Hélène Cixous has dreamed for years of "The Book-I-Don't-Write," but each time she approaches it, it withdraws. The-Book-I-Don't-Write is always just out of reach. When Jacques Derrida told her the Book would get written one day, but differently, Cixous tells us she would see it "shining behind a veil, its indecipherable back, upright on heaven's bookshelf, its elegant silhouette, utterly foreign, utterly familiar, of future revenant. I've always thought it would come, naturally. When? After all my deaths? Just before, or just after, the last of my deaths."
One day, when she is no longer expecting it, the Book turns up: "Quickly, without taking my eyes off it, I copied it down, staying scrupulously close to its notations, its rhythms, its moments of silence. I found it. Just as you see it." She calls it Los, meaning "loose, detached" in German, her mother's tongue. Or Los like Carlos, the Latin American friend whose unexpected death in May 2014 takes her back to a life they shared and a time the Book will reconstitute in the present, abolishing time: "Suddenly, that morning, I saw the universe of The-Book-I-Don't-Write: it is an infinity of presents."
Los, A Chapter is a marvelous exploration of time and relationships. It reimagines scenes from Paris in the late sixties: its cafés, its debates, its political turmoil. Both playful and serious, it is a book in a long line of novels from Balzac to Proust that create worlds both philosophical and concrete. In Los a lost time is regained.
"Los, A Chapter is a lyrical meditation on the fragility of the human as well as on the palimpsestic way that our loves and lovers overlay each other in our psyche and repeatedly reappear without clear distinctions. Cixous leads the reader on by her literary indeed semi-Joycean verbal dexterity, while at the same time conveying a strong sense of the personal and emotional side of her experience of love and mourning."
Christina Howells, University of Oxford
Hélène Cixous is one of the world's leading feminist writers. She is the founder and former director of the Centre de Recherches en Études Féminines at Paris VIII University.