Friday, October 30, 2009

Rosenzweig's War

An extract below from The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy by Gil Anidjar, considered as one of the "101 most dangerous" professors in America by David Horowitz. A link to an interview with Anidjar.

"No one, perhaps, has gone as explicitly far as Rosenzweig in extirpating, ultimately eradicating, Islam from the figure of humanity, that is to say, from the theologico-political, from the religious and historical world configuration that is constituted by Judaism and Christianity. " Before God, then, Jew and christian both labor at the same task. He cannot dispense with either. He has set enmity between the two for all times, and withal has known intimately bound to each".

This exclusion constitutes Rosenzweig's political theology, the theologico-political configuration that links three rather than two entities commonly referred to as 'religions.' This term 'religion' of course means very little to Rosenzweig, who recasts each element( God, world, and man) as privileged in its relation to one of the three religions. Judaism is with God, Christianity is man on its way to God, Islam is the war of the world. Judaism is theological, and it therefore experiences war as political. Christianity is the embodiment of the theologico-political, unable to know the difference when it comes to war. Islam, finally is detheologized and can therefore spread nothing but holy war. Rosenzweig casts Islam at once as the most obvious and the most hidden figure of the world as political. He casts Islam as the most extreme opposite, the most distant figure in its relation to Judaism, in relation to the theological space that Judaism occupies. Rosenzweig casts Islam as the political enemy.

Islam, one could say, cannot relate to the world because it is the world.......what Rosenzweig makes explicit is the structure of the theologico-political as constitutively Abrahamic. By enacting the exclusion of Islam, by making visible the becoming of the theologico-political as the Jude-Christian, Rosenzweig makes Islam into the invisible enemy. He also made Islam the political enemy. With the Star, with what can be seen as a certain culmination of its history, the enemy draws away, and with him, the Jew, the Arab."

from The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy, Gil Anidjar

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For Myself I Would Like

Tears or willow on the ground
teeth of gold
teeth of pollen
like the mouth of a girl
from whose hair swells a river
in each drop a tiny fish
in each tiny fish a gold tooth
in each gold tooth a fifteen-year-old smile,
that dragonflies may reproduce

What can a maiden think about
when the wind discovers her thighs?

from An Unspeakable Betrayal, Luis Bunuel

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Le Promeneur Solitaire

In the characteristic style and prose for which Sebald has won many devotees in the English knowing world, there is another addition, an essay called Le Promeneur Solitaire on the writer Robert Walser. It is what Sebald says "a remembrance". The essay is also a part of the collection called A Place in the Country; I haven't read that yet but am reading Walser's The Tanners and the essay in question in an introduction to Walser. Sebald starts in his usual way and then meanders into melancholy and reflection. A brief introductory few life events, the writer's childhood and early life in Berne and then we find Sebald compare Walser to his own grandfather, both extremely fond of walking. In fact both died in the same year, part of that strange Sebaldian collection of facts and coincidences that seem outrightly too coincidental for comfort.

Interpersed as his writings are with photos, Sebald does his usual jumps in memory, reflecting from Benjamin and Carl Seelig, the man responsible for Walser's reputation as a writer at present. Sebald then frighteningly mentions another coincidence; he finds it really strange that he should come across the word Trauerlaufbahn, a word he says "I believed, when i wrote it down in one of my own works, to be an invention entirely my own". However, it had already been coined by Walser in his work The Robber. This incident, "has the persistent feeling of being beckoned to from the other side", meaning Walser. Sebald then writes about the comical dimension of Walserian fiction, the long sentences and the often done comparison with Gogol.

One of the strange methods that Walser had of writing secretly were his Bleistiftsgebeit, which some have viewed as a sign of his mental deterioration. To Sebald, these elusive texts are not a sign of a psychotic state but a reflection of absolute integrity, a work most daring, a self portrait and a self examination. This pencil system is the preparation of a life underground, these microscripts a sign of inner emigration. The subsequent events of Walser's life are described in the way that only Sebald could, with a repetitive sonorous pattern, allusions and reflections and yet never allowing his fondness for Walser overcome that objective appraisal that few are as capable of as Sebald.

The essay ends with a quote from Nabokov's Speak, Memory and while reading this essay and immediately afterwards, I felt that calm and glad acceptance, that unvoiced thankfulness towards those gods or demons that lead us to the books we read, for I am fond of Sebald and Walser and Nabokov and to find all the three merging in the same essay and on the same page seemed a Sebaldian kind of coincidence. I discovered Walser nearly two years ago and have read his longer works. I personally do not find Walser in the same tradition as Gogol for Gogol's style is outrageously cheeky and borders on the farcical while Walser's prose, generally described as august and dreamy, is quite honestly, simply not from this world.

Walser's prose has a hypnotic quality, that once it seizes you, a sense of calm dread prevails, the convoluted and complexity and sometimes Gogolian nature of the spoken sentences leaves the taste of burning sunsets on your skin, a feeling of having experienced the most unforgettable and yet the most fulfilling defeat and sadness; as if defeat in itself is so rewarding, so Walserian. Walser's prose makes one want to extinguish all lamps, turn out all lights and to love the very silence that one dreads. The sin of not reading Walser, the pain of reading Walser. And this essay, this very Sebaldian saturnine attempt, this gloriously poignant tribute to a great writer from a great writer.

In the reading room of Hell

In the reading room of Hell............ In the club
for science-fiction fans
On the frosted patios.................. In the bedrooms of passage
On the iced-over paths................. When everything finally seems clearer
and each instant is better and less important
With cigarette in mouth and with fear................ Sometimes
green eyes........... And 26 years................. Yours truly

from The Romantic Dogs, Roberto Bolano

Monday, October 26, 2009


Whatever her primary concerns may be, whether they be political or feminist, one can read Cixous for her lyricism alone. And nowhere is it better demonstrated than in her collection of essays called Stigmata. These collected essays deal with a variety of issues, from reading in painting, as evidenced in my previous incomplete post on Bathsheba to her cats, her real cats. Cixous' best essay, I think, in this collection is called My Algeriance: To depart not to arrive.The conception of our identities, the changing nature of our identities, the mosaic of our internal and external identities is called into question. Then the question of writing and the relationship an author has with the text, the celebration of such issues and the writing of the body: these threads run through her essays.

Cixous very clearly demarcates the forged nature of various identities, especially for those who identities have been constructed for them or those who seek to tear away from the conventional nature of such fictions. Cixous is quite aware of her dual identity in Algeria, her jewish identity which separates her from the French and the French-Jewish duality that estranges her from the Arabs. Cixous is at pains, from her previous reflections and experiences to identify with the subjugated identity and at the same time, on arrival in France to question the nature of arrival. Cixous is no stranger to inventing new words and her neologisms are quite clever and some very poetic. She sees herself as not having arrived but being in a state of arrivance; to depart a place would mean to arrive somewhere, but only after having departed? And then one can settle into a particular identity only after clearly going step by step through the rubric of such forced identities or arrivances.

She deals with these issues with a lyrical force that is astounding, but also with a certain degree of lyrical play which questions the nature of such narratives. The interplay is between philosophy and politics and fiction and how such threads weave into or away from each other. Thus what seems like a political question dissolves into a profound melancholy, and the reader, unprepared like me, sways between passionate lyricism and profound politics or both. However, it is actually in subverting all genres that Cixous aims at, whether it is reading Rembrandt or talking about Fatma, the Arab domestic who, it turns out after twenty years, is not Fatma but Messouda. The feminist concerns are woven into her anxieties about identities that are subjugated under colonialism but also about the reframing of such identities after post-colonialism.

Most of our reading, instead of doing away with our prejudices seems to augment them; Cixous' reading of Bathsheba for instance cleverly subverts the pre-conceived nature of such readings, which obviously not only depend on our mind states but the rungs that lead to such states. Our perceptions, which we think are our own, are in constant danger of being subverted. Conventional reading reinforces such perceptions. Texts like Stigmata allow us to re-evaluate our conceptions of not only our reading but the aftermath of our reading and in allowing us to perhaps reframe our absurd accommodations with ideas that we feel comfortable with. It is one thing to acknowledge in public what one holds on the smithy of our conscience and another to actually conform in a meaningful way. The rest is just chatter. Cixous does this all in the most poetic, most lyrical way. And as I said earlier, one can read her for the poetry alone, regardless of our other agendas.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bathsheba or The Interior Bible

Helene Cixous writes with the force of torrents, unleashed unstoppable rapids, like we imagine angels should if they could, with music, loud and deeply touching, fast, furious, like a poet. There, in the painting above by Rembrandt, she approaches it with twenty-four steps. She who is percieved from afar, the non-nude nudity. Without a man.

It would be the last thing I do, write about the painting above, but I write about this halting stuttering poetry of Cixous', this chant, this prose, music that fills, that leaves leaving us longing, a cadence, some steps, a bit more, less, again, again, the same want, then the considerable erudition, insights, darkness, insights, her wandering, her Jewish-wandering, a flash, then loneliness. However, I am interested in certain aspects of how she reads this painting; what follows is just a paraphrase of her reading, which I intend to complete in three posts.

The background she warns is black; blackness isn't black, it is the last degree of reds. The secret blood of reds. Then the expression on Bathsheba's face: the passivity, the despondency, the imminence, drooping. We don't know where we are, what time, what age? Our own country, a foreign land, our hearts, that foreign country? No, this is interior land, the interior Bible.

We see some light on her, we see her servant now. Asks Cixious: Of what secret lights are we made? What lives do we live, this light takes us inside, down the stairs we never take, to the interior land. The entire room is flesh. Sex. Then again:

She does not look at us. She is of those who do not look at us. I mean to say: Bathsheba, Mary, don't look at us, don't stop living, in order to look at us. And when we look at them, thoughts take leave.

What is she thinking about?

Then we see the older woman, at the bottom. Says Cixous: the older woman is Bathsheba's foreignness, her exoticism, Asia. And the woman's coif is oriental. The body is Bathsheba's, the coif is the older woman's.
The servant gazes towards the East, Bathsheba towards the occidental future. The two gazes don't see each other. They are on two parallel planes. And then we see the letter.

I daresay that this is only half the movement, half of her approach. What interests me is the Occidental gaze. The coiffured servant, at her feet stands no chance. Though she too has partaken something from her. But the gazes are different, even if they are day dreaming. They are not of this world, they are parallel to each other. I don't know why I feel a pang for Bathsheba's servant.

from Stigmata, Cixous

Monday, October 19, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

A kind of Frost

Thomas Bernhard's first novel, Frost, is a remarkable one, a novel that has the seeds of all his further works and perhaps one that is more complete, more whole than his other works. What follows below is an attempt to highlight certain aspects of this novel that I think are vital in his oeuvre and in the reader's attempts to surmount the difficulty of reading Bernhard.

In order to access the main character in his novels, the narrator and the reader must leave their usual habitat. He or sometimes she is always in the country side, in remote and desolate parts, besides torrents, having left some form of an easy life behind. The protagonist has usually been living there for some time or is considering living there, an action that is considered new for that person or exaggerated or strange. The protagonist must leave something or end something to begin anew or come to a standstill altogether. This refrain is not unusual in Bernhard and in Frost, our narrator, a medical intern, has been assigned to study the protagonist, who has been living in the Klamm valley for years without any external contact. This is indeed novel, for in his later novels, there is no specific contract for a case study, or it is not revealed so candidly. Thus the tone is set for an encounter between us and the painter, simply called Strauch.

The painter has been living in an inhospitable pub for years in this remote place and our narrator has been assigned by the painter's brother to observe him and prepare notes. It seems that there must be something wrong with the painter, a man who is isolated, who is isolating himself and is by all accounts strange.The narrator must not reveal his true identity for that will expose his brother in the city and will not lead to a true account, a true description of the painter, in his usual state, habitat. I do not propose to write a summary of this novel but to approach it from those perspectives which are so well known and liked by Bernhard's readers, an art that reached frenzied pitch in his later novels. But, I feel that in Frost, not only does Bernhard reveal the full force of his later menace but he does it with exquisite charm, sarcasm, wit and astounding lyricism, a factor not seen in his other works to this extent.

A case for paranoia

In my opinion, the painter Strauch suffers from paranoia, and it seems, a case for delusions and a more florid psychosis can be made.This must not be done hurriedly but I will quote the painter to illustrate the point. It is quite clear that the painter lives in isolation and is stressed. He has chosen to remain so. Right from the first moment, he launches into a tirade, an uncalled for aggressive rant against the villagers and yet, he does not ever substantiate his claims with facts, which could prove him right. His claims and thoughts are based on his perceptions alone, and these perceptions are internal, based again on opinions which he has elaborated over the years. He does not have a direct case against the village or villagers but his reflections are a consequence of his interaction with them, which to some extent, are one sided. The ideas are not just bloated and over valued, thay are clearly dominating his internal and external landscape. However, the cause of such methodology is also a process of communicating something, which is however, closed to us.

Exaggeration as a schema

To exaggerate, to repeat, to create from that exaggeration a suffocating pervading sense of restlessness, and then to build from that a picture of doom and gloom, Bernhard achieves that all in Frost. He build that dichotomy in this text, wherein everyone apart from tha narrator is a misfit, mentally unwell and so on. This exaggeration leads to the buildup of a flavour of an environment where everyone is either dead or dying. Whatever moral leverage left is lost and from that distance itself, the narrator's own exaggeration is evident too.Bernhard uses the same method in most of his novels and it serves his purpose admirably. This exaggeration makes another case for paranoid assumptions, only we can guess that Bernhard has created a distance from his characters and this paranoia in itself is a warning to the reader.

Degenerate nature

One of the consistent themes in Bernhard is of the vileness, the immorality of the landscape and the diseased state of the people, as if everyone is ill or malformed. This forth in the light of the things after the war. This valley is death to any tenderness of feeling. The whole region is sodden with disease. He goes on to enumerate the various congenital diseases that the villagers have, their festering ills and at one point says that everyone has tuberculosis. The impression that we get is not just of a physical dimension but that of a moral one, for with repetition, a device that he uses with sinister effect, we are scared into thinking of a more dangerous, more sinister and unnatural affliction, rather than a curable one. Since nothing can be cured, nothing can be saved. However, no one realizes that they are ill and this makes them more sinister and hence to be shunned. The painter is the only one who thinks so for neither the landlady nor the knacker ever talk of epidemics of hydrocephalus or tuberculosis or the inefficacy of streptomycin.

The very landscape, water, trees, snow and animals are degenerate and diseased. Is it because of the war or any political complicitness during the war? Is it because of Austrian silence during the second war? This theme is central for Bernhard, for in all his major works, he alludes to this.

I think that frost is Bernhard's most lyrical novel, as close to poetry that he allows himself to get to in his prose.
The poetry of repetition, of a sonorous lyricism, of a melancholic intonation is quite evident here. In his poems, Bernhard achieves a pilgrim mystic, prayer like litany and though Frost is prose, there is evidence of such melancholy here. Some of the passages are beautiful but the beauty is blighted by the sense of a desperate doom, not only clinging to the skins inside but also hanging from the icicles, in the gorges, near the torrents that pervade this resolutely impervious landscape.This poetry is both open and closed to us. The beauty of this poetry is a warning, a disease, a death, a dying.

Frost is a brilliant novel and like all Bernhard fiction, the terror is not just in the reading but in the atmosphere that pervades that terror. One returns to Frost again and again and that is its lasting triumph.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The waters of poetry

The waters of poetry will rise tonight
as your skin will blaze with my touch,
as the fever in your eyes will rise
step by feverish step.
The fast darts of your passion.

The waters of poetry will rise
as I will recite aloud the poems
that you like
and leave the best till the end,
leave it on the tip of my tongue
to leave it on the tip of your tongue.

The waters of poetry will mount
and the fever in your eyes will rage
like an angry beast against the chains
of this beastly fire.
The fires will burn and won't die out.

Night itself will stoke the beast of this poem,
stir the waters of this poem
as the madness of our skins will
unremember the reason of our reserve.
This blaze and fever will restore
the forgotten lyric of our skin and stones.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

when you came to me

rain fell
when you came finally,
when you came at last to me.

i had waited days and months
past silences, past hope
and had lost faith in mediums and magic.

and then you came
and rain fell, as you walked out of the crowd
towards me, my eyes wide,
my arms stronger, restored in faith.

i know you are mine now,
as i watch you sit and sleep, as
your voice covers me with its ripples,
as i waste myself from a distance.

but you give me new memories,
and i feel taut and stretched and tired,
since you will leave soon,
leaving me to my sullen hours, my restless repose.

i know the face of the hour when you will leave,
when i will hate mirrors and destiny,
mute with walls and stones and silences.
i wish you had not come at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can you say, " I love you?"

"Can you say I love you?"

Fassbinder : I can for instance. There comes a moment when I can't do anything but say it. I've even got myself to the point where I don't tell myself how dumb it sounds. In the beginning I would say, I love you, but make it ironic. In the meantime I have taught myself not to,and when the moment comes, I simply say it, which doesn't mean that I'm not standing back and watching myself at the same time.But this business of always checking to see if my experiences can be used as material is another question.

I allow my film characters much more leeway than I give myself. For instance, I reached the point much earlier with the characters in my films Where I could give them a chance to express their feelings directly.

from The Anarchy of the Imagination, Fassbinder

Monday, October 12, 2009

Understanding Fassbinder

For the Fassbinder struck, any addition to the canon is valuable. This may be interviews on DVD or a newly published biography. Wallace Steadman Watson's Understanding Fassbinder: Film as public and private art is one such work. I know it is a mistake but I make it here: I compared this work to Elsaesser's work on Fassbinder which I must admit, I like more. Perhaps, Elsaesser's work has a more in depth sociological perspective into the environment of post war Germany which sets the tone for a lot of his work. There is a more versatile analysis of the movies which is lacking to some extent in this book. That however, should in no way detract from the merits of this book.

Watson charts the course of well, what was a stormy affair of a life, Fassbinder's birth, the early events of his childhood and the influence of Sirk on the Fassbinder way of making movies. That Sirkean melodrama was an influential factor on Fassbinder in now too well recognized; that melodrama was not unknown as such to Fassbinder is not well known. Watson devotes a well written chapter to the Women's pictures, including a documented analysis of Effi Briest, Petra von Kant and Martha. Fassbinder's troubled relationship with his mother is discussed too but not in a detailed manner, much is left for us to imagine. And his relationship with his stepdad, the liberal journalist Wolff Eder is discussed too. This person was to play a crucial part in Fassbinder's understanding of the problem of history in modern Germany, including the ideology of repression which gained ground after the second war. The women's pictures discussed here include Veronica Voss, Lola and Maria Braun. I have in my previous posts written about Fassbinder's anger-love hate relationship with Hanna Schygulla, which is briefly mentioned.

For me personally, the few pages devoted to In a Year of 13 Moons is the highlight of this book, for it narrates the development of what is Fassbinder's bleakest, most compelling, most powerful and the most polyphonic narrative within the movie genre. There are sections devoted to Berlin Alexanderplatz of course, and his scripts, and his hates and friendships and loves and wars and so on. Altogether, it is a decidedly good read and a good introduction to the Fassbinderless.

Much of what Fassbinder did was political, I think and some of it seems pure melancholic left wing despair. In his case, art comes out of crisis and defiance. Thus, Fassbinder wants to stay out of power and fight against authority. His self imposed exile must be seen in this light. He liked melodrama, Hollywood and its vanities. He also liked to show how it is. It is the recognition of aggression that was his genius, even very low aggression. Thus, all he does in one way or another is show how aggressive we generally are. And violent.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

After the calm

I have felt like waves washing over me,
releasing me, from doubt, from the tidal
pain of moon
I have felt washed at shore, left unconcerned
from the hum of doubt, never before has
loneliness looked like reward.

I lie limp but awake, these ripples in my mind
no longer seethe.
All my questions have been answered, my loves
rewarded, the pain of each separation erased
from memory.
what was it that hung on me, carried me to this shore
so dark?

What stung the moon ? what drove those waves?
why this repose? what night is this without a search for meaning?
This listless repose, these no thoughts of you,
my dreamless moments, my acheless painless night.
Sink me back and drown me, take me to my ledge
where doubts hang dark, where the tides fall back
and recede and rise again.

Give me that night that lives me or give me sleep,
give me love that loves me or drive me deep
into that deep rictus, which the moon prepares
from its dark haunting ground.
I prefer the loneliness of doubt than the
aftertaste of certain calm.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I do not know why I am writing a seperate post on Mumu, a Turgenev short story that is not as famous as his First Love or the Sketches. I am however not alone in thinking, as I have realized of late, that Mumu is nothing short of a masterpiece. As I have written on this blog before, Turgenev found so much space within the constraints of the longish short story that his results are astounding and the width of his vision, his compassion and the stirring characterizations of his stories are more than another ordinary writer can only dream of.

Mumu is not simply a story of social protest. The deafening cruelty of serfdom is made obvious but without the polemical pressure of showing; the story ends in a kind of helpless stalemate with Gerasim restored to the solitude of a hut, without desire for woman or dog. The protest against injustice, in the form of the prevailing serfdom of the times is as clear as day and yet the end, the end is quite disturbing for Turgenev, in a masterstroke restores to silence and solitude all that was so disquieting, and in letting it simmer and show its ugly face, against the face of stolid acceptance, the plight of 19th century Russia is made obvious.

The greatness of Mumu lies in the dignified hush of the end, the calmness restored to beast and man, the cruel acceptance of desperate fate. Mumu is also a love story, a desperate love story and because it is desperate, because it will lead to nowhere, because it is doomed to failure, because man and might have conspired against Gerasim before the acts of creation were unrolled, the emotional aspects of this story are forces of release, sublime acts.

Who can forget the image of Gerasim walking towards his village in darkness, deaf and dumb amongst shadows, a sack on his shoulders, an indelible image in all literature?

Filling spaces

With exceptions, all varieties of writing acts are acts of filling spaces, filling silence, filling with words the un-understandable involuntary passage of acts, of time. A melancholic tune makes me want to write, somebody's sorrow too, somebody's silence makes me feel that even against the harsh impenetrability that words have around them, an attempt must be made, a passage created that could lead to what may eventually only be isolation or incomprehension. The act of a certain way of writing or certain kinds of writing can only thus be described as acts of resistance, of rebellion. The savaged persona or body is eventually the self for the supposed comprehension of an other experience or person is based only on one's own sensory or un-nameable experiences, to which one is sometimes privy to but in a blind unknowing way. Some call that an other experience and those who are more confident call it mystical. Whatever it is, the rite of passage is through words, even if they lead to more emptiness or another attempt.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


When nights come, nights like this one,
huge, unending, black with doubt.
when nights come, nights like this,
with parallel pains of many kind,
different strands within the same
kind of unease, with new difference, as each act
passes into new discomfort.

The beginning and the end are known
as the issue is not forced,
thinking is not stretched to the point
of meaning or revelation,
and each act of meaningful pain remains
unresolved, an act of subterfuge,
just a jostled attempt with words.

These nights are no more than rhetorical questions
with unresolved knots and depth less depths.
No metaphysical notes, no existential lines
streak the sky of my nights.
I only ask for a favour, one favour.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

As he draws away

The enemy who drinks tea in our shack has
a mare in smoke, a daughter with
thick eyebrows, brown eyes, long
hair like a night of songs over her shoulders. Her image
doesn't leave him when he comes over to ask for tea. But he
doesn't speak to us about her evening chores, or about
a mare abandoned by songs at the top of a hill...

...In our shack the enemy takes a rest from his gun,
leaving it on my grandfather's chair. He eats our bread
like a guest, dozes on
the wicker chair, caresses our cat's
fur. He always says to us:
Don't blame the victim!
Who is the victim? We ask him
He answers: Blood that the night will never dry...

...The buttons on his uniform sparkles as he draws away.
Good evening to you! Say hello to our well
and to our fig trees. Tread gently on
our shadow in the barley fields. Say hello, higher up, to
our pines. Don't forget to lock the gate
at night. Don't forget the horse's
fear of airplanes
And greet us, there, if time allows...

These words that we'd wished
to say at the door... he hears them,
hears them well, but hides them in a quick cough
and tosses them aside
So why does he visit the victim every evening?
And memorize our proverbs, like us?
And repeat our songs of
our own appointments in the holy place?
Were it not for the gun
the flute would pass into the flute...

...The war will last as long as the earth
in us revolves around itself!
Let's be good then. He used to ask us
to be good. He'd read the verses
of Yeat's Airman: Those that I fight
I do not hate, those that I guard
I do not love...
Then he'd leave our wooden shack
and walk eighty meters to
our stone house, there, at the edge of the plain...

Say hello to our house, stranger
Our coffee cups
are still as they were. Can you smell
our fingers on them? Will you tell your daughter with
her long hair and two thick eyebrows that she has
an absent friend
who would like to visit her? For nothing...
but to enter her mirror and see his secret:
How she follows, after him, the course of his life
in his place? Say hello to her
if time allows...

These words that we'd wished
to say, he hears them,
hears them well
but hides them in a quick cough
and tosses them aside. The buttons
of his uniform sparkle as he draws away...

Mahmoud Darwish

I am burning, I am burning

Monday, October 05, 2009

One cannot always sustain

One cannot always sustain one mood, that is well known and clear to all. Politics, the deafening roar of death that must take on others........the death that kills others......we have been there, in the vicinity of such nights. Before, at a younger point in the day, we were filled up with ourselves, the world was generally bright, we were not silly to be idealistic but occasionally reckless enough to dream. Then came the long night of a merciless siege and we were marooned.

That is a lot of politics for one post, and besides what is the use of visiting this kind of politics anyway. One is left with the distaste of dusty mirrors in long forgotten halls and attics in houses where no one visits anymore and no one lives. Old melancholic songs, little ditties that are difficult to hum, poems forgotten, loves hushed up, the distinct memory of a distinct memory, the probability of having written these lines before, the night outside, the same same.

It is quite certain now that old friends will never meet again, how is it possible anyway and who will take such trouble? The last time that friends met, if only the tremors of time could have warned people, given them a hint that now is the last time, after this no more, regret if you want, think of a smile, a parting glance for after this there is only misery, only parting, only tragedy. Where is politics, unless there is a politics in parting too, the politics of parting and fading away forever?

One must be a realist they taught, idealism gets you nowhere, yes read but be sure, sure of yourself, for when nights end, when nights reach an end suddenly, then the next day is too bright anyway, besides the merchants have gone, the small shops have shut down, the old neighbourhoods have changed, people migrate, some have left their countries altogether, there is noise, it is deafening, there is so much clamor, there is no space for poetry anymore.

New writers were discovered, war & peace happened ages ago, this is not even solar pessimism, that too was abandoned, now is the time for lyricism, of a new kind, of a new song, for evenings come abruptly bringing fatal nights, nights of revision, of hushed lips, of those nights that are unending, those that end later, leaving a mirage, a litter of thoughts, only for them to lose sight of themselves among these new books, new monsters. And then these thoughts too are difficult to sustain, to reach a certain end, for beginning demands a certain closure, a break. And then everything ends suddenly, like certain meetings and even the viability of these paragraphs seem dubious, so utterly utterly unnecessary.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What about you sir?

"They didn't know how to take a walk. They walked through the heavy rain and stopped in front of a hardware store where the window display featured piping, tin cans, large bolts and nails. And Macabea, afraid that the silence might already mean separation, said to her new boyfriend:
'I just love bolts and nails, what about you sir?' "

Lispector, The Hour of the Star

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Batuba Jantiram Lecoli

"If I could describe the inner life of a dog I would have reached a summit", wrote Lispector once. However she also wrote to tear language away from all restraint, to the extent possible and thus describe those states of mind which language usually fails to do. Talking to her dog Ulisses in a language that Lispector invented which she claimed only her dog could understand. Quoting her biographer Moser "She explicitly makes the link between nonsensical language and precisely those realms of life that are impossible to define and describe". And Lispector herself "I enjoy speaking this way: it is a language that resembles an orgasm. Since I don't understand, I hand myself over: tilibica samvico esfolerico mazuba! I am the water of a lovely cistern".

Discovering the holy name is not permissible for the Jewish mystic, for it can belong to no human tongue. Her biographer claims that this senseless babble that she created was the culmination of her 'search', for true words. She said once, " I restrain myself, as if holding the reins of a horse that could gallop off and take me God knows where."

Lispector is I guess not the only one who invented a personal language to talk or communicate. Myself included, I know some who would speak at those hours where intimacy and knowing melt into a state of knowing and recognition or awareness. At those instances only a personal language can bridge enormous chasms. When I read these words, everything seemed familiar. This language or intimate words do not interest me from any mystical dimension of hers which I doubt but from a personal aspect as it is not entirely an idiosyncratic expression. To import any transcedental angle would be to give it a dimension that it lacks.

Below, an extract of Lispectorish, from her biography.

Angela....Batuba jantiram lecoli? adapiu quereba salutria kalusia. dacoleba, titban, ziticoba, letuban. joju leba, leba jan? Tutiban leba, lebajan. Atotoquina, zefiram. jetobabe? jetoban.

Friday, October 02, 2009

This will not do

this will not do
this alone night
you somewhere and I sit here fuming
tracing the first letter of your name on my palm
again and again
to undo the sea between us the gap words lost

hearing a tune I heard late last night in my head
I hear it again and again a serpent tune
like your name constantly in my head
I erase your name letter by latter
in anger and surprise
to undo the sea the silence between us the heaviness

this is nothing but revenge this hatred you also call
love this step by step murder of my love
like marks in my skin your name digs deep
you serpent strange music enemy whore
I cross your name off letter by letter
in anger and dismay
to undo the sea the silence between us the waiting the love

Monsieur le vivisecteur

Musil, dissecting like an anatomist, analysing each emotion, an empiricist at work, analysing the analysis.

"This is how it looks from the inside looking out......and from the outside looking in?
so now I look from outside to inside, and summa summarum, this movement from outside to inside and from inside to outside gives me the contemplative peace of the philosopher.

I love the night for she wears no veil; in the day nerves are tugged to and fro till they go blind but, at night, beasts of prey take one in a stranglehold and the life of the nerves recovers from the anaesthetic of the day and unfolds within; a new sensation of self emerges that is like stepping suddenly in front of a mirror that has not received a single ray of light for days and, drinking in greedily, holds out one's own face."

The prose written during the night, the emotional closeness of night seems weak and limpid when examined during the day. Says Musil again "Monsieur le vivisecteur....that is who I am! My life: the wanderings and adventures of a vivisectionist of souls at the beginning of the twentieth century".

Musil's prose is distilled, it is clear liquid. The only loser is the reader if the thread is not visible. Musil, poet-philosopher-scientist-analyst-historian, "brain-man perhaps" he says. However, "all words are so ambiguous, so resonant in meaning, so double-edged in feeling, that one is wise to steer clear of them."

Musil, Diaries

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Horacio Castellanos Moya's Senselessness was the most outstanding novel I read last year. It was such a great breath of fresh air, cliche apart. New Directions are publishing another novel of his called She devil in the mirror which will be available soon. I hope to read it soon.

It seems that everybody is on the Bolano bandwagon. Even people who normally desist from such pursuits are reading 2666. In some quarters Bolano excites irritation. This posthumous success does not meet the approval of literary establishments in certain quarters. I think I liked reading 2666 as much as I liked his TSD. However, as some maintain, it is in his shorter fiction that Bolano scales dizzying heights. I think Amulet and the unforgettable collection called Last evenings on earth represent the real music of his prose. I confess I haven't yet read his poetry collection called The Romantic Dogs. Another short novel called The Skating Rink is coming out soon courtesy New Directions. At Three Percent, Chad Winters writes about this new book.

The real highlight it seems is the publication of The Tanners by Robert Walser. I wrote about two of his books that I read a couple of years ago. However, when I go into Walser mode, then I hate blogging for he makes everything seem superfluous. But it is my intention to read this book.

Why This World

A biography can never be intimate. It remains an account after all, a sort of history, a sketch of milestones, dates, events. The person in question is beyond the objectively verifiable veracity of events. A biography is a construct.

Moser's Why This World, an account of Clarice Lispector's life is a sympathetic study, an appreciation. If Lispector's husband faded into distance after years of marriage, writing apologetic letters to her later, it is not possible for the determined reader to get to any proximity to her scheme of things. Lispector was shrouded in mystery when well known, unknown when not really famous.Some thought she was a man. Lispector perhaps did not deliberately create that aura, that mystery. That was partly because of who she outsider in Brazil, Jewish-Ukrainian, even though she was only one when her family fled pogroms in the Ukraine. Her accent made her stand apart. Then the great danger she presented, the physicality of her charm, her attractiveness, her prose, her dangerous mysterious closed prose.

If Lucio Cardoso, who she loved had not been a homosexual, Lispector's life could have turned away from the voluntary exile associated with being a diplomat's wife. With Lispector, the twin faces of acceptance and rebellion, domesticity versus individuality found flower in her first great novel. Moser sketches her childhood from family and close confidants, their troubles in the Ukraine, their poverty in Brazil, the pain of displacement. She denied standing outside the glittering gloss of Rio. She belonged to Brazil, she insisted. Near to the wild heart leads to the recognition of a conflict but no solution, and later novels heighten the pain and mystery. Her own neuroses lead to psychotherapy, divorce and other loves, they lead to insomnia and a burnt scarred hand.

The acts of love are questioned constantly, she self aids herself with a certain dated mysticism, outright rejection, affirmation in faith, then there is the impossibility of bridging the gap, yes, words are there but words are merely words. Later on it gives us Agua Viva, benzodiazepines, strange and childish insistence on attention, very demanding behaviours too. When the edifice on which we base our lives start to crumble, and loved ones vanish so easily, then words present a certain refuge. Her beauty was intimidating, her intelligence formidable, the questions she asked difficult.

Moser's biography leaves gaps and I felt we really do not know Lispector after a few hundred pages. Her construction is based purely from her novels., which is not satisfactory. The woman who was an insomniac couls sleep as well, that threshold can never be known, that hour between wakefulness and drowsy numbness. However, this book is a good point to start an acquaintance with Lispector. It should be carried on by reading her novels.

The Hour Of the Star

Within 95 pages is achieved what other writers usually take hundreds to do. The novel is not perfect, it has 13 titles, A hora de la Estrella one amongst them. Lispector takes the fight away, one is surrounded by pounding screaming demons, till all energy is sapped. The young no one, asthenic anorexic poor girl from the north east of Brazil, in the energy sapping bulimia of grand Rio, the star glazed glitter of 1960's Copacabana, the beach, the crazy crazy world of being no one, poverty, sharing apartments, lives dreams and stories, and then everything ends at the hour of reckoning.Life punches you in the stomach says Lispector. Go away, be rather dead.

The Hour Of the Star, this great novella was written by Clarice Lispector towards the end of her life. It was written after The Apple in the Dark and The Passion according to G.H. In this novella, Lispector questions the relationship between the author and the text, a narrative objectivity does not always create a polyphony within the story telling context. The narrator exists apart from the writer? The girl needs a voice, needs a voice. She has seen her, she. People can catch your eye crossing busy streets, even if they are the least eye catching. She tells her story. In the end it achieves nothing, for Lispector thoroughly believed that writing changes nothing.

The Hour of the Star is a brilliant achievement, a novel written by a novelist whose cabbalistic mystical tendencies were well known. She had famously wanted to go beyond man in the absence of god. She retreated to a different position towards the end, when this novel was written. This novel was written on scraps of paper, on cigarette packs. It not only helped spread her aura further but also secured her mystery in the pantheon of Brazilian Literature. There was only one Clarice and in Brazilian literature, only one Lispector. It is a matter of debate whether her prose is more beautiful than she herself.