Calenture (Will Self)
– I have chosen as my word ‘calenture’; in both English – and French – it is an obsolete term, referring specifically to a mental disturbance affecting sailors in the tropics. Apparently, in the days before steam, it was not uncommon for sailors, at sea for months on end without sight of land, to fall prey to the delusion that the heaving seas were in fact the rolling green fields of home; they would then – unless restrained – step quite casually over the rail and attempt to wander away across their hallucination.
– I’ve chosen this word for three reasons: it is beautiful – like many French loan words to English; it is also recondite – something my own prose style is often characterised as being, when really I only attempt to make use of the whole broad palate of the English lexicon; but mostly I’ve chosen it because it expresses what all my fiction attempts to do, namely, create such a suspension of disbelief in my readers that they, too, will climb over the rail and attempt to wander away across an hallucination.
– For surely, all fiction is in the business of provoking such a psychosis? So-called ‘naturalistic’ writers hide their intent behind sets elaborately faked-up to resemble the commonplaces of perception; theirs is a sea drowning in its own commonplaces. However, there are those of us who do not shy away from the occupational hazards associated with the lengthy voyages required to travel from one psyche to the next, our only vessels frail and papery ones. For me the malaise of calenture is a given – and its pathology permeates each and every piece I have ever written. There are no commonplace worlds in which the novelist can mine for eternal truths, only provisional seascapes that can be surveyed for the ever-changing fractals of human desire – and delusion.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Will Self, "Calenture (Will Self)", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mars 2014. Consulté le 07/12/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/calenture-will-self-