November 4, 2004
I am across the street from the Assemblée National. A group of Palestinians have gathered outside my hotel room, upset about Arafat, who has descended into a coma.
I am on my way to Frankfurt but I decide to stop in Paris for a few days to search for evidence of Celan’s past existence on the Left Bank. I leave the hotel and turn left rather than right to avoid the crowd. I seem to always be in Paris when something is happening. I was here when the first Gulf War started. I was here when the second started and now Arafat. Because I am an American, I suddenly become a spokesman for all things American. What they don’t know is that I am the wrong guy to ask. I know little or nothing, just what I read in the newspapers like them.
I circle around the hotel and head east toward the Boulevard St. Germain de Prés. There is a small bookstore a few blocks from my hotel and I enter looking for books on Celan. There is nothing on Celan or any of the poets I am interested in; instead, there seems to be a large selection of Beckett and Céline, writers that I use to read but who don’t interest me now. They must be the owner’s favorites. On a table in the back I find several books on Paul Auster. Two are written by Gérard de Cortanze, which I buy.
I leave the bookstore and begin to think about Auster and his connection to both Beckett and Celan. In fact, as I walk, I believe that I saw a reference to Celan’s name for the first time in a book by Auster. Am I right, did a reference by Auster suggest my interest in Celan? It was in, I now remember, the Art of Hunger. Now looking for Celan I find books on Auster. I now want to read Auster again so I look for the Metro. I know of an English bookstore on the right bank. I know I can find Auster there or maybe I should read Céline again. I have an undefined hunger to read someone or something that will fill me up at this moment and it has to be someone unique because my tastes have become specialized and particular.
I descend into the underground and plot my way to the bookstore. As I speed through the underground, I begin to read the Cortanze book and then I feel the interaction of Paris, Celan, Auster, French, the Metro, and the grayness of winter, and I am aware of my hunger and my need to find in writing some solace, some companionship.