Formage © P.O.L éditeur, 2003
From We Two (2) (Formage)
Sylvain Gallais and Cynthia Hogue
Introduction to the work of Nathalie Quintane
By Cynthia Hogue
Quintaine writes within a lineage of metapoetic writers like Isadore Ducasse and Francis Ponge. Her earliest works were constructed from a montage of prose and poem fragments, part narrative, part pastiche. In the last decade, however, Quintaine has created experimental, politically engaged works that reference history's ferocity and social injustice, a consistent theme in her work. In Grand ensemble, for example, Quintaine confronts the specter that still haunts France today, the brutal war it fought against the Algerian liberation movement (1954-1962). But in Formage, from which the current selection of prose poems has been translated, she casts back to both personal memories and those of the previous generations, before the French colonists-among them her own family-were expelled from Algeria when it achieved independence from France in the 1960s.
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From "We Two"(2) (Formage)
There are two generations between me and this farmer named Grave who showed no interest in getting revenge on the one who had denounced him because then he'd have been acting like the other, which he refused to do. I was wondering how to reap the pieces.
We had, for example, an old kettle of yellow enamel, in which the filter, hidden in the spout, created a barrier but the water passing through it poured more quickly if my mother tapped the nails of her middle and index fingers against the metal. This kettle was from my mother's time.
We had fish, writhing and too numerous, plugging the sink, causing complaints, which my uncle fished on his weekends off from the stinking factory always in a cloud of Gauloises which killed him with lung cancer, gray-faced in the hospital dead before fifty.
We had the old refrain about a girl, orphaned at nine, who was a milkmaid, runner of parcels, beater of sheets with the flat of her hand because there were few washing machines, who kept repeating that she had never seen the sea never seen it.