Friday, July 18, 2008

Mallarmé and the Book of Books

Mallarmé attempted to write an absolute
book, the quintessence of all literature and
all reality-the Total Book. The world exists
to arrive at a book, he said. This book
would be proclaimed by a sacred ceremony
of predetermined detail, a proof as well as
a communion.

The form of The Book can be described
briefly: four books, which can be ordered
as two pairs, make up The Book. Each book
is subdivided into five volumes (not only
interchangeable within each book, but also
from book to book). Thus, Mallarme envisions
the mixing and exchange of the volumes
of one book with those of another.
Each volume of each book is made up of
three groups of eight pages-24 pages in
all. Each page is discrete and may be further
broken down, having 18 lines of 12
words. Thus, words, lines, pages, pagegroups,
volumes, and books all may be
shuffled into new combinations. This disposition
offers a multitude of possible readings.

Mallarmé even proposes that each
page be read not only in the normal horizontal
way (within the page's verticality),
but backwards, or vertically, or in a selective
order of omissions, or diagonally.
Mallarmé imagines another important
structural inversion in the reading of the
total Book: the five volumes form a block.
The reader looks through the pages, and
reads according to depth. Each line of each
page helps form a new vertical page. Paging
is therefore three-dimensional. This
absolute integrity of the container implies
integral organization of the content.

Jacques Polieri, "Le Livre de Mallarmé: A Mise en Scène"

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