Nancy Huston, Nelly Arcan (and a Katie Ward Footnote)

In her study “Reflets dans un oeil d’homme” (recommended reading) the Canadian writer Nancy Huston quotes Nelly Arcan (alias for Isabelle Fortier), who wrote “Je pourrais vous décrire la beauté du monde si je savais la voir, raconter comment la foi et le courage peuvent venir à bout des plus grands malheurs, mais je suis trop occupée à mourir. Il faut aller droit à l’essentiel, à ce qui me tue.” (Nelly Arcan, Putain, a fictionalized autobiography that I have not read, so I will not add a picture of the book cover). Arcan took her own life. I have been there, the constant preoccupation with “what is killing me[1] not just day in day out, but every minute of every day, for years and years. As Arcan represents in those two powerful, inimitable sentences cited above, it drains one not just of the energy, not just of the inspiration and creativity, but of the very time to celebrate, to encourage, to thank, to gratify, to praise, to welcome.

For now, I’m a woman writing.[2] And the writing, specially the multifariousness of the aspects of me and my frenzy, of what I observe, experience and reason about, shall document not the beauty of life, if I were capable of discerning that, but that there is nothing but life.

[1] Non-authenticated English translation.

[2] A reverential take on Girl Reading by Katie Ward

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