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Bastarda takes us on another musical journey, this time delving into Hasidic Nigunim. These mystical Jewish songs, almost always sung without lyrics, originated in the Hasidic revival movement of the 18th century and often drew from local music patterns and traditions. Ecstatic dancing and singing of nigunim was a way for the Hasidim to enter “the chamber of God”. Drawing mainly from the legacy of the Modzitz dynasty, as well as from the collection of Hasidic songs discovered by the musicologist Moshe Bieregowski, Bastarda brings out the beauty of Jewish melodies, filtering them through its unique and mature artistic language. The non-verbal nature of the Hasidic songs allows for free improvisation and a more personal form of expression, while their internal narrative force is just as inspiring. Without the use of words, they tell stories of joy and sorrow, of life lived in its full sensual spectrum, therefore embodying the essence of Hasidism, which always fluctuated between waiting for the end of the world and a joyful, almost ecstatic affirmation of life.

The mystical Hasidic compositions create a space in which the musicians move with ease, elegance, understanding and tenderness, creating cutting-edge, outstanding work of great power and beauty. [emphasis added to see below]

I was on z/s/f uckerbook the other day, using someone else to explain something to myself.

The post was about Martin Hägglund, presumably in relation to his book,

This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, which I hadn’t read, in relation to time. It was like, I think Hägglund is right, time is all we’ve got and it’s how we use time that gives value to our lives…

and I was like, but it’s the inbetween time that matters, time out of time.

I was thinking about the stammer in time, the processing pause, of for example being about to fall down a flight of steps and seeing one’s life flash before one’s eyes… when time speeds up or stops altogether, when we are not acting but subject to time… and I was thinking about cinematic time. So I said something about that and had in mind also what I’d written another time about how cinematic metaphors predominate in descriptions of time since the rollout of the technical means to replay the unrepeatable, to record and repeat chunks of time, recognisable as those chunks and no others for the repetition (the mystery of the shot) of chaotic and natural movement in them. The passage of a cloud in the background is just that cloud on just that day at just that time that the foreground action was being registered technically. It’s just that we’re used to this now so we don’t spend our time marvelling at the art of time but look to where the action is at…

and this Hägglund thing seemed to be talking about where the action is at and not the art of time at all.

I had a look at the book online and I thought, Hägglund’s time is cinematic time.

Hägglund is like a movie director directing a movie towards his authentic vision.

…in explanation, I should add that the use of time seen to have value was that where the time is truly one’s own, and genuine, authentic.

I’d also commented maybe there maybe somewhere else, in view of a time of one’s own, that it wasn’t Bergson or Heidegger worrying at me, but Lou Reed, You made me forget myself … Perfect Day.

and just checking on the lyric just now I’m reminded of those lyrics that get me every time I hear that song and that follow,

I thought I was someone else

Someone good

 

which is not so unlike Hägglund’s finding of moral betterment and authenticity in a better use of time, although, I was like, doesn’t this mean time off, or in between times, not clock time is genuine, alive & free? Free time that is not useful time, can it be ‘used’ or used up? and,

Hägglund’s time is cinematic time.

Hägglund is like a movie director directing a movie towards his authentic vision.

time that is truly one’s own and authentic, well, when is time truly one’s own? and isn’t that other sort of time when we really get it, get time? when the ego is free? and when the time is free of the ego? and when the time is free?

anyway, what I wanted to say is that the quote above gets the kind of time I’m talking about that is not cinematic time, not Hägglund’s time that is there to use, to make one’s own, to be authentic in, or to project oneself into…

the context of the above quote is everything. It’s about music.

Now, when does music occur?

in particular, the music of Bastarda? The name comes from viola bastarda. It means highly virtuosic and extemporaneous musical composition.

virtuosic has links to virtual, meaning, as I understand it, dipping or diving into the time that is not expressible in cinematic metaphors but may actually be the time of cinema because cinema is an art of time

the quote in question goes, …”embodying the essence of Hasidism, which always fluctuated between waiting for the end of the world and a joyful, almost ecstatic affirmation of life.”

always fluctuating between waiting for the end of the world and a joyful, almost ecstatic affirmation of life seems to me the best description of a time that cannot be used up, that is useless and excessive, subject to

ecstatic

experience

where ecstatic is like what Lou Reed sings

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I SPOKE THUS

I spoke. It was the end of the second world war.

Thus I spoke.

                Let the lesson not begin.

                Let the lesson continue from the camps.

Let the counting begin, let the milling begin, let the

great rendering down of the fat of the,

of the survivors continue, in the joy of the showers,

continue, of the victims, set out the moulds, there

at the outset was hope, hope was the outset, let the
 
making of soap and hope survive, and survive hope,

survive hope. 


                Let this not be the lesson,

                            that hat der Herder gesagt,

in the hundred-yard stare in the silence in the fat

silence, in this light and thinness of bones

in the skin, in this fat hope founded

found no hope in hope. You see, I spoke, 

I spoke without raising my eyes

from the wall, and the wall and the wall and the fence,

were not taken dancing or music or love or death even

but hope, sagt der Herder, was dead, death, led to death.


Silence in that science, science of fat and hope,

where the thinness of soap, grausam,

grey gruesome things washing grey grey water

survive hope, thin gruel drips from the lips,


the lips, too, thin, giving order to the order:

start the lesson. At the end of the lesson

will be a test. You will pass the test,

you will sit down and pass it, and go on, you

will be the lesson and the test and the start

and the end. 

                You will text the test, you will

write the test, you will like the test.


I spoke to the rest. I made my request, saying

           who shall I praise? and what hands upraise?

these are the tools, these are the teeth, and this is the

        truth, this is the truth we shall not forget and lest

    we forget it shall not be told, it shall not be told 

what hands are these and what they have made. Forgive said the old

old poet old Ez. I talked to the rest, duly, burble burble they


said, so, burble burble said old Ez. And this was the test.


Let the lesson not begin but let the pall be lifted,


    let the appalling not be shrouded or muffled

or clouded

    one more moment by silence, let voices replace

the violence, and the violins play in silence, 

            lest the truth not be forgotten

                may another beautiful saying not

                    be spoken and no more be

                        begotten. What hands

                            upraise...?


I spoke to the grey where the rest were standing

    understanding not because of manners

may no more various things, vari-coloured, mottled

    mixed be glorified,


Down tools, I said. Now, now you are free. The human

    wall was grey and left the pink before the

        bulldozer.


Understanding the wall, it rose in a wave, in a

    fuck off sort of wave, waved me away


mixed together arms, legs, faeces though no more

faeces were left, no guts spilled because none were

neither nor hair either, bones in the thinness, in the thinnest

of soils, the soil that is like air


and the lesson went on into the air. Who shall I praise?

    no human you


        buried


because that is the truth. Gather then in the future of soils

    in the future of ills, the test is that too. 


Together you have waved me away. I spoke then to praise

    the silence

                and that you understood because it was

                    your skin I spoke of


                        no longer mixed or various

                            but unseeable


in the many pointed night, in the night nothing like

unanimous.


but there see you had raised 

       whatever you like to call it the measure of a

        farm or camp where the humans are in exile, yes



there above the mess or yes more or less measuring the 

rest


    as if measuring the distance, with faces like sieves,


 the thickness of a skin, still the silence couldn't get through


and you knew,


knew it in the shadows where shadows of living, 

            lived lives gathered 

                together        gone


                    like a lividness 

                        rubbed back to health


and coming back to yourself with a fuckoff sort of wave


what are these shadows I still see on my skin?


they are so various and fleeting, I must be overheating


water the earth


I spoke thus I spoke to the crust rolling, to the whole

    hurtling through space and 

        thus speaking in this place

            lost your trust. Disgrace


followed me. Until I saw, though I could easily


have missed it, that I might


                               turn and stare


turn to where I'd come from down all the long

years


and take its poor hand or the paw it offered me



        to lead me back to whom as if home.









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24 December 2022
for Christmas 2022

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avant what? :: revisiting the avant-garde

In its embrace of modern art we see the positivity of a society, its embrace of progress, towards radical transformation, towards freeing all that is good, vital and creative. This is the soil in which it grows and the opposite of any notion of financial growth, of economic vitality, of entrepreneurial creativity; the opposite of technological progress, the popular embrace of art at its most progressive, of art that is most out-there, shows a society wanting to liberate itself from the grip of mercantilism, and from its enslavement under the capitalist exploitation of labour: the popularity of the avant-garde is a sign that it is the avant-garde. In its embrace is a sign of change and a sign of the embrace of social change.

— this occurred to me on re-reading an earlier post with excerpts from Antoni Tàpies’s Fragments for an Autobiography.

…of course it’s as difficult to find art that is opposed to entrepreneurialism, that opposes financial gain and commercial success, as it is to discover its popularity in broader society.

Enrique Vila-Matas wrote a book about the search for art so opposed, The Illogic of Kassel. I stole some bits of it and posted them here.

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theatre | …: first half in epistolary form

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3 essays 3 endings: art research | theatre writing

the following portable document format text was written when I realised that the book I had been working on, about theatre pt. 1, about writing, pt. 2, begged the question. The question it assumed answered, that it took for granted, was, What’s the point of art research? Sometimes called practice-as-research and artistic research, I mean, What is it? And, why should I care to look at theatre or at writing from the perspective of these being two different research practices, as two different avenues for art or artistic research?

I attempt to answer these questions, I assay to and these attempts are recorded as the 3 essays; and whether successful or not, they have 3 endings.

I completed pretty much the whole of the part about theatre (as art research) before I realised it was begging the question (I hope I’m using that phrase correctly. My understanding is that it doesn’t mean asking or raising the question but proceeding without thought for there still being a question at all). 3 essays 3 endings looks forward to this part and the part about writing (as art research). They are preparatory essays, an extended pretext, setting out the reasons for art research before doing it with theatre and writing.

I went backwards, kind of unwriting the book I thought I was writing. I also went sideways, like one of those battery-operated toys, that, when it hits an obstacle, changes direction at random.

I decided to run through the entirety of my findings from the part about theatre in a series of 68 letters. These were addressed to ‘you’ the reader here on squarewhiteworld (against the darkroundearth). I should collect them all (I did), but you can find them through the search function (like this).

What I wanted to say about writing as art research has so far only come out in the two lectures presented at Auckland University of Technology in 2021. These have audio. The Lecture on Reflective Writing is here. The Lecture on Academic Writing is here.

Since writing 3 essays 3 endings, I also presented ten lectures on moving image theory and context. This series of lectures takes up on many of the ideas from the book; that an art practice, making work in moving image, is a way of thinking, or can be; that to engage creatively with a medium is to think with it; that this constitutes a form of art research. The series, without audio, is here.

If you would like to support the completion of the book… or you might prefer to support its noncompletion… please contact me. Comment and critique is welcome, either through contact or comments. Thanks!

Best,

Simon

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a note on T H E__A C T__O F__P O I N T I N G__OUT illustrations by Travis Bedel

Theatre is the act of pointing out. Performance is dissimulation. Theatre is simulation.

Where everything has been pointed out, even more, where chaos can be pointed out, there is no room for time. Performance cannot simulate chaos; it can but only as dissimulation. Theatre spatialises time.

Cinema, the moving image, is also an act of pointing out. It is said it is the act that points out time. It is, however, cinema, the moving image, the act of pointing out its pointing out of time. That is to say, it dissimulates, is a performance of, time.

Cinema, the moving image, in whatever way it is produced, is able to reproduce chaos. Cinema can isolate and point to chaos. In this respect, it is a theatrical event.

The fact of its spatialising time is not as important for understanding the theatricality of cinema and the moving image in general as its ability to represent chaos. Neither is it really important if this representation is actual. To best understand the theatricality of cinema is to understand it firstly to point out chaos. This is an aspect of cinema, in the history of the moving image, that its history elides.

– Travis Bedel

Along with this lovely description of what we do when we try and reconstruct a philosopher’s philosophy from influences and so on, in this case Bishop Berkeley’s:

Let us then take these slices of ancient and modern philosophy, put them in the same bowl, add by way of vinegar and oil a certain aggressive impatience with regard to mathematical dogmatism and the desire, natural in a philosopher bishop, to reconcile reason with faith, mix well and turn it over and over conscientiously, and sprinkle over the whole, like so many savoury herbs, a certain number of aphorisms culled from among the NeoPlatonists: we shall have–if I may be pardoned the expression–a salad which, at a distance, will have certain resemblance to what Berkeley accomplished.

Alongside this, from his lecture, “Philosophical Intuition,” given at the Philosophical Congress In Bologna, 10 April 1911 (yes, 111 years ago) [here], Bergson, still with Berkeley, talks about the natural order, the order of the universe. It is in one of his typical cascades of conditional propositions, If a body is made of “ideas”…If it [a body] is entirely passive and determinate… If we are mistaken when under the name of general ideas… that, from if so, never seem to come to a then conclusion, or the conclusion is given in part halfway through, as here, completely throwing you off the trail of the conditionality that is its predicate:

…if it [a body] is entirely passive and determinate, having neither power nor virtuality, it cannot act on other bodies; and consequently the movements of bodies must be the effect of an active power, which has produced these bodies themselves and which, because of the order which the universe reveals, can only be an intelligent cause.

You will recognise this as Berkeley’s going to God; and in fact Bergson’s pulling apart of reading-learning philosophy–from the outside of historical influences, all the way to the inside of the intuition animating it but that it never seems to be able clearly to state, leading to the philosopher having to revisit and revisit the initial insight of her (his, in this case) intuition in work after work, never satisfied she has finally provided it with its definitive formulation–his pulling apart of how philosophy works is outstanding, but difficult.

Reading Bergson is like slipping into another timeframe. I think there is a reason for this feeling, that it has to do with the displacement of a time-of-chaos by a time-of-repetition, the advent of cinematic time, screentime; and that this, screentime, has replaced the inner experience of time. A theatrical and therefore subjective event.

What however drew my attention was the phrase because of the order which the universe reveals, because, what is the order which the universe reveals?

It is definitely not that of chaos or, in Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation, that of chaosmosis. Neither is it of a time that unreels, one thing after another, or that neuroscientists have lifted this metaphor from to explain how the brain processes ‘real time’ in consciousness.

If the universe reveals an order, what is it?

We might want to account for it through recourse to Newtonian physics or Euclidean geometry, or even to the classical physical order of Einsteinian relativity, where No one is playing dice with the universe.

Does the universe on the 29 October 2022 reveal an order?

Ask yourself, does it?

What has changed to make us think that it does not?

(Unless it does, for you; unless the universe does reveal an order: but in order to do so, I would guess it would have to go by way of something or somebody transcendent, like Berkeley’s God. I would guess that if the universe does reveal an order to you that it would have to be a transcendent order; and I would be surprised if it was not.)

Although… Smart Design… aren’t scientific explanations, like evolution, of an order?

Doesn’t the explanatory model of science produce an order of events? in order that they may be explained?

Isn’t Climate Change of this order? (Isn’t this the reason we ought to trust the climate scientists? because their models extrapolate from historical tendencies foreseeable results?

((there is more to making Climate Change the order of business of time, there’s the virtualhere’s a bit more from 11 years ago.)

(Yes, there may be debates between models: but when the disparities come down to details is when we really ought to be afraid.)

The universal order of the arrow-of-time is thermodynamic: it goes towards entropy. Although the flow is orderly, entropy is not but is its cancelling out. Ultimately the universal order ends in heat death.

Flows cease.

– Travis Bedel

quasiunique beat signatures (QUBS): the original article, “Quantum watch and its intrinsic proof of accuracy,” distinguishes QUBS from DS–conventional delay-stage derived values of the time, saying that, although QUBS itself derive from DS, as a ‘measurement’ of the delay between wave packets being sent out, QUBS beat-signatures more accurately indicate the time. Where there exists a discrepancy, the fault lies with DS.

QUBS is the unique signature of that instant in time, a time that can no longer be considered a continuum or to belong to continua. The quantum watch time of QUBS is its fingerprint. The measurement between or relative or relative to zero of a time-setting does not apply here.

The quantum fingerprint points out an instant of time, rather than in time. Or: it’s already in time and requires no other points of reference outside it.

This use of quantum effects can be compared to the quantum accelerometer enabling navigation without ‘outside’ reference points. (here) This is said to be the way migratory birds navigate. (here)

– Travis Bedel

Does the universe on 2 November 2022 reveal an order? Not like in the old days.

In the old days order was manifest. We didn’t need quantum effects to reveal it. Then, neither did we need classical physics. And it was still a negotiable order: the sun would rise in the East; the seasons would cycle through; and to every life there would be a cycle of birth and death. The negotiable bit was its measure of freedom. That is, fiction.

The sun rose in the West. Summer came one day and was chased away the next. It was winter for the following hundred years.

Before my death I was regenerated and lived in immaculate suspension. After it, I was born and yet I was not. It was not until I ceased to be that I became who I was.

The universal order does not need, did not need to reveal itself, in the old days. Today the Nobel is awarded for proving that the universal order as it had been revealed does not exist. It is a fiction. (here)

– Travis Bedel

The order goes to utility. That’s how it’s played. That’s how inaction in the face of imminent global catastrophe is castigated.

Yet, where do we get this idea of time unrolling? As it unrolls towards, well, it could be chaos, entropy, catastrophe or a positive outcome through technoscientific mitigation of the mortal risks, that is progress: where do we get this idea either of progress? or of an orderly progress towards inevitable and universal disorder?

From the utility of time conceived like this, says Bergson. And in a way and unholy alliance or abberant nuptial, so does Bataille.

Bataille speaks of expenditure without expectation of return: that’s life. That’s the life of the sun. It’s what it does. Its inaction is composed of thermonuclear expenditure in radiation without expectation of return.

Lingis’s reading of the ‘accursed share’ (Bataille) refers to the ‘organs of display’ that tropical fish have and the organs of profligate floral display in the vegetal world.

Flowers are self-conscious enough to want to look their best. Their best goes far further than is necessary for the useful purpose of attracting germinatative species. Bees might care whether they’re blue or yellow, red, orange, white, attractive on ultraviolet spectra, but that is about the limit of their concern. They don’t go in for frills, flutes, formal arabesques, barocco volutes, tendrils, patterns and extra elaborations: these are extraneous. They comprise a share that is accursed for being inutile, useless; and when we think of human display, sexual, predatory, aggressive, territorial, erotic, individual, social and the fashion, the curse is there too.

This uselessness may be borne out in the current climate by practices of extraction and exploitation that go far beyond need, as far beyond as floral or piscine and avian peacockery does in nature. We are cursed by the curse of extra, an unfair share.

Who gets it is not the point. Saying it’s in our nature, as animals, possessing organs of display, is not the point either. The point is, whether it’s to the end or the beginning of the end, the progress fallacy.

Progress passes. It is always on the way. So it is never inevitable but ever in/de/terminate.

And in/de/terminable.

Another way of saying this is that progress, to adapt Malabou, resists its occurrence to the very extent that it forms it.

(Malabou’s statement is on identity: identity (here the identity of progress) resists its occurrence to the extent that it forms it.)

Where is the generosity in the view that the future approaches head-on like a truck? (The phrase is John Ash’s.) And there’s no getting away from it, like the dream where you’re paralysed; and, there’s no getting away with it, like the dream where you’re guilty.

Where is the generosity in a future foreclosed to possibility? foreclosed to the virtuality of the present that leans over it? This second foreclosure points out a secondary impoverishment.

A future foreclosed to the virtuality of the present impoverishes the present of potential, of power. It saps the political will: there is really nothing to be done. Without delay.

Delay, farting around, as Vonnegut put it somewhere, is where time is not a dead thing but living and lived. This is as true for the protein swapping that creates it for cells as for the hesitation presupposed by the profligate elaborateness of the human nervous system, comprising locally networked nerve-centres and the costliest organ in the body, where all display is focused, the brain (costly in the sense of accommodating surplus expenditure, expenditure without expectation of return: fireworks). Brain screen, Deleuze puts it.

The brain is a display screen. The expense of it is not calculated for any sort of return, just more expense. This ‘compensatory’ expense ratchets up nervous tension around other sorts of accumulation, wealth, status, elevation, speed, erecting skyscrapers, superyachts and supercars and spaceships; and sublimates it in (the compensations of) art (cinema and so on), porn, eroticism and fetishes.

The brain is for display only. Thinking goes on in the delay, during the hesitation. The delay is thinking.

The stammer is consciousness.

Identity, I wrote on a wall recently, is an accursed share?

– Travis Bedel

At 3:20pm 4 November 2022 is there a universal order?

Will the sun set, daylight saving, around 5 to 8? and rise again tomorrow over the eastern hill-line?

Will the suburbs still be here? Will business go on … as usual?

The business of human societies follows the order set down in nature, more or less, and the order of business in nature follows that in the cosmos, in the great and greatest harmony. The ‘more or less’ comes from generating and interposing circuits of delay into the general order of the universal economy, and paying for them, because they’re worth it, whatever the cost. In fact, the higher the better, to suck up the surplus.

Lighting rooms, prolonging life, sheltering and feeding ourselves, providing entertainment and decoration, fashion and frivolity, these are all about extending delay. They go entirely against the idea we have of time unreeling, since they wind it up, switch it back, hold it in systems of relays and pass it through obstacle courses and traps we set for it, so that time eddies and spirals, stretches and recoils, and so on. Time thickens, Bergson says.

If the delay is thinking, the systems we have for trapping time are called knowledge.

Doesn’t it happen that we have thickened time to the point of entropy and disorder?

Hasn’t there been a change in phase-state?

Time has ceased to be the order of time, is rather orders of time. Byung Chul-Han (The Scent of Time, 2017), goes as far as to say that from time being date-stamped, to order, it has become dyschronous. Chaos besets time itself. There is no longer any duration to time. It is unthickenable.

To-order time he associates with the vita activa of the perpetually entrepreneurial self. Time chaosifies from its maximum use, where there is no time to spare and, as a result, no content to time.

He wants to promote the vita contemplativa as a means of reclaiming time. That is useless time.

I think he confuses content with form. But so to do can only be accomplished by first spatialising time, as an empty form to be filled. Once filled, time is of no duration and cannot hold content. Too thin, it is Unzeit.

Another way to say this is that once the repetition of chaos is possible in time, the confusion of time and chaos also becomes possible. In fact, the representation of chaos in time makes the confusion of time, its representation as chaos, possible. Dyschronicity is presupposed by the possibility of the moving image to repeat the unrepeatable, chaos.

The order of the day, 4:16pm 10 November 2022, does not follow the order of Bergson’s, 111 years ago. It is not universal. This year’s Nobel Prize winners for physics declare it not to be, prove it not even to be, locally real. Then isn’t the question of non-time, empty, Hunger-Artist thin time, anorexic time, Unzeit, its irreality?

It unreels. Nothing much more can be said of it. Stiegler contends that it cannot be wound up, that this is the problem technics have bequeathed us with to be knowledge; and that as a result there is the crisis in knowledge of its technicity, a technicity that can only be retrospective; and yet it entails a loss of memory.

However irreal time does not spool out in a straight line. It is not that labyrinth. It runs out like a natural occurrence, like leaves moving randomly on trees, or waves, each wave unique, and repeatable as its cinematic image, as its moving image points out. It winds up, impending over the future, like a storm.

– Travis Bedel

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Mario Levrero’s unnecessary masterpiece The Luminous Novel: excerpts therefrom; the part about a terrifying experience; illustrated with images by Jan Švankmajer & his 10 Commandments follow boldly in red

Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel came out in 2005, a year after Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.

Where Bolaño’s work is full to the brim, Levrero’s is, writes Annie McDermott, his translator into English, empty–but empty to the brim.

– Jan Švankmajer

Mauro Libertello writes:

If Roberto Bolaño showed us it was still possible to write the great Latin American novel, Levrero told us it wasn’t necessary.

Another writer, Juan Pablo Villalobos tells us on the back cover of his unnecessary masterpiece, “Levrero is an author who challenges the canonical idea of Latin American literature. If you really want to complete the puzzle of our tradition, you must read him.”

– Jan Švankmajer

I don’t want to complete any puzzles, least of all those dealing with traditions, literary or not. But I have, after many weeks reading it in breaks at work and at lunchtimes, reading it slowly and carefully and sometimes dismissively, finished The Luminous Novel, and if I had stopped reading it, as I was sometimes tempted to do, due to the temptation of other books, perhaps even of necessary ones, if I had stopped, if I had before the section of the book, that really amounts to about a fifth of its 530 pages in the English edition, if I had stopped during the interminable diary making up the other four fifths, if I had not read through to the end, racing through the last section called The Luminous Novel, that the rest is really an excuse for not writing, and if I had made my excuses before then for not reading, I would not be calling Levrero’s book a masterpiece. I would probably be calling it unnecessary and, in the belief they were necessary even if they were not, I should much earlier have moved on to other books. But I did not; and if I were to recommend you read Levrero’s masterpiece it would not be to solve the puzzle of Latin American literature but to understand what it means, that Bolaño showed with 2666 it was still possible to write the great Latin American novel and Levrero, with The Luminous Novel, that it was unnecessary. Because it is.

– Jan Švankmajer

I see that now, in view of any literary tradition. Although can we say that of any literary tradition?

I would not be recommending The Luminous Novel to understand this puzzle, or any puzzle. Although, it seems, by certain things Levrero says, that he likes or used to like puzzles.

It’s an interesting question, though, for where I am writing from, in New Zealand, where it seems every work has some kind of compulsion or compunction behind it. Some wound, platform or soapbox. Some confession or excuse. Some kitsch. Some actually necessary. What is the novel that shows us it is still possible to write the great New Zealand novel? and, more importantly, what the one that tells us it is not necessary?

Any contenders?

Unnecessary does not mean, as opposed to soapbox, soap bubbles: an unnecessary work can still be a masterpiece, as Levrero tells us and The Luminous Novel shows.

A masterpiece of what is not needed. No, what is not needed, I think Mauro Libertello is saying, is the great Latin American or the great New Zealand novel, or the great work in any tradition. Then, do we listen to Bolaño or to Levrero?

This is the question of the puzzle again. Bolaño is only part of the puzzle, but the puzzle can only be completed by reading Levrero. So in this way is Levrero necessary.

I think he’d say this is claiming too much. I can’t be sure, however.

Levrero is conscious, even when writing just the diary about not writing The Luminous Novel that makes up about four fifths of the book, of writing badly. And yet he says he thinks of Kafka as being his spiritual father because Kafka showed him how to write badly.

He doesn’t say Kafka told him worrying you are writing badly is unnecessary. Kafka showed him how to.

Kundera says something similar in Testaments Betrayed, but there it comes as a comment on Kafka’s translators. Kundera cites the French and English translators who tend to prettify Kafka’s prose. Of course, the German ones don’t get the chance.

Prettify is perhaps the wrong word. What they do is refer to good style. Good style is not repeating the same word. It is something Kafka does, repeatedly. Cleaned up, synonyms cover over this stylistic failing.

Kafka for style does something similar to Levrero for the novel: writing the great whatever novel, the great representative novel, is unnecessary. (This goes to a theme in Deleuze, against representation.)

– Jan Švankmajer

I was saying however that had I quit the book during the diary part I would not hold The Luminous Novel to be a masterpiece, that I needed the part called The Luminous Novel to come to the conclusion that it is.

And yes, this is already too much, or too little, because I did not conclude that The Luminous Novel is a masterpiece at its conclusion, rather the first page of the part called The Luminous Novel, the first few paragraphs of that final fifth of the book, had me yelling This is a masterpiece.

It had me yelling that even though I knew it was both unnecessary to because others had already said so and because The Luminous Novel is an unnecessary masterpiece.

In other words, the diary four-fifths, approximately, of the book prepared an impression that was completed at the beginning to the last fifth not at its conclusion.

It was prepared under conditions of misdirection, you might say. Although misdirection makes it sound as if Levrero was up to something all along and then sprang it on an unsuspecting reader, like the solution to a puzzle, the solution having been in plain sight all along.

– Jan Švankmajer

There is some truth in this.

The answer was in plain sight. It was in plain sight not however as the solution to a problem or to a whodunnit might have been. What was and had been in plain sight throughout was the problem and the answer that appears is exactly that, the problem to be formulated. The appearance of the problem completes the puzzle, much as we might say the appearance of the puzzle, the puzzle or problem assuming its essential characteristics, and finally although without any finality becoming a well-formulated problem.

What is the problem?

How to speak of certain things.

Levrero says it at the start, transcendental things: how to write about transcendental experience.

Misdirection is wrong. Indirection is better. Levrero comes sideways at the problem, like prying the lid off a jar. He circles it.

At the part called The Luminous Novel, he gets a knife under its edge and it makes a soft but satisfying pop. The pressure equalises.

It’s not like blowing the lid off of something. It’s not even like the lid comes off. That revelation becomes unnecessary.

– Jan Švankmajer

Now, this idea of pressure equalising can be used to describe the difference between the diary part and the Luminous Novel part, because there is really no great difference, just that soft but satisfying pop.

Or it’s like a change of gear. The voice remains the same, but what it was avoiding saying, although touching on in passages, skirting around, nudging at, or, as I said, outright avoiding, talking about something altogether different, it says. But it says it in the same way as it doesn’t, as it had not and was not prepared to before, as I also said, by not being prepared to preparing for, at least, preparing the reader for, unconsciously. Indirectly.

A nice thing: I like how Levrero believes in the unconscious. He trusts it. It gives him the reason he needs to talk about what he had no intention of talking about; but it does so in and as his experience.

– Jan Švankmajer

His experience comes first. I’m going to copy out some excerpts, of note, in view of the primacy of experience to his writing, is his contention that Flaubert does not place experience first and so his writing is in the end valueless, whereas Thomas Bernhard’s for the narrowness of its focus ends up as grand as the universe.

The grandness of universe in Levrero is the strange and unique experience of the individual, whether it is the experience of transcendental things or the observation of an ant.

Dear reader: never dream of mixing your writing and your life. Or rather, do; you’ll have your fair share of suffering, but you’ll give something of yourself, which is ultimately the only thing that matters. I’m not interested in novelists who grind out their four-hundred-page doorstoppers with the help of index cards and a disciplined imagination; the only information they transmit is empty, sad, depressing. And deceitful, since it comes disguised as naturalism. Like the famous Flaubert. Pah.

–Mario Levrero, The Luminous Novel, translated by Annie McDermott, 2021, 68

– Jan Švankmajer

I’m very jealous of a writer like W. Somerset Maugham, whose The Razor’s Edge I’m currently reading. … He’s an excellent writer, though for some reason underrated. I used to underrate him myself, in fact … When you’re young and inexperienced, you look for dramatic plots in books, as you do in films. With time, you come to see that the plot has no importance at all; and that the style, the way the story is told, is everything.

–Ibid., 71

– Jan Švankmajer

It’s difficult to spot one’s prejudices, which take root in the mind in a strange and inexplicable way, accompanied by a certain sense of superiority. Those dwarves settle in like absurd dictators, and we accept them like revealed truths. Very rarely, because of some accident or chance occurrence, we find we have to reconsider a prejudice, argue with ourselves about it, lift a corner of the veil and peer through the gap at how things really are. In those cases, it’s possible to uproot them. But the others are still there, out of sight, carrying us foolishly in all the wrong directions.

What I’m saying is that I’d like to write with the same serene pleasure as Somerset Maugham.

–Ibid., 72

Since the very early days of my computer addiction, I’ve been convinced that my dialogue with the machine is, deep down, a narcissistic monologue. A way of looking at myself in the mirror. This diary is also a kind of narcissistic monologue, though in my opinion it doesn’t have the same pathological connotations at all, but it also has a few positive effects that somehow balance things out. …

… I thought I’d have a quick look through some issues of Cruzadas. I did a couple of crosswords, and then turned almost automatically to the letters to the editor. But the issue was from a time when I no longer dealt with the letters. That didn’t do it for me, so I looked for the bound collection. I came across one of the letters I’d written myself, and there I stayed, locked in the cycle, in the narcissistic monologue, and unable to get out. I read, one by one, all the pages of all the letters to the editor with responses written by me, and then I found another volume in the collection … and so it went on, until seven in the morning. … I even found a letter from a reader who’d included a few paragraphs in code at the end, a message with the letters swapped, something like CBJHF XFR. And I found my response, in the same code. What did those cryptograms mean? I decided to solve them, and some time later I was able to read what the reader had written, as well as my reply.

That whole section of my past is a cryptogram I need to decipher. The narcissistic monologue is working on a higher level. I mustn’t condemn it or reject as pure pathology, because there are many different routes back to where I need to go. And I mustn’t forget that where there’s no narcissism there can be no art, and no artist.

–Ibid., 160-161

NB: back might mean back to the beginnings of The Luminous Novel, its first several chapters, retained in the section of this book called The Luminous Novel, written by Levrero in 1984. The diary, making up the rest, is written between August 2000 and August 2001.

The book was published posthumously.

– Jan Švankmajer

Doña Rosa must have been trying to fit into some trend or other; her autobiographical writing never hides her desperate longing for recognition and a place in Spanish literature. Naively, she believed merit along would be enough, unaware that in literary careers, as in all careers, everything is primarily a question of politics, or nepotism. Rosa Chacel’s talent and nature should have made her remain in obscurity out of choice, dedicated to developing her writing simply out of a spiritual or vital need, but that wasn’t what happened. And that must be what led to freakish creations like The Maravillas District.

–Ibid., 195

– Jan Švankmajer

The moment she realises it’s a joke, she switches off. She stops following. When it’s over she doesn’t laugh, or understand why I find it funny. And yet she’s capable of understanding perfectly well and laughing at more subtly funny stories, as long as they’re not in the form of jokes. I’ve concluded that Chl, like many, many women, intuitively captures the psychological significance of the system of telling jokes and realises that it’s actually a form of disguised sexual penetration. Laughter is the equivalent of an orgasm. When a man tells another man a joke, he’s exercising his right to sublimated homosexual desire, which is one of the few such rights that are socially acceptable. This is what I think, and it sounds very convincing to me. It’s highly probable that women who shut themselves off from jokes also shut themselves off (one way or another) from sexual penetration. By ‘one way or another’, I mean they shut themselves off both in the sense of closing their legs, and in the sense of not participating in the sexual act or reaching orgasm, even when they open them. That’s why they don’t laugh at jokes. Not because they don’t understand, but because they understand all too well.

–Ibid., 258-259

– Jan Švankmajer

Since I haven’t touched this diary for many, many days now–although, as usual, I haven’t once stopped thinking about it–events have been accumulating, filling my memory to overflowing; and the memories that remain have probably lost whatever interest or emotional charge they had at the time they were formed, or shortly afterwards, which is when I should have been writing them down; and whatever wording I imagined I’d use to record them has certainly been lost as well. Meaning that now, when I try to return to them, the same thing will happen as is happening, or would be happening, with the grant project [The Luminous Novel]: they’ll turn into a kind of fraudulent literature.

–Ibid., 266

But what I’d begun to say, or rather, what I wanted to begin to write, was something else. I wanted to write that a while ago I sat in the greeny-grey-etc. armchair, with the light off, and watched, fascinated, as the clouds blew past. The clouds form a roof over the city, a roof that doesn’t let the humidity evaporate, and although that roof travels at a considerable speed up there, it seems like it never ends, and never will end. It runs from the rambla towards the bay. The clouds are white and they look like smoke, white smoke, because they have a tendency to disintegrate, although they never fully do, and there are holes in them that gradually change shape, as if some parts of a cloud move at a different speed to others. These holes, through which you can see a dark sky, constantly threaten to give the cloud the form of a skull; but I was watching for a long time, and the threat never materialised. Other holes come along and almost do the same, and they don’t manage either. I’m glad, because the signs from the sky are always frightening, and besides, I already have too much death in my midst. There aren’t many of us left.

–Ibid., 277

This how the part called The Luminous Novel begins:

Fairly often, for some time now, an image has been occurring to me spontaneously in which I’m writing calmly with a pen and India ink on a sheet of very high-quality white paper. And now I’m doing just that, giving in to what seems to be a deep-seated desire, even though all my life I’ve tended to use a typewriter. Unfortunately, this image that springs upon me unannounced on an almost daily basis never includes the words of the text I’m presumably writing. At the same time, however, and completely independently of this image, I have a desire to write about certain experiences of mine. This would become something I’ve been describing to myself as a ‘luminous novel’, which is the counterpart to what I’ve been calling–again, only when I talk to myself–a ‘dark novel’. That dark novel exists, thought it’s unfinished and perhaps unfinishable. I feel imprisoned by it, by its mood, by the shadowy images and even more shadowy emotions that have been pushing me to write it for the past couple of years. There are periods of weeks or months when I wake up almost every day with an overwhelming urge to destroy it.

–Ibid., 425

and so it goes on… and I had to pull myself up: the urge to keep on copying, keep on tap-tap typing it out was so strong.

– Jan Švankmajer

This simple rumination–but the reader would have to have been in my place, under that sun and that sky, among the aromas of the trees and the beach, and with all the time in the world to do nothing in … Anyway, this simple rumination had noticeable effect on the wiring–or, to be more up to date, on the chemistry–of my brain. It felt rather like a complicated series of cogs grinding into motion–not heavily, though, but lightly. I felt the joy that follows an intimate discovery, and the fright, the fear, as if I’d just trespassed on some mysterious land that belonged to someone else, or opened a forbidden door. Not for nothing do I associate the taste of adrenaline with literature, although literature hadn’t yet appeared …

–Ibid., 428

– Jan Švankmajer

Now and then I feel, or think–via the superego–that these laidback ants and I are like the respective cancer cells of our respective socially minded individuals. If I fight hard enough against the superego, however, I sometimes manage to think the opposite: that these ants and I are the salubrious cells of our societies. As far as I can tell, the anthill is a wholly sick individual, decaying and useless, and capable only of looking after itself (sub-existence); and I see contemporary human society–that crazy bus I was talking about at the beginning–in the same way. If I were God, I’d pardon it solely on the basis of the few ‘just men and women’ in the Bible, or, from my own point of view, on the basis of those magnificent individuals, those all-round great people who have gone down in history as such or are personally know to us. And the ones I know personally are great regardless of their apparent social function and way of thinking; I’ve found them in the ranks of communists, Nazis, Catholics, occultists, Masons, etc., or simply as unaffiliated lunatics. What they have in common is that, one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, they participate, and make you participate, in what I’ve called the ‘unknown dimension’; and I should point out that the ‘events’, if we can call them that, which occur in or form part of that dimension, don’t always look like ‘luminous’ experiences; these great people may have their sinister side, or even be entirely sinister, and yet, because of their disproportionate sinister side, they’re worthwhile.

–Ibid., 480

– Jan Švankmajer

Have you ever been looking at an insect, or a flower, or a tree, and found for a moment your values, or you sense of what’s important, have completely changed? … It’s as if I’m seeing the universe from the point of view of the wasp–or the ant, or the dog, or the flower–and finding it more valid than when I saw it from my own point of view. Civilization become meaningless, as do History, cars, cans of beer, neighbours, thoughts, words, and even mankind itself and its undisputed place at the top of the pyramid of living beings. In that moment, all forms of life seem equivalent. And, … inanimate things are no longer inanimate, and there’s no place for any kind of non-life.

–Ibid., 490

…even good old Jung thought participation mystique involved a kind of regressive perception, corresponding to a time before the ‘self’ is formed in the child. But this ‘self’–has it not hypertrophied within us, has it not grown at the expense of a psychological formation that would be a source of health for humanity? In other words: is there anyone, for God’s sake, who is satisfied with this thing called ‘reality’? Is there a single imbecile out there who thinks the world is inhabitable? Yes, I know, I know; there is. There is, there is, there is. Anyway.

–Ibid., 491

– Jan Švankmajer

That’s it for the excerpts from The Luminous Novel. I was thinking, before I went into my shed to do a bit of licking this (not this, another) piece into shape, like a bear-whelp: Levrero writes from experience. While he’s experiencing he’s also thinking of the words to use and composing, writing the experience in his head; does that not take him away from the experience, or take something away from the experience? take away, for example, its purity, by fitting it into the forms of the given, of the conventions of ordinary usage, setting meaning to that coming ready-made in a language? or, displacing the sensibility of the one experiencing onto one who observes the one experiencing, who is the ghost at their (writing) machine in the ghost in the machine? Or, more simply: writing from experience can mean experiencing for (the sake of) writing, just like, when writing dreams, you wind up dreaming for writing, and no longer dreaming for the sake of it. Or, again, simply: is part of me at my desk (in my shed) and only part of me having the experience? … I thought all of that, although it boils down to only a little, as well as thinking, I don’t really have experiences worth writing. … Then I came back to Levrero’s point about the greatness of Thomas Bernhard precisely because of the ‘narrowness’ of the world he writes of, and the fraudulence of Flaubert. Still, I can’t think of my own experience like that, and to do so would probably add an angle, a subjectivity, to outside experience, that, for me at least, would be falsifying, a falsification. I like the problem posed by experience to be its being-without-subjectivity, its resistance to the subject, who, like water on a duck’s back, runs off and cannot stick.

And having done some shed work, I jumped on my bike to go to work, work work. But I was still in that mindset, the mindset of writing, of sitting at my desk in my shed and fixing sentences to the page. And I said to myself, I was on the ridge by this time and the sun was shining, the air still, and the cold wind we’ve been experiencing lately absent, a relief, You’ve got to get out of your head.

– Jan Švankmajer

David Abram says the present is breath. I was going up a slope, not steep, enough to get me breathing and for me to feel myself breathing rhythmically; I thought, each breath, a present. Imagine dying each breath.

And each breath, each present, dead to the next.

The air dead to itself, the earth, the sun and the hills, and the bay below, all dead to the passing present, because dead to its passing, its passage. And I, too, dying on each breath, with nothing to prolong being, my being. Its being.

– Jan Švankmajer

Julian Barbour writes about the universe in this way, as being without time, about time not existing for it. It seems many theoretical physicists are beginning to agree with him that time does not exist.

Barbour is then the anti-Bergson, who says that time is an anthropomorphism, a projection, childish almost, of the sense of time we have with our bodies at the centre of our universe, but that this inner experience of time is true.

To die each present is not to endure: it is the opposite of enduring. The feeling of not enduring from one moment to the next was terrifying, frightening because plausible.

Perhaps I was having a Levrero-type experience?

– Jan Švankmajer

Guillermo Arriago’s book The Untameable in the most unforced and natural way brings in Spinoza, the conatus. The conatus is the will to persist as what it is that every living thing has. Arriago says the tiger wants to carry on being a tiger, the wolfdog a wolfdog: each wants to endure in itself to itself.

– Jan Švankmajer

And how does the human conatus endure beyond the present that in itself to itself does not?

– Jan Švankmajer

Well, writing is one way; and writing experience is one way experience in itself to itself endures. This doubling consciousness that works its way out in symbols… as Bergson writes, If I make a line on a piece of paper with my eyes shut, it is with a single unbroken movement; now, upon opening my eyes, I see, juxtaposed with that movement, the line that will be its symbol. Or something like that. And it is through this spatial detour and this symbolic detour that human conatus in particular endures.

Or, it is through the habit of composing in your head, of formulating, symbolically, the record of the experience that the internal experience persists. But these detours through space and symbol displace the experience… and, more still, in the case of the moving image entirely replace it.

The moving image replaces an inner experience of time not because it moves but as an image, an image of time, so that our tendency is to prefer to the actuality of an inner experience of time its technical double.

– Jan Švankmajer

This was not the case with the symbolic detour, in writing, for example, (or in dream) since the inner sense of time a written record possesses or evokes is not experienced socially: the fact of social attendance changes the quality of the experience.

It convinces us of the temporal nature of the image, while that of the symbolic double in writing or dreaming is all in my head, a matter of the local and individual imagination, and of knowledges of genre, register, tone, tropes and archetypes, and so on. But this individual experience, although another experience than the experience providing its raw material, and processed, by narration and so on, is in a way truer because it, like the inner experience of time, is in me, and part of me; it is part of the interaction that I bring to reading the text, and, as Bernard Stiegler says, giving the strongest sense possible to reading, repeating it in a living, unfolding duration.

Human conatus endures, is not instant by instant, breath by breath, thanks to a doubling of consciousness. This doubling has to do with the manipulation of symbols, with a symbolic form of knowledge. Stiegler is one who is very conscious of the deleterious effects of semi-autonomous digital technologies on this knowledge, causing it to be lost. (In contrast to Stiegler, from Bergson, I get the idea of knowledge as being a determination of the future, a way that the present impends over the future.)

The other side of this is that any sense of duration in the present makes recourse to a kind of artifice and that this artifice is natural to the human. It is human nature not to notice itself enduring in itself. The human occupies a time that is partly outside of direct experience.

Does the world then die to itself with every passing instant? In some ways Bergson encourages this (terrifying) view. There follows from it the idea of technical field, a field of technics (Stiegler), separate from the world; of this field separating the human from the world: and yet if it is accepted the human conatus includes this field, as its will to persist to and in itself as human, the human is no longer immanent except to itself, to its own human-technical world. This is what might be called the ideological view, the entrapment in their own historicity or episteme, as forms of technically mediated cultural understanding and knowledge, of human beings.

– Jan Švankmajer

In works after Matter and Memory, Bergson encourages the idea that only humans are the subjects of duration. Where Deleuze goes further than Bergson is in speaking of pure immanence, where the human subject is not at the point of disconnection between world, culture and technics.

He relieves us of the terrifying possibility of the world being dead to itself with every passing breath, in every passing present.

an interview conducted by Mario Levrero with Mario Levrero, from here:

I notice that something is bothering me: an image, a series of words, or simply a mood, an atmosphere, an environment. The clearest example would be an image or mood from a dream, after waking up in the morning; sometimes you spend a long time almost tangled up in that dream-fragment; sometimes it fades in the end and sometimes it doesn’t. It can come back, whether spontaneously or evoked by something else, at other points in the day. When this goes on for several days, I take it as a sign that there’s something there that I need to deal with, and the way to deal with it is to recreate it. For example: I have a story, ‘The Crucified Man’, which stemmed from this kind of disruption, although it didn’t come from a dream. I noticed that for some days I’d had a crucified man in my head, someone whose arms were permanently outstretched. In fact, I didn’t realise the man had been crucified until I stopped to examine that disruptive image, because he was dressed; you could clearly see that he was wearing an old jacket. Looking more closely, I discovered that under the jacket he was nailed to the remains of a wooden cross, and right away I began work on that story. Another story, ‘The Sunshades’, arose from a phrase overheard in a dream: ‘Nohaymar’ [‘No hay mar’, or ‘There is no sea’]. In the dream, a girl was jumping on a bed and saying something like ‘nohaymar’, or rather I was hearing ‘noaimar’. While I was in the shower, that image and that phrase came back to me and I decided it meant ‘no hay mar’, and by the time I got out of the shower I already had a fairly well-structured story. My novel Displacements also arose from a brief scene from a dream: a woman in her underwear washing dishes in a kitchen. It took me about two years to unearth the whole little world contained in that image. And in case you take an interest in parapsychological phenomena, I’ll tell you something else that happened with ‘no hay mar’: a few days after the story was written, I ran into a friend who told me that he’d been writing a story himself at more or less the same time, and a character had infiltrated it with a kind of obsessive force. This character was called Mariano. As you may have noticed, ‘Mariano’ is a perfect anagram of ‘no hay mar’.

and:

What’s more, I think that’s the true function of criticism: preventing the craziness contained in a work of art from spreading through the whole of society like a plague. It’s a repressive function, a kind of policing, and I’m not saying it’s wrong; I think it’s necessary. But personally I find it irritating, because it happens to be repressing me, or at least what I write. It’s fencing me in, putting barriers between the reader and the writer. This, of course, actually ends up benefiting literature, allowing it to grow, to find new ways of saying what it wants to say – in the same way that policing allows different forms of crime to evolve.

– Jan Švankmajer
What is your view of the digital medium? Do you feel there is any relevance in regard to celluloid being more tangible, or is this irrelevant?

Here lies the central point of my reservations about computer animation. Virtual reality has no tactile dimension. It is an „untouched reality“. It is therefore not charged by strenuous human emotions. It is a stillborn child.

thank you to Jan Švankmajer.

Prague, November 2011
Jan Švankmajer’s ten commandments, here compressed into ten lines:

1. Before you start making a film, write a poem, paint a picture, create a collage, write a novel, essay, etc.

2. Surrender to your obsessions.

3. Use animation as a magical operation.

4. Keep exchanging dreams for reality and vice versa.

5. If you are trying to decide what is more important, trust the experience of the eye or the experience of the body; always trust the body, because touch is an older sense than sight and its experience is more fundamental.

6. The deeper you enter into the fantastic story the more realistic you need to be in the detail.

7. You should always use your wildest imagination.

8. Always pick themes that you feel ambivalent about.

9. Cultivate your creativity as a form of self-therapy.

10. Never work, always improvise.

(&&&[Deleuze])=-1...
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the film maker

I’d been invited to a screening
in the internal courtyard at the back of the house
rented by the friend who makes movies,
short films. His attention was elsewhere
when I arrived, since there were others there
who were quite at home and on a table were
bottles. I think I must already have had a few.
Of course, they were neighbours and I wondered
whether they had been in the courtyard already
and, because they had equal right to use it, 
he couldn’t kick them out, or he had
invited them to see his film. Anyway,
he seemed comfortable to let them stay and very
soon started the film. I don’t remember a single
frame, as if the camera were pointed at the courtyard
where we continued our party and, seeing as how
we were in the midst of the action
being projected, on the screen
was nothing we were unfamiliar with. 
At the end, my friend turned to me,
expecting me to make
some comment. I’d noticed
him turning to me repeatedly, and,
since I’d had a few beforehand and I was scared 
of doing something stupid if I got too drunk,
I’d been avoiding saying anything. I’d even
been avoiding drinking more and, as I said,
I don’t remember a single frame.

Time passed and it seemed to quicken 
and stretch
so that images came and went.
I don’t think I did drink more
but I was feeling the effects. My friend
sat ahead, to the right of me, where
the wooden bar extended as far as the corridor
that was the entry to the courtyard. I was 
too worried about my own behaviour to glance up
at it but it is where the screen must’ve been
on which my friend had shown his short film.
The timber of the bar, like the table top
and benches we sat on, was recycled.
The wood was distressed. A dark tawny grey, 
patches of darker grey showed through. 
They matched the concrete of the courtyard floor, 
that, as if wet, had a sheen to it
reflecting below, even more dully,
dull festoon lights above
and the sky, a lighter
grey above that. Night
may have been coming on or not,
I could not tell. At first no trees
or greenery were visible and the men 
were used to each other. They did not notice 
I was a stranger.

My friend turned pale.
He was sweating and his hair stuck to
his head and neck. In front and to the right,
he was turned to me. If anything, he looked
frightened. I thought, he must not want me
to draw the others’ attention to him, so I
relaxed. But he was very grey, like a fish.
His eyes bulged and he gulped the air.
Seeing as how I’d relaxed, he seemed to as well
and had a drink. Then, it happened again.

He went pale, grey, his face wet, his hair
stuck to his neck and to his head, dripping
with sweat. He turned one way, then the other,
slowly shaking his head. It was as if he could not
believe it, but what could I do?
I looked down, at the table. I saw my hands
clenched in my lap. I tried to relax. Act natural,
I told myself. Had I really had so much to drink?

Others seemed to notice. They patted my friend’s
shoulders and back and asked, Are you all right?
But, when I looked up, he was facing me directly. 
He stared at me accusingly. I could not 
do nothing now. I got up. I walked away, 
in the other direction. Carrying my drink,
I went out into the garden.

The owner of the house was explaining something
to a few other men. He pointed first to a patch of 
ground in the front garden, the corner 
of the property, where a big tree
grew beside the fence and the grass had not
been mown and blackberry wands
stood up from the bushes, and then he 
pointed back, to the right of the house, where,
on the same side of the property as the ground 
he’d indicated, a pergola stood.
It came off the house and had once been white. 
Now rust stains ran from the bolts that held 
it together and the paint had lifted. 
It had a patio below it, small and unloved, 
with grass and weeds around it. He said,
It will match the one by the house.

He was talking about a building project
in the front corner of the property.
They held beer bottles. The others 
were younger than him and listened,
without drinking, while he went on 
pointing and gesturing. His watch’s
stainless steel strap stretched 
in the thick black hairs that grew there. 
It caught the light on the hand holding 
the bottle and his eyes too
glittered.

My friend had looked at me 
like a beaten animal.

Inside the house the couches were
pushed up against the walls.
A younger man was with his friends,
ashtrays balanced on the armrests.
The couch was covered with an old 
sheet. He said to me, What is the enmity
between those two? He was the eldest of 
two brothers. Animus, I repeated to myself,
but this had not been what he said.

He took me through
the front part of the house that
was just a facade and opened up
to a large space, 
its timber rafters exposed, like a barn. 
We stood at the top of the steps, looking 
out over the swimming-pool. That’s 
the last thing I build here, he said.


 


point to point

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a note on human agency

Hochuli, Hoare and Cunliffe write that the social order has been “entrusted to lawyers, activists, remote governmental experts on transnational commissions, central bankers, technocrats, the market, CEOs… not to ordinary citizens” and that how production functions, is organised and distributed is left to “supply chain managers, investors and trade negotiators, not unions or politicians.” [see here]

Roles, the actions of actors or of agents with agency, are not characteristic of contemporary communications society however. The network is.

Contemporary society does not divide along class lines. It does not divide at all. Its entanglement, the entanglement of social and power relations that society comprises, constitute its control.

Roles do not characterise our kind of social political organisation but relations. Ordinary citizens are as much a part of the indivisible entanglement of control society as investors and trade negotiators, as well as unions and politicians. There is no division.

Power is relational. So is agency: as such, power is implicative.

The power of an agent to act is more than inextricable from the rest, from the totality of relations of power functions, it is implicated in the totality of the network of all of them.

The network materialises not as the totality of power relations, for example at the institutional or individual levels. It does not materialise neuro-bio-logically. Rather neurological and biological, ecological and social and psychical networks are built epistemologically on the model of material communications, the nondiscursive material network of a mathematical and computational imaginary. Yes: both material and imaginary, otherwise known as an hallucination of the totality.

It is imaginary because invented, a matter of pure invention. It determines the future and the future of human social organisation, so that it is a form of knowledge, a form of generic knowledge replacing all other forms.

Wrongly called science or the scientific worldview, in this determinative function of a knowledge, impending over the future, it is better called speculative.

The name for this network with its power functions and totality of relations is the market.

A speculative, implicative and nonhuman reality, or brain. Onto it are projected our real material conditions of an agency and roles that abrogate them both, preferring to our own, artificial intelligence.

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velvet & vomit

Since you asked (my little joke), my writing is going a lot better, thank you, more smoothly. Foucault required of his writing style that it feel like velvet, that it have a velvet surface. This velvet-surfaced prose for some reason, perhaps because of the expression velvet-tongued, makes me think of a tongue. He wanted the surface of his writing to have this quality or, he wanted his writing to have the surface quality of velvet.

An unusual turn of phrase in Levrero: an hallucination allows us to see things that are not there. On the one side, there is the epistemology of an hallucination; on the other, its ontology. Saying, It was an hallucination, allows what was seen, despite it not being there, to pass over to the side of things seen and known. What about its being? What about if an hallucination were a pass to visibility for what is not there?

At any point, a thousand hallucinations press on the air. We are given leave to see one. We do not say, It is merely an hallucination or afterwards, it was merely an hallucination; we thank the hallucination for allowing us to see what is not there, what was not there: a thousand unseen things, and we were granted access to one. Or, rather, the hallucination granted that access, giving it to be seen.

The same might said of all those instances when epistemology becomes confused with ontology, where the concept or the word is like an empty form, a voucher that is made out in the name of what was unseen, because not there, before, but is now. The situation recalls the song “Haddock’s Eyes.” That’s what the name is called, says the White Knight to Alice, but not the song.

The song is called “Ways and Means.” While what the song is is really “A-sitting on a Gate.” The tune, the White Knight says, is pure invention.

Ferrante writes in Incidental Inventions, collecting pieces written for the Guardian in January 2018 to January 2019, There’s nothing I wouldn’t write about. In fact, as soon as I realize that something has flashed through my mind that I would never put in writing, I insist on doing so. This is on 5 May 2018.

On 12 May, she writes about the urge to write, But be careful: we have to refrain from taking our barren, proud, cruel creative deliriums for a mark of quality.

Sometimes it is the urge to write that insists you write what you would never put in writing. It is not you. But this does not mean it is not a barren, proud, cruel creative delirium that you (or I) mistake for having quality.

I was reading Carrère on his search for Luke Rhinehart, writer of The Dice Man, pen name of George Cockcroft, about a man who makes decisions of exponentially growing importance in his life based on the throw of a die.

What is it, I thought, about Carrère’s writing?

I had also been listening to a reading of The Adversary. What is it that makes it not to appear the willful imposition of a distinctive voice or personality onto his material and yet to be full of a voice and of personality?

I mention The Dice Man because of the aleatory device of the die, because of the introduction or intrusion of chance operations in writing and in life.

The whole idea then, when the novel came out, in 1971, was escape from the self.

The self is a product conditioning; today it is simply a product: so, now, it is thought to have greater or less utility by those entrepreneurs of the self. But I am getting away from my question.

If I read Carrère, or, yes, Ferrante, as willfully writing against their own ideas of what either of them would write, as insistently imposing this on themselves, I would be able to tell; and I would see it as an intrusion, as an imposition on the writing.

It might be entirely authentic. But I think it would read as being forced and artificial, as if the writer were asking too much, not of the reader (Ferrante seems to say this), but of the writing.

Rhinehart has to obey the die in The Dice Man.

If, since this is one of the alternatives he may have assigned to a number on it, the die says commit murder, the die is responsible. For him the die is responsible; regardless of how the rest of conditioned society may view it, he is not.

Murder and the alternatives of killing someone he knows or a stranger are put on a throw of the die.

As they say, the dice are loaded. Is writing itself the same kind of technique or practice?

Burroughs and Gysin’s cut-up technique might say it is; but in being so, is such a technique only bringing out what is true of the practice in general?

There is something attractive about Ferrante’s, if it flashes through my mind, and I realise it is not something I could put in writing, I insist that I do, that I write it. (Put like that, that is a lot of I’s.)

There is also something appealing about letting the die take the hit.

Deliberately writing against or in flight from oneself, whatever the reason: is it a lie, like the one about, If you go far enough to the Left you end up on the Right? that if you do you go full circle? And, by writing the opposite, finish by writing the same?

You end up by writing what you would have had you gone all out to please yourself and indulge your personal inclinations, or follow your heart. Is this true?

A swerve away from what you would certainly put in writing, in the direction of what you never would, perhaps is a good thing. But is it not a matter of degree? Is it not a matter of introducing small degrees of difference, rather than of imposing on oneself, in life or in writing, the inescapable duty to do the opposite of, as it were, being true to oneself?

Another way of saying being true to oneself is the currently popular excuse, Telling my truth.

What it is an excuse for is, at best, testimonial writing.

The origin of that word, testimonial, is in testes; something Mussolini is said to have done before making a public speech: fiddle with his balls.

Dorfman, in Some Write to the Future, 1991, gives the best, most sensitive analysis, being the least morally judgemental one, of testimonial literature, specifically that of Chile detailing the “the brutality with which the military, decades after it was supposed that Hitler and Mussolini had been defeated and buried, punished the Chilean people for having dared to pursue their liberation.” (from here)

Dorfman looks at how this literature came to be written.

He analyzes the political, moral and commercial demands for it:

1) in the political domain, the need for denunciation;

2) in the moral, the need for these crimes to come to light, to be seen to be the crimes they are;

3) in the commercial world, that popular impulse feeding on vicarious experience, arousing a sentiment of national outrage, of shared moral indignation, and setting, from an identification with the victims, this in the place of any shame in complicity or sense of shared historical responsibility, in place of any more nuanced or problematic response.

In New Zealand this weaponised empathy, called identity politics, is good for sales in the moral arms race of the culture wars.

To meet these demands requires a certain format, a degree of tidying, organising and shaping, to make the testimony into narrative, but also, at the same time, to conceal signs of tampering and of editorial intervention.

What the editor is after, who with the testimony giver may be one and the same individual, is not expression in the raw, with its lumps of undigested because indigestible truth, not the atrocity itself but the exhibition of atrocity.

The inhumanities of humanity are like animals in a zoo, curated according to species and on display as examples of species, not for being exemplary in their own right, as would be the case with individual experience in, say, a novel by Ferrante or an autofiction by Carrère.

That is more it: autofiction is not testimonial but anti-testimonial. It sets individual experience up to be so exceptional that it needs to be accounted for or borne witness to by the writing.

Witnessed, observed, experienced is not a truth of, say, evil, an absolute leaving no room for witness, the individual observer. Not a matter of individual experience, that it is one of national significance or significance to the species, crimes against humanity captures well.

Autofiction registers and records the fictionalisation that Dorfman’s analysis finds is part of a type of writing, that cannot bear the thought of it, as narrative.

As narrative, it tells the truth in the form of a fiction even if it is not itself a fiction. The point of autofiction is admission of the inadmissable; and this goes to Ferrante’s point too: to admit the inadmissable, in fact, to insist on it.

Why does she insist on writing what flashes through her mind that she would never put in writing?

Her insistence has not to do with her exclusion of her self but her exclusion of getting in its way: this is her insistence.

It is not because what flashes through her mind is intrinsically worthwhile, possesses some special significance for women, for society, for humanity. That it is not is the reason for her second admonition, her cautioning, Be careful: we have to refrain from taking our barren, proud, cruel creative deliriums for a mark of quality.

Our barren, proud, cruel creative delirium is, she writes in the piece it comes from, the product of another exclusion: the isolation of the writer.

The writer isolates herself from family, from affection, from society and from, inasmuch as she is herself a product of the social absolute and so conditioned by it, herself.

She does so because of the urge to write, to fulfil the demands of writing. Or, writing makes her do it; like the die made Rhinehart do it.

It is further to fulfil its demand that she insists on writing what flashes through her mind that she could not put in writing.

The inhuman part that is indigestible, inadmissible and must be isolated is in this case the writer. It is not the suffering of the individual and the truth of that suffering, the truth of that individual or even the individual, speaking a personal truth, who has to speak this truth. It is the writer writing, the technical practice of writing, that isolated is put on exhibition, its own sort of atrocity.

I was surprised to hear Andy Warhol on Vivienne Westwood’s hate list in Roddy Doyle’s adaptation into a TV series of Steve Jones’s autobiography, called Pistol, book by Steve Jones. I was thinking about kitsch. Yesterday, it must have been.

What is wrong with New Zealand place names?

First off, Nigel Corbett, brother of Jeremy who hosts the TV show 7 Days, and has done since 2009 according to the wikipedia page (quite funny: gives the format of all the ‘games’ in the show), his, Nigel’s comedy routine: presented maybe 1992 or 3 at the Watershed Theatre, now no more, like most of Auckland’s theatres (including the university theatre, The Maidment; The Mercury remains, but as a venue for hire: Creative New Zealand seems to like it better that theatres remain venues rather than have the expense of actors and so on), Nigel’s routine riffed on New Zealand place names.

What do you call one of the most beautiful places in the country? … Russell. Russell. (Perhaps only beaten by that part of Auckland that used to have a sign on the road announcing, You Are Now Entering Rodney.)

Russell? why not call the Milford Sound, ummm, Trevor, or perhaps, Milford?

New Zealand place names are kitsch for being nostalgic, nostalgic for a fake 1950s colonialism, the Six O’Clock Swill, violent simple hearted and minded men, women who baked, caravan holidays, barefoot childhoods and some of my best friends at school were Maori, at school where they were punished for speaking Maori, grey woolen shorts and scratchy jerseys, choice of future occupation and therefore of training and education for girls, teacher, nurse or housewife (my grandmother’s sister, incidentally, Ava, was one of the first women to go to Victoria University, Wellington; my grandmother, my mother, both teachers, grandfather and great grandfather, school principals; on the paternal side, freezing works and housewifery).

New Zealand place names of colonial imposition have that whiff about them. What is it? wet wool. Also dissociation, spiritual, mental and genealogical: a supposed binding of ties to England that, cut from locality and source, sets the name floating above the place.

It is kitsch because the name covers over the reality of the colonial past and that past where the colonial one was already thought past and buried. It is also kitsch for that nostalgic evocation.

In other words, the colonial imposition of names is a first cover.

The second (kitsch) cover is the one that inserts the placename for that history’s sake that did not exist, the one evoking nostalgia.

The third (kitsch) cover is the retrospective maorification of placenames, for being a cover of a cover, of a cover.

Now the Maori placename covers the actual or potential English placename, or, in the case of Dunedin, a city planned in facsimile to Edinburgh in hair-rising denial of local topography, its streets taking their names from the ‘original,’ the Scottish one, Ōtepoti. Dunedin is called Ōtepoti; Dunedin is the name for this Edinburgh; what its actual name is is a matter for your own invention. (See the Haddock’s song.)

Then the pakehackification of Maori placenames: the Kworra and the Why-mack rivers. Tie-happy. Paraparam.

Although frowned upon, there is something autofictional about these bastards. For, after all, that is our theme: and, after all, autofiction, is not about authenticity but, as an act of self-originating, is about originality. I was talking with P yesterday.

P asked me what I think the Bible is.

The Bible sent me back to Carrère and the essay I referred to earlier, “Resemblance.”

After a lengthy peroration on what the Bible is not and what it excludes, those writings called apocryphal, and what it includes in the effort at achieving a kind of root-hormonal synthesis, Old Testament, rooting it in Judaism, and on that period of synthesising and standardising (knowledge, in the encyclopaedia, language, in the dictionary) and species-being, in all kinds of hierarchical trees, because of the threat posed by the Outside in the imperial onrush of global domination of Western nations, after that I said to P, The Bible is a portrait of one man, an historical person, someone who actually existed, lived and breathed, from several different points of view.

Now, P did not necessarily want to hear that.

P told me that some people consider the Bible to have been directly dictated by God and therefore to be of unimpeachable authority.

P told me about a transition or conversion that many former New Agers are undergoing. In this period of uncertainty and chaos they are turning to Jesus Christ and finding in him a sense of certainty and faith. One person she knew became a priest.

They are leaving the New Age and going to Jesus. Jesus might be the opposite of Luke Rheinhart, the Dice Man.

Jesus is not an aleatory technical detour or détournement, a circuit breaker in either the continuity or discontinuity of lived experience. Or is he? In some cases the Bible might serve this function, as does the Book of Splendour, the Zohar, for Cabbalists.

The indeterminacy of throwing a die to effect choices resembles pre-alphabetic indeterminacy in Hebrew, a symbolic system representing spoken language through the consonants alone. Lacking vowels, the meaning of a given word is open to multiple interpretations: God could as well be Gouda.

Abram in The Spell of the Sensuous (1996) says like philosophy written language as a determinant symbolic system is a Greek invention. The Greek addition of vowel sounds, well, Abram identifies vowels with breath and breath with temporal presence.

To animate a word is to fill it with breath, anima and spirit having comparable etymological origins, in Greek and Latin respectively, as words for breath. Seen (or heard) this way, the word is spirit, world spirit.

How this pertains to philosophy is by enabling abstract qualities to be interrogated. It enables qualities to be abstracted from the present and to be interrogated in themselves. This is Socrates’ method: all very well to talk of the justice of the wise king, but what is justice in itself? Or good?

The good in itself must be the highest good, the ideal form of goodness. It must determine what is good in all the many instances when what is good occurs.

Qualities as concepts come to have ideal forms determining the myriad instances of their instantiation, in their actualisation. In other words, the hallucination allows the invisible to be seen: to be seen and known is the path to being.

The Bible, its original language Greek in large part, so an animate inanimate, a writing having in it the decisions about meaning breath makes, has enjoyed many hundreds of years of interpretative debate as to true meaning, as if some indeterminacy still ineradicably attached to it, that would, by extension, attach to the written word.

The source of this indeterminacy is usually put as a question of faith and a matter of authority.

Its truth is doubtful, for those who doubt it, for the reason of authority, not for cleaving or not cleaving to reality, for the reason of its authority being doubtful. It is not for those who doubt the Word of God. Neither is it animated by Spirit for them, nor does it in turn animate them with its spirit: it is as if, exactly, its spirit did not speak to them, and was not dumb but meaningless, as the speech of animals is said to be.

The faithful in contrast must come to terms with its certainty, the surety of its fixed meanings, through either understanding, the expert advice of priests and other institutionally invested representatives, or interpretation. This is like Dani Rodrik’s policy trilemma that holds democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration to be mutually incompatible, saying, we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full. (from here)

We can have faith in the spirit of the Bible; in the authority of the Bible; or in the meaning of the Bible: and we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full. The historical reason: the big interpretative, exegetical spree that occurred in Protestant homes, particularly in the 19th century, was due to taking out the middleman, after Luther, making it possible or even necessary to enter into direct relationship with God, to allow your own personal Jesus, in a passage from being able to be known to his reality being abundantly manifest. Yes, said P, The people I have talked to talk about their relationship with Jesus like that.

It must have been the day before yesterday, the conversation with P. Yesterday I was talking with M and the conversation suddenly veered towards the Bible.

We were talking about a book review in the Guardian, An Inconvenient Apocalypse, Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen, 2022, released the day we were discussing it, September 1.

M accepted without reservation that we are headed towards global societal collapse. It was self-evident to her, and I assumed that this was because Things Can’t Go On Like This.

According to the Guardian review, Jackson, an agronomist, and Jensen, a journalist, offer something like a panchreston, a universal origin or original sin to explain how We Got In This Mess. Farming or harvesting is the original sin. With it came human settlement, territorialism, population explosion, competition for resources, technical innovation, to feed a settled mass of humans, each ratchetting up the other… to arrive after 10,000 years or so at Where We Are Today.

What is called for, after the societal collapse that the authors and M accept as being inevitable, is to be hunters and gatherers forever after; and called for as well is a scripture reinforcing this message: in other words, a return to scriptural authority.

Yes, said M, unsurprised, this also in her view an inevitability. So, the Bible.

I picked up Mojo. Good News! I read, Lambchop’s latest release is The Bible.

The truth by received wisdom, expert advice; the truth by personal discovery, personal relation; the truth through understanding, election and affirmation: the truth, although there are the everyday conventional truths, seems to elude convention; it is rather the institutions allowing the truth to be seen that enable different and diverging truths.

The institution of a personal relation with Jesus allows one truth; while the institutions of religion, having their professional cohorts, their own professional managerial class, allow another; and the institution of freedom of belief allows another truth, this trilemma.

The other meaning of apocalypse Derrida has written on, and, I suspect Heidegger (I do), is the veil being rent from our eyes. That is the other meaning besides personal, general, social or natural destruction or self-destruction.

The veil being rent is something again other than the pressing of invisibles like dark matter (Levrero writes of this in The Luminous Novel, 2021) up against the veil and the hallucinations (he writes of) that sometimes allow certain of them to be seen.

If we consider an inconvenient apocalypse, of the sort described in Jensen and Jackson’s book, to be like this, we are then given to see it at a time or in a place where it may be inconvenient. It may be more convenient for Things To Continue As They Are, in other words.

The apocalypse is the being its hallucination allows or gives us to see, and to know.

Is it true?

Jensen and Jackson give the event agency in its coming to be seen, to be known and into being, however; they do not allow it to be known in any other way than by its brute imposition.

This for them is apocalypse: and their answer to Hell is, if not Heaven, then the promise embodied in a writing, a scripture and determined by it, a New Bible. Good News!

It can only be good news on the strength of the bad.

I wonder what the trilemma of faith says about the trilemma of the mutual incompatibility of democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration?

After testimonial literature, and this is what the Bible is, isn’t it? After testimonial literature, that Speaking Your Truth is at best, comes the confessional writing that it is at worst. The weaponisation of empathy called identity politics in the moral arms race of current culture wars can occur to either the worst or the best. It is relative.

At worst, Ferrante’s insistence on writing, where, as soon as it flashes through her mind what she would never write about, should it be sufficiently insistent, leads to confession; or, it does without her caution: But be careful, there is no guarantee here of quality.

What sort of quality?

Is it that of Karl Ove Knausgård? who once said in an interview (he said it in fact in different places. I heard him say it at the Writers’ Festival, Auckland, before Covid.), Kill off your internal censor.

He said this is the only way he could manage to write so much so quickly: by not writing so well, because, he also said, Sometimes the life is shit, so sometimes the writing is shit.

The internal censor is not imposed by the social absolute and that is to say it is not opposed to the social absolute: to oppose it is to be on the level with it, and that, I suppose, renders it no longer absolute but relative.

The internal censor could also be what Ferrante is talking about, and the thing would be not to oppose the internal censor either, not deliberately to write for censorship, as if this internal game, like the external one of calling attention to yourself for being contrarian so as to raise your profile worked in your own mind, raising your profile internally and elevating yourself in your own esteem.

Truth, is what DBC Pierre calls it, Release the Bats, 2017.

Where is the self-awareness of the writing that allows it to know itself not to be vomit?

It is both in its presence and on its surface, Foucault’s velvet and what it has to be so that it is true to itself as writing. Autofiction comes closest to honesty when it is closest to itself as writing.

Carrère, again, gives the example. Talking about Jesus, he asks how we can tell that Jesus is an historical person who actually existed. How do we discern from his multiperspectival biblical portrait that he lived and breathed, existed in historical time?

Carrère’s answer is the superficial, the trivial and unflattering detail. Made to look too good, Jesus can only be a fake. When we read he performs a miracle, raises the dead, we have to doubt it (or take it on faith). When we read he talks to a soldier and the soldier is named, this trivial fact alone is enough to consider the possibility it may be true. Why else would the soldier be named?

To whose benefit is it for the soldier to be named? It is one of those facts that has made it through the standardisation process of the Bible, an extraneous detail, a detail that is not flattering but is included in the portrait, and is a matter of indifference to the subject of the portrait.

This is key for Carrère: do we believe the portrait of the king with the wart? The portraitist has not added the wart as an afterthought.

The only explanation there can be is that the king actually had a wart, and, for whatever reason, allowed this unflattering feature to slip through.

If the wart is exaggerated, as it might be if it were your confession, and, say, the wart not available to public view, or if the wart were a wound and you working on your personal mythology, it ceases to be a disinterested observer on the main subject. The testimony again becomes doubtful.

Going too far in either the direction of making yourself look good or making yourself look bad causes something like a separation. The smooth consistency starts to turn. Lumps and clumps appear on the velvet of what appears now to be indigestible as the truth; not the avowal of inadmissability, but an imposition on the writing it cannot support, a sticky vomit.

Autofiction seems to oppose fiction in this way, but it is also in opposition to fact: the line it walks, that it risks walking, is not the one between true and false.

If there is a crack (Deleuze) or a hyphen (Bergson) between inner experience and its expression, an expression that will always differ from the experience, by the addition of the totality of the experiencer, an infinitesimal difference, as it were, linking virtual to actual, an actual that will always differ from the virtual; if there is a break (Deleuze) or link (Bergson) (that for both Deleuze and Bergson is the body), this is the line autofiction walks. At risk are both the body and the whole of writing. It comes down to this, the indifference of a detail, that is however singular but not special: a trivial, surface detail; and one that has nothing to say in the end, that is not the telling detail.

No amount of interpretation will resolve it, and no special meaning attaches to it. Neither does it resist analysis; then nor does it give analysis, say, the purchase, leverage, angle of a chink in the armour, or weak link, or slip. In other words, the crack (Deleuze) or hyphen (Bergson) that is the line autofiction risks walking is entirely unmetaphorical and literal.

Autofiction could not be any more unlike autobiography, because its practice requires the inclusion of the totality of the subject, and his, her, your experience, and all of what he, she or you have experienced, as no more than a part, and an apart.

Wayne Koestenbaum writes:

Because I’m rereading Giorgio Agamben’s Remnants of Auschwitz (which acknowledges the impossibility of testimony), I’m moved to tell you the following story. My father’s cousin Wolfgang survived Auschwitz, though Wolfgang’s parents were gassed upon arrival. I wasn’t nice to Wolfgang. That’s part of my poetics–not being nice (not being a mensch) to Wolfgang and not being nice to his wife, Luisa, who also survived Auschwitz, I wasn’t nice to her, either, I wasn’t a mensch, and that is part of my poetics, not being nice to survivors of death camps, my permanent culpability and rottenness is part of my poetics, an integral part. I could go into detail about my not being nice to survivors; going into detail would be part of my poetics. (I wrote this final paragraph while eating chocolate cake at a hotel restaurant.)

— from “Play-Doh Fun Factory Poetics,” (2009), in My 1980s & Other Essays, (2013)

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