NOT A NIGHTSTAND
By Haydée Touitou
What I might call my nightstand is really not one. What I actually have are three shelves above my bed. There used to be four of them until one fell down under the weight of a collection of magazines. Those big and beautiful ones. The ones you can’t simply pick up at the library without some organization, taking the risk of ruining your evening and eventually straining your shoulder carrying them in your bag. I often wonder how badly it could have knocked me off had I been in bed at that moment. Imagine being killed off by magazines and books, essentially your favorite objects, objects that also contain your work. That would be ironic.
When I think about it, I don’t think I have ever owned an actual nightstand. I've never bought a piece of furniture that was under the name « nightstand » in a catalogue. It has always been chairs, piles of books, these sorts of things. That’s one of the reasons why I find hotels to be so exotic, the very idea of an actual nightstand with a bible in the drawer. The piece of furniture itself and its content couldn’t be more exotic to me since I seem to praise other gods.
One of the shelves holds what’s expected of a nightstand: A lamp, powerful enough to read by but not quite enough to discourage anything else. An alarm clock which actually goes tic-toc-tic-toc. And the books I want to read next, patiently waiting.
Edie by Jean Stein. dialogues égoïstes by Michel Piccoli. Le Dernier des métiers by Marguerite Duras. Il est avantageux d’avoir où allerby Emmanuel Carrère. Passés cités par JLG by Georges Didi-Huberman. A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck. L’Honorable partie de campagne by Thomas Raucat (in English here). La Couleur des mots by Marguerite Duras. Un Barbare en Asie by Henri Michaux. Mes plaisirs de cinéphile by Martin Scorsese (in English here). La Méditerranée by Fernand Braudel. Un Anneau d’argent à l’oreille by Tony Duvert. Les Yeux verts by Marguerite Duras. The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger by Matti Golan. Vie d’une amoureuse which is a transcription of a Chinese traditional story. Los detectives salvages by Roberto Bolano. Zone by Guillaume Apollinaire. Rien qu’une autre année by Mahmoud Darwich. The Group by Mary McCarthy. Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin. A lot of Marguerite Duras I guess… A few of those books have been waiting for a long time. Some I’ve been meaning to read for a couple of years but new additions arrive and they’re left there. Tic-toc-tic-toc. This is the case for the Michel Piccoli, which a used book dealer handed to me when I bought another book. Can’t remember which.
The upper shelf, the hardest to access, is decorated with three books. The subjects are: Z movies, Italian actresses from the 1950s and a Cahier de L’Herne on Marguerite Duras. Cahier de l’Herneis a collection gathering rare or unpublished texts by French writers. They are maybe the best gifts you can give to someone particularly infatuated with this or that author. I feel those women up there might be watching over me or something. Or would at least make a good team. Claudia Cardinale and Marguerite Duras. Her again.
The last shelf, the one closer to me when I slip into bed, is the one changing the most. Sometimes, like currently, I enjoy keeping it as simple as possible. An illustration of Don Juan and Haidée (Lord Byron, who wrote the poem Don Juan invented the name Haidée after which my own name Haydée is some sort of updated version by Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo). And maybe one of my favorite objects: a reproduction of a pomegranate fruit in terra-cotta by the Italian pharmaceutical brand Santa Maria di Novella. Because reading is nicer when it smells good.