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Le Carnet blanc

 Most of Alfred Kern’s publications date back to the fifties and sixties, though two poetic collections appeared much later, after a long period of silence : Gel et feu (1989) and Le Point vif’(1991), both with the admirable Editions Arfuyen, directed by Gérard Pfister. Le Carnet blanc, prefaced by Philippe Jaccotcet and introduced by Pfister to whose care we owe these pages gathered in the midst of the author’s dying.

 Le Carnet blanc, then, is a testamentary work of sorts. If offers poems and proses, annotations and méditations, at once situated and spiritually beyond the detail of concreteness. The tone of Kern’s writing can be melancholy or enthused, discret or intense, nostalgic and half-memorialising or oriented towards a future the present cannot envision, tenderly caressive of the livable or elegiacal, yet, though troubled, tinged with a sereneness that profters bare and touching consolations.
 Not rhat these pages are not dear-eyed, bold in their own way, unseeking of all compensation. Here is a poet­ic fragment : « l’instant / la juste mesure d’un rien / qui te ravit qui te bat / paradoxe / du floconneux silence / qui allège la pluie / la première neige/ le passé de l’enfant/ le rien à présent / qui flambe / regard/ amoureux / pour ce rien / qui te surprend / la grande portée / des ombres / encore étrange / au plus vif de ton âge » (119-20). Where illness and the nearness of death might have produced utter refractoriness, disgust even, Kern, though quick, no doubt too quick, to characterise a moment’s passage as mere nothingness – an emotional metaphor, after all –, realises equally quickly that there is, within himself, a power of love that can illuminate and fire what is, and that this power of amazement at the seeming insignificance of rain or snow coincides with an upsurging renewal of the strange relationship of self to the « real », its physical flagrances, its recessed mysteries – the greatest of which is (the meaning of) this amazement-within-the-self.