Edward Gauvin translating the French of Pierre Bettencourt
Dislocating the dummy’s limbs and knowing to fold oneself so as not to sit legs facing forward. No longer having to turn one’s head. Taking advantage of this at church and at the dinner table when a dish disagrees with you, or else during love, seated in the lap of the beloved, when the sight of genitals distresses you. Knees with a full range of swivel motion, rather than half-range.
“And then,” said a friend who was interested in these problems, “knowing how to empty yourself out and get stuffed before death occurs. Always having a fresh pair of great-great-grandparents in the living room, in the corner by the fireplace, to reassure guests, with regard to both your roots and your filial piety. Never letting anyone die, jumping on things in time. When a woman is still very pretty, that’s when to empty her out—don’t get me wrong: to arrest her in her beauty so she doesn’t rot, to protect her from herself, ready to wizen.
It is in everyone’s interest to act in this manner. In the higher interest of life. Knowing how long to live, stopping in time—“in tip-top shape”—ripe and not rotten. I know there are artists in this medium, perfectionists, who always claim to be improving themselves. “Just one more minute,” they say, “I can feel my waist narrowing, or this muscle beginning to bulge, or these glutes getting hotter.” Not believing them. Reminding yourself that the better is the enemy of the good. Seizing them as they are, on the spot. And stuffing, stuffing, stuffing away, preferably with that very fine, fragrant sawdust from tropical isles.
Edward Gauvin has received fellowships and residencies from the NEA, PEN America and PEN England, the Fulbright Program, the Centre National du Livre, and the Lannan Foundation. His translation of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud's selected stories A Life on Paper (Small Beer, 2010) won the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award. Other publications have appeared in Conjunctions, Subtropics, The New York Times, Tin House, and The Southern Review. The winner of the John Dryden Translation prize, he is a contributing editor at Words Without Borders, and writes on the fantastic for Weird Fiction Review.
Writer, poet, and painter Pierre Bettencourt (1917—2006) was, despite coming from a prominent family, a retiring figure and lifelong outsider artist. He printed his first works on a family-owned press during the Nazi occupation, and later published Antonin Artaud, Francis Ponge, Henri Michaux, and Jean Dubuffet. A friend of editor Jean Paulhan, he was a frequent contributor to the Nouvelle revue française. His work is forthcoming in The Collagist.