An invitation to the Interview Fiction of Professor Audiard

Professor Audiard was confused at why a writer from a scientific discipline would be fundamentally less insightful to literary matters than a literary practitioners. Aside from hours applied to the study of the subject, if anything, the ability to be rigorous, and perceive levels of understanding, systematic, but still mysterious, would aid the quality of a writers’ vision. Moreover, those who were used to utilising flowery, melodramatic and hackneyed language, as a means of showing off literary skills, likely did so to maintain a culture of the writer as a genius, or priest. So the professor proposed a simple game to his colleagues. That they write a new piece of fiction that took the form of an interview or dialogue. That way, that simple, familiar constraint, could navigate some of the pitfalls of the ‘empty page’ and its temptation to over-expression. For Professor Audiard knew, pure freedom was impossible, and the notion of freedom to the human mind was sometimes painful.

Three simple rules were proposed.

  1. The writer must answer the question posed in the fiction that came immediately before your own piece. Truth or lies, that didn’t matter. The content was not important.
  2. The writer must then pose the next question, and make it reasonably real, if not banal.
  3. They must do both in direct, immediate and relatively plain language.
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Some researches have shown that rhinos annually kill more people than any other animal in Africa. Professor Audiard, do you really think rhinos are more dangerous than elephants?

Thank you for your question, Tomas. This, or rather you, are an example to all others in this room. Let me use this generous question as a means by which to make a point. To build a metaphor, if you will allow it.

The rhinoceros may draw our attention here. Led by the question. And by the inference of it’s rival, in the statistical battle of the killers, the Elephant. But what if the truth is not an answer. But the mention of an unexpected third way.

The hippopatamus. The hippopotomus. The hippopotamus.

Tomas, you are welcome to answer my question, but I understand if not.

How did the giraffe get its long neck?

Let me tell you. I will lean here and you will watch me as I explain. For you see, sharks have been around longer than trees, yet it was the mighty elephant that stole the idea of walking from a break in at the patents office. It developed four legs after trying to walk twice at the the same time. The poor giraffe tried to out-do the elephant by making its neck into a fifth leg. It strutted around like a real idiot.

Feel my energy as I ask you, why does this owl that I’m carrying look so pissy at me all the time? It enrages me!

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Rose, stepping before Tomas is welcome. Not only because it evidences a grasping of the brass ring, if that metaphor will hold, but also because you answer was 100% correct. We call it the 5th leg syndrome. Again, some have used that as a metaphor. But in fact, it is literal. Everything we do here is, in a certain light literal.

The owl is hungry.
The owl is tired.
The owl is wise.
The owl has a vacuum of fundamental meaning in its existence and so must latch onto any utopian philosophy or metaphysic that provides it with immediate purpose even if that requires it to be intellectually dishonest and repeat tired patterns of conformity, and see others, like you, as its enemy. Hence the pisssy looks. You aren’t an owl, are you?

Please don’t take that question as my question.

Maybe the owl has a disorder, physiologically.

A professor shouldn’t offer so many answers. Yet, the answer is all these things and none.

The owl doesn’t like to be carried.

My question, for realsies, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”

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Respected colleagues, let me try to answer the question by paraphrasing a famous parable. There is a man standing in front of the door of the Law. He wants to enter, but there is the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper is armed, his hands are heavy. Man wants to enter. The doorkeeper says he has to answer the riddle. “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”

Man is puzzled. He doesn’t understand the question. He thinks about his situation - the one that asks the riddle is holding the key to enter the Law. Answer is the key. He asks the doorkeeper: “How do you know the answer?” “Oh”, the doorkeeper says, “I myself was standing once at your place. I was as puzzled as you. But then occurred to me.”

Man is desperate. He can’t answer the question alone. Can you help him answer? Rose, Bear, anyone?

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Man don’t be so confused. You could literally guess anything and that bloke will find some way to spin your answer into his endless yarn about omens and chosen ones.

You got this one Man! Go on! You know what creature he’s talking about!

A man, or woman, that is confused speaks with one voice, crawls on all fours and has a third leg with his or her tripod is in the ground.

A man, or woman, that is confused guesses with one voice, spins on all fours and has a third yarn with his or her tripod in the ground.

Or to put the answer of the riddle more positively…

Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”

When Kafka woke up, he was bewildered by his dream, for he was dreaming what WereBear had written. Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”

What does it mean? Kafka doesn’t know.

Can Kafka eat? Kafka can’t eat.

Can Kafka sleep? Kafka can’t sleep.

All of a sudden it occurred to him – if he was dreaming of a WereBear writing his dream, maybe that could be the answer.

Once again, Kafka falls asleep. In his dream there’s a writer sitting at the desk with a pen in one hand, and with the knife in the other hand. A writer says: „If you wake up, you will never finish the story.“

“Kafka is hungry. But Kafka is hungry on purpose. He scribbles this down. He realises he has realised something. There is something important in this idea. Life is being hungry on purpose. Rather writing about life is being hungry on purpose. He feels some overly poetic sentences around this idea and allows them to pass. Hunger is best represented by bread. Need is best suppressed. Yet Kafka needs.”

This is what I want to say to you @tomas and @Bainsdrookel

Instead, as you see, I’ve had to read this from a piece of paper. Because I wrote it down earlier and haven’t thought about it enough to remember.

What you know is this. The answer to the riddle of the sphinx is man. The point of Kafka’s gatekeeper is to suggest we are our own worst enemies. These are things you both know all too well, knowing what I know about what you know.

Class closes in a few minutes. Any final questions?

The Answers are as follow:

Kafka doesn’t know why he doesn’t know. He just doesn’t.
Kafka cannot sleep because there is a knife to his throat and a pen in a hand, poised over blank paper on which nothing has yet been written.
Kafka cannot eat because there is a knife to his throat and a voice in his mouth unable to escape.

Because you were not supposed to eat that.
Because there never was supposed to be another voice.
Because at the beginning there were no questions.
Because I said so.

So, why now?

Okay, there’s always one. My question was for any more questions. Which isn’t a question which has an answer apart from another question.

Kafka did indeed not know why he didn’t know but knew a lot to fill that space. More than we do, it would seem.

He couldn’t sleep because he was highly sensitive, but this was a product of his relative social comfort.

You are right we are not supposed to eat that, hear another voice and at the beginning there were no questions. Schelling said this best. Man is the greatest animal because he is reality knowing itself for the first time.

But nothing is because you said so. I admire your boldness, but I wouldn’t put that in your essay.

Now, because time is about to run out.

Any other final questions?

“Yes Professor Audiard, I have a question since I find myself here in this sapid, fictitious lecture hall… What may I do to release you from your initial confusion at the difference in applications of skill between the literary practitioner versus the scientific disciple? Is precision of descriptions better than flowery language when attempting to evoke emotions in the reader?”

Bains waits for a moment for an answer. Then brightens. Starts patting his breast pockets.

“Wait, no! I have another final question! It must be here somewhere!”

Find it. A crumpled note. Unfolds it.

Absolutely. This is the time of covid 19, where every lecture hall is fictitious. How is your zoom connection?

And sapid. That is a new word to me! I’ll look it up later, after class. Perhaps you should be the professor. Perhaps not.

So question one, which I can hardly ignore. What may you do? Offer a persuasive argument? The scientist can read and write a great work of literature and understand science to a serious degree. The writer can only do the former. And a creative writing student isn’t yet a writer even.

Question two. Depends on the intelligence of the reader.

Question three, from your lovely note! I remember this, you found my handle on that dating site. Werebear. Is infamy deserved for for werewolves? If I should meet one, I’ll let you know. What sort of being does a werebear consume? Students.

Students sir! Students! A werebear consumes students.
The student is defined as ‘always in search of.’
They are similar creatures. Hibernating. Erratically.
Storing ideas and riddles so when they awaken they can consume them.
The werebear has a nose for it. He goes for the stock.
I know, you’ll ask next, where I’d look for him in that case.
My deduction Professor Audiard, is that we should look among the saplings we call geeks. He makes himself invisible, hiding beneath the recycled paper (the saplings always use recyclable material) and bamboo pens, feeds on their drive, their ambition, not to mention the drifting consciousness that makes them social misfits.

I like this fictitious (Bains, 2020) lecture hall. The fiction Professor, you propose however, I cannot agree with. There are many more combinations that can be had of your theory re: skill set. I begin with 2 to the power of n, for starters though I wish to propose 72,000.

How far can a cow on a fence be pitched by lightning?

You must forgive the delay in answering your generous, and erudite, question @shruti!

I must explain my absence before answering how far a cow on a fence can be pitched by lightning.

First, as you know, all lectures had to go online. At this point, between your question and my impending answer, you all had to leave proximity, and that which is, or might always be, airborn, behind. You returned to rooms and I to my office.

Second, the internet had to exist for the first to happen. It does and so we were in our rooms and offices with purpose.

Third, computers (material, martial things! like pieces of paper, but bigger, heavier more machinic) had to be, work, be switched on, connect, have a camera, a speaker.

Fourth, we had to arrange a time and place where we were all free. We left off on July 12th and now, today, at the time of my answering, it is October 13th. Both dates in the year 2020.

Fifth, I had to get my own self into a certain state - of thinking? Yes, but no. Lecturing. A kind of performance, where the imitation of learning must be evoked with a (nowadays) polite and sensitive authority, so that respect is given but also so that everyone knows what’s up, in terms of who is teaching and who is learning. I had to move aside personal problems, that I do not wish to share even if that would help me, and it would be inappropriate to share, between a lecturer and their students. I had to move aside physical and mental ailments. I had to dress, for the camera. I had to sleep, the night before, and eat food, and water. And be indoors.

Suffice to say the delay can be explained.

Sorry, what was the question again?

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The answer has ceased to matter. My thoughts have travelled elsewhere. In the silence of your absence, I have realized that some questions are best left unanswered, that the unanswered is beautiful. It’s a brilliant orange. Why orange you may ask? Perhaps, because silence sounds like orange and sky blue?
Even I had forgotten the question to be honest. My own absence, a parallel universe. To not see and not be seen - it was. It is. The state of world which I inhabit.
Your answer, a catharsis. It has spurred me into action once again. There’s some comfort in knowing that our existence seems similar, that we each take one breath in, one breath out though our rhythm may differ. That virtual reality is one reality with many meanings.

Perhaps you can answer this question: what have you learnt in your absence?

It is you who should be at the front. I admit it, my colleagues at this institution are fish, and I pretend to swim to be like them.

The answer has ceased to matter… I agree, the answer is ceased matter. Something else now. Parallel absence?

I had forgotten the question to be honest… I agree, I have forgotten the question of being honest.

Why orange you may ask?.. I agree! Why the orange we may ask.

I learnt absolutely less. I have learnt what I knew. I have learnt what I am not, by watching what others are. I have learn, then, what I am, by being not. I have learnt that everything I do is not another thing. That everything I write is what I don’t write. And everything I do not say, it not necessarily unsaid.

I have a question for an instrument? Can an answer be not words?