In 2009, the writer-narrator finds a Box. Within it lie the pages of her very first manuscript, pages she thought she had long since thrown away. Le Prénom de Dieu was the text that marked the start of her prodigious career, and yet for the narrator it is also the Nameless Book, the-Book-that-could-never-be-read, the book written by someone other than her. Now, once again, it heralds a beginning, as its discovery is the start of a journey into the past.
The title, with its reference to the murderous Ourang-Outang of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, sets the scene: this is a detective story haunted by literary ghosts. At the very heart of literature lies the fascination with the enigma, the search for something that has been lost. Cixous illustrates this as she leads her reader on a hunt for the ultimate hidden treasure, in the company of an array of venerable predecessors from Saint-Simon, Proust and Stendhal to Shackleton, Poe and Jacques Derrida.
Double Oblivion of the Ourang-Outang is a text about literature. It speaks of the books you read and the books you write, those you remember and those you forget, those you fear and those you revere. It is also a powerful, evocative tale of beginnings and endings, of remembering and forgetting, of things and their doubles.
In a densely woven narrative, Cixous’s latest text focuses on the extraordinary voyage that is literary creation, and in doing so also explores the themes of memory, loss and subjectivity.
Hélène Cixous is one of the world’s leading writers. She is the founder and former director of the Centre de Recherches en Études Féminines at Paris VIII University and is a frequent visitor to universities in the United States and Canada.