It may be 2075. Rumours about MJ are rife. One has it that he is dead. Another that he has simply tired of the world and sits alone in a castle somewhere writing reviews he shows no one. And yet another that none of this is more than an experimental work in which he has given his characters the illusion of choice. In this one, we are not the future but the present set in a futuristic context of false consciousness. We are no more than a literary trick.
X, a journalist, or somebody who believes he is a journalist, interviews MJ’s old servant. Or not.
– He liked Josipovici?
– Yes, sir, he did.
– The books? He talked of them?
– All the time, sir.
– Give me an example.
– Well, sir. He liked to sit in Peter’s Yard, he could sit for long periods sipping a cup of tea and eating a rock of a scone crumb by crumb. It was cheaper than paying for heating and so forth at home.
– The Scottish mentality then?
– I suppose you could say that, yes.
– He paid for you too?
– I paid for myself. Out of the wages he said he would pay me.
– Give me an example of his talking about Josipovici.
– On one occasion he said “Each novel from Josipovici is an intelligent and original tussle with the form, and mixes seeming simplicity with re-readable complexity, producing works that engage at the superficial and theoretical levels, a rare feat for an experimental novelist.”
– There is a silence, the journalist wonders if the old servant has fallen asleep. But then he continues.
– He said “Josipovici’s use of the novel-of-dialogue technique, caulked with assisting prose whenever required.”
– Did he know what that meant?
– I only know that I don’t know what it meant. Nor when he continued “Writers like Manuel Puig and Ariel Dorfman also explored this Barthesian notion in the 1980s, punching against the intrusive narrator and allowing the reader to ‘construct’ the novel alongside the writer—a technique that makes for ‘pageturning’ works that spit on real ‘pagetuners’ that lard margarine their pages with boring description and nonsense learned in writing classes.”
– Do you think he wanted other people to understand what he said about Josipovici?
– Let me put it like this, sir. Once he was railing about the small number of votes he got for his reviews of Josipovici. I felt that until he paid me some of my wages, I was entitled to an opinion. I said to him, would it be better if you wrote things that people understood? When you write this “This short prose work is a curious and haunting rumination on loss, the passing of time, the abandonment of family, and people who like to write Rabelais criticism. Making use of strangely effective repetitions, blank space, conspicuous absence of invading overarching narrator, tagless dialogue, the novel is richer upon re-reading” how can you expect to get votes?
– What did he say to that?
– He slumped into his chair, stopped eating his scone. He said just because I didn’t understand, a mere servant who did not deserve the wages he was going to pay me, it didn’t mean his audience missed his point.
– How long had you been his servant at this stage?
– Twenty-three years, sir.
– He was going to pay you soon?
– So he said sir.
– What of Infinity The Story of a Moment. Did he talk about that?
– He did sir.
– Well? What did he say?
The old servant sits, recollecting.
– He said – and he wrote this on his review – “frankly my good sir I would like the cheque and will not be leaving a tip.”
– He read it in a restaurant?
– I believe, sir, he was being clever again. He read it during our climbing holiday in the Kimberley mountains of Australia. There were no restaurants.
The page becomes empty. Maybe there was never anything on it.