5 August 2014

Joe Brainard / I Remember / 1975 | Georges Perec / Je Me Souviens / 1978

Here is the full text of New York School poet Joe Brainard's I Remember - a memoir comprised of a list of memories or fragments of memories, some very personal, others no doubt shared, perhaps randomly arranged or arranged as they were remembered in the writing of them, bounding between and troubling the distinction between the profound and the mundane, building up a portrait of a life and a time composed of tiny details, all beginning 'I remember'.



In 1978 OuLiPian writer Georges Perec's Je Me Souviens was published, dedicated to Brainard and formed from memories of his life between the ages of 10 and 25. Of it he says (in a not so good translation), these are:

"Small pieces of everyday things, such and such year, all people of the same age have seen, have lived, have shared, and then disappeared, have been forgotten; they do not worthwhile to be part of history, nor included in the memoirs of statesmen, mountaineers and superstars.

But sometimes they come back, a few years later, intact and in lowercase letters, by chance or because they were sought one evening with friends; it was something they had learned in school, a champion, a singer or a starlet who pierced, a tune that was on everyone's lips, a robbery or a disaster that was the one of the daily newspapers, bestseller, a scandal, a slogan, a habit, an expression, a product or a way to wear it, a gesture, or something even thinner of inessential, quite banal, miraculously snatched its insignificance, recovered for a moment, prompting for a few seconds impalpable little nostalgia."

Here is a film 'completely theatrical in its approach, which is perhaps the only reliable way to deal with a Perec text on film' (UbuWeb) of Sami Frey reciting Perec's text in its entirety whilst cycling on a stationary bicycle through a seemingly changing landscape.


To my happy surprise, having only just heard about Brainard's poem from a dear friend, Perec's text will be published in English for the first time this month. Find an extract and more info here.

(But between the two, it's Brainard who has my heart.)

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