Pierre Joris & Florent Toniello
Always the Many, Never the One
Always the Many, Never the One (2022)
Pierre Joris with Florent Toniello
Artist Cover by Nicole Peyrafitte
[* The poem above is by Charles Bernstein and is featured in the book]
With a starting point on July 14, 2021, when the Centre national de littérature hosted Pierre Joris’ 75th birthday celebration, Always the Many, Never the One builds upon the initial interview by Florent Toniello that took place that day to go deeper into a major Luxembourg-American poet’s reflections on literature, philosophy, and life. Throughout this book Joris develops a core concept of his thinking and writing, “in-betweenness,” using both literary examples and life anecdotes, some never shared in Joris’s vast bibliography so far.
The form is representative of the “in-between” concept: while it comprises the initial oral interview at the CNL plus seven subsequent interviews conducted virtually, the whole text was reworked in order to complete the thoughts and add necessary or relevant references, thus transforming it also into a literary essay; but the interview-tone remains, making for lively and stimulating reading. Beyond discussing the “in-betweenness” concept, Joris shares his views on a range of subjects related to poetry, translation, music and the arts while linking his work to the theoretical thinking and craft of leading past and present philosophers and writers/poets, in a dazzling literary world tour-de-force.
To complement this first (and major) part of the book, two “bonuses” follow: a reprint of the interview Joris gave for a recent book by Florent Toniello, Mélusine au gasoil (in line with Contra Mundum's multilingual ethos, this is provided in the original French version), and the speech Joris gave at the award ceremony for the Batty Weber prize, to also make this talk-essay available to a wider audience.