Love Itself in the Letterbox

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Love Itself in the Letterbox
By Hélène Cixous
Polity Press – £14.99

”How different we are I thought: the same words say things otherwise to us.”

I recently watched an interview with the French authoress Helene Cixous, and like this book, she is so intensely focused, it made me feel almost guilty for not writing more.
For not truly investigating the inner-sanctum of my literary (self-worth and) value.

Perhaps this ought not be totally surprising, especially when Jacques Derrida writes: ”Helene Cixous is today the greatest writer in what I shall call, if I may, my language, French. And I weigh my words in saying this. For a very great writer must be a poet-thinker, very much a poet and a very thinking poet.”

One need only read a few pages of Love Itself in the Letterbox to (perhaps partially) ascertain and come to metaphorical grips with the above quote by Derrida. As on page seven of the opening chapter ‘Olivier de Serres – A Single Passion,’ Cixous writes: ”Who could have told me that everything that seemed incredible at Olivier de Serres when we were down there as if knocked over and trampled beneath paws, now forty years later we ourselves would look upon from above like gods looking at the affairs of mortals […]. When I awoke Olivier de Serres following your lead, I am in the midst of reading Demeure, Athenes the strange twice-haunted text by Derrida: haunted once by the death of Socrates who is a beautiful woman, dressed in white, beautiful as her name tall as her soul dressed in daylight, more exactly in the hour of the day’s dawning, a second time in truth perhaps the first, by a sentence. This sentence is also tall and beautiful, but for its part or her part, she does not come, she precedes everyone.”

Are not the lines: ”haunted once by the death of Socrates who is a beautiful woman, dressed in white, beautiful as her name tall as her soul dressed in daylight, more exactly in the hour of the day’s dawning” more poetic than fictional? More involved than they might otherwise be? More elaborate in explanation, almost to the point of expressing three or four different emotions/things, simultaneously?

That Derrida has already said it, it goes without saying that Cixous is ”very much a poet and a very thinking poet.” Right down to the placing/non placing of commas; which Oscar Wilde was renowned for agonizing over.

Love Itself in the Letterbox, is, as its title suggests, an acceptance, if not appreciation of, the poetry of the post. It conveys love over a dense duration of forty years – that recoils and recalls itself – by way of the (forever) lost and (never) found.

And each of the nine pieces herein, never stray too far away from the dictum that is the very last line of the seventh chapter (‘Faithfully Forever’): ”Life has two faces one of shameless happiness the other of shameless pain.”

Prior to this ultimate, clearly considered conclusion, the authoress writes: ”Are they these faithfullys the last shudders of a madman’s howls? Or the withdrawal, the lull after the convulsion, the detumescence of a word, the death rattle of a god’s dream of faithfulness? Or else nothing. But nothing without any meaning is impossible it seems to me for the master of poems.”

Like the authoress herself, this is a profoundly intense, individual and brilliant piece of work. As such, it’s left me feeling profoundly inspired.

David Marx

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