Category Archives: English

Missing territories

I remain attached to all the cities and neighbourhoods in which I have lived, no matter how briefly. The need for sedentary attachment to the land (la terre), in the end, still conquers the eagerness for nomadism. Sometimes I picture myself at a specific moment and a specific location in my previous life, and the physicality of both the geographical place and of the senses (the light, the temperature, the smells, the textures, the design of the surrounding space) are very much present in shaping my memories.

I remember the late-night cycling into the thickening darkness of the narrow and perfectly straight roads of the Netherlands: the feeling that this was both the ultimate escape and the destination for my endless search of a place to belong, that infinity could somehow be reached merely by keeping the bike wheels turning.

In moving from places to places, from one (micro-)cultural world to another, one network of people to another, – in living in transition –, I feel like having drawn for my life an utterly individual trajectory that resists any attempt to ‘share’. I take no pleasure in this singularity. I used to think home is wherever you are with your loved ones. But what of my other homes, which are nothing more to them but strange names and forgettable stories? I happen to think that home is also nostalgia for a familiar elsewhere; it is longing for the all the places to which you were once attached, and from which you were parted. If so, then I might never be home.


some history of love


love, still

I love you like a poem
metaphors, and
soft-spoken, and
hidden meanings, and
reading list.


love, at last

I love you like a poem
metaphors, and
soft-spoken, and
hidden meanings,

but also like a novel
a history book
a research paper
a scientific mag, and
on our reading list.


love, maybe

I love you like a poem
there’s nothing to say
about a poem
maybe you forget
it was once
on your reading list.

genealogy of a compote

here are the apples from which the compote we ate yesterday was made.
here is the tree from which fell these apples.
here is the soil from which grew this apple tree.
here is the garden of which this soil is a part.
here is the house of the lady to whom belongs this garden.
she was the one who made the compote and gave it to us.

and I, in search of nowhere,
I found a story of somewhere.

Franche-Comté, summer 2018.

First breath after coma

“After all: who doesn’t wish to make a spectacle of his loneliness?”
(N. Krauss, The History of Love)

I have 18 songs by Explosions in the Sky on my playlist.

It was a friend in high school who introduced me to post-rock and ambient. On my 20th birthday, he sent me a piece composed by himself, called “lunatic experience”.

There was no story, nothing special between us. I remember us standing once on the balcony outside our classes, gazing over the courtyard and talking about things people like us talked about. I don’t know what “people like us” actually are like. I just know we’re alike.

When we went off to university, we caught up once or twice about our lives abroad. Stuff that mattered. Questions that kept us wonder. About our place in this world. And how to live without being crushed by it.

The last time we talked was one year ago. He told me about a Korean post-rock band that was opening a show in Tilburg. Although I didn’t know them, I immediately booked the ticket.

The rest was beyond words.

Now that I has mentioned the Tilburg show. It was only when I moved to the Netherlands that post-rock became my full-time companion. It fit perfectly into the kind of life that was offered to me there: open space, solitude, and freedom. It was the music for being alive. Even though I don’t really like the word “music”, since it fails to evoke the physical/corporal experience of sound.

Back then, I travelled around by train a lot. Especially in winter. The whole country was sunk in gray, which was the color of the sky, the air, and nature. I remember looking out the train window on a foggy day of March. As my vision blurred, I anticipated the end of my journey, pretending I was sitting on the train that would take me away from that land forever. And that was exactly how I would like to remember it. Those moments in transit, from nowhere to nowhere, the melancholic excitement of going somewhere while never reaching it, with Brian Eno and Explosions in the Sky enveloping it all.

The piece I listen to the most is “First Breath after Coma”.

That spring, I often forgot to breathe. I would hold my breath for a long time, and then when my dried lungs cried for air, it would feel like recovering from death all over again. It was the spring that saw a love blooming. Love took my breath away by too many sleepless nights. But, love also brought the first breath after coma.

Now and then when I listen to Explosions in the Sky, I see myself cycling along the canal and the empty fields on the outskirts of Tilburg. The memory was as fragile as what ties us to this life. And, within a blink of an eye, or perhaps less, I am reminded of all that has made me alive.

Gone girl

“What if you woke up one day to find out that I had completely disappeared? What would you do?”

As I asked my friend the question, I visioned the scenario in my head. Somehow, it thrilled me. By disappearing, I did not mean to hurt those who were left behind, or to provoke a search. Nor was it to run away from something. The message was not “Find me”. There was no message. Going missing just for the sake of it.

Then I realized that if we really wanted to vanish – to erase our existence, to fade into oblivion – we could totally do that. But we would need a strong motive that pushes us to that point of extremeness. Because, if not, then who would want to live in utter loneliness? To what extent can we endure an absolutely solitary life – with no occasional concession – or renounce to the need of company, and, ultimately, of existing in someone else’s eyes?

Anonymize this place

The performative aspect of map

Every place has a name on the map, i.e. an administrative identity imposed by a top-down process, and related to a historical narrative. This identity, recognized by all, is the public life of a place. Making a place anonymous does not mean disregarding history, but adding a personal dimension to one’s relationship to the geographical space. It’s about creating a private life for a place, which is unique and boundless. A place has multiple private lives, or interpretations. This process of interpretation decenters the “official” version of History whose legitimacy is only a social construct. It’s about histoires (stories, if you want) with a minuscule and in plural. Such is the beauty of the insignificant and the diverse.

– Work in progress –

Part of my project “De nulle part à nulle part : une méthodologie de la flânerie”


The sky is the same

I look up at the sky. It’s the same bright, limpid blue sky that promises of possibilities. It gives me the same overwhelming feeling, as its height is emphasized by the tall building made of glasses that draws perfectly parallel vertical lines. Yet it’s not the same sky. How can it be the same now that I’m here and not there anymore? How can I leave that place and still carry its sky with me? Do I only see the sky in memory? I’m here, and yet I’m not here. I’m not there, and yet I’m there.


I started a new novel and now I’m half way through it. I’ll probably finish it today. It reminds me of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. The protagonist is a kid with schizophrenia, but it’s not clearly stated in the story because it’s told in first person. Like the dog in the night-time, the mental condition of the main character makes him blamelessly anti-social and brutally honest. But I like his voice. It forces you to have understanding (and not sympathy) of the subject. It’s not your version of the story, but it’s about how they see their world. In that world, it’s not them who are mad. “the only thing I have control over in my entire world is the way I choose to tell this story”, wrote the protagonist. It makes me think about victims of deeply traumatic events. You can’t judge whether they’re telling the truth or not. Because they were affected by what happened, you can’t expect them to provide an objective account of history.

Take it slow, I tell myself. Maybe when I finish all these books, I’ll be healed. Right now, I’ve decided to be in a state of numbness and stasis, that is, stagnating in the present moment, not reminiscing the past, not projecting myself in the future. I can’t participate immediately. Everything here brings back the person that I used to be, and that I didn’t like. Maybe if I hang about on this campus often enough, I’ll finally get attached to it, even though it’s not mine. Feeling familiar, knowing my way around.


I feel nervous when I step in this university’s cafeteria for the first time. As if I returned to my first day of being a bachelor’s student, unaware of how it functioned. The sociolinguist Pennycook talks of “passing as a local” in a second language (besides, I find this term more sensible than “foreign language” which denotes a stronger sense of ownership), i.e. making yourself credible to your interlocutor so that they would believe that you actually are a “local” from somewhere else. You don’t need to be fluent in that language. It’s not a matter of authenticity, but of legitimacy and perception. In the end, authenticity may be less about turning inward and being true to oneself, than about putting on a convincing performance to an audience. So every time I feel vulnerable in a new environment, I observe people and, not imitating them, I try to act as if I was a “local”, an insider. I get so self-conscious about it. Of course nobody cares. I guess I do it for myself. I surveil myself before anybody else could. Is that a way of claiming ownership over one’s own image, by subjecting oneself to the imagined gaze of others? Of course, if they ever watch me, it doesn’t matter what they perceive. It’s what I think about their perception of me. Then I wonder if we ever do not perform. Maybe we’re constantly performing to ourself, looking at ourself as if we were somebody else. Anyway, I only want to find the the place to get tap water. And I guess all this can be summed up in one word that is meaningless to me because imprecise and abused in CV: adaptation.

The feeling that it won’t last

The lunch meal in the cafeteria reminds me of the lunches I shared with my classmates last year, in the common room of the information and communication department. That was where we gathered every noon between two 3-hour lectures or seminars to eat, talk, do projects and revise for exams. I recall this because we didn’t have a cafeteria there, and I’m trying to remember the last time I had a lunch meal in the cafeteria of a university that was mine. Last year was the first time that I was constantly surrounded by people and belonged to a group, but then again, none of that lasted longer than the academic year. It was an affiliation born out of convenience and necessity. But can we talk of permanence even when it comes to people with whom we’ve been deeply emotionally involved? Because now my thoughts drift to him, as I think about the novel that I’m reading and how it’s similar to the dog in the night-time one, because I gave him that book last summer. I thought he’d love it because it was peculiar like us, but he never showed me any sign of appreciation. Like with everything else I gave him. I’ve settled on the conclusion that, it’s not that the story is lost, but that there has never been a story. All those years, I was chasing an ideal. How ideas are dangerous. They can kill.

Longest day of the year

I find my shelter on this campus. These days, by “shelter” I mean shelter from the heat. It is nestled in a passage between two blocks, and has benches shadowed by the thin and scattered foliage of some newly-planted trees. Sometimes, a slight breeze flirts with the leaves. I lie down on the bench and look at the sky. Instead of being covered by vertiginous pine trees, my view is invaded by metal-and-glass high-rises. The sky is not the same as I thought. It’s lower and heavier.

People start to come out, so I move inside one of the building nearby where it’s fresh and empty. I crawl into a corner and press my body against the glass wall. People keep talking but their sounds can’t reach me. I’m sheltered from the heat and from human noises. Of course there can’t be absolute silence. There’s the elevator’s ringing sound. The bangs from the slamming door. But I guess it’s the empty space that keeps people away from me. I feel safe in a corner of a very large room that offers no point of reference.

Wedding speech for my best friend


Based on a case study of two young adults engaging in an ambiguous relationship with uncertain outcome, this study investigates how computer-mediated communication (CMC), and more specifically the exchange of private messages on Facebook, could encourage greater intimacy between two potential romantic partners. Conducted by request of one of the two subjects studied who has been suffering from a chronic lack of affection, this study seeks to help her to better infer the meaning of the verbal cues sent by the male subject.

First, I will carry out a close reading of private messages exchanged by the two informants during moments of heightened communication on Facebook (identified by the female subject). The concept of online self-disclosure, i.e. the disclosing of personal information, thoughts and feelings that are not easily shared in an offline context, will provide the main theoretical framework for my analysis. In interpreting these messages, I will take into account the offline events occurring on the same days, events that might be referred to in the text. Second, the textual analysis will be completed by interviews with the female subject on the perceived intimacy between her and the male subject, as well as her memoirs of their offline interactions.

The purpose of this study is not to predict relationship outcome based on the degree of self-disclosure, hence intimacy, but to assist the female subject in her own evaluation. Ultimately, it could perform a therapeutic function by offering the female subject a momentary distraction from her agony through an engaging, insightful and completely rubbish reading.

– Work in progress


A love letter to Tilburg

This is the kind of song that you listen to on a summer night when you feel lonely and the road is yours. You see a stranger’s silhouette that you mistake for somebody you once knew. The warm yellow light from the street lamps and the windows is in a perfect contrast with the twilight sky. The moon is a faint spot of light brushed away by a thin veil of cloud. The sun lingers on top of the trees whose thick and dark canopy forms a rampart surrounding the sunflower field, above which the sky opens up like a canvas painted in an oneiric blue, the shade of blue that you’ve only seen in Magritte’s world. You chase the night. You keep going until it absorbs you and you can’t find the way back. Time stands still as the bicycle’s wheels turn around, and time is infinite. For a second, you wish that you were truly alone in this world: that there was no one to miss, and that you were one and whole in the uniqueness of your existence, just like a prime number.

This is happiness. I could very live like this until the rest of my life, but I’d probably die out of boredom and frustration. Which makes it a happiness, because it’s not meant to last. I only love this place because it’s not mine forever, and so it’s mine, in this present moment. Once I realize that, I feel liberated from the burden of anticipated nostalgia. Everything that I’m experiencing right now is precious. That dead trunk on the roadside. Those insects that hit my forehead, my glasses and my mouth, giving me violent kisses. The summer air that smells of smoke, animal’s excrements and fresh leaves. This timeless town untouched by the outside world. It will cease to exist as soon as I step on the train that will take me away from it forever. It will hibernate in a corner of my memory.

I’ve found where I belong in this world. I’ve always known the answer, but never quite understood it. Now I do. In my dreams, there’s only one place where I belong, but it doesn’t have a name, nor a shape. It takes on different shapes in real life, therefore, I must constantly move between places. Because dreams can be eternal in their own territory, but will vanish when hit by reality. I only belong to somewhere as long as it remains my dreamland. As long as it doesn’t last. As long as I don’t belong to it.

I listened to that song on a summer night many years ago, back in my hometown. I listen to it now, and it instantly brings me back to that night. Or rather, it brings that night here. The past and the present fuse together. I time travel. I am one. I am whole. I am here. I am alive. I am infinitely mine.