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Philippe Sollers (1936-2023)
Philippe Sollers has died. I owe him.
I must have been seventeen, not older, and I sent a poem I’d written to Tel Quel, the journal where he published Barthes, and Foucault and Boulez et les autres. And he wrote back a nice note asking who I was, what I wrote, etc. The poem, of course, was hyper-formal, a take on Jan van Eyck’s Virgin with Chancelor Rolin in the Louvre. So I wrote back explaining I was still in high-school, enclosing some other high-school verse I’d done, that had some feeling to it. I don’t know if he felt humiliated at having taken me seriously; I never heard from him again.
I dread to think what might have happened, had I lowered myself to the occasion and sent him more of the hyper-formalist stuff. Would I, too, have ended up a narcissistic creep, a parody of an intello? There is a tide in the affairs of people who have too many affairs. The best is when you know you can do it, and then not doing it anyhow.