Saturday, July 21, 2012

Valéry's Morning Exercises

Paul Valéry (y (1871-1945) was one of the great symbolist writers. He kept notebooks for most of his life. "Over the course of fifty years, Valéry would ultimately fill no fewer than 261 copybooks, with a total length of approximately 30,000 pages. From 1894 onwards, he got up at five o'clock every morning to dedicate himself to these mental morning exercises before he went to work. Every thought was to be written down as precisely as possible to give his mind a good workout: this was typical of Valéry, the most versatile bookworm of the century, but not necessarily a coherent thinker. His work is fragmentary, and only rarely does it follow through on any of its ideas."

They do not really constitute an intimate journal, but are a mass of
  • notes
  • sketches
  • diagrams
  • thoughts on every conceivable subject under the sun, from mathematics to prosody
  • transcript of conversations with Mallarmé and Gide to
  • prose poems
  • delicate little watercolours
  • thoughts the conservation of energy and its relation to mental activity.
Over the years, he tried many systems of classification for these entries.

For more information, see here and here, for instance.

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