December 13, 2008

Maria Soudaïeva - Slogans


Maria Soudaïeva has invented here a verbal guerrilla interweaving names, foreign words, numbers and locations, playing on imperatives and ellipsis, endlessly naming and counting succumbing bodies, destroyed zones and irrational battles. Each sentence is a concentrate of hate and pain as well as a hateful and painful call to action. Each sentence adds violence to the previous one, enlarging its scope, enhancing its aggressiveness or desperation.
I. 20. INFLICT THE FINAL STROKE TO NATACHA AMAYOQ!
I. 21. NOT A SINGLE DREAM LEFT INSIDE NATACHA AMAYOQ’S REMAINS!
I. 22. NATACHA AMAYOQ, WE ARE WITH YOU!

Paradoxically, this language, « langue crypte » as Volodine would say, sounds both familiar and foreign and so is the context : war, terrorism, humans fighting and dying. The itemisation / atomisation of the text seems, at fist, to deconstruct and dissolve the meaning and the landscape. The extreme fragmentation reflects the nature of the fight : struggling against mental and physical destruction, holding onto the last strength, the last hope, or relinquishing altogether all of these:
III. 29. IF NOBODY REMEMBERS YOUR NAME WHEN YOU DIE, FORGET YOUR NAME!
III. 91. IF YOU STILL HAVE A HEAD, THROW IT AWAY!
III. 139. DISGUISE YOUR BODY IF YOU’VE GOT A BODY!

The « langue crypte » is a core but underlying theme within Volodine’s fiction. In most of his novels , he constantly refers to these bizarre voices and sounds originating from clandestine sources, and to these underground books which are written by poets and dissidents. « Slogans » clearly seems to be one of these books and Maria one of these voices. There is no doubt that Maria Soudaïeva probably is the most perfect post-exotic figure that Volodine could ever meet (they even became friends). Besides, her presence and spirit can be detected through most of the female characters in Volodine’s work and her words are actually featured in the novel « Le Port Intérieur » in which Volodine inserts some of Soudaïeva’s claims:
PIRATES OF THE SECOND SEA, COME TOGETHER!
OFFICERS ON THE WOUNDED SHORES, COME TOGETHER!
VETERANS OF THE ARMY OF THE HIVE, COME TOGETHER!
[Antoine Volodine, Le Port Intérieur, page 57, Les Editions de Minuit]


These slogans are meant to be written on walls and read in tunnels, caves or basements. They are meant to be whispered, uttered, muttered or shouted in the middle of ecstatic crowds or, alone, in front of an execution platoon. Maria’s sentences are meant to take the reader’s breath away but tend to elude any immediate interpretation ; some seem to have the same function as those war messages which were broadcasted on the radio (Radio Londres for instance) during WWII calling the Resistance to action. There is the same discrepancy between the mystery/beauty of the metaphors and the violence which these are supposed to trigger:
II. 36. PROTECT THE EGGS, BREAK THE NON-EGGS!
II. 152. NO SPIDER LEFT ON KOROGHO THREE!
II. 299. BEES ON THE FLOWERS AND THEN NITCHEVO!

If Maria Soudaïeva delivers a message, it is both to our senses and to our minds. In appearance absurd and hermetic, her encrypted phrases possess a very peculiar impact and a fascinating effect. As if she were talking an unknown language that everybody could understand.
II. 63. ELEVEN DISGUSTING TONGUES, ONLY ONE STRANGE LANGUAGE!
III. 71. LISTEN TO FOREIGN LANGUAGES WITH THE HUNCH IN YOUR EYES!
III. 144. IF YOU LACK YOUR TONGUE, WHISPER THE WORDS WHICH SPEAK BY THEMSELVES!


Maria Soudaïeva committed suicide in February 2003. The three chapters within this unique work close on similar words:
343. BAD DAYS WILL END
And curiously, three hundred and forty three is the specific number of books written by post exotic writers according to Volodine (in Le post-exotisme en 10 leçons, Gallimard). In this list, the reader is to find two books by Maria Soudaïeva! What we are suggesting here is, not just the bond between author and translator, but also how far Volodine went into the appropriation of Soudaïeva’s text and character. He strongly edited Slogans’ manuscript , certainly created the numbering, selected the order of the sections, possibly invented some of the chapter and section titles. The introduction to "Slogans", written by Volodine himself, is the work of a mythographer (turning Maria’s portrait into a myth) who is also trying to reveal the volodinian nature of Maria’s words and inspiration. Taking a step further and based on Volodine’s heteronymic aspirations, one might be tempted to deduce that Maria Soudaïeva is a post-exotic pseudonym for Antoine Volodine. This interpretation would therefore throw a completely new light on the role of Antoine Volodine as a translator! Furthermore, in Le post-exotisme en 10 leçons (Gallimard) Volodine indicates that one of the outstanding features of this litterary movement is the death of the author and the multiplication of voices, narrators and spokesmen. Maybe, what we have in our hands, this exciting book by Maria Soudaïeva is but the portrait of a fictitious translator as a spokesman or even an incubus altering the text to fit his own vision. One of the great achievements of this book is that we, readers, are lost in the middle of a litterary riddle, a void in which the author possibly belongs to fiction, the translator is a manipulator and the characters’ voices are so (beautifully) encrypted that they hardly provide any clue about who they are and where they are hiding.

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