Last Tango in Paris


Last Tango in Paris, and Persona both have excellent monologue scenes; long close-ups and stilted dialogue. Bergman, who directed Persona says that ‘our work in films begins with the human face,’ which I think is lovely and true. I’d like to think that the novel begins with the voice’s initial hum within the head, before you say anything or decide to say nothing. I really like talking. Both of these movies are nothing without people saying things to each other, and I think that’s some sort of intimacy. When I first started planning this book I thought it should just be dialogue, and I still think that sometimes. I want to centralise the act of people saying things to each other. I feel like it’s very intimate, because its mouth and tongue lubricated by spit, and because you have to make things up in your mind and then give them as directly as you can to someone. But speech doesn’t lean toward honesty at all, and we’re all so skilled with not allowing it to slip there.

I think there’s some sort of nudity to words. They just sit in the air with empty spaces around them, and they wait to be noticed.



Today I’m very happy. I’ve been reading Foucault up on a high, hangy-off part of the deck, and a marvellous fusion of vertigo, nature, fear and poeticism has happened. I’m reading Madness and Civilization, and it seems in the fifteenth century madness was equated with nature and both were feared. I haven’t read enough old stuff, obviously, because passages like this rouse an unfamiliar awe in me:

This is the great witches’ Sabbath of nature: mountains melt and become plains, the earth vomits up the dead and bones tumble out of tomes; the stars fall, the earth catches fire, all life withers and comes to death. The end has no value as passage and promise; it is the advent of a night in which the world’s old reason is engulfed…

By a strange paradox, what is born from the strangest delirium was already hidden, like a secret, like an inaccessible truth, in the bowels of the earth. When man deploys the arbitrary nature of his madness, he confronts the dark necessity of the world; the animal that haunts his nightmares and his nights of privation is his own nature, which will lay bare hell’s pitiless truth; the vain images of blind idiocy – such are the world’s Magna Scientia; and already, in this disorder, in this mad universe, is prefigured what will be the cruelty of the finale.

Of course that’s Foucault, published in the sixties, but the dramatic license (we have poetic license, of course – but when was something written in this or last century in such seeming apocalyptic earnest?) seems enabled by the logic of the culture he’s writing about – fifteenth century, catholic.

It might have been science, or the end of their huge, ever-present god but no-one seems to talk about mountains melting any more. Now we talk about appreciating nature, but what about awe, what about its weight if it suddenly all tumbled down on us? Foucault seems a little ironic here, because at first he’s an authority on this culture that threw people out like dogs, this culture that was so afraid, so Christian and so believing, and then he’s also a bit of a sexual odd-ball himself, and gay. I don’t mean this in a simple, ha-ha way, I mean that the sixties where just beginning when he wrote this, and it must have frightened him sometimes; I mean that he was very courageous. It seems to me that when he writes these big poeticisms, these huge statements about the collapse of the world, a part of him must believe them? Surely.

I want to write like that, with ambition and fear.

There are the big people, like Homer and Milton. I should know about them. I should get myself humbled.

I want to have all the elements in my novel, at the height of their powers, at higher than their powers. I want the water to be sometimes merciful and quiet, and sometimes murderous. I want the devil lying at the bottom of the sea, sometimes with his tongue passive inside his mouth and sometimes with it out licking terror and aggression into the sea. I want the devil, and I wish I were properly afraid of him.



Annaleese Jochems has had work published in Pantograph PunchPoetry NZ, and Ika Journal. She completed her MA at the IIML in 2016, and is the winner of this year’s Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing. She has a degree in Creative Writing from MIT.