September 01, 2014
Readers under the Lamp
d. August 31, 1955
after revolution: a review of antoine volodine’s writers
“I hate reading ‘difficult authors.’” In this interview filmed in 2011, French writer Antoine Volodine looks pained when asked why he dislikes hearing his books called “difficult.” He counters that his books are only difficult to summarize, not to read. It’s true: the ramifying narrative strands of Volodine’s novels fascinate, but they are almost impossible to describe. Like the fictitious novels penned by one of his writer-characters in the newly translated Writers (Dalkey, 2014; Éditions du Seuil, 2010), Volodine’s books consist of “dark scenes, oscillation between political and mystical spheres, biting humor, nested story lines, tangled interior worlds, portrayal of the drift towards madness or death.” And Volodine’s books present a further difficulty for summary: they belong to a fictional-yet-real literary movement named (by Volodine) “post-exoticism.”
In a “post-exotic” novel, the plot usually begins long after the defeat of an unnarrated “world revolution”; the characters are often revengers or revolutionaries, now imprisoned, or mad, or dead; and the narrative voice shifts among narrators and “surnarrators,” in books-within-books ascribed to various heteronyms—these last are fictional post-exotic writers who sometimes also publish books in our world. (Volodine’s heteronyms with autonomous literary careers include Manuela Draeger and Lutz Bassmann.) Their battle lost, these fictional post-exotics have not conceded defeat or renounced their beliefs; instead, they’ve taken up writing—but post-exotic writing is a lowly, risible act, often consisting merely of tapping on pipes in prison cells, or murmuring or sighing or coughing out words that come to nothing in the end.
Given this complexity, Volodine’s books may sound difficult, to a degree that belies the rapt experience of reading them. And in Writers, the writer-characters struggle with a Beckettian difficulty: how to come to the end of writing. However, even as they try to reach silence, the writers in Writers go on writing—in gripping, poetic, hallucinatory images—after the end of revolution, after defeat or betrayal.
Poems from Altered State - The New Polish Poetry
Translated by Tadeusz Pióro
Shake themselves off trees so violently
that drifts rise along curbs
in alleys and under building walls.
Trams plod through strewn streets
lose sight of their tracks and you see them
later roaming the greens
snouts down by the cold earth. The sky
looks at itself in a shop window and everything
is written in a thin, lined notebook. My
well is full of twigs and dust, the tap chokes
on an ice-cube: who sent
these tight clothes to get me?
An Alchemical Journal (2)
presented by Pierre Joris
Only now is it clear that I was walking on that hillside. Midway up the woods there is a fence, & by it a black wet tree. We stopped & planted seeds there, in the middle of the air. There was such silence in the woods, in the wood, & that’s what I’m trying to get away from now. No need for all that silence, no need for all this secrecy, as far as I can see. And there are houses where women sleep. Were we sad because we were silent, & silent because all the secrets had told themselves into the listening rain? Anybody seeing me would have known what was on my mind.
Words without Borders September 2014: Writing Exile
The Poet Cannot Stand Aside: Arabic Literature and Exile
M. Lynx Qualey
Migration, banishment, and estrangement have long been themes of Arabic letters. The trope of collective exile, or collective loss of a homeland, has been a separate but overlapping part of the shared imaginative landscape. It took on new force after the 1492 fall of Grenada, after which waves of Jews, Muslims, and others were forced to flee what had been a powerful, diverse caliphate, populated by some of Arabic literature’s most important writers.
These two overlapping threads—personal and collective exile—have been leitmotifs throughout the last several hundred years of Arabic literature. But in the last century, they have moved from the periphery to the center of literary discussion.
d. August 31, 1963
Democracy and the Spectacle
On Rousseau's homeopathic strategy
In this talk, delivered as 2013 Cassirer Lecture of the University of Gothenburg, I argue that this striking remark must be understood within the more general framework of a critique of the spectacular nature of modern society. If the spectacle is not simply an occasional form of entertainment, but a social relationship that pervades modern society as a whole, how can we escape from it? Rousseau's homeopathic strategy, according to which we should fight an evil through small doses of that very same evil, offers a solution that is crucial for grasping the scope of Rousseau's critique of the spectacle as well as for rethinking the possibility of democracy.
August 29, 2014
An Alchemical Journal
presented by Pierre Joris
Silence as instruction. Two kinds of Silence. Negative: silence as abstention from utterance [how to teach poetry]. Positive: silence as a shape to ram down their throats. In their ears. Bodies. Eyes. Shaped silence, against time.
Harpocrates is the Aion too. Silence of Hokhma. Silence of Binah. Michael Angelo’s grieving women. Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici, my initiation into the sphere of Binah, into the urgency of poetry. Trey of Spades. Pique-Dame. Prick this woman. Grief. Something held to the lips. Aion. Eis aiona. No time.
It’s on a hillside, & so much has been in or on or under hillsides. I mean on hillsides but the others came, in, under. I think of the raths & hills my Irishes knew, backparts of my blood, fair dark-haired red-haired men like me who spoke no language I could understand & were my fathers. What if a man desires the acquaintance of his remotest great-grandmother, and she a mere girl, in the matins of the world, walking on the dewed grass of Ireland. What does it mean if a man wants to go into that time before him (though our language says two different things with that word before: “Before Abraham was, I am” but “Before my eyes”), what does it mean if a man wants to step lightly across the Galway field, earliest morning, up to where the mother of his blood walks just as lightly, & to slip his arm around her slim waist, but with his wrist so flexed that the tips of his long fingers brush, press, & half-support the fullness of her right breast, soft loose in her dress?
Whoever that man was I would in that fashion have slightly been, whoever he was he knew the hillsides, had maybe walked inside them beyond the tradition of easy enchantments, had maybe seen those cities, worships, inconceivable entertainments, above all had maybe felt the speed of Faery. And if I say all that’s in the hill is hill-stuff, molecules & subtle motions, I have denied nothing.
De Arte Natandi_______________________
(The Art of Swimming)
published in 1587
Journal of Urban Cultural Studies
Volume 1, Number 1, 1
Félix Guattari and urban cultural studies
Stephen Luis Vilaseca
Félix Guattari’s work in ‘Drawing, Cities, Nomads’ and ‘Space and Corporeity’,
two articles published in 1992, and his final three books, Cartographies schizo-
analytiques/Schizoanalytic Cartographies), Les Trois écologies/The
Three Ecologies and Chaosmose/Chaosmosis, not only
theorize the relationship between subjectivity and the city, but also accompany
the theory with a transdisciplinary call to remodel urban life. Guattari argues
that the type of subjectivity we produce is linked to the type of cities we create,
and vice versa. The world of predatory capitalism of the late 1980s and early
1990s in which Guattari wrote the books and articles reviewed here forced
architects, urban planners, urban cultural studies theorists and activists to
make important ethical and political choices. We are confronted with those
same difficult decisions today. Will we continue to allow our subjectivity and
our cities to be invaded by capitalism? Do we want our unconscious and our
urban spaces to remain enslaved by money? If not, is there an alternative?
Is there a will to change? How do we change? The purpose of this review
article is to revisit Guattari’s analysis of subjectivity and explore its theoreti-
cal and practical relevance for urban studies in both the social sciences and
Joe Wenderoth interview
"Beautiful, stupid, dangerous, life-saving, corrupting, and perhaps all there is."
by Paola Capó-García
That line in Celan's poem, “Speak, you too,” where he basically says: speak … but keep Yes and No unsplit. Celan, unlike someone like Stevens, is not inclined to give advice about how to write poetry, but here is an exception. The artifice, Celan understands, is beautiful, stupid, dangerous, life-saving, corrupting, and perhaps all there is. I am speaking of the artifice of the poem, as that is the artifice he is speaking of. The artifice of society—its organization of bodies and their sustaining customs—is another matter altogether. The artifice of society—I think of Berryman's Henry in “Dream Song #7”: “For the rats / have moved in, mostly, and this is for real.” And of course one thinks of Marx—the means of production have become so massive, a Frankenstein etcetera. Bottom line is that the situation—in terms of the oncoming nightmare/toxic dump/simulation-trap has made the artifice of poetry obsolete, obscene, obtuse. Nevertheless it goes on, of course, and this fact is at the foundation of my own contempt for a great deal of the contemporary poetry I come across. I agree again with Celan when he suggests that the only poetry that can be taken seriously now is necessarily gray, uncertain (groping, i.e. human presence). I think Celan thought of his poetry as moments in which he was able to get free of artfulness, or art. Similar to Whitman here—proposing poetry as an act of life rather than an act of art. I would like to agree, but I suppose the poems I've been writing bear witness to a life sometimes unable to get free of art.
And perhaps simply: the older you get, the more artificial it all seems.
Wittgenstein’s forgotten lesson
Ludwig Wittgenstein is regarded by many, including myself, as the greatest philosopher of this century. His two great works, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) and Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously in 1953) have done much to shape subsequent developments in philosophy, especially in the analytic tradition. His charismatic personality has fascinated artists, playwrights, poets, novelists, musicians and even movie-makers, so that his fame has spread far beyond the confines of academic life.
And yet in a sense Wittgenstein’s thought has made very little impression on the intellectual life of this century. As he himself realised, his style of thinking is at odds with the style that dominates our present era. His work is opposed, as he once put it, to “the spirit which informs the vast stream of European and American civilisation in which all of us stand.” Nearly 50 years after his death, we can see, more clearly than ever, that the feeling that he was swimming against the tide was justified. If we wanted a label to describe this tide, we might call it “scientism,” the view that every intelligible question has either a scientific solution or no solution at all. It is against this view that Wittgenstein set his face.
August 27, 2014
b. August 27, 1890
The Art of Empathy [pdf]
Celebrating Literature in Translation
Our goal for this book was simple: to illuminate for the general reader the art and importance of translation through a variety of points of view. Each essay tells a different story; each story adds to our understanding of this little-known art form. And in case you read through these passionate essays and find yourself inspired to make the next book you read a work in translation, we've asked each of our contributors to recommend three books. These are not necessarily the quintessential, canonical, must-read translations from an academic point of view, but rather three books that they simply loved and wished to share.
via Center for the Art of Translation
'My lifetime dream is to be sitting at the bottom of a well'
Haruki Murakami talked writing, heroes, domestic life, dreams and how his life informs his novels at a Guardian book club at the Edinburgh international book festival – and he answered some of your questions
Phantamasgoric Capitalism: Benjamin’s Arcades Today
There seems to be only one way to approach a text like The Arcades Project, namely in the spirit in which it was written – discursively, digressively, impressionistically. Therefore, the following does not follow a conventional scheme, either of chronology or in the form of an imitation of the structure of the text, given its own organic flavour.
“A landscape haunts
Intense as opium”
Why discuss The Arcades Project now? The book, for all its chaos and eccentricity, is an attempt to provide a record of capitalist development in a particular place and time, namely 19th-century Paris. As we know, capitalism hasn’t gone away, and neither have the particularities discussed by Benjamin – the ‘phantamasgoric’ nature of a society created by an economy in which exchange and representation suppress use and experience, the power of commodity fetishism and its extension into the field of sexual relations, the bourgeois domination of inner-city space, and the voluntary nomadism of the middle-class flaneur.
There is a further reason why this is an opportune moment to critically examine the relationship between cultural studies and radical theory, and Benjamin is perhaps best placed to provide an example for discussion, given he was as much enamoured of the former as committed to the latter.
Copyright and the Tragedy of the Common
Savage capitalism is back – and it will not tame itself
... I will describe my related tragedy of the “common” theory in the context of copyright law doctrine, in which I will illustrate a broader moral and philosophical tragedy related to the manner in which contemporary copyright scholars are discouraging and outright debasing traditional creative works of authorship while inspiring an alternate doctrinal approach which they define by using subtle and elusive terms such as “collective ownership” and “collaborative cultural production.” In this article, which examines copyright theory in a unique historical, literary, and philosophical context and contributes to the often contentious contemporary debate on the nature of creativity, I will show that viewing the process of copyright authorship and ownership of its resultant works with a collectivist or collaborative lens—or with what Søren Kierkegaard labels a “crowd mentality”—instead of continuing to reward individual authors for their creative works will invariably lead to the demoralization of the spirit of man and a culture in which common and regurgitated works will be produced rather than works of genius and individual originality, thus resulting in a decline of progress in contravention with Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
Ponzi Scheme Capitalism: An Interview with David Harvey_______________________
Departure of Summer
The Second Body and the Multiple Outside
In a visual field a thing which doesn’t coincide with itself is a blurry thing whose position cannot but be approximated. This would correspond to an epistemology based on uncertainty – unlike the Western knowledge relying on truth and certainty, on identity and fixity of laws underpinning a logical system or a scientific theory. That is perhaps why blurry images bring about fear of unknown and are associated with terrorism, forensics, criminology or disabled sight thus poor logic.
A body doesn’t coincide with itself (Massumi)
A thing which doesn’t coincide with itself is a frightful micro-cosmology. Healthy thought ceaselessly introduces a succession of time or a minimum causality in order to distance the indistinguishably different points and soften up the reasoning process. Usually, in classical philosophy time has privilege over space, so that space is created in time, one cannot think the emergence of form and space without the ticking causality of time, emergence without anteriority. Blurred thinking or better said patho-logical thinking (patho-logical is collapsing the logic of sense, of pathos and an impaired, diseased logic, a counterintuitive, stubborn and humiliating logic) can only grasp the necessity of uncertainty, of a blunt identity, of emergence without anteriority.
A diseased world from which time has been severed is a suffocating breathless world of absolute instance, of infinitesimal nowness where emergence equals eternity and events don’t happen, they just are, frozen in a snapshot of overlapping actualized potentials. It is a deaf vibrancy, a non-acoustic oscillation of matter-strings, a traumatic sensorium, an inhuman regime. It is not anymore a vibrant matter(1) which folded onto a plane produces an unstable map of forces and trajectories, but a stabile instability, a map of the untraceable, the unrepresentable only a sadistic, suicidal thought could try to think. A productive paralysis similar with the “cruel thought” of Antonin Artaud. This collapse of movement and stability, this grounding of the ungroundable would be a world at the limit of thought, without process, a world of contradiction and paradox, of despair and catastrophic reason.
Reading this essay I imagined Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, and Emil Cioran merged in the figure of a lamentation, an almost Rilkean Angel of Annihilation. To imagine a time traveler who can see the static frames of history in stasis, frozen forever in an obscene gesture of pure clarity, the stubborn movements of reality measured not in time but in eternity, the blipscreen of a final cinematic frame that captures the moment between time and eternity just before the screen goes blank forever: a form that is both formless and frozen. Even the spirit of decay is stifled here, in a world where everything has already happened, where time stand's still and the nothingness that is and the nothing that is not cross distinct light frames into each others gaze. She talks of how in every moment we are about "…to take an intimate shape, to consolidate in a known form, to create the world around us as we know it. There is an immense "fear of being undelimited", of losing periphery, of falling through the ground. It is the fright of ungroundedness, the horror of being on the brink of the solid."
- Craig Hickman, Alina Popa - Cruel Thoughts
August 26, 2014
b. August 25, 1880
translated by A. S. Kline
Autumn ill and adored
(Alcools: Automne malade)
You die when the hurricane blows in the roseries
When it has snowed
In the orchard trees
Dead in whiteness and riches
Of snow and ripe fruits
Deep in the sky
The sparrow hawks cry
Over the sprites with green hair the dwarfs
Who’ve never been loved
In the far tree-lines
the stags are groaning
And how I love O season how I love your rumbling
The falling fruits that no one gathers
The wind the forest that are tumbling
All their tears in autumn leaf by leaf
translated by A. S. Kline
Face of Liru
b. August 26, 1909
Penury by Myung Mi Kim
reviewed by John Herbert Cunningham
Kim, in a Youtube video, refers to Penury as a “mourning book”. She indicates that the period of creation was from February 2003 to February 2006 which was the period during which “America has been in Iraq.” She describes the book as proceeding
by accretion, by adumbration, moving around different elements, there is a lot of transcription which are me literally transcribing whatever it happen to be, whether it’s spoken, whether it’s document, whether it’s...something that is archival material...I’m also trying to pose the question “What is the necessary work of mourning both as bodies in social space trying to, in some sense, negotiate...the violence of militarism on human bodies, the notion of war and ecological degradation, my continuing concern about linguistic oppression or a certain attempt to address the...problematic of the ideology of monolingualism.
In an interview conducted by Yedda Morrison in December 1997 titled ‘Generosity as Method: An Interview with Myung Mi Kim’, Kim discusses poetry as liberation and the authentication of a writer’s experiences:
I think there is always some kind of invisible, constant, millisecond-by-millisecond negotiation between the form and its divestment, between the poem and the world, that you’re engaging every time you decide to write anything. However, any poem having any kind of cultural translation in the Twenty-first century – frankly, it isn’t going to happen...
It’s so problematic for writers in our historical moment. Again, I think that I would answer that concern by saying that there’s some awareness on my part, different from even five years ago, that we need two actions simultaneously. The first task is undertaking the kind of devotion and conviction towards authenticating the work you must do, the work we each must undertake, and that forms the basis for a much larger vision for a mobilizing potential for poetry...The second thing is to work out as many different models of where poetry can exist, where poetry can be inserted, can be read, experienced, performed; what are the various different ways that we can make poetry have contexts...Poetry is simply how you participate in language, and we all do that.
The End of the Road
The Capitalism of Affects
The social management of affects is not an invention of capitalism and does not, as such, characterize capitalism in a specific way. In other words, when we address the problem of affects under capitalism, we should be very careful to avoid the risk of thinking that the problem lies in the capitalist intrusion into our hearts, in an opposition between, for example, the authenticity and naturalness of our private affects and their forced and normative display or regulation dictated by capitalist social relations. On the contrary, we may even think that a robust notion of the privacy of affects as characterizing what it means to be a unique individual arises with capitalism and modernity.
If this is true, then, we need some more analytical work in order to understand what exactly is specific to the managed heart under capitalism. For this purpose, I would like to suggest at least three factors that concur to a specific capitalist form of affects management.