A Brief Introduction to Various Spliced Texts

As you may – or may not – have noticed, I have re-published a couple of interviews with the experimental writer Jean-Pierre Sertin. During the course of these interviews, he mentions something called ‘Intercutting’. Those with fine and delicate memories may recall that Underneath the Bunker used to have a page dedicated to ‘Intercutting’. Alas, no longer. But fear not: ‘Intercuttings’ will return.

Before they do, I suppose I ought to explain what it is that they are. This is not easily done. Fortunately I have to hand a description written by Sertin himself:

In the simplest sense, an ‘intercutting’ is a piece of prose spanning thirty lines, consisting of two seperate fifteen line stories ‘cut’ into one another. The significance of this exciting medium is best explained from within the form itself, like so:

Living in the city, or simply in the modern world, we are almost

in films, an intercut happens when two different streams

always surrounded by myriads of stories: fiction and non-fiction

of narrative are spliced together, or perhaps sliced

beckoning us from advertising boards, snatches of mobile phone

apart, in order to produce a spark of creative contrast

conversations, news reports, books we’re reading, music we’re

in the space between their divergent images – this

listening to, even our thoughts: our memories and our fantasies – all

cinematic technique offers all sorts of possibilities if

these narratives competing for space, sometimes all at the same

reconceived to work in a written context. One of the most

time. Some people call it information overload. And yet most of

obvious, if surface, pleasures is the unexpected marriage

us have developed the curious talent of compartmentalising, so

of phrases or images that the conscious mind would have struggled

that we are able to jump from a story about a deadly famine to a

to produce, though this is necessarily elusive, based as it is

a review of a children’s film without thinking it odd. Intercutting,

on chance. Of deeper significance is the way in which

on the other hand, confronts this absurd world of alternate

the pair of narratives can work to undermine the

narratives, telling two stories at once, which are to be read as one.

complacency of each other by offering an oblique

It plays with juxtapositions, relying both on surrealist accident and

commentary or criticism, by approaching the same idea

deliberate contrast; the stories chosen to go together, but ordered

in a different tone or voice, by taking a repeated word

without reference to the manner in which they form a single story.

or image and spinning an alternative world – a partial truth.

 

There you have it.

(more on this later).

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