‘The book of Frenchness’

Externally, the house looks much like the old Heide farmhouse—but it has clearly been abandoned for many years. Outside, and now inside, it is an accumulation of dust and debris. There is little room to move between the piles of books and discarded papers. I find one that I have seen and read before, a book that I know without having understood any of its contents. It is in two very large volumes with a slip-case that is broken and dirty. There are reproductions of paintings and drawings, moving pictures and talkative text in it. The slip-case, split along a long edge and falling part, has a small speaker inside it; when I open the first volume of the book, some music comes out of the speaker. There are different sounds for every page. The introduction by the author has a picture of him as a shadowy figure that retreats from one room to the next whenever the text appears to make some clear statement of his intentions. Many of the other pictures in the book are drawn in the same way: small, animated ink drawings that demonstrate a simple mechanical principle or just add a bit of color or movement to a page: a swinging pendulum, for example. A few are very complex; almost everything concerning music and orchestras, mathematics, and The Terror, is shown in great detail. For a brief moment, looking at the thin, red slash of ink that appears on David’s cartoon of Marat in his bath, I believe a cut has opened on the page.