Leslie Kaplan: an excerpt from Excess—The Factory

From Excess—The Factory
(AK Press, 2018)
By Leslie Kaplan, Translated by Julie Carr & Jennifer Pap

The courtyard, crossing it. A factory courtyard’s absolute nostalgia.

You walk between formless walls. Sheets of metal, soft and fat. What
interest, what interest. This wire on the ground. No one knows the
trouble I see. You go looking for something. You absorb everything.
You go, you go down. You see others doing. You are alone, in your
gestures. You walk, you feel yourself walking. You are inside. You feel
each movement, you unfold, you walk.

You eat caramels, your teeth are stuck together.

Before going in, you go to the cafe. You look at yourself in the mirror
above the counter. The jukebox always plays Those were the days, my
love, ah yes those were the days.


Barrels, wires, sheet metal piled up. Some are painted, red, yellow,
blue, green. Parts and scraps, barrels, wires and sheet metal. You don’t
know, you can’t know. You look at them passionately. You’re rejected.

You wander in places without names, courtyards, corners, warehouses.

You stop, you go to the cafeteria. Then you come back. Teeth bite,
the dead meat is swallowed. You don’t eat. Where is the taste? You’re
penetrated by odors. Everything is already chewed up.

Inside the café, there’s always that music. Music and dust, and the mirror
over the counter. You drink your coffee while the music plays through,
and you go. You pay your money and then you go into the factory.


You wear an apron around your body.

You are near the window. You make cables. Of course, you can die.
The open window, the cables. The air moves gently, you float a little.

Often, you look at yourself in a mirror, a pocket mirror, a reflection.
You look at yourself, you look at yourself, the image is always there.

You take your bike at five in the morning, still dark. You arrive. You see
the factory, it’s on the other side of the bridge. One would say it’s on
the water. You go there. Excess—the factory.

Barrels, wires, sheet metal piled up. Parts and scraps, the factory. The
places are formless, there are many corners. In the courtyard some
earth, some grass, and all that piled up scrap iron.

You take your bike at five in the morning. You leave. The bike is light,
you grip the handlebars, and you go. When you arrive, the factory is
hot. You are very cold.


It’s there, entire, parts and scraps. The factory. There’s no direction,
it turns. And rises and falls to the right and to the left, of sheet metal of
brick and of stone and the factory. And sound and noise. No crying out.
The factory. Parts and scraps. Nails and nails. Sheet metal, understand?
Soft and fat. Smooth and hard. You don’t know, you can’t know.


There’s no image, ever.


In the courtyard, grass around the scrap metal. The grass grows very
well, very green. The metal is piled up.

You drink, that’s normal. Words open the infinite. God exists, the
factory. No history. It is terror.

You don’t know how to do anything.

You put together a gearbox.

From Excess—The Factory
(AK Press, 2018) b Leslie Kaplan, Translated by Julie Carr & Jennifer Pap. Posted with permission from the press. From the publisher’s site:
In 1968, Leslie Kaplan, a young American poet living in France, went to work in a factory. This was the Maoist practice of établissement, an effort toward helping form a revolutionary proletariat core. Excess—The Factory is about those years, about working class resistance to capitalism, about the possibility of a worker-led revolution, and about the ’68 general strike in France. It has struck many readers (including French luminaries Maurice Blanchot and Marguerite Duras) as a unique event in writing, at once legendary and all but lost to history. This long overdue translation in English by Julie Carr and Jennifer Pap, true to the original’s spare, descriptive tone, returns the book and its complex moment to new readers.