Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 57, September 2015)

Kate Zambreno
August 4, 2015 – Notes on Switzerland

The problem with Switzerland IS the problem of the present-tense.

Camus: “An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.” – the movement I want, the mind watching itself.

“What prevents a book from being written becomes the book itself.” – Marcus Aurelius, quoted in Camus’ notebooks

So what prevents this book from being written? The heat, the dog, the day, airconditioning, desiring to exist in present-tense, constant thinking, sickness, fucking, groceries, cooking, yoga, confusion over the novel, circling around but not finishing books, reading, researching, time passing.

“One lives life so badly, and one comes to the present unfinished, unable, distracted.” – Rilke in a letter to Clara, thinking on Cezanne (who are my saints? my apples?)

Time is a circle, the repetition and monotony of the day “the inelastic present tense” (Magic Mountain)

The past is present and the future is present too. (this summer, that summer)

Sontag, wondering, can there be eternal variation in a novel? Me, wondering, can a form be inspired by the eternal return?

So is it all present-tense? Is that what narrative does? Make something present that is not present. The novel and Time. Time is about the novel. The Novel is about Time.

“Today is a day only suicides can know.” (Malina, most true line about writing a novel ever written)


To think about: the solitary walkers: Rousseau, Kafka, Bernhard, Sebald, Nietzsche, Walser, Rilke (country idylls, botany, strange figures)

The bachelor notetakers (mostly the same, Wittgenstein and Kafka especially).

The unpublished male novelist taking notes on what philosophers aren’t married (most, except Hegel).

Sontag writes, at the center of every work of art is contemplation.

Throw my notes away, the unpublished male novelist told me.

But all I have are my notes.

That J & I wanted to live the life of the mind – writing as a form of thinking. Is this why the male novelist wanted to write novels?

The looping reoccurences of figures in the neighborhood – the cat lady, the man in pain, the woman in front of the yellow and brown house.

Switzerland is a novel about writing a novel. About yearning for the novel.

Staring – gaze – Sontag – Aesthetics of Silence

My ideal reader is probably Susan Sontag. (her yearning for the novel in her notebooks)

“Novel – discovering the life of the body.”

Summer – contemplation

The novel  – contemplation

Cioran: “The life of intensity is contrary to the Tao.”

Periodic pain/convalescence

(Nietzsche, Kafka, Byron’s constipation)

The constant photos I take of Genet in the sun. My still lives, studies (Gerard Richter at Sils Maria)

What does a writer do when not writing

– life of the body

– working/unworking (Blanchot)

To focus on an object.

A writer can’t truly be in the day or work.


Which is why my present-tense is important because the event of the book is the act of writing, writing this book.

Slowly filling up my notebooks (Kafka).

The major problem of the writer: the need for solitude, and the need for communion. (Rilke, Kafka with Felice)

From Notebooks of MLB:

“My God, if any of it could be shared! But would it be then, would it be? No, it is only at the price of solitude.”

To figure out (in novel? before novel?) – what does he mean by “it.”