© Pitt Simon

One is a CROWD – Ian de Toffoli

Literature as a European Mothertongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them three questions about text production, reception and mediation.  If you’ve always wanted to know what a literary activist in Luxembourg looks like, meet Ian de Toffoli! 

“To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing” ( Roland Barthes) – Do you see yourself as an author and do you agree with this?

As a part-time playwright, I quickly learned that there is not one author of any given text, even though there’s a huge difference between the production of a play and the writing of prose or poetry. The former’s signification changes at the hands of the producer, who inserts his own codes and signs in the stage version of a text. The latter – and what Barthes meant by that – is polysemic by nature, and to impose upon it the intention of an author is to reduce it to only one significance. For a writer, language is no simple tool destined to give form to thought, it is structure, and, thus, open.

Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? And if so, what do you find interesting about it?  

I have participated in quite a few collaborative events. There’s a special series of readings taking place in Luxembourg City, every other month, called Désœuvrés (not so easily translated, it means “to be at a loose end”), where writers present an unfinished text to an audience to discuss it in public. The audience is allowed to criticize, to point out themes and form, to ask about the finality of a text, or where an intrigue is heading to.

Another project I have participated in, where reading and writing (and re-writing) played a central role, was a collection of short plays written in collaboration with the barcelonian author Eliès Barbera (99%, staged in January 2015), where not only the two of us wrote plays (I in English and Luxembourgish, he in Castillan and Catalan), but translated some of the other’s plays into our language, thus plunging into the other’s world and characters to decipher them.

In both cases, what is interesting about this kind of literary experience is the opening up to somebody else’s point of view, of course. I would even add, the “forced” opening up. It can certainly be a bit frightening, threatening almost, when vulnerabilities are shown and discussed in a – necessarily, because if not, these projects lose their meaning – unrestrained manner. But the discoveries one makes about one’s own creative skills are very beneficial.

What is your favorite literary spot in …? (literary venue, bar, meeting spot etc.) Please give us a link to the website of the spot)

In 2012, with two actor friends of mine, we founded the Luxembourg based publishing house Hydre Editions. We publish plays and short prose, texts out of the ordinary, or thematic literary anthologies (a collection of fairy tales, or of micro-texts, for example). Once or twice a year, we set up camp in a small theatre in Luxembourg City, the Kasemattentheater, a cosy venue with a bar for the aftershows, and invite the audience to a night of readings or scene layouts, followed by concerts or dj-sessions and a party until dawn. Who says literature can’t be hip and festive?

Photo © Pitt Simon

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