a novel, by Philippe Sollers
ISBN 978-0-9931955-0-1. Paperback. 172pp. Publication date: May 2015. Equus Press: London.
Philippe Sollers’ groundbreaking 1973 novel H was inspired by the May 1968 Paris student/worker uprising, and, in its own right, performs a revolt against much that’s been (and still is) taken for granted in the belles lettres.
Described as “a music that is inscribed in language, becoming the object of its own reasoning” (Julia Kristeva) and as an “unpunctuated wall of words, an extremely active […] mass of language” (David Hayman), H does away with plot, character and setting–and, on the typographical level, with punctuation, capitalisation, or paragraph breaks–in order to attempt what Sollers himself called “an external polylogue.” The text performs an infinite fragmentation of subjectivity into a polyphony of ventriloquized voices where “words turn round and come back, producing a material fullness of pleasures” and “everything is organized into a splendid series of irrelevancies” (Roland Barthes). It is this fulness of H, this “suffocation” it produces, that might be, with Barthes, termed its “beauty.” Accommodating a vast range of tonalities, attitudes, modes, and ideologies, H makes a case in point of how a literary work should function according to Sollers: “A work exists by itself only potentially, and its actualization (or production) depends on its readings and on the moments at which these readings actively take place.”
H (translated by Veronika Stankovianska & David Vichnar) is the first English-language translation of this influential experimental text.
“Supporting Roland Barthes’s assertion in his 1967 essay “The Death of the Author,” […] H disassociates itself from its author and effortlessly reinvents itself with every new reading. Experimental in all senses of the term, it confidently ignores traditional formal and intellectual expectations, taking us out of our comfort zones and showing us a new way of contemplating literature’s merits and purpose.” Madelaine Culver, “Experimental Literature Today”
“The literary scholars of Prague have set the trend for literary publishing with Equus Press leading the way in the translation of H a key work of the French avant garde novel which exemplifies philosophical and Abstract Expressionist esthetic theories from the experimental decade of the 70s and reads today as a significant step in the development of the unpunctuated text.” David Detrich, Innovative Fiction
“[Reading H] felt like dipping into a lake after a long winter.While David Vichnar offers a comprehensive introduction, I would also recommend a cold reading. Devoid of literary, political, and personal context, it becomes easier to let the text flow over you. Along with Ulysses and Beckett’s Three Novels, H can take its place in the permanent avant-garde.” Driftless Area Review
“Supporting Roland Barthes’ assertion in his 1967 essay ‘The Death of the Author’ that literary works should be decoded according to the reader’s subjective interpretation as opposed to the author’s intentions or biographic history, H disassociates itself from its author and effortlessly reinvents itself with every new reading.” Madelaine Bowman, Birkbeck College Blog
PHILIPPE SOLLERS‘s writings in English translation include A Strange Solitude, The Park, Event, and Women. He was the editor of the influential journal Tel Quel, and since 1982, of l’Infini.