Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Entitled Interview with Chantal Neveu, Translated by Nathanaël

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Chantal Neveu

Sparse and yet full of kinetic energy, Chantal Neveu's new collection A Spectacular Influence (BookThug, translated by Nathanaël) is a philosophical exploration of perception and human nature. Drawing on influences as diverse as the pre-Socratic philosophers and Nietzsche, Chantal examines our connection to the world and to one another.

We speak to Chantal today (with translation of the questions and her responses by Nathanaël) as part of our newest series, The Entitled Interview, where we speak to authors about their own process in titling their work, their favourite titles and just what function a title ought to serve.

Chantal tells us about drawing inspiration from atoms, the many roles a title can serve and the exclamatory Cixous title that always stuck with her.

Open Book:

Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.

Chantal Neveu, questions and responses translated by Nathanaël:

A Spectacular Influence — translation by Nathanaël from French to English of Une spectaculaire influence.

I began from the enigma of the clinamen, that infinitesimal and non-visible wind that displaces atoms and enables their attachment, in other words the appearance of a thing, a gesture — an event. The breath, the origin — of what is alive or perennial. Even though a breath can be small, it can be powerful — and extraordinarily influent. We are ignorant of the causes and effects, we feel life — what happens, what happens to us. There is also the influence of words, and the influence of the sun on life on Earth — its explosion, its storms and its fields. Magnetic.


What, in your opinion, is most important function of a title?


A title is a ground, a sound, an induction, it could be an immersion. Could give specific direction as well as polysemic indications. Conceptual as well as etymological, nominal or sensational — I also mean emotions through semantics and sensations.


What is your favourite title that you've ever come up with and why? (For any kind of piece, short or long.)


There are no favourite titles. Each of the titles vibrates its question, its experience or its programme, or even an etymological an onomatopoeic resonance — coït, èdres, O, for example. A Spectacular Influence also plays with paradox, since it is as much a matter of minimalism as it is of baroquism. Because the title is in the singular, an interrogation can appear: “what is it?” or “where does it come from?” or “what will it be?”.


What about your favourite title as a reader, from someone else's work?


Among many titles, Ayaï ! Le cri de la literature by Hélène Cixous persists (Ay Yay! The Shout of Literature). A sound, a call, a cry of joy or of pain. And a name, that of a man, Ajax. Is it the cry of the one who suffers or the one who causes pain? Is it the cry of a hesitation or the exclamation of a temptation, the sound whispered before rushing toward the object of a desire? The cry of a lover who embraces when he already knows he has little to offer, that he will take more than he will give — the confession of abuse beyond the gesture. A polysemic title — such is literature. Superb.


Did you consider any other titles for your current book and if so what were they? Why did you decide to go with the title you eventually picked?


I trust in the active metabolization of the many fluctuations which led me to the actual title Une spectaculaire influence - A Spectacular Influence without carrying out its archeology. The title is henceforth autonomous, and its action is underway.


What are you working on now?


I am working on La Langue de ma mere, a book that displaces my maternal tongue, my natural tongue and more literally the language spoken by my mother Pierrette Valois. The mother tongue, another influence.

Chantal Neveu is a writer and an interdisciplinary artist. She is the author of the books Une Spectaculaire influence (2010), Coït (2010; translated into English by Angela Carr and published by BookThug in 2012), and mentale (2008). Her interdisciplinary textual projects include Èdres followed by Èdres | Dehors (2005) and Je suis venue faire l’amour, among others. A Spectacular Influence, translated by Nathanaël, is Neveu’s second book to be published by BookThug. She lives in Montreal.

The (self-)translating author of more than twenty books, Nathanaël writes in English and in French. Her recent works include Sotto l’immagine (2014), Sisyphus, Outdone. Theatres of the Catastrophal (2012) and Asclepias: The Milkweeds (2015). Nathanaël’s extrinsic translations include works by Danielle Collobert, Édouard Glissant, Hervé Guibert, Catherine Mavrikakis and Hilda Hilst (the latter in collaboration with Rachel Gontijo Araújo). Nathanaël lives in Chicago.

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