This piece also appeared in bathhouse: a journal of hybrid art, vol. 4 no. 2, spring 2006
The world is not unexplained since it is told like a story; each one of its accidents is but a circumstance, and the preterite is precisely this operative sign whereby the narrator reduces the exploded reality to a slim and pure logos, without density, without volume, without spread, and whose sole function is to unite as rapidly as possible a cause and an end. When the historian states that the duc de Guise died on December 23rd, 1588, or when the novelist relates that the Marchioness went out at five o’clock, such actions emerge from a past without substance; purged of the uncertainty of existence, they are a recollection, but a useful recollection, the interest of which far surpasses its duration.
So that finally the preterite is the expression of an order, and consequently of a euphoria. Thanks to it, reality is neither mysterious nor absurd; it is clear, almost familiar, repeatedly gathered up and contained in the hand of the creator; it is subjected to the ingenious pressure of his freedom. […] He who tells the story has the power to do away with the opacity and the solitude of the existences which made it up, since he can in all sentances bear witness to a communication and a hierarchy of actions and since, to tell the truth, these very actions can be reduced to mere signs.
– Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero