in thought' (GLADIATOR, V, 777), his daily mental gymnastics (THE NOTEBOOKS XVI, 793). Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Valery quotes with feeling the boutade of the 17th century French Jesuit Fr Hardouin: 'Do you suppose I would have spent my life getting up at 3 AM in order to think like everyone else? ‑' (EGO, XXVI, 483).
The Notebooks are the nearest modern equivalent of the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, which Valery had consulted in the Bibliotheque Nationale in 1894: notes, sketches, illustrations, fragmentary ideas, passages rarely morethan a page in length covering every conceivable subject: physical and mathematical models of the human mind; language, poetics, dreams, emotions, science, ethics, education, politics, power, the future of Europe. Lyrical passages, writing of extreme beauty and sensitivity, prose poems of extraordinary descriptive power run alongside humorous aphorisms and the most abstract kind of analysis possible.
But if the 'infinite auto-discussion' encompasses an astonishing diversity of subjects, the myriad, fragmentary pulses of self‑dictated thought all however constitute a single 'essay' directed towards the 'theory of oneself. All look towards the tempting but infinitely elusive theoria (or unitary overview) of the human subject exactly recognized and explored in its psychic functioning, resources and powers.
THE WRITING 'I'
If the Notebooks are not a journal or a diary, nor an explicit record of what he read, for whom and for what purpose was he writing? We must try to imagine the thinking‑writing processes that rule over his silent morning 'aubades' ‑and can only image them, because however close the manuscripts may bring us to the workings of his mind, we can never fully participate in the inner process of which the traces on the page are themselves already a translation.
How exactly did he write? How much did he write in any given period? Why is it that one particular note is placed after another? What are the principles of continuity and discontinuity? What is the relationship between repetition and renewal? These are complex questions that even an intimate knowledge of the Notebooks cannot resolve with complete satisfaction and for which there cannot be a single answer. There are a number of different regimes of writing, some contradictory, some complementary.
It is clear, firstly, that much of the morning time is spent in reading, in rereading his previous notes and in reflection and meditation; the notes we are now able to read, however provisional and incomplete in their formulation, are as much the end‑result of that process as the launching‑point. The intertextual references are there, the books read, the ideas of other people, the personal experiences, all lie implicitly behind the writing, at a latent level, at a prior moment; but these are used as grist for his internal mind‑processing; the lived experience, the reality of the bodily or emotional response has been reflected upon, abstracted into a more general set of functions and by the time that he comes to the act of writing, the incident, the memory, the other text read has faded behind the present mental act. Valery's instinctive mental reaction is one of appropriation ‑ no matter whether from others or from other moments of his self‑ in order to serve the immediacy of thought in action.
Secondly, we can observe a process of invention on the page, which is not so much one of 'inspiration' as of spontaneous discovery in the act of writing itself, in response to graphic, physical, visual events; the writing advances from one moment to the next, a perpetually unfolding text, as the thinking modulates with every scriptural gesture. The characteristic rhythm of thought and writing is one of absolute provisionality: fragmentary, open, rebounding, superficially repetitious, but profoundly progressive (like much 'scientific' research). The same problems, regularly resurgent, are forever reformulated and reviewed, giving wider associations, sharper definition, renewed perspectives and contexts of significance. The act of writing itself solicits methodically what Valery calls the 'implex', that is the energetic, transformative capacity for association and analogy which represents the unknown and unmastered potential of the mind.
There can be no doubt that the primary compulsion to write was an inner one, noticeable in the extreme discomfort occasioned by any circumstances which deprived him of the possibility of doing so. The writing was, he said, 'a vice', 'a necessity', 'as strange, imperious and unconsidered as tobacco' (THE NOTEBOOKS, XXV, 552), while the ideal reader addressed directly or indirectly by the explicit or implicit first person is none other than himself, ideal interlocutor and adversary. The Notebooks occupy, then, the space of an inner dialogue with the self, singularly tracing a kind of inner speech in written form: the writingT tests its ideas against a register of voice; the scriptural presence not only observes its own operations but at times, literally, draws itself, its own portrait.
The question of the possible publication of the Cahiers was always ambiguous in Valery's own mind. There was a continual unresolved tension in him between publishing and not publishing, not only because the primary purpose of the writing was self‑exploratory and self‑directed, but because the question of the organization of the material presented intractable difficulties. Even the early note 'To be published, some day, this research..' (THE NOTEBOOKS, I, 276) is guarded in formulation and is more an imaginative projection than a determined project. It is true, nevertheless, that at various stages of his life Valery began to order and classify his work, either by thematic indices or by marking texts of related content with systems of symbols; these served to map the connections of his thought and to indicate potential forms of classification.
In the early years he had the dual advantage of a determined belief in the elaboration of the 'System' along with a relatively limited amount of material. The first attempt at grouping the notes was made in 1898, when they were contained in approximately 15 small exercise books (equivalent to approximately half of one of the volumes in the C.N.R.S. edition); it consists of a list of key words, of cross‑references and an analytical index of terms. Ten years later things were already different: there were close to 45 notebooks and the project itself was taking a different shape and purpose. Valery spent considerable time copying by hand passages from the notebooks on to individual sheets of
paper, grouping them under different headings and, characteristically, adding developments in the process. Some were then subsequently typed using the recently purchased typewriter and classified, as he explained to his friend Andre Lebey in a letter of June 1908:
I distribute [the pages] among a dozen red or yellow folders [...] with penciled titles such as 'Memory', 'Attention' or 'Dream' etc. A very simplistic division, but provisionally useful.
What I especially enjoy about this, is having the folders.
[...j it gives me the illusion of writing a book (and it's not even a table of contents). I act as though there's some order in all my confusion, at the cost of a few pence for colored paper. (LQ, 83‑84.)
About one thousand separate notes were classified in this way. It is noticeable that the categories and headings given to the pages are highly abstract and theoretical; they are still dominated by mathematical and physical terminology 'Notion of operations', 'Invariance of elements', 'Groups', 'Phases' ‑ while the major headings addressing topics such as Affectivity, or the reality of the human body are not yet in evidence.
In 1921 a renewed, more systematic classification was begun, carried out until Valery's death in 1945 by a succession of dedicated collaborators, among whom Mme Lucienne Cain, the wife of the Director‑General of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. But at the same time the rhythm of writing was increasing exponentially: the notes written by 1920, after a little more than twenty‑five years of work, now occupy seven volumes of the C.N.R.S. edition, whereas in the following twenty‑five years more than three times as much was to be written.' The mass of papers was alarming and Valery admits to feeling 'paralyzed' by the sheer quantity. Indeed, by the end there were tens of thousands of pages. The notes from the Cahiers were transcribed in duplicate and classified according to headings and titles indicated by Valery, often with additional annotations. From the 1930s on, the problems of space within the apartment were resolved when two studios were successively made available to him so that he could spread the material out on long tables and classify the dossiers in pigeonholes.
The organization of this second classification was broader than the first, enriched with sections on language, on emotions, on religious faith, on artistic, scientific, literary, historico‑political matters; these thirty‑one headings are those adopted by Judith Robinson‑Valery in the choice of texts from the Cahiers edited in the 'Pleiade' series, as in the current edition. 3 Within these principal sections Valery identifies 215 sub‑headings and key‑words which are frequently appended to the notes and provide a system of cross‑referencing; among them: Self The 3 laws; Inner speech; Myth; the symbols for the mental and the physical. Many of these sub‑headings are coded with an abbreviation and a full list of these is to be found at the end of this Introduction.
Valery gave considerable attention to the placing of notes within each of the headings, the abbreviations indicating that several possibilities are sometimes envisaged and, very occasionally, one finds the same note recurring under two different headings. The groups of notes under any one rubric thus function in a web of interconnections with other notes, while having sufficient internal coherence as an autonomous subject of enquiry. We have accordingly elected to refer to the set of notes grouped under each rubric as a 'chapter'.
It is significant that while the placing of the notes was carefully and systematically approached, Valery left no precise indication of the preferred order of the rubrics in relation to each other, appearing to juggle with several possibilities around certain thematic groupings. The hesitation in the face of the construction of such a vast mental edifice is inherent in the project itself for the problem he faced was one of balancing the openness and interconnectedness of the work, with a single system of organization when several are possible and none can be comprehensive. The present edition proposes a modification to the grouping of chapters as presented in the 'Pleiade' edition, respecting the affinities between certain related chapters (between the groups of artistic chapters or the scientific ones for example), while regrouping them as a whole into five thematic volumes. As a result, new resonances arise; fresh perspectives are opened up, which are completely in tune with the original.
PLAN OF THE PRESENT EDITION
VOLUME 1: THE NOTEBOOKS ‑ EGO ‑ GLADIATOR ‑ THE 'I' AND THE PERSONALITY ‑ AFFECTIVITY ‑ EROS
Volume 1 introduces the enterprise of the Notebooks in its rigorously intellectual but also personal and affective dimension. Valery's deep understanding of, and pertinence to, the limits of autobiographical presentation, which prefigure the most modem literary developments in this field, are here addressed. Writing is at once a form of ruthlessly honest self‑examination and a process of sublimation and self‑censorship. The quest for intellectual mastery through a highly complex system of mental training and conditioning is seen in the dynamic relation between the inner self and the external world. But at the same time the personal/existential dimension of Valery's analysis of the self is reflected in the permanent and tragic struggle with the force of his own emotions. The acuity and intensity of the experience of love is paralleled by the sharpest edges of self-awareness in the quest for communion with the other.
VOLUME 2: ART AND IESTFIETICS ‑ POIETICS ‑ POETRY LITERATURE ‑ POEMS AND SHORT ‑ABSTRACT POEMS ‑ SUBJECTS ‑ EGO SCRIPTOR
Volume 2 focuses upon the cultural, literary and artistic dimension of the writing, both as creative, lyrical inventiveness and as reflection upon the processes involved. Here we encounter the aesthetic function, as scriptural activity, perceiving eye, listening ear explore this domain via an inner self‑language surpassing the limits of genre or school. 'the great importance of his aesthetic insights reveals Valery's status as a forerunner of the most modem artistic concepts, prefiguring critical movements and approaches to creativity decades before their subsequent realization. The Notebooks are seen as a field of continuous literary creativity and graphic experimentation in a context of untrammeled personal freedom, favoring the constitution of a very little known corpus of creative writing ‑ notably the prose poems and the micro‑fictions. This approach to the search for meaning is a dynamic process of constant generative power, which situates the Notebooks at the heart of the 20th century concept of the 'work in progress' and invites comparison with such exemplary exponents as Proust and Musil.
VOLUME 3: PSYCHOLOGY ‑ SOMA AND C E M ‑ SENSIBILITY ATTENTION ‑11U:MORY ‑ DREAM
The understanding of mind is explored in volume 3 as linked indissolubly to a deepening reflection of the self's sensory and emotional responses and its link to its own past through the working of memory processes. Valery's lifelong analytic fascination with dreams and dreaming runs parallel to that of Surrealism, which he fundamentally mistrusted, and of the development in France of Freud's insights, which he knew only at second hand, and often refuted violently. Yet Valery is often closer than he thinks to the psychoanalytical explorations of the unconscious pursued by Freud and Lacan; and their insights in turn offer a fascinating counterpoint to his reworkings as thinker and as poet of the world of dream. This reflection differs greatly from the traditional view of Valery as irrevocably asserting the primacy of the mind over the body and its responses; analysis of the functioning of the mind includes both its conscious and unconscious reflexes ‑ dream and imagination.
VOLUME 4: LANGUAGE ‑ BIOS ‑ MATHEMATICS ‑ SCIENCE TIME ‑ HOMO ‑. fiISTORY‑POLITICS ‑ EDUCATION
Fully reflective of some of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, volume 4 reveals Valery as an important scientific thinker and epistemologist, engaged not only with issues of the internal mental world but with the external dimension of the Body‑Mind‑World coupling. His reflections upon language date from the earliest period when he sought a language freed from its arbitrary association with reality and capable of expressing pure analytical functions, his 'Arithmeticales Universals' or algebra of the mind. The notes offer an extraordinarily rich perspective on key areas of scientific progress: modern mathematics, atomic and quantum physics, relativity, the uncertainty principle, space‑time interrelationships. But man is seen too as an organism living in an often difficult relationship with his environment. The contribution of the Notebooks to the wider contexts of historical and sociopolitical problems is fundamental: not only a probing analyst of political power and action, Valery here emerges as a radical educationalist and as a social scientist concerned with the betterment of society, including on the international level.
VOLUME 5: SYSTEM ‑ PHILOSOPHY ‑ CONSCIOUSNESS ‑ THETA
Volume 5 addresses some of the most abstract issues in Valery's project to 'make his mind' while linking back to many of the questions tackled in previous volumes. The 'System' is a theoretical extrapolation of the intensely personal experiences of the self. His attack on the intellectual patterns of traditional philosophy is linguistically motivated, and the creation of a whole new philosophical basis to experience is presented as a reinvigoration and revision of the way language relates to the world. New material included in this volume reveals a more positive approach to philosophy, and links emerge with the Vienna School, as well as the striking overlap with Wittgenstein. This volume demonstrates the importance of the dovetailing and unifying thrust towards the unknown of the self s affective, existential nature. The systematic rethinking of all theological discourses inherited from the European past reveals a search for a new spiritual identity and a radical reconfiguration of the notion of the 'divine' as a natural and necessary category of the mind. The supreme importance of a certain mystical resonance in Valery, expressed in some of his most magnificent writing, complements the more scientific nature of volume 4, while leading us back to volume 1 through rich echoes with key themes of EROS.
NOTES ON THE TRANSLATION
To write anything whatsoever, once this act of writing demands thought, and is not a mechanical, uninterrupted transcription of spontaneous inner speech, is a work of translation which can be precisely compared to one involving the transmutation of a text from one language to another (CE, 1, 211).
Thus Valery broaches the question of translation in relation to his own French version of Vergil's Bucolic. Given a text which is not purely instrumental, but which contains a certain degree of thought and a certain care in the form of expression, any act of writing is for Valery an act of translation, a passage from a virtual state to an actual state of language; Valery show us that the formation of thought itself is a translation‑like process. Equally, any act of translation, or indeed even of reading, involves a re‑writing of the text for oneself, a capture of the process of its generation in which one retraces the steps of the author, goes back to 'the virtual period of its formation' before proceeding down again from this 'living imaginary state' to a 'resolution in a work written in a language different from the original' (Ibid., 215‑216). Such a 'genetic' vision of translation, in which the text translates the translator, sets a high ideal, but it serves as a useful pointer for the translator of the Cahiers and relates closely to the nature of the writing process [pp. 13‑14 above]. For, whatever the individual difficulties of translating the Cahiers into one language as opposed to another, there is no doubt that the principal difficulty in all cases, is in retracing the steps of the writer to a point of inner mental reflection, of silent speech with self from which the particular text could have been produced. The passage inscribed in the Cahiers is the living vestige of that reflection, that moment, that lyrical gaze... The hand ‑ in the sense of the handwriting ‑ of these pages, is a trace of the voice of the mind, as it explores, defines, hesitates, qualifies, deviates, rushes ahead or comes to a halt. There is a quality of rhythm, pace, breath and shape that is as much vocal as written, as much aural as visual.
These are features of the language that are distinctive in the original French, and characterize modes of expression that are not the same as the formally written prose of the published works. The translation into English has sought to retain as much as possible of this distinctive quality; as a result it remains close to the original both in terms of lexis and syntax, maintaining the concision and immediacy of expression, and, where appropriate, the lightness of tone, the brevity and contractions that characterize oral language, in order to convey the quality of thinking‑speech. But, of course, there are differences of tone too, both within chapters and between them, ranging from the brief aphorism, the flippant remark, to the sustained rigorous analysis and moments of lyrical flight. Valery's syntax and punctuation have been respected as far as possible because they are inherent in the rhythm of his thinking, which can be sustained over long passages while prolongations of an idea or distinctions or examples are explored.
There is no doubt that one can sometimes encounter a concentration and an intricacy of thought, but this is a consequence of the complexity and sheer scope of the thinking, the exploits of the highly developed mental athlete; yet despite the occasional difficulty, like the virtuoso of GLADIATOR, there is no superfluity, rather, a total economy of movement which gives the utmost clarity to the expression. Normalization of syntax or exegetical translation has therefore been used very sparingly, and any necessary explanation provided in the endnotes.
The difficulties arising from the lack of exactly coinciding equivalents at the level of lexis are particularly acute with Valery, because he had himself, within French, sought to build his own 'self‑language'. As in the original the semantic field of certain concepts is not necessarily circumscribed in one 'perfect' definition, but through an accumulation, a persistence, a shading and ‑ as in language itself ‑ through a process of differentiation from other concepts. The words he uses are not in themselves particularly uncommon (and any specialized terminology or specific references are clarified in the notes), but they become highly charged in meaning, polysemically resonant; 'pouvoir' as a noun, for example, can signify political power, potential, capacity, enabling, potential for power, empowerment, sometimes all at once. Though there is a certain consistent range of terms and concepts, as will be seen from the index, the difficulties of vocabulary cannot be resolved by adopting a homogeneity of English terminology. As Valery states, words mean what they do only according to the context where they occur; they have no autonomous life or connection with reality and to believe otherwise is to fall prey to fiduciary myths (as he makes clear in the chapter HISTORYPOLITICS).
In the interests of readability and in line with the objectives of this edition, the form of presentation of the passages has been simplified in comparison to the French editions of the Cahiers. The overall aim has been to provide a 'clean' text in order to enable the reader to have direct access to Valery's thinking-writing and to place all editorial elucidation in the end‑notes. Detailed indications of the graphic presentation of the notes, including the additions, variants and marginal marks, are to be found in the French editions of the Cahiers listed below. Researchers for whom these considerations are important ‑ which includes of course all those interested in the fascinating process of the genetic development of the writing ‑ should refer to these editions. Only the most important additions and variants have been retained and these will be found in the end‑notes. In certain cases page numbering has been normalized for reasons of simplicity.
Each passage is identified by reference to the volume and page of the C.N.R.S. edition. When that edition was being prepared, the problems of establishing the correct order of the 260 notebooks were considerable, especially with regard to a number of early notebooks: some are undated, some bear two different dates, some have dates added in different handwriting, some were written in parallel with others. The scholarly work involved in the preparation of the 'Pleiade' edition and subsequently of the edition integrale of the Cahiers 1894‑1914 has permitted the establishment of the correct sequence of notebooks and the current edition has sought to reflect these latest developments in research. Any instances where there is an apparent lack of sequence in the page or volume numbering of the references to the C.N.R.S editiorl therefore reflect this re‑establishment of the correct order. The principal sections concerned are the pagination of C.N.R.S. vol. I and three notebooks from vol. VII, originally dated 1919 and now dated 1911 (C, V1I, 264‑371).
A small number of passages omitted inadvertently from the C.N.R.S. edition were included in the 'Pleiade' edition and are signalled as such in the text.
Where two references are given, to the C.N.R.S. edition and to the Cahiers 1894‑1914, this indicates that the passage has been added to the selection of texts. Recent research has shown the prime importance of some of the early formulations and a sample of these has been introduced in order to enable the reader to grasp more clearly the genesis of the development of Valery's thought and to appreciate the sometimes more exploratory forms of expression.
References within the notes or introduction to other pasta fies in the present edition are given using the chapter heading and the C.N.R.S, reference.
Valery was very conscious of using a particular form of punctuation, feeling constrained by the norms of conventional usage, and wishing even that there were forms of articulation and expression as in music. This edition follows the practice of the ‘Pleiade', which is to respect as far as possible Valery's own punctuation, including his unique and highly significant use of the dash, which functions as a kind of breathing space or phrase mark in the thinking process. While dashes at the end of sentences were on the whole replaced by full stops, the intention, as Judith RobinsonValery makes clear, was 'to retain in the texts of Valery their characteristic appearance of improvised notes, in which thought, permanently in pursuit of itself, remains so often deliberately incomplete, as if suspended on an eternal question mark' (C1, xxxiv).
Abbreviations have been maintained, though completed using square brackets where clarification is necessary, such as in the case of proper names. Valery's distinctive and highly frequent use of 'c.a.d.' in the manuscripts, which was normalised to Vest‑a‑dire' in the 'Pleiade', has been rendered by the equivalent abbreviation 'i.e.' A full list of the signs and abbreviations is provided below.
The adventure of the Notebooks will inspire many metaphors: dawn voyages; scales in awakening; the maritime journey of exploration, creating its own charts, its own instruments of navigation, its own soundings; the Odyssey undertaken in the cosmos of ideas and mental forms; a Penelope's web to be explored and activated (THE NOTEBOOKS, XII, 606). The Notebooks are Valery's instrument of consciousness and knowledge, his means of 'technical improving '6 in any given field, the space in which he develops his personal phenomenology of thinking. As such, all the different forms of writing, the topics and investigations are part of a continuum. One of the principal developments in recent Valery research has been the growing recognition that earlier schematic divisions between his various types of work tended to have the effect of compartmentalizing and limiting our readings of them. The Cahiers: Notebooks offer fresh perspectives that in turn reflect back upon the published work too: we begin to see that the lyricism of the poetic writing is infused with the most abstract reflections, that the reflections on politics, on science, on art and music reveal the same concern to determine the role of the perceiving subject; that the analysis of language, which is one of his principal points of departure, is maintained throughout and becomes a tool in every area he explores. And we recognize that the 'f, the impersonal centre of consciousness aspiring to pure knowledge, the 'Singular‑Universal' distinct from each and every one of its contingent manifestations, is profoundly and movingly personal as it attempts with great courage, even at the threatened cost of its identity, to explore the most human of aspirations.
This opening chapter, comprised of notes extracted from EGO and EGO SCRIPTOR, was selected by Judith Robinson-Valery to present an introduction to the entire work, to reveal the meaning and purpose of the Cahiers and to provide an insight into the immense significance which they had in Valery's inner life. These notebooks represented the 'real work' for him, the huge, submerged part of the iceberg of which the published work is only a fraction: these were the writings that occupied his most alert hours and yet which were largely unknown to almost everyone during his lifetime; these, above all, were what he had invested his life in, sacrificed himself for, wherein the 'idol of his mind' was inscribed.
The reader of the Notebooks is forewarned not to mistake this journal for others. Here is no merely private record of personal hopes, fears and aspirations, no chronicle of deeds and days; still less is it (as journals from Rousseau to Gide had commonly been) the public confession of, or apology for, an intimate self. Its writer insists that he does not write his pleasure, and almost nothing of his pain (THE NOTEBOOKS, XVII, 687). He is not out to please, to fascinate or dominate anyone. We are entering a kind of laboratory of thought in which is being elaborated the most central of human sciences, elucidating and containing all others. The sole point of this resolutely anti‑literary writing is to decipher the text within ‑ the never‑finally decipherable text of human subjectivity as such.
The vocation to 'write myself produces an infinite text composed of 'Experiments, Sketches, Studies, Outlines, First Drafts, Exercises, Tentative steps' (III, 339); it is fragmentary and provisional, a web of interconnections. The writing reveals the 'joy ‑ the sheer excitement' of the first rush of ideas, the privacy and protectiveness of Valery's own thinking, the mental pacing up and down, the despair at 'the same old ideas', the frustrations, the discipline, the routine and the doubts. For, if the chapter concludes on a characteristic note of hypothesis and incompletion, the writer of this rubric takes courage from the modest (and secretly prideful) thought that better minds will come after him and find 'some fairly original things'.
EGO registers the ongoing intellectual autobiography of the mind encountered in the Notebooks. Not that his own human personality is being contemplated or promoted by Valery narcissistically. Personal self‑analysis is driven here, on the contrary, by the recognition that an uncompromising cognizance of one's own deficiencies and limits, motivating values and dynamic myths, can and must be the springboard to the attempt to transcend one's natural or given personality. As the dawn voyages multiply in time, so Valery is seized with the imperative of elucidating retrospectively, by an effort of historical memory and self‑understanding, the antecedents and origins, the constant features and the underlying logic of the singular human adventure of which he is the subject. The dream of realizing the intrinsic power and universality of the mind originates in, and refers to, a singular, self‑reflecting human subject: Valery (though he dislikes the word 'paradoxical') is acutely aware of this structural paradox at the heart of his intellectual adventure.
The self‑portrait we are offered is, at all events, brilliantly drawn and superbly illuminating. It is studded with incisive insights, memorably formulated: 'I've understood something when I think I could have invented it. And I know it thoroughly when I end up believing I discovered it myself; 'I have a unitary mind in a thousand pieces'; 'It is strange that this icy fury to exterminate, to execute through rigor should be closely linked in me to... an infinitely tender tenderness'; 'I bend beneath the burden of all I haven't done'; 'the 'f flees ever away from my person, which it nevertheless contours or imprints as it flees.'
Overall, the portrait emerging is severely self‑critical. It focuses, sometimes obsessively, on the entire set of dynamic negativities, from the lack of physical stature or moral self‑confidence, via the passionate intellectual jealousy and sense of rivalry, the driving anguish, or the dearth of other‑relationships, right through to the memorable pages on Valery's deep‑lying sense of existential malaise and ontological strangeness. Such 'negativity' is an interpretative choice, explicating an experienced logic of the 'System' itself. The writer of EGO sees these deficiencies as having generated and sustained his epic labour by an effect of reactive compensation. He has sought, in successive moments of turmoil and crisis, and by a 50‑year effort of will, to convert negative to positive: 'My worth comes from what I lack'.
Psychologists and psychoanalysts of mental creativity and of the intellectual life generally will find here a rich pasture, deeply suggestive of what this champion of Cartesian clarity never ceases to think of as the 'hidden' or 'mysterious' self. It is important, too, to observe how Valery chooses to foreground the role of what he calls his 'intellectual sensibility', and with it, the pre‑rational, irrational and trans‑rational determinants of the intellect. In these and other ways, the writer decisively lays the ghost of the one‑dimensional, reductive Testian rationalist with whom he was once, for praise or blame, identified.
Equally, he offers a glimpse of the fruitfulness of the method of selfconsciousness, with its progressively self‑reflexive, insistently problematizing, movement; it is a signal contribution to the contemporary debates about autobiography as a genre, as about the status of the 'subject' of writing generally. It shows a mind eminently equipped to deconstruct the inauthenticity of 'naive autobiography', in the manner of Rousseau or Gide, tackling nevertheless the task of constructing an outline narrative in which the self is reciprocal to its acts ‑ and finding that even the universe of the mind is subject to a characteristic and defining 'curvature'.
Above all, the chapter illuminates from within the universe of the Notebooks themselves. Though a‑typical in its intensely personal focus, it is also deeply characteristic: in its rhythms of recurrence, its perspective on the genesis of mental activity, its propensity for mythical and scientific modelling, its analogical multi‑dimensionality, its searchingly self‑intimate honesty. This chapter gives the measure of Valery as man and as mind.
The chapter GLADIATOR introduces Valery's intellectual project under the aspect of method and training. It addresses, in other words, that aspect of the 'System' which bears the weight of converting negative values into positive ones, and which mediates between the singular Ego and its potential universality. From Valery's remarks about his 'inner war in order to be', a war that is 'hard and full of terror', we might be forgiven for assuming that the title casts him in the role of solo combatant in some Roman arena. This suggestive likeness is however secondary and probably unintended. The primary reference is to a racehorse of this name which dazzled contemporaries. The name symbolises a sporting ethic of mental self‑development, preparing an athletic mastery of the great human Instrument. 'To utilise oneself with agility, advisedly, methodically as the universal origin of all co‑ordinates ‑ such is the Ars magna' (C, lI, 141; CIV, 108). The value‑signs of such an art are: precision, purity, elegance of manoeuvre. The constant references are to the arts of dressage and of gymnastics: Valery wants to be the 'horseman of the mind riding that skittish beast, the brain and its defences'; the mind is viewed as a muscular system that has to be trained to a peak condition of precision, lightness and independence. Music, drawing, mathematics, language, politics, all offer opportunities for developing the techniques of the virtuoso. The imaginary models invoked are those of the mythical Centaur; or else the mystics, those specialists of interiority raised to its limit‑power; or else Valery's own hero of the intellect, M. Teste.
Here are developed the thematics of Valery's operative technicity as applied to the human subject or self the trinity of'knowing‑willing‑empowering'; the notion of inner resources and faculties methodically educated; the motif of thinking in one's own mental forms and language; the dynamic of selfregenerating increase of potential ('the more I think, the more I think'); and the great existential leitmotifs ‑ human plasticity, remaking the self, the possible and the impossible, the limit. As we take stock of everything implied in the ors magna, we become aware of the extension Valery is led to confer on it: what looked to be a merely technical project for enhancing individual mental performance, turns out to involve reworking and replacing philosophy, morality, mysticism, religion; a project of momentous and subversive import in respect of an entire cultural inheritance. Not for nothing does Valery's Gladiator invoke Nietzsche; here, discreetly adumbrated, is an alternative and parallel proposal for the future of Western man.
The heroic note dominates, albeit with little of the prophetism which Valery suspected and rejected in Nietzsche. GLADIATOR exemplifies his fundamental voluntarism tempered with doubt: is the self‑trained mind enough to exorcise the baser demons of the collective psyche? can it find within itself new goals to propose to an active, demystified and self‑creating humanity? This doubt itself, however, underlines the distinction between Valery's will to self transcendence and 'the cult of the self he sees in Gide or Barres; and it articulates in a new, subterraneously vibrant variation, Valery's own daemon, the challenge of human possibility as such.
THE I AND THE PERSONALITY
This chapter, which is proximate to both EGO and GLADIATOR, presents Valery's most characteristic thought on the necessarily central question of 'selfhood' and 'individual identity': a topic much addressed in this century by philosophy, psychology, theology, and ethics and a focus for much contemporary French deconstructionism.
Valery's first movement of thought is indeed, here and elsewhere, to clear away the common fund of ideas inherited from Romantic poetry, from post-Cartesian 'philosophies of the subject' or from religious systems. He places the origins of our naive concept of the self in the need for referrability: for the purposes of identifying such reference and of ordering the inner world, we need to posit a constant or 'Same', which metaphysics then hypostatizes as an essence of personality or 'Self , Valery's critique shows this notion as problematic, mythical, impotent to elucidate the observable and experienced world of the subject.
This enables him to disengage criteria necessary to the profitable discussion of selfhood (e.g. sameness, unicity, uniqueness, ipseity) and to recognise the complex dimensions of the problem (involving temporality, alterity, etc.). We observe his instinct to reduce the hypostatized Self to a pure form or function of reflexive consciousness; 1 am the hearer of inner speech, or the seer of the phenomenological universe of my own subjectivity.
Above all, he attends to a perceptible energy of attention, distinctiveness and negation inherent in consciousness itself always, there is in us some presence which says: '1 am not‑that'. The 'pure self is the principle of negating consciousness which releases us from the closure of any realised identity and asserts the notion of a self which is neither the individual who bears my name, nor any underlying evince, but a pure potentiality of the functioning psychophysiological system. 'It's what I contain that's unknown to myself that makes me myself. The entire problem of personality, identity and selfhood is reviewed and renewed in the light of the characteristic Valeryan opposition between 'personal self (or individual ego) who figures in the mirror of consciousness and the 'pure self which is the mirroring power itself, infinitely asserting in respect of it a movement of non‑identification or transcendence.
This chapter introduces us to the set of analogical conceptualisations (algebraic zero, centre of mass, galactic centrifugation, etc.) which serve to explore this dialectic of selfhood and which engage accordingly many of Valery's most vital mythic figurations (among them, Teste, Narcissus, and the Angel). The concepts and tensions involved, and the dynamics of subject identity to which these refer, occupy a commanding place in the intellectual and spiritual adventure of the Notebooks, and present an analysis which is quite distinct from more familiar personalist or psychoanalytical accounts of the self. The 'pure Self, in particular, had 1 key role: both as an operator in an analytic practice of self‑reflexive thought and as a dynamic symbol engaging V's own deepest existential/ontological intuitions. On this hinge, it may be said, the 'System' turns.
The same reciprocity between analyst and analysis is even more evident in AFFECTIVITY, devoted to Valery's reflections on the role of the emotions in the life of the mind. The first‑time reader is likely to be struck here by the fact that emotion is seen, overwhelmingly, as an anti‑value: as a principle of disorder, impurity, disturbance, alienation ‑ of a suspected (and feared) 'depth'. The writer often seems to be describing some fascinating and terrifying inner 'monster', to be vanquished, tamed, and ridden (cf. GLADIATOR). Is Valery not after all a caricature of the reductive rationalist?
It is well to remember at this point the lessons of EGO: 'my sensibility is my inferiority, my cruelest and most detestable gift; he 'fears [his] heart and [his] body' because of the rapidity with which his sensibility attains intolerable levels. The writer is, in the matter of affectivity, an over‑endowed hyper‑sensitive defending himself frorn himself, 'the being of fire who has faith only in ice‑and steel'. Read in this perspective, what Valery has to say about the 'resonant' character of emotion, its 'transcendent' nature or its propensity to create 'value' may be viewed as functional, tactical insights. How revealing, too, are the cultural intertexts of this chapter: music and Wagner; the 'shameless soul' of Romantic infinitism; Pascal and the 'reasons of the heart; or the acuity of the analysis of the Absurd, of Shame, of the irrational. If Valery's first movement is to check, control and even repress emotion, the larger challenge running through this chapter is the quest to integrate it creatively, and recognize its stimulant value ('How many things would have remained undiscovered if some emotion, some disorder hadn't eventually stimulated an intellectual counterattack .. hadn't brought to light some gem of a connection!'). Ultimately, Valery knows that emotion is the condition and ground of ourselves. But how far can we trust it, and what does it say? We stand 'before the ineffable like children who can't yet speak'.
The chapter EROS explores the humanly richest ‑ but also the most problematic ‑ application of affectivity. It also introduces a strategically important dimension of the Notebooks. We now know a good deal about the role of successive crises of 'amour‑passion' in establishing the shape, rhythm and tenor of Valery's intellectual life: the youthful crisis of 1891‑2, inciting the reactive clinical‑analytic self‑defence which creates the 'System' (EROS, XV, 53); the mature crisis of 1920‑21 through to 1927, bringing a counter‑challenge to his practice of solitary self‑enfoldment (XV, 504) and launching his mystique of the 'higher love'; the late and final crisis of 1940‑45, linked to the selfsummation of a thinking life and ultimately challenging the reductive idealist tautology instituted under the name of the System. These are the successive stages of a dynamic encounter of rare subtlety and range which is reflected upon and analysed in this chapter.
'That nothing has been written about love' (XX, 706‑706 & note 133) ‑ is a proposition we might well be pre‑disposed to question, particularly as enunciated by a successor to Rabelais, Racine, Constant, Stendhal, Flaubert, Balzac and Proust... Yet the gifts of the analyst and the merits of his 'System' do go a great way to persuading us that love has indeed never been properly (i.e. competently, honestly, strategically, profoundly) written about, and that 'literature' cannot be the place to do it. Certainly, we encounter in this chapter an analytical vocation based on a rare acuity of intellect and senses, a lifelong struggle between the twin 'Angels' of Desire in its intellectual and passionate forms, 'Nous' and 'Eros', and a deeply practised specialisation in 'exercises of self‑awareness and imagination'.
Valery, here like Proust and Claudel, is the deconstructor of received cultural constructs, particularly that of Romantic 'idolo‑poetry'. More than they
are, he is also the analyst of the real psycho‑physiology of love, its resonance and range, its modulations and moments, its transformations and its ‑ feared and desirable ‑ creativity. Other dimensions are proper to him: his everdeepening philosophic sense of the non‑reducible 'harmonics' of love ('from the need for tenderness right up to metaphysical appetite'); his sense of love as sole countervalue withstanding the erosion of intellectual analysis; his awareness of its intrinsic need for transcendence and its structural challenge to selfhood; his extraordinary account of the struggle in the amorous subject between self and other; his determination to 'comprehend' i.e. remake Love both as construct and as existential adventure.
From 1921, Valery's deepening treatment of Eros encounters and overlaps with his reflections under the rubric Theta. The writing of Desire in these two parallel modes is seen in the end as the trace of, or clue to, the mystery of human psychic identity as such. Psychogenetically deconstructing the 'received' infinitisms of Western inheritance, he uncovers increasingly the real, immanent mystery of the 'Mysterieuse Moi'. We stand here at the quick of the paradox of the Notebooks: of their Socratic bite, of their virtue of savour, stimulus and renewal.
THE PRESENT VOLUME
Where the first volume of the present edition introduces the enterprise of the Notebooks in its rigorously intellectual but also personal and affective dimension, the second focuses upon the cultural, literary and artistic dimension of that writing. We encounter here a great diversity of interest and an empirical flexibility, yet at the same time all the thoughts are intimately related to the system of thinking that constitutes Valery's own singular approach: the writing 'f, the perceiving gaze, or the attentive ear explore the xsthetic domain via an inner self‑language both more intimate and more universal than the limits of genre or school. Above all, we have a sense of the dynamic interaction of thought and creativity, as we witness a constant oscillation between the theory and practice of artistic phenomena, between analysing, writing and theorizing the process of writing.
There is nevertheless a literary context that serves as a background to Valery's poetics and to which he often refers, if only the better to differentiate himself. The formative decision to 'make his mind' occurred at a period following the break‑up of Romantic assumptions about literature, wider experience and the world, while the contemporary xsthetics were dominated by the perfections of Symbolist writers and the reflexive, analytical turn heralded by Edgar Allan Poe. In such a situation, his own determination to anchor all creative, artistic efforts in a rigorous self‑language leads him to take up these notions, to re‑fashion them and to reflect upon the processes of creativity itself, in so doing he comes to promote the basic conception of an analytical science of literature which bears many a relation to more recent critical movements and approaches to creativity .
The opening chapters of the present volume, ART AND /ESTHETICS, POIETICS, POETRY, LITERATURE, show Valery 'applying' himself to different aesthetic domains, sometimes sketching out his new approach, sometimes critically assessing other approaches. POEMS AND SHORT ABSTRACT POEMS and SUBJECTS then reveal the writing in practice sketches, fragments, poetic output, experimental prose forms that complement and embody in many respects the reflections above. Having then witnessed Valery functioning as analyst, spectator and indeed practitioner of many of the different genres illustrated here, we return to his reflection upon the processes involved and in fact to issues of selfhood evoked in volume 1: EGO SCRIPTOR, by way of conclusion, brings us back to Valery's self‑reflecting process and the attempt to theorize the phenomenon of his own literature and production, both the 'real' work of the mind and the 'chore' of writing to command.
At first sight, the rubrics of the Notebooks contained in the present volume situate Valery firmly in the context for which he is most widely and traditionally known. Considerations bearing on xsthetics, on the nature and functioning of poetry, and on literature in general, can be related directly to many published essays in which he addresses the preoccupations of his time and identifies the theoretical principles emerging from the published collections of poetry in fixed verse form. As such, these comments are rich in resonance, adding to our understanding of the creative and technical principles of his writing, to his quest for deeper understanding of the secrets of art in the widest sense, as also to an appreciation of his insights into the artistic movements closest to his own 'way of seeing'.
It is clear however that closer examination of the writing represented here reveals a level of thought and of creativity quite different from traditional perceptions we may have of Valery's situation in the literature of the first half of the twentieth century. For we find that his 'personal vision' refers to a crucial tenet in the modes of conceptualization and of perception he identifies in painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Degas, Monet, Berthe Morisot ‑ as also musicians ‑ particularly Bach and Wagner, and that each of them plays a part in the emerging definition of his Ars magna.
The rubric ART AND /ESTHETICS, underscoring frequently the critical approaches, the modes of writing and of perception which figure in the accompanying sections, is exemplary of the kind of thrusting intellectual enquiry so typical of the Notebooks, and sheds new light on Valery's understanding of xsthetic cause and effect, and their extension in terms of creativity. For it is not just the critical mind which is at work here: the chapters POEMS AND SHORT ABSTRACT POEMS, and SUBJECTS, bring together a very little known corpus of creative writing, quite different in nature from the published poetry. The reasons for the presence of such passages in the Notebooks are many ‑ the constraints of rational thought and the occasional need to give immediate expression to the lyrical, or perceptual, or emotive solicitations of the moment; the sudden remembrance of a previously published line of verse, recalled and revisited; or, on occasion, the complex intermeshing of verbal and visual, and the free flow of varying contextual response.
The artist teaches us to look at things anew, undoing conventional vision which projects prior meaning on to an object. Valery traces the source of this 'new way of looking' back to an inner image within the artist that enters into an endless dialogue with the object, with the canvas and with itself. His is at bottom an xsthetics of the subject, which, as in the remarkable fragments of prose poetry reproduced here, approaches a form of pure, impersonal, nonconceptual vision. Valery'h fragmentary writing in the Cahiers, his personal 'system for thinking, seeks to shift our attention on to a different plane, to a second‑order preoccupation with the xsthetic creator and the action of form and language, in an attempt to identify the fundamental processes of creativity. He wants to unmask the strategies that lie behind writing, thinking, believing: 'I've sought to consider literary inventions (which are presented as unique occurrences,) as particular cases ‑ of which the general form, or formula, had to be discovered'.
Valery himself would not have wanted to be seen as a 'systematic theorist', producing a construct that would at once incorporate all knowledge and exhaust all possibility. A system, he writes, would be not only difficult, but defective and deeply ridiculous, 'an essentially artificial construction ‑ for it's
quite improbable that the work of the mind should stop at a particular point ‑unless as the result of some accidental circumstance'. But the radically experimental writing of this 'unitary mind in a, thousand pieces' constantly lays the groundwork for such a theory. A continuity of method underlies the supple exploration and celebration of the fragmentary ‑ accompanied by the injunction to disbelieve oneself and to take account of 'the provisional nature... of all that springs up in my mind'. For the self is not a closed space, but is in constant dialogue with the world outside. The deconstruction of received moulds of thinking goes hand in hand with Valery's own creative practice. The prose poems, the short fictions, the lyrical sketches, the poetry of voice, all reveal the continuity between the analyst and the writer, systematic in his subversion of the illusions borne by language, while ever‑attentive to the changing tones of inner voice or image.
ART AND AESTHICT ICS
The range of experience associated with writing is grounded in a constant and deepening understanding of the xsthetic. But the demands of a probing intelligence cannot be contained in a mere reformulation of traditional modes of appreciation. Situated at the beginning of the rubric, a passage written in 1903 (III, 14) characterizes the polyvalent nature of beauty in a list of epithets which we both recognize as typical of Valery's classical values ('pure', 'complete') and yet retain as hallmarks of modernity ('abundant', 'spontaneous', 'astonishing', 'multiple'). Indeed the aesthetic for Valery appears, by its very nature, to be founded on a dynamics and a tension between whole series of different forces, between the 'significant' and the 'formal', perception and construction, preparation and improvisation; between the power of the work to move, to 'enchant' and its abstract quality as pure composition. Throughout all the reflections on painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, music, dance, the reader encounters a concerted attempt to see the arts in tern‑is of action ‑ as creative act, development or performance ‑ rather than as finished work. The constraints of form are prized as incitements to further creativity rather than guarantors of what has been achieved; the subject's modes of perceiving, whether as creator or recipient, are what gives a work its value, rather than any absolute quality of the work itself, and thus all art that is outstanding is characterized by its capacity to resonate, to generate a state of singing, to be, in that sense, truly 'poetic'.
In the same light, other insights here urge us to reconsider traditional and rather limited perceptions of Valery's pertinence to modern developments and evaluative criteria. The principle of perfection which leads him to round on what he saw as the facility of the literature of his time, needs to be considered in relation to an emerging nexus of thought which is centred on an aesthetics of the fragment or on the strangely negative nature of beauty (XXVIII, 307), as states clearly a passage written towards the end of Valery's life, foreshadowing modern poetic preoccupations with absence or vacancy.
The interest of this rubric thus tends to centre on a juxtaposition in which restatements and clarifications of views propounded in published theoretical texts ‑ in particular, Valery's 'infinite aesthetic', but including also the wellknown thematic references of dance and ornament ‑ figure alongside explorations of the limits of expressibility and the problematic nature of language. But Valery's reflection ranges widely over associated fields as well. Wagner's mastery of affective and psychological stimuli is given prominence, but music generally ‑ Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Berlioz ‑perceived as 'the writing of the complete man' is explored in its singular combinatory power, and its value as a model of perceptive processes which should also be at work in writing. So also, art (Monet, Leonardo, Rembrandt), in so far as it invites a revision of habitual modes of perception, and encourages the implementation of new ways of seeing the world. These remarks enable us to grasp more clearly the radical nature of Valery's xsthetic, grounded in a form of subjective phenomenology. Such considerations refer to central tenets in his thought, but the freedom of the notebook format allows for their development, or the illuminating insight: 'Silence in music, or speech', for example, is perceived in its peculiarly transitive capacity, that of imminence and virtuality, and the propensity of art to initiate a dialogue with all the concomitant circumstances of its production. The remark is related closely to Valery's admiration of Mallarme, and what he had already termed in 1934 the strange 'power of the empty page' (POIETICS, XVII, 178), but its significance reverberates well beyond this specific context.
The two chapters POIETICS and POETRY carry further the wide‑ranging considerations of ART AND /ESTHETICS, but also apply them to the specific nature of Valery's own production and his search for an 'Art of writing' (VII, 768). The return to the etymological resonance of poiein, as an art of making,
lies at the heart of Valery's approach; its significance to all branches of literary creation, makes of this chapter a major contribution to modem critical thought in which the principles of many contemporary modes of literary analysis can be perceived.
Many remarks, of course, particularly those concerning the pre‑eminence of form in relation to content (XI, 898), formulate principles whose relevance remains essentially personal. But many others are of far‑reaching significance. Emphasis placed on the unfinished, open‑ended nature of the work in progress, in which termination depends less on voluntary gesture than on accidental intervention (VIII, 657), extends ideas bearing on the nature of beauty and its perception, apparent in ART AND./ESTHETICS, to the realm of structure and formal organization. The chain of production is not, moreover, seen as culminating in the published work, but includes the subsequent relationship of the author and the work given up to public consumption (IV, 46), in which the former is relativized, part of a circuit over which he has no control. An aesthetic of reception is adumbrated in these pages, author‑reader relationships being scrutinized in contexts which come close on occasion to a sense of anguish. The moment of public dissemination ‑ particularly when resulting from factors other than personal choice, as a text in EGO SCRIPTOR (XXVII, 683‑686) makes abundantly clear ‑ is seen at best as a challenge, and at worst an ordeal, in which the self is intimately implicated. The context of isolation in which the author is placed can lead also to finer distinctions, notably the 'independence' of author and biographical individual (XIV, 80). When coupled with the dynamics of self, these observations sketch in the groundwork for fundamental principles of contemporary literary theory, in which, moreover, Valery has a consecrated place.
The emphasis placed on form in POIETICS and on the consciously driven bases of its production can, however, be countered by remarks which, on the contrary, put at the forefront of creativity the unconscious processes underlying the urge to put pen to paper. A passage written in 1931 reconstitutes the stages of a drawing 'absent‑mindedly' produced, and the self‑generative dynamic investing the forms created on the page (XV, 249). The eclipse of self and its rational reflexes joins with remarks on the accidental and the arbitrary to produce an image of Valery as experimental writer, seeking to inscribe the unsayable within language, striving to give expression to the discontinuities, the inconsistencies and the full range of phases that characterize mental states.
The chapter POETRY, more specific and technical in its content, provides us with vital information concerning poetic choice, taste and objective. The more theoretical and generalizing reflection characteristic of ART AND AESTHETICS and POIETICS here finds its field of application, in terms both of self‑scrutiny and of poetic analysis. Allusions to the poets already encountered – particularly Mallarme, whose art is further investigated in many comments of real finesse, but also to others, Rimbaud, Lamartine, Hugo, Baudelaire, Verlaine, the classics (Boileau, Corneille), as well as Valery's contemporary Claudel, or the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins ‑ place the chapter in a special light, that of the literary critic whose appreciation of poetic technique is all the more cogent for arising from first‑hand knowledge of the difficulties posed by imagery and prosody.
The chapter should not in effect be read simply as yet another contribution to literary history, illuminating though it may be. Throughout, Valery maintains a balance between appraisal of others and analysis of his own poetic inclinations. If he can speak authoritatively of the intensity of imagery in Rimbaud's Illuminations or of the radiating energy of Hugo's 'black sun', it is because of his own direct acquaintance with the demands and potential of metaphor and what he calls its 'harmonic possibilities'. Commentary of the techniques used in poetry reveals hidden aspects of a given poetic discourse, such as the paradoxical interconnection of obscurity and clarity in Mallarme's verse (VI, 437), or the creative impulse of the cascading impressions produced by Rimbaud's imagery (XXVI, 871‑872). Hugo, praised as technician, is disparaged as visionary in an observation clearly based on the force of personal experience ‑ the true visionary being recognized by his lack of words, rather than their abundance (V, 635). Hugo's failure to seize upon the poetic potential of synesthesia is set against Mallarme's full receptiveness to it (V, 869). And, applying what he considers to be one of the acid tests of poetry, Valery observes that the effect of Hugo's verse, for all the richness of its impact, 'wears off when you stop reading it; in this respect the effect resembles more the functioning of prose with its primary role of transmitting content, than that of the poetic, which, in Valery's view, is founded on the renascent harmonies arising from the continuing interaction of sound and meaning.
One comment bearing on Hugo warrants particular attention. To the end of his life Valery was to remain wary of criticism seeking to retrace the steps of poetic production on the basis of the 'completed' text (POIETICS, XXVIII, 426428). A chance encounter in 1931 with the sketches and first drafts of Hugo's poem Te Cheval' (Chansons des rues et des bois) prompts a very different attitude, in which the 'true Genesis' of the text emerges as the sum total of its preceding stages of composition : 'A complete poem would be the poem of that Poem beginning with the fertilized embryo ‑ and the successive states, the unexpected interpolations, the approximations'. The comment throws sharply into relief the importance of the generative dynamic of doing, as opposed to the literary object done. It runs very closely in parallel with ideas expressed by Gide in his novel Les Faux‑Monnayeurs, where the same emphasis is placed on the work of art as the total of all its progressive stages of realization, and foreshadows the depth of our understanding of the creative process which genetic criticism is now bringing to light in Valery's own manuscripts.
The rubric LITERATURE widens the range of reference from poetic to literary considerations as a whole. As such, prose, and specifically the novel, are given prominence, in a wealth of observations ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Here again, the impression of writing ad libitum needs to be set against the organizing properties of certain deep convictions, which underscore all contexts. 'The countess caught the 8 o'clock train' (V, 101): the novel, fulcrum of arbitrary invention in Valery's view, is one of the prime targets in a searching evaluation of literary principles and techniques. The vicissitudes of characterization and of self‑portrayal are placed against the rigorous demands of 'seeing differently', of perceiving relationships, the operational whole of behaviour and the psychological or affective sources from which behaviour springs. Observations decades apart return frequently to the same themes, the same expressions of dislike or of approval. The pedestrian nature Valery identifies in certain unreflecting forms of prose, with its unsophisticated reconstruction of reality and particularly of the psyche, are set against poetry and the 'active collaboration' which it demands of its reader. The impurity of literature, constrained by the expectations of the reading public, is explored in terms of the shallow eloquence to which it can give birth, and its apparent incapacity to explain or chart the functioning of the mind.
Many great figures of French literature ‑ Moliere, Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Gautier, Michelet, Flaubert ‑ come in for rough treatment, the strongest sarcasm being reserved for Surrealism as 'redemption via refuse', the embodiment of the facility which, in Valery's view, was largely characteristic of his time (though other notes suggest that a reevaluation is overdue in relation to this, as other, contemporary aesthetic values). At the other end of the scale, novelists such as Pigault‑Lebrun, now read only by the erudite few, are singled out for praise (XII, 848). Balzac, Stendhal and Gide arouse mingled response, now admired respectively for visionary power, for the evocation of Self and its subterfuges and for a propensity to challenge habitual modes of being, now castigated for facility, superficiality or lack of inventiveness. And the taut, lifelong dialogue with Pascal, inwardly revered for the rational drive of argumentation, a mastery of style and the visionary force of imagery, yet also decried for what Valery considered to be the blind spots of religious recourse, resurfaces periodically as possibly the most demanding and intractable intellectual challenge issued by the entire range of French thought and literature.
Over and above these sometimes very personalized remarks, the chapter presents an original, thought‑provoking view of aspects of French literary history, which complement the ideas expressed in the literary and philosophical studies of Variete. In numerous instances the critical gaze alights on principles of fundamental importance to the movement of ideas and of literary sensibility in the twentieth century. The increased awareness of language, considered over the entire expanse of its functioning ‑ its capacity to arouse, the play of its phonetic qualities and of its internal relationships, yet also its detachment from reality (IV, 644) ‑ and its fertile interconnection with music, squares convincingly with one of the central literary preoccupations of our time. So also, what Valery always considered to be the essential plurality of meaning which a given work was capable of engendering, the production of meaning demanding an active immersion of the reader in the text. In opposition to the problematic issues of writing and sincerity, Valery sets 'a writer's ideal', a form of prose merging 'music, algebra and architecture' in a complete possession of language an ideal which, as glimpsed in a sketch for a story 'in the Boris series', reinstates an impulse to creativity where various kinds of writing can be summoned to give full expression to the self.
POEMS AND SHORT ABSTRACT POEMS
Consonant with this urge to explore other dimensions and potential registers of expression, the POEMS AND SHORT ABSTRACT POEMS bring together, under an apparently unifying poetic intention, an extraordinary range of creative writing. The reader will find here a collection of texts of widely different tone and texture, necessitating a radical revision of the traditionally held view of Valery as poet in fixed verse form alone. Certain of the texts are of an improvisatory nature, rapid notations of fleeting sense impressions; some are manifestly developed with care, figuring moreover in certain of the published collections of 'Rough poetry' (Melange) or the 'Histoires brisees'; others have the tautness and intensity of structure or perception characteristic of the prose poem; others still, according to their title, follow consecrated genres such as psalm, song, 'aubade', prayer or even the Japanese Hai‑Kai.
This variety of theme and structure is nevertheless characteristically articulated around certain organizing principles and modes of perception. Many of the poems are best described as brief psychological studies of passing states of mind, of emotional turmoil or paralysis in the Baudelairian sense. As such, they provide a window on the mind and on feeling, in an unexpectedly immediate way, investing such potentially abstract motifs with the dynamism of lyrical rediscovery. A periodically recurring vein attempts to seize upon the poetic potential of thought itself, materializing the central tenet 'A poem should be a festival of the intellect' (POETRY, VI, 220). Several texts answer to this category
'Forms [...] Meanings, Functions and Phases' are solicited for their lyrical potential, but their transient presence can also be the source of anguish (IX, 56).
But perhaps what strikes the reader most immediately is the jubilatory nature of intense perception, coupled with a sense of the strangeness of vision which comes from seeing the world afresh. While this seeing anew is most particularly apparent at dawn, a text from 1940 suggests that the phenomenon can declare itself at any time of day (XXIII, 480): it conveys at one and the same time an experience of the rebirth of language, thereby remaining subject to hesitation, uncertainty, unsettling detachment. and a sense of otherness in relation to the thinking, sentient individual.
Many texts are orientated towards this intense experience of genesis, in which the biblical model is sometimes explicit, as in the Fiat Lux. Extreme acuity of perception leads on occasion to a rethinking, or even reversal, of normal relationships binding self to world: 'This impression not of seeing [...] but of being seen by these objects'. Antithesis ('The emptiness of all this plenitude'), the passage beyond normal modes of perception ('I am left with the inexplicable itself, the noise, the impenetrable sensation.. like a colour'), or the animation of the inanimate ('This golden house [...] CONSTRUCTS itself each instant) combine to engage language in challenges to expression which do not normally occur in other poetic contexts. In the concerted effort towards an adequacy of representation in relation to its original stimulus, the verbal and the visual can be closely concomitant: the urge to sketch, which is a central dynamic of the Notebooks as a whole, takes up occasionally where writing leaves off, engendering some fine watercolour or gouache illustration.
It is important to recognize too that the lyric vein of this chapter is to be found in various guises in many others, woven for example into an impassioned cry of love or despair or aspiration, as in EROS or THETA, or into the landscapes and'unique moments' portrayed in EGO.
The range of notes collected together in SUBJECTS likewise presents a less well‑known, and even surprising, aspect of Valery. Despite the celebrated reservations over the novel and the sustained contrast between poetry and prose, we encounter here an experimental writer of micro‑fictions: dream‑narratives, dialogues, scenarios, fairy‑tales, permutations of relationships, abstract tales, are sketched in a combination of analytical precision and provisionality, while demonstrating at the same time a determined attempt to explore to the full the possibilities of prose fiction. Just as POEMS AND SHORT ABSTRACT POEMS delineates a Valery little known beyond the published work, the notes grouped together in this chapter complement the breadth of poetic interests in terms of the groundwork for possible short stories, plays, ballets, poems (remarks in XXVII, 364 give the general structure of the cycle of prose poems published posthumously under the title Alphabet) or even the novel (XXIII, 201‑202). In one instance the outline of a 'Short story or kind of Abstract Poem' illumines the nature of poetic aspirations in the preceding chapter, planning a study of beauty in terms of the radiating energy investing all levels of the receptive being. Whether inventiveness returns to the Bible (the Serpent), myth (Orpheus, Proteus, Narcissus), to the fascination of legendary historical figures (Helen, Socrates and his 'demon', Tiberius, Faust) or, more freely, to the pantheon of imaginary characters which people Valery's imagination (Teste, 'Alceste, Basile, Cephas'), the essential objective of charting all forms of creativity is clear.
While these multiple perspectives frequently engage with Valery's central themes and preoccupations, the chapter nevertheless reveals a certain evolution in focus. The early years mark a reflection on the nature of power or the benefits of a systematic approach to mind and experience (Tiberius). Abstract considerations (a book, or a play on the art of thinking, envisaged in 1910) progressively give way to closer contact with ideas, in 1923 for example, related to a novel on 'modern life', or bearing on the inspiration derived from personal acquaintance (Einstein, IX, 751). The widening, more outwardly orientated reference includes consideration in 1928 of the affective links between self and other. From the beginning of the 1930s the aspirations, dilemmas and trials associated with Faust and his imagined secretary, Lust, are clearly placed in the forefront of the many 'subjects' which Valery considered to be of possible literary potential. These sketches coincide of course, particularly during the war years, with the composition of 'Mon Faust', and as such can be considered as complementary explorations of the latter. The situation of the intellect embodied in Faust as a 'representative of the European mind' in the catastrophic circumstances of a second world conflict has a special ring of urgency to it, in much the same way as the series of essays published in 1919 under the title 'The Crisis of the Mind' had pinpointed the pessimistic outcome of the first. But most remarkable here are those passages which treat love ‑ its all‑consuming fascination as also, in its purest form, the possibility of its transcendental inclination. In speaking of the 'melos' arising from the dialogue between Faust and Lust in an unwritten fourth act of the play, Valery gives voice to a lyrical impulse which demands as much recognition as other more conceptually directed themes (the 'pure Self or the 'Harmonics' of the sensibility). The chapter closes on a passage resolving the tension between mind and body in a moving 'self‑acceptance', where the pride of 'particularity' must none the less be placed in juxtaposition to the awareness of its situation relative to the other, as the preceding texts make admirably clear.
Running in constant parallel to these exciting new experiments with different forms of writing and different 'ways of seeing', the chapter EGO SCRIPTOR functions like one of Valery's favourite 'log‑books', charting his itinerary as he looks back, looks forward, takes soundings of the depths, in order to situate precisely his position. The chapter is located on the interface between the public and the private writer, re‑grounding all that he does in relation to the notion of the pure Self that is the driving mechanism of his exploration of the processes of the mind.
On a first, frequently autobiographical level, the self is scrutinized in its attitude towards writing ‑ its presuppositions, its tastes, its critical stances, the difficulties it experiences ‑ and assumes an apologetic, justificatory mode. The reader will find many comments which explore these directions, inviting comparison with the rubric EGO, as Valery specifies literary attitudes and tastes, or ventures into the new forms of creative self‑expression. The reader will also be struck by passages in which the 'Ego' of the title rearms its rights in the face of what it considers to be injustice, misrepresentation or tendentious appraisal by those practitioners of literary criticism deemed to be motivated by jealousy' (XXVII, 683‑686) or who pander to public expectation. But these are not texts of elitist withdrawal or superiority. Rather are they founded in a restatement of personal conviction, that of work devoted to 'more important, more profound' goals than those of simply writing to please the public (XXIII, 304).
Sometimes the dividing line which distinguishes observations on the sells relationship with writing from the type of passage found in the SHORT ABSTRACT POEMS or SUBJECTS can be very thin: the genre of the 'psalm' can be chosen to trace the permeable interface between writing and silence (IV, 452). On a second, associated level, Valery returns frequently to his published works, and particularly to his poetry, explaining the creative processes at work in their conception and materialization, thus enriching our appreciation of structure, choice of register, and the complex dynamics of poetic genesis. Several comments of this type give revealing indications of Valery's originality: a passage written in 1944 (XXIX, 91‑92) returns to Monsieur Teste and 'Le Cimetiere marin', highlighting the 'painterly' characteristics of certain images and the cross‑fertilization resulting from the concomitance of verbal and visual. Another level of commentary specifies the nature of Valery's fascination for several literary or musical models, amongst which Mallarme and Wagner. Yet another, drawing on personal experience, projects the latter towards more generalized perspectives, demonstrating, for example, the modernity of the classical Ut pictura poesis, the openended nature of the literary work, the active role of the page and its 'indefinite' solicitation, or the creative potential of a special form of mysticism in which all things, including the most banal, have their own peculiar resonance. In a remark which recalls the moving imagery of the repressed 'child who dwells within us' of 'L'Homme et la coquille' (CE, 1, 890‑891), Valery forcefully affirms that to see the world afresh in its pristine clarity and return to the 'childlike' vision which was once ours (XXVI, 440442), is a condition for locating the pure Self.
insert content here