Michel Butor: You, whoever you might be

If I had placed your name at the head of this blank page, surely I would have known you for quite some time, and thus, as these lines would develop, flashes of your semblance would come to me, the sound of your voice, memories of past moments together, perhaps from a distant childhood, discoveries we had in common, readings, travels.

If I had written your name, of course, preceded by the well-known formula Mr., Mrs., or Miss (this last form now in disuse), I would most certainly have used the polite vous form, which to be sure I am accustomed to using with many of my friends even the oldest and dearest, since the step from respect to camaraderie was never taken, a thing which I often regret but which takes nothing away from the relationship.

On the other hand it has happened that I will use the familiar tu form in letters to persons I have never seen but with whom I have worked at a distance.

If this letter gets to you, whom I am addressing as vous, it will serve to uncover, through our continuing dialogue, who knows what unplumbed depths, gold mines, or perhaps mines of salt that someday will shine in the open air.

I certainly do not yet know you, nor have I even received a letter from you, and I imagine a face, a voice in expectation of comprehension over the vast and frozen expanses of foolishness and deafness, misfortune and lost opportunities, vast spaces into which I hurl this message in a bottle.

Signature of Michel Butor