Jean-Marie Gleize

Tarnac, a preparatory act is the most recent volume in my cycle of works published in France by Editions du Seuil’s series Fiction et Cie, created in 1974 by the poet Denis Roche. The six books of the cycle (a seventh titled Le Livre des cabanes, will be published in 2015, also by Seuil) stand as a long narrative, or narrative of a narrative, set in several sites (lakes, screens, torrents, corridors…) that are simultaneously those that condition the work of writing, and those wrought, constructed, and produced by the text as it’s written. Tarnac is one such site, an isolated village on a plateau in Corrèze, with a tradition of resistance since WWII, and effected in 2008 by a wave of arbitrary arrests. Young people have installed a « commune » there to conceive and conduct another method of constituting society. Radical communists, exhibiting the strength to envision freedom, raising the specter of “terrorism”: most famously, Julien Coupat and the so-called Invisible Committee, whose book The Coming Insurrection has become as well known as the case against them. The author of Tarnac, familiar with this village (and with relatives buried there), reacted to the violence and absurdity of these arrests in and with the book, which he considers an act; furthermore, he considers literature one means of expressing new forms of democracy. Like all of the books in the cycle of which it is part, Tarnac is thus an account of experience, a text stemming from research, tentative elucidations, or snippets of uncertain results. In short, a practical and critical work of enigmatic sentiment: the opaque adherence of reality. My investigation consists in overlapping data (various documents, samples and quotes, testimonies, drawings, photographs…) drawn from heterogenous sources. I claim for this book a place in a tradition of writing that of a certain objectivisme. There is, in these pages and the horizon of this multilinear narrative, something like a concrete utopia of a community based on the refusal of the standards imposed on us: "values" (profit, competition, mutual antagonism ...) that govern our capitalist market society, called "democratic" and "liberal." In Tarnac the village and Tarnac the book, forts are constructed. If they are destroyed, they are readily reconstructed. The pages and phrases are mobile. In coming they call for their effacement, their transformation—and the transformation of things.

Prefatory remarks composed especially for Warscapes by Jean-Marie Gleize and translated by Patrick Durgin. Excerpts below translated by Joshua Clover, Abigail Lang, and Bonnie Roy—from Tarnac, a preparatory act (Chicago: Kenning Editions, 2014).

*          *          *


In the last episode of the German soap opera the voice
says that chance corrects chance
I like the vacuity of the images and the way that the
character writes his phone number on a scrap of paper
I also like the name of rivers like the Saône, the

Meuse or the Vienne
but I like the rivers too and not only their names
poetry is often a question of name and chance and
of the pleasure contained in the thickness and the
vacuity of things

it is also quite certainly a way of being with the
rivers and in my case of  being the river’s

and also of returning along the left bank of the
Vienne some distance from its sources, avoiding the
question of the poem because no, poetry, truly,

but something in the tonalities of dark green, and
for instance:

you can get to Tarnac by the Peyrelevade road, then
you will cross the Vienne, take a bridge over the
narrower Berbeyrolle, cross over at La Ganne where

the Servière road begins, go through the forest and its
night and its red carpets,

and                                           you come to the base of the slope
on the square

you are at the foot of the tree or in front of it

*          *          *

Tarnac is a village in the forest
the color is the dark gray the cold black of slates and

the very deep cold of the water that rushes down
between the trees there are carpets of dark green
there are gullies and ferns

there are gullies and slopes of heather
there is peet

the ground is cold and ungiving
the color of Tarnac is that of the grass’s deep cold
that of the deepest cold of water on stones

at the place called l’Écluse
at the place called le Bois du Chat
around the Lagorce bridge on the banks of the Vienne
at the entrance of the washhouse and by the cemetery
or on the Javaud path.

“The world already possesses the dream of a time
whose consciousness it must now possess in order
to live its reality”

Later, much later, space dwindles. The box looks like the
inside of a truck. Grim and run down. Wasted. The wall is
now the size of a playing card or a business card

I used to say: the future, the present, here

it was like the name of the river, or the word sheet or the
word gate

the Vienne, the river, the Vienne
I used to see in its eyes the reflection of the screen
He was reading in silence at the far end of the garden
and I would see the movement of his lips.

The street had no name

I walked toward the washhouse
I opened and closed the gate
I stood before the closet in the sacristy
I looked at the trees and I saw that their leaves were

I decided to choose my dialect

                                                   : “communist” is
for me this word suspended in water, this body caught
in water.

                    (follow-up to the standing conference)

I pick up again from the word “communist”
There was also the sentence

“to be unequal is the first solid reality.”

To write I use the accidents of the ground
To be unequal is the first solid reality.

He asked me how to photograph the night.

I answer that I present the river
I present this way of suggesting the river in Tarnac by saying that it is a lyric presentation (or a lyric proposition) not visual but surprised, very dependent on the calculation of intervals and intensities (for example this noise of the water, the unevenness of things on the surface and under the surface). But the river is then invisible and this music is nothing but the noiseless noise of the ferns. The description ends as image-sentence, a sentence un-photographable but taut like a flat object a kind of slate.


I trace a word in chalk on the slate gray of the slate.
The sentence is friable.

Jean-Marie Gleize was born in Paris in 1946. He was thus of an age to be a Maoist and militant in 1968, identifications he retains to this day. He published his first book (on Francis Ponge) in 1981, and became a professor at l’Université d’Aix-en-Provence as well as at the prestigious l’École normale supérieure de Lyon where he would direct the Centre d’études poétiques from 1999-2009. In addition to his scholarly work on modernism and contemporary French, Arabic, and American poetry, he would enter the first rank of French poets (or “post-poets,” as is sometimes said), aesthetically affiliated with peers such as Emmanuel Hocquard, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Claude Royet-Journoud. Gleize has published over twenty books in France.