“I am a woman of the present, on the ludic side of things, from where it is possible, between words, to glimpse our little superstitions, our fine morality, our sweet obsessions in full swing. I am an urban woman on the graffiti side of the wall, on the sleepless side of the night, on the free side of speech. On the body’s side, where the tangible world is revealed from unknown angles, full of resources; on the side of writing, where the skin is a fervent collector of dawns and laughter, of bygone smells and new ideas.” – Nicole Brossard, She Would be the First Sentence of my Next Novel
This is a very intriguing and poetic novella. Nicole Brossard writes about her experiences as a woman writer in her hometown of Montreal, as well as her process of writing books. At first I found her thoughts a little bit odd; for example, she was strongly against the traditional novel format, but as I read more of this book which is part poem, part essay, part autobiography, it became clear that what she was rebelling against was patriarchy, which she believes limits writing.
As a result she calls her books “anti-novels.” She talks about writing in the feminine, as a way to break the bonds of patriarchy.Instead she prefers to write in fragments, to experiment with writing:
“This being said, we can claim that by generating hybrid texts containing only brief narrative interventions with a poetic resonance, writing in the feminine has, so to speak, led a second generation of women writers to preferring the story in a form of quick sketches and outlines, where precedence is given to the I of childhood memory as well as to an introspective I increasingly isolated from history and solidarities.”
“It is through Man’s fiction that we have become fictional, so let us exit fiction via fiction. We will exit in the story of our own design.”
And her book is very focused on women. In it, women have conversations about literature, about feminism, not feeling worthy, and the Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution,” which contributed to the new Quebecoise feminist literature.Again and again, Brossard helps us see just how having a patriarchal literature has hindered women:
“For example, she knew very well that if she had been a man, she could have entered and exited history at will, claimed a collective, national or mythical image-reservoir as her own, confident that all of this belonged to her…”
The ability to enter an artist’s mind and see their creative process is something I always enjoy doing and it helps me appreciate their work more. This book has very strong feminist material, and it gives food for thought about literature written by women for women, as well as discussing how Quebec literature has changed since the Quiet Revolution.
Beautifully-written and thought-provoking.