Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Architecture of the Page

SHARE THIS

A blank page is put before you. Design it, someone tells you. You’ve been mistaken for an architect.

You protest. I am a writer. I write things on blank surfaces–a piece of paper, a computer screen . I don’t do designing.

Sure you write on blank surfaces, but a surface, blank or not, is a type of space. As a writer you do things with and to space. How are you different from an architect?  Do you know about a French writer called Maurice Blanchot?

You nod timidly. You’ve heard the name whispered in dubious circles. Try as you may, you were never been able to wrap him around your head.

In  The Work of Fire,  Blanchot talks about “the architecture of the page.” What do you think Blanchot is trying to say? Can you do something similar? Can you design this blank page in front of you? We are not asking you to be an architect of buildings but of pages.

You’ve been successfully trapped. There is no way out now. Either you explain what Blanchot means by “the architecture of the page,” which we all know you can’t. Or do it.  Design a page like an architect would a building.  But this you likewise cannot do. Then again you are a writer. You know a thing or two about the dishonest world of literary practitioners. When you find yourself in a pickle, you simply string words together in a meaningless but rhythmic order. Like madmen do. So you give it a try:

“A blank page is not like other surfaces. And the content of a page–language–is very strange. You might think that a page contains the language or the words written on it. But it is the other way round. The page is contained in the words it carries. It is a case of the content containing the container. Am I going too fast? A basic question will help. If a page is a kind of space, who inhabits this space? Who has patrimony, ownership over this space? Is it the words, the writer who puts down the words, or the reader who reads them? let’s say it’s all of the above.  In that case, a page is crowded and always poor in space. Kind of like leaving in a small room with people you do not know and cannot stand. A lot of prodding, shoving, falling, pushing and slipping goes on in this tight space. And all the  anxiety, suspicion, and fear. A page is a claustrophobic thing.

Letters and punctuations are vying for space. The struggle is to stay within the margins. The desire is to be noticed by the reading eye.  Even when the page is blank, there are fights among unborn words, dreaming of being called to life by the tap of the writer’s keyboard. Even the writer’s mind is never a room of his or her own. It’s always littered with objects. And then when writing eventually happens, everything is squished within a closed margin.  No where to wander or just get lost. Then the reader comes around. But he is not alone. He is flanked on both sides by an entourage of beliefs, assumptions, prejudices, blinkers, desires, etc.  So you have all three–book, writer, and reader–groping their way through language but finding there’s no wiggle room.”

Photo Credit: Southern Accent

Tags: , , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Ukamaka Olisakwe’s Forthcoming Novel, Ogadinma, Is a Feminist Story Set in ’80s Nigeria

ukamaka olisakwe - ogadinma - graph

The Nigerian writer Ukamaka Olisakwe is set to release a new novel. Titled Ogadinma, or Everything Will Be All Right, […]

Resoketswe Manenzhe Wins 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award for Her Novel, Scatterlings

Resoketswe - Scatterlings @avatar_reso 2

The 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award has been awarded to the South African writer Resoketswe Manenzhe for her novel Scatterlings. […]

Down River Road, a New Print & Online Magazine Exploring the Alternative in Literature, Music, & Visual Art, Calls for Submissions to Second Issue

down river road journal

A new Nairobi-based print and online magazine, down river road, is exploring the margins, the shifting centers, and the new […]

Dr Stella Nyanzi Wins Appeal at Ugandan Court, Regains Freedom, But Is Possibly Re-arrested

stella nyanzi - graph - kampala dispatch

Dr Stella Nyanzi is free. The academic, feminist and queer rights advocate has been in prison for criticising Uganda’s long-serving […]

Apply for This Fully-funded Creative Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia, Sponsored by the Miles Morland Foundation

UEA - Literature@UEA Twitter

The Miles Morland Foundation African Writers’ Scholarship is currently accepting accepting applications for its 2020 program. It is an initiative […]

Chinelo Okparanta Recalls Her First Teenage Crush

chinelo okparanta - bucknell university

“I was 16 years old, nearly 17, when a boy first expressed interest in me. Or, maybe it was that […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.