The beach as a space for intimate writing in Alan Pauls’ Barefoot lifeMélanie Maillot
The beach motif has been explored many times in literature: from Proust to Camus, it has often embodied a place of interaction between a character’s internalised experience and the reality of the outside world. In this round trip between the intimate and the collective, Alan Pauls uses the beach as a tool for autobiographical writing, thus creating a real “phenomenology” of the beach and revealing in his text a stratified and textured meta-literature, like the grains of sand in which the swimmer’s feet sink. The beach becomes a multidimensional space that allows him to dissect his plural identity and reconnect with the memories of a childhood spent in Argentina in the sixties and seventies. Pauls sets up this spatio-temporality particularly through visual memory and a play on images, whether directly through his writing or by inserting photographs and cinematographic references. Barefoot life is both a dive into the depths of the mind and a serene siesta in the quicksands of intimacy. Pauls takes us on a journey of discovery of his self in a story that takes us like the wave and lets us float in the spume of our own lives.
La plage comme espace de l’écriture intime dans La vie pieds nus d’Alan PaulsMélanie Maillot
Le motif de la plage a été exploré à maintes reprises en littérature : de Proust à Camus, elle a souvent incarné un lieu d’interactions entre l’expérience intériorisée d’un personnage et la réalité du dehors. Dans cet aller-retour entre l’intime et le collectif, Alan Pauls exploite la plage comme outil d’une écriture autobiographique, créant alors une réelle « phénoménologie » de la plage et révélant dans son texte une méta-littérature stratifiée et texturée, à l’image des grains de sable dans lesquels les pieds du baigneur s’enfoncent. La plage devient un espace multidimensionnel qui lui permet de décortiquer son identité plurielle et de se reconnecter aux souvenirs d’une enfance passée en Argentine dans les années soixante et soixantedix. Pauls met en place cette spatio-temporalité notamment à travers la mémoire visuelle et les jeux d’images, que ce soit directement par l’écriture ou par l’insertion de photographies et de références cinématographiques. La vie pieds nus s’offre à la fois comme une plongée dans les abysses de la pensée et une siesta sereine dans les sables mouvants de l’intime. Pauls nous emmène à la découverte de son moi dans un récit qui nous emporte comme la vague et nous laisser flotter dans l’écume de nos propres vies.
The term ‘beach read’ has been associated with a number of pejorative meanings such as ‘easy-reading’ and ‘fuss-free books’. This study aims to deconstruct these stereotypes in order to show how a book, undercovered by the theme of the beach, can carry a metaphysical reflection that touches both the writing process and the construction of an identity. Alan Pauls retraces his teenage journey by taking the road back to the Argentine beaches he frequented at the time, with the aim of rediscovering himself as a writer but also and above all as a man. The main purpose of this article is therefore to question this beach space and see how it becomes the place par excellence of Pauls‘ intimate writing. The interpretative guidelines given in this study provide a better understanding of how a real “phenomenology” of the beach is born in this autobiographical essay. The first part of the article focuses on the development and exploration of identity through the beach motif. Three identity perspectives are considered. First of all, it is Pauls‘ Latin American historical and cultural heritage that is being explored, including the “beach culture”. After that, it is his literary identity that is analysed. Pauls draws inspiration from other beach writers and builds in his text a well-crafted intertextuality that we decode. Moreover, this part reveals his writing choices and explains his attraction to literary hybridity and the mixing of genres. The last identity perspective concerns the style of Barefoot life, which, like the beach, is composite, granular and multiform. The stylistic analysis that is carried out highlights the concept of writer“ of the intimate” and the process of identifying Pauls as an autobiographer. The second part focuses on the meta-literature that emerges from the text and shows how it is closely linked to the conception of intimate writing, but also to metaphysical reflection. Life ethics are gradually being formed through salty and sandy reminiscences. The beach is given as a metaphor for an autobiographical literature where the writer can meditate on his existence. This book therefore also questions this “exposure” and the dialogue between the intimate and the collective represented by the beach, which is necessary in the process of transmitting universal thought. In the meanders of this reflection, symbolised by the place of the beach, the self is fragmented and manipulated to such an extent that it becomes a Freudian subject. The text therefore also goes through the concept of strangeness and illustrates, through the literary processes at work, a movement of distancing from the “I”. To make sense of this strangeness, the narrator relates to his sensory orientation, constructing in the work a synesthesia that will make it possible to define a writing of memory. The last part focuses on the cult of the image and the importance of the visual. This approach allows to link identity to its plural nature and to complete a text that is intended to be polymorphic. We show that Pauls uses different modalities to visually translate the beach as a pivotal element between the external environment and the narrator‘s intimacy. Graphic precision is one of these modalities: from typographical choices to mises en abyme, as well as through ekphrasis, Pauls makes the beach a place where the self can be observed and where the writer can build this writing of the intimate as one would build a sand castle. We also explore his particular use of photography and cinematographic references, creating a “cinematographic” writing that gives access to a multiplicity of experiences, including sexuality and violence. This approach also helps to understand how cinema has strongly influenced Pauls as a writer. Finally, we show how the beach is represented as a “white screen” and how it becomes a symbol of artistic freedom and liberation of the subject. As he contemplates his own existence, the narrator invites the reader under the umbrella of this symbolic beach and the strength of Pauls‘ text then takes effect: the writing of the intimate takes us like a wave towards the sea of our own memories. In conclusion, Alan Pauls‘ Barefoot life is a hybrid book, between essay and autobiography that unites under the power of one and the same motif: the beach. Our study was able to show the importance of the workings between the intimate and the collective, between writing and visual arts and finally between philosophy and literature. This book defines Pauls‘ identity as a man, a writer and a philosopher, which appears ultimately plural and changing, like the tides.