Letter to Pessoa & Other Short Fictions
Giramondo $24.95 pb, 247 pp, 978817925336146
You can tell a lot about a piece of writing from how it begins. For American poet Billy Collins, ‘the first line is the DNA of the poem’. With novels, as J.M. Coetzee writes, in Elizabeth Costello, ‘the problem of the opening ... is a simple bridging problem ... People solve such problems every day ... and having solved them push on.’ Coetzee’s high-wire opening barely hints at the philosophico-literary grapplings that will ensue, but in an after-the-fact reading it is all there – the structural reliance on Kafka’s ‘Before the Law’ (1915), the inference that a passage through the recurring impasses of language is somehow guaranteed by death, the acknowledgment that building/writing is also always a matter of destruction.