Jean Véronis

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lundi, juin 14, 2010

Text: JG Ballard's manuscripts at the British Library

I love libraries, you won't be surprised to hear. I have often mentioned the BnF [fr-1, fr-2], but the British Library is another of my favorite pilgrimages, where I go religiously each time I happen to be in London (unfortunately not so frequently recently!). I read in the Guardian that it has just purchased the manuscripts of JG Ballard, mythical science-fiction author whose strange and post-apocalyptic work fascinated me when I was a teenager (The Drowned World, The Crystal World, The Drought, etc.) and even later, especially with Crash (1973) which marked a whole generation. It's rather moving to see the manuscripts for these hallucinated works for the first time and to discover how much Ballard's writing process was a tortured one, as can be seen from the first page of Crash, which looks as if it has gone through a few loop-the-loops and somersaults:

This reminds me of a superb exhibition at the BnF on writers' drafts, I mentioned a long time ago [fr]:

Manuscript for Dolor, a poem by Victor Hugo

Word processing has killed manuscripts. The writing process is now silent: the toing and froing, doubts, wanderings, sudden and lightening finds are a thing of the past. More than the aesthetic loss, it's also a major loss for future historians and philologists. No one will ever know the tortured (or otherwise?) plume of Doris Lessing or J.M. Le Clézio...

6 Commentaires:

Anonymous Benoit a écrit...

Some writers try to recreate that:

Flashbake records the text every 15 minutes, with additional metadata (weather, music, etc.).

14 juin, 2010 12:59  
Blogger Jean Véronis a écrit...

Thanks for the link (the homepage of the Flashbake projet is here). The Time machine on Macs is impressive as well. However the problem remains, in a way: assuming that authors use such tools, what will become of these backups in a few years, not speaking of centuries ?

14 juin, 2010 13:08  
Anonymous Motercalo a écrit...

Thanks, I discover the first page of Crash, I didn't see it before.

30 juin, 2010 10:56  
Anonymous Art a écrit...

Ce manuscrit est très intéressant à lire et à observer. Merci de nous en avoir fait part !

04 juillet, 2010 21:29  
Blogger Maurice Lanselle a écrit...

OT (but I don't know how better to write to you, I don't hope nor expect to see this comment on this post): any comments on the new "i write like" app? ( There is an interview with its author on the awl: he uses Bayesian classifiers, like a spam filter, but with added features (he says) like number of commas, etc.
Wouldn't an incremental compression measure have been at least as good and easy to cobble together quickly?
Is there a French-language equivalent (or better)?

19 juillet, 2010 19:29  
Blogger Maurice Lanselle a écrit...

On topic: the Library of Congress has extensively analyzed a draft of the Declaration of Independence to determine what word Jefferson had written then obliterated to replace by "citizens." See WaPo article Jafferson changed.... As they point out, it couldn't have been done without the original of the draft.

23 juillet, 2010 09:41  

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