THE TABLE by Francis Ponge


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A new iteration of a pillar of French critical thinking.

Known for his obsession over the phenomenological, Ponge (Partisan of Things, 2016, etc.) sat at his table morning after morning, between 1967 and 1973, setting out to write. The result is a series of disjointed fragments that mirror perfectly the confused mindset of a writer at the moment of enunciation—or of linguistic unraveling. Translator Zamponi explains that “in The Table, the text itself becomes a workshop, laboratory, and artist’s studio all at once….This methodology here strives for an awareness of the word in its infant state and an understanding of its history and potential.” So Ponge treats a word as he would a child—with both care and severity—and holds it to the highest standard. In these brief but semiotically dense fragments, the author offers a cubistic perspective of the word “table.” He explains, “it takes many words to destroy a single word (or rather to make of this word no longer a concept, but a conceptacle.” Ponge subsequently takes great pleasure in dismantling the definitions we associate with a table. Not once does he consider it as what we think of as the communal object: where families gather, friends dine, and children play. Instead, the table is “soil for the pen.” It is the object that “awaits [the writer], where everything is arranged….I sit against it, I hold it to my side, lie back and rest my heels on it.” A rocking chair for the mind and a support for the ink, the table is thus muse and catalyst. It is both the inspiration and the thought. Clearly, Ponge recognized the seduction at play. As he writes, “the charm of the table is to find yourself at it.”

A meticulously rigorous translation of a book that adds much to Ponge’s rich body of work.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-939663-24-5
Page count: 104pp
Publisher: Wakefield Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2017


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