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FirstDays of the Year

1998
Author:

Helene Cixous
Translated by Catherine A. F. MacGillivray
Preface by Catherine A. F. MacGillivray

FirstDays of the Year

A searching meditation on “authorship” by an eminent theorist.

An inner journey across space and time linking the “author” to other poets, this lyrical essay-poem continues Hélène Cixous’s exhilarating rewriting of notions of boundary, self, and other.

Hélène Cixous is today the greatest writer in what I shall call, if I may, my language, French. And I weigh my words in saying this. For a very great writer must be a poet-thinker, very much a poet and a very thinking poet.

Jacques Derrida

An inner journey across space and time linking the “author” to other poets, this lyrical essay-poem continues Hélène Cixous’s exhilarating rewriting of notions of boundary, self, and other. The renowned source of the notion of écriture féminine, Cixous here interrogates the status of the author, connecting distant instances of herself with other writers who traverse genders, generations, and national boundaries. In doing so, she pursues the rhythms of a mind thinking, tentatively following each thought from its enigmatic inception through all its twists and turns into the next thought’s mysterious beginnings. Here, then, is the “flux full of silent words flowing from one community to the other, from one life to the other, the strange legend, inaudible except to the heart of one or the other, the narrative weaving itself on high.”

By turns thrilling and chimerical, hypnotic and startling, this first-person meditation—or, in Freud’s term for a dream-text, theorie-fiction—does not aspire to reflect reality so much as transform the ways in which we perceive it, creating new terms for subjectivity and the
“real.” Above all, FirstDays of the Year (published originally in French as Jours de l’an) is a celebration of beginnings and future possibilities, based on necessity and hope, constantly mediating writing and living, life and death. Like all of Cixous’s profoundly original works, it seductively leads the reader into a new way of thinking by disrupting fixed ideas of psychic identity, subjectivity, and language.

FirstDays of the Year

Hélène Cixous is the author of numerous works, including The Newly Born Woman (1986, with Catherine Clément), Readings with Clarice Lispector (1990), Manna for the Mandelstams for the Mandelas (1994), and Readings: The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva (1991), all published by Minnesota.

Catherine A. F. MacGillivray is assistant professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. She is the translator of Manna, also by Hélène Cixous, as well as several of Cixous’s essays and plays.

FirstDays of the Year

Hélène Cixous is today the greatest writer in what I shall call, if I may, my language, French. And I weigh my words in saying this. For a very great writer must be a poet-thinker, very much a poet and a very thinking poet.

Jacques Derrida

FirstDays of the Year represents a new and rich development in Cixous's writing. Anchored in experience, it is at once a deeply moving text and a rhetorical tour de force.

Mary Lydon, University of Wisconsin

The word on the street is that there is no writing force more shrewdly inventive or astute than the Unconscious that speaks through the work of Hélène Cixous. And yet, her work relentlessly exposes itself to a rigorous outside, to historical effects of reference. FirstDays celebrates the return of writing, summoning, with discreet exhilaration, the singular tonalities of a dispossessed world: Rembrandt, Kleist, Dostoevsky, Celan, Lispector, and a mysterious Thomas B. are convoked to attend the scene of a genuine telecommunity.

Avital Ronell, Germanic Languages and Literatures, New York University