What keeps me reading when I pick up a new work of literature by a writer whose work I don't know, or whose work I don't know well?
I've been asking myself this question this week, in part because I was discovering the French writer Dominique Rolin. A friend mentioned her, I put her name and some call numbers on an envelope I keep in my backpack with the names and call numbers of books I want to read, so that when I go to the library I can find them.
Rolin was born in 1913 and died in 2012. She had an interesting life (after I'd read the first chapter, and become intrigued, I wanted to know more about her life, as one does)--see the internet. She is not well known outside France and Belgium, but my guess is that she will endure. Her writing is beautiful--deconstructed, essaylike meditations, without a plot. This one, Lettre a Lise (Letter to Lise) was published by Gallimard in 2003. It might be her last book. It is addressed to her granddaughter, but mostly it talks about her thoughts, her daily activities, life and death (she wrote it in her 90s) and the comings and goings of her lover, a much younger man with whom she has had a 50-year relationship, himself a famous French writer.
Rolin has a rich inner life, but it is also something anyone can relate to: love, writing, relationships with her granddaughter and her great granddaughters, bodies, the pleasures of the flesh, of watching people, out her window or in her street near the Musee d'Orsay. Taking a shower, waiting for a friend, wondering when and how death will come, starting the day with hot coffee.
I guess I read it, for the beauty of the writing and because, in the absence of a 'plot,' I still want to know more about this woman, the life of her body and the life of her mind.