In Paris, at seven o'clock in the afternoon of December 13, at the Pompidou Center -which is currently hosting a formidable retrospective of the Catalan Isaki Lacuesta-, the followers of Jean-Yves Jouannais will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the conferences that he has been giving monthly around his infinite Encyclopedia of the Wars.
His lectures have always been staged discourses: a kind of infinite performance in which, session after session, Jouannais – always with his grandfather's military armband and his great-grandfather's pocket watch, artilleryman killed in the battle of the Somme – dramatizes the writing process of his gigantic Encyclopedia, which ranges from The Iliad until our days and that, by its own character of endless project, it is going to eternalize, which apparently reassures him. And it is that in Jouannais, who wrote Artists without works (Cliff), there has always been a bartlebyana tendency to "prefer not to do it". Maybe that's why he has never disliked that his Encyclopedia be endless, since in the end -recently He described it as "a very brave project but at the same time the mark of great cowardice" – it leaves him in possession of a draft of a novel that he will not have to publish and for which, therefore, he will never have to imagine definitive forms.
In any case, the fact that Jouannais loves getting rid of writing novels has not stopped him from editing. in France a dizzying book that is a collage -style David Markson or David Shields- of quotes drawn from war contexts that has been titled MOAB (by Mother of All the Battles) and that he presents as an epic in 22 songs, as the narrative of an imaginary battle that would reunite all the wars of the world and that in its way brings them together: it is a compendium of citations built as if it were a parallel story to that of the infinite performance of his Pompidou lectures; a set of quotes of all times, where Sophocles, Churchill, Capitaine Danrit, Pynchon, Julius Caesar, Mao Zedong, Kurt Vonnegut, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jules Roy, Virgil, Peter Townsend, Livy, Jünger, Ernst von Salomon …
In the wake of the ten years since the launch of his radical immersion in the war, Jouannais clarified the other day in Liberation that for the project of his Encyclopedia The reading of Sebald was decisive, specifically On the natural history of destruction, essay on the death of six hundred thousand German civilians in the Allied bombings of the so-called Second World War. And in passing he also clarified that it was not a passion for the war that led him to the Encyclopedia, but the literature that war has produced since time immemorial.
Actually, everything seems to indicate that this great battle of battles that describes MOAB -Unique and monumental- tries to turn heads to the most frequent and absurd question of our days: Have we returned to enter war?
As if we had ever managed to get out of it!