31 avenue bosquet 75007 paris france The American University of Paris
The 2013 edition of Paris/Atlantic has been published with the support of AUP Student Media at the American University of Paris. The cover photograph is by Sara Julia Waller. Rights to original works are retained by contributors. 2
Table Of Contents The Slums
An Explanation to the Apprentice of Prey Madeleine LaRue (translator)
Hardship of Chiefs
Marie Blanche Jueya
Words for Walls
11 14 27 31
Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2: The “Puppet-Like Wooden Doll” Sets the Stage for the Readymade Maritza Melania Lacayo
S. Sophia Chedid
Body Matters: A Comparative Study of Corporeality in Dante Álighieri’s Inferno and Toni Morrison’s Beloved Hynd Lalam
The Parts of Me That Were You
The Dream Was a Prayer Jessica Proett
Yves Klein: Dematerializing the Object
57 67 68
Toilet Poetry No. 1
Head of Security
80 83 85 86 92
The Returning Soldier and The Hollywood Style: A Comparison of the War Veteran’s Return to America in The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) and Taxi Driver (1976) Henry Dean
“The Poet is Dead, Long Live the Poet”: Discredited Authority and Personal Accountability in Dante’s Inferno and Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus Emmeline Butler
Existential Vaudeville: Samuel Beckett v. Buster Keaton and Film Emmeline Butler
A Little Neighborhood in a Huge World Eva Ben Dhiab
It Took So Much
Allegory of the Sea
Jorge Franco IV
Karen Albright Lin
103 111 117 123 129 132
The Risky Crossing: Paul Celan And Poetry As Translation Madeleine LaRue
Marion Tricoire (translator)
137 151 161
The “Non-Place” as Topos and Trope: Defining a “Supermodern” Space, and Ethics, of (Cultural) Translation Jennifer Carr
Object + Subject: Multiverses of the Present Manon Carrié
iPhones and Antiquity
165 180 189 198 200
EDITORS’ NOTE The new Paris/Atlantic developed out of the semicentennial year of the American University of Paris (AUP). The project to restructure and preserve the academic journals at AUP was a turn in an uncertain direction, but persists to materialize now in the tentative Parisian spring. In 2013, Paris/Atlantic arts and humanities journal retains the name of the poetry journal founded at the university in 1982. Its sister journal for the social sciences, The Lutetian, is named for Roman Paris. Both “new” journals are actually the inheritance of a tradition of student-run journals at AUP, which included publications like Convergence, Cosmopolite, Keystone, and Scripta. CORE and Plateau were where we first cut our teeth. This year’s selections show the ingenuity and initiative of AUP’s students. Even a university of one hundred nationalities finds its real richness in the meetings of countless remarkable individual stories. Some students stay on for multiple degrees; others are just passing through. As editors, we became unwitting cartographers of these journeys, accountable for the impossible task of catching some representation of all this dimension on paper. So, the journal with a geographic name became a map of individual geographies, of personal places interior and exterior: of time, distance, zeitgeist, identity, migration, stagnation, moments you can’t go back to and places you can’t escape from, returns, homecomings, getting lost, losing, finding, being found, solitary experiences and group expeditions, communions, tensions, confrontations, isolation, memories, mediations, meditations—from Jackson Connor’s slums, to Jorge Franco’s ocean, to Karen Albright Lin’s dreamscape, to Jennifer Carr’s “non-place”. Marie Blanche Jueya takes us to Cameroon in 1943, and Eva Ben Dhiab returns us to the seventh arrondissement. Manon Carrié’s multiverse undresses time and place as shaky and infinitely multipliable, while Madeleine LaRue and Marion Tricoire examine experience from vantage points of linguistic and cultural translation. Dependencies and contradictions between language, identity, and displacement are articulated with impeccable Dadaist sensibility by Carolina Cavalli. Expressive figures move through the surreal visual worlds of Sara Julia Waller and Mona Gainer-Salim. Miguel Angel Guerra documents trans-continental travel with camera clicks. Elissa Freiha’s neon art ghouls ash their cigarettes at the edges of time. Photographers Jana Lahitova, Marshall Lewis, and Lucie Moore act as flâneuses and flâneur through Paris; Inna Thalmann paints a watercolored vision of home; Henry Dean’s veterans come home from war, and Jessica Proett writes about war at 7
Paris home. Self-perception in Samuel Beckett’s Film is illustrated by Ainsley Lundeen. Pilgrims travel at once as present and former selves, solitary and in a collective. Parallel journeys are taken across distance and time. For Kristen McGuiness, colosseums still stand when iPhones fail. Religious traditions contradict and overlap for Symonne Torpy. Elizabeth Melton investigates new perspectives through an Yves Klein monochrome, and Maritza Melania Lacayo discusses the human figure as art object. The psychological and symbolic are augmented by the sensory experiences of the physical traveler. (Female) corporeality becomes a significant site of critical discourse in writings by S. Sophia Chedid and Hynd Lalam. Body parts and forms, dissected or complete, are considered in art by Samantha Khoury, Karina Klindtworth, Alex Knechtl, Shamayel Shalizi, and Ina Kristin Ullenes. Parts and wholes, unreliable memory and loss, are central to Olivia Baes’s story of disorientation. Aubrey Reeves orients herself in retrospect—what details, which moments, endure as signpoints in our personal mythologies, and come to represent a whole, or holes? Is what you hold now an end, a destination, a bridge, a first step, a collaborative travelogue, a map...? Will it, as in Lethokuhle Msimang’s poem, fuel a fire? Can you orient yourself with or against it? Signed, vos compagnes de voyage, Emmeline Butler
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The editors would like to acknowledge Professor Dan Gunn, Ella Cooper and Genevieve Shea of The Lutetian, Professor Brenton Hobart, Professor Ralph Petty, Dean Neil Gordon, and Kevin Fore for their contributions to this edition of Paris/Atlantic.
Miguel Angel Guerra
THE SLUMS Jackson Connor
Back when I was a janitor at Sloan-Kettering the nurses used to call the hospital’s east wing the Slums. Housing projects for the sick and dying. If you had a shift over in the east you better believe you were slummin’ it, because these weren’t the kinds of patients who came in to have their tonsils out, spend a couple hours getting to know a tub of ice cream, and then go home. I’m talking about people with maladies so profound and unholy you can’t even pronounce them. Folks who on top of coming down with some seriously heinous, science fiction level shit also had the good fortune of being destitute as all hell. So many bodies piled on top of one another moaning like the living dead, you’d think it was a zombie apocalypse. Place stunk like a tomb. And guess where they stuck my sorry ass? That’s right. Each day I’d take the bus all the way from Bed-Stuy to the Upper East Side, just to go from one slum to another. Dumb. The only good part about my day was Marna. A Dominican chick from Washington Heights, Marna was thick in all the right places, and had a mouth that opened like a fig when she smiled. Her uniform was always just a little too small for her big hips and, unlike me, she actually liked the job – liked it as much as you can, I guess. Being a nurse or a doctor is a calling; no one’s ever been called to be a janitor except down at the unemployment office. The truth is Marna was the only girl at the hospital nice enough to talk to me. Most of the other nurses were too busy falling over the doctors or even the scaredshitless med school kids from Columbia to give me so much as a second look. I told my friends back in Bed-Stuy that Marna wanted it, sure. But deep down – in a place where masculinity and ego don’t loom so large – I think she just felt sorry for me, like maybe I was one of her patients, too. Either way I was grateful for her, even if she never gave it up. When are you gonna get out of this place? she asked me one day, catching me off guard. Marna had her hands on her hips, the source of her power. There was something atavistic about that stance, primal even. Like the force of her flanks reached back across a vast ocean to a great ancestral grandmother she had never known. I had the feeling that many men had fallen to those curves, lost too many arguments over 11
Paris too many generations to count. I leaned my mop up against the wall. Someone had vomited a bunch of toxic, radioactive puke in the hallway and it’s not like any of the docs were going to clean it up. What the hell are you talking about, Marna, I said. This place isn’t for you, Anthony. You aren’t as dumb as you look. I’ve seen you scribbling in that notebook of yours. That? That’s nothing. Oh no? I was just writing out my Last Will and Testament, I said. I figured this was a good spot for it. I was trying to make her laugh, but she just walked away, shaking her head like I’ve seen her do a million times. Like I was already gone.
Inna Thalmann 13
AN EXPLANATION TO THE APPRENTICE OF PREY Madeleine LaRue (translator)
Had Professor Ingol Habertruber written just one little work or acquired just one little title or even been given one, I would now be able to quote and invoke him; or had I known that his knowledge was not an entire knowledge, I could begin by sharing several of his half-knowledges, and we could defend it against our better knowledge and out of conviction. Meanwhile Habertruber is lying under the earth, and with him his entire half-knowledge is decaying. It’s not true, however, that his Apprentice from Prey is kneeling at his grave. More on this Apprentice later. With that, everything is already broken. Dear Habertruber, we’re going to make ourselves ridiculous. You yourself persuaded me to write about you. Those who read us must see you! If for no other reason than that, I’ll forgo describing you. Maybe we’ll be able to get through it like that. Just as a little hint: you were still alive in 1980; in that year, however, there was no one alive who could have been called Professor Ingol Habertruber. Only you and I, dear Ingol, know that I have invented this name for you. You drove a car; you had a pocket calculator; your shirts came out of the washing machine and dryer; you were interested in astronautics; you were, dear Ingol, however unwillingly, a man of the twentieth century. Despite that, you must understand, I can’t have you in that century. So let’s set you back, with that name, into the last century. Never fear, I’ll still let you drive a car, and you can be in New York too. I insist only on white shirt collars and a little bit of lostness—the only falsification I’m allowing myself, other than the falsifications that you yourself have conveniently brought along. We begin. Like so many we encounter and deal with, Professor Habertruber has no origins. Nor, in the last twenty years of his life, did he change at all. He was Habertruber for twenty years. And if anyone said of him, “Habertruber has gotten older,” he didn’t mean that Habertruber had changed, but only that on his face, as in all faces, by and by individual marks of age had appeared. He belonged to those about whom you ask yourself, after a long acquaintance and simply out of embarrassment, where in fact they’ve come from, who their father was, and then there’s the shamefaced realiza14
/Atlantic tion—even before they’ve begun to answer—that you’ve already asked this before, once or even several times, the shamefaced realization that their origins are, in fact, of no interest. So it’s not really a word or a sentence that I recall, but instead the movement of his chin, which is always the same whenever Habertruber speaks of his origins. You see, dear Ingol, I’m lapsing into the present, and already you’re alive once again. Had I not learned the power of half-knowledge from you, I would have mastered grammar and you would have been dead forever. Now—to bring this grammatical digression to an early end—if I write down here that “Habertruber was a great man,” then you are actually greater than if I write, “Habertruber is a great man.” You yourself will be indifferent to whether you live or not—since you’re dead anyway. I, however, will need to have dealt with it, and in any case you hadn’t thought of that when you asked me to write about you. I told you that I didn’t have the heart to. I’ve given up on you being able to tell me the story of your life. Therefore now I’ll have to tell it to myself. Nothing is so treacherous as biography, and anyone we respect or love or hate who has no biography is only just the way Habertruber was for twenty years. Look down at the street: it’s Saturday and nearly Christmas, and there are many people in the street, and they are all different kinds of people, and these ones are coming from the right, and these others from the left. But everyone is there without me knowing where they come from, everyone is there without origins. The man in the reddish-orange vest mops the street from left to right, and if half of the people are also going in that direction, that means that he’s mopping—because he’s doing it slowly— against the current. In any case, I must know from the beginning that people have worries in order to suppose that the ones down there also have worries. Among them went Habertruber, but he was only Habertruber for those who knew him, and it also happened that someone would say when he came home of an evening, “I saw Habertruber.” Maybe Ingol wouldn’t have left us if he’d known that such a thing happened every once in a while. Meanwhile his Apprentice keeps silent—the Apprentice from Prey, of whom we’ll still have more to say—who must have realized that you can’t learn half-knowledge, that you can’t live with half-knowledge but only alongside it, and Habertruber had taken it all with him. I don’t know, for example, whether it was really Professor Habertruber’s opinion that camels and apes were the only mammals that couldn’t swim, namely, so he said, because they are ambling creatures. In any case I wasn’t eager to correct him when I said something to the effect of actually somebody had seen an ape swimming, and I remember that Habertruber said that yes, it was possible to train apes to swim. So there are apes that can swim, and wherever I wanted to spread Habertruber’s knowledge, I would spark controversy. There was always somebody who knew a zoologist who had explained it to him. Ah, but it is impossible to tell the story of Habertruber without the continual danger of its not being true. Nothing makes me sadder than correcting Habertruber’s story. I say, “What a shame,” stand up, and leave the table.
Paris I remember the Apprentice’s blue eyes, and the Apprentice’s smile. Habertruber in any case was trying to spread his knowledge, and I do it for his sake. Ah, if only I could, like the Apprentice from Prey, smilingly brush it all aside and bury the entire half-knowledge under a smile. What do I care about zebras? But the idea that zebras are hornless rhinoceroses appeals to me and also that in Canada there are people who call themselves Hutterites. And I would like to know a couple of dates concerning that, which needn’t be terribly exact. And the story of one of these Hutterites who was burned at the stake—in Prague, in Innsbruck, in Leipzig? And if somebody comes and says that he was called Hutten, then I’ll know that Hutten hasn’t been burned at the stake. But already my know-it-all-ness is being reproached, and I’m also not totally sure that I haven’t mixed up something in my head and am now talking about the Amish, who took their name from a man by the name of Ammann. And who was Egede, actually? As a child I once saw some real Eskimos in a circus. They had snow-white skin. And no Eskimo I’ve seen since has looked like them. I then figured out who these Eskimos really were, namely, African albinos. You could talk about that with Habertruber, and the Apprentice from Prey would be sitting next to him at the table, chin in hands, elbows spread wide and just listening, without giving the impression of being aware of anything. The Apprentice had learned to prefer the moment of narration to any knowledge or usefulness. Snow hares are also snow-white and snow hens too, and albinos have red eyes. And all this exists in this world, and the Apprentice listened to all of it. Habertruber took care to introduce his explanations with the word “recently.” Everything he had experienced in his life he had experienced recently, and had his eyes and ears not been components of his life, you would have had to say that he had experienced nothing, absolutely nothing, first hand. He only spoke of people whom someone or other had told him about. He could speak about the English language for hours, even though he had only mastered it to a degree. At some point he must have heard that the English sensible doesn’t quite mean the same thing as the German sensibel, sensitive, but rather something more like reasonable. “An Englishman who spoke excellent German recently explained it to me”—and so it was according to him, and he brought it up whenever the opportunity presented itself. He used the word “incidentally” for it: “Incidentally, just recently,” he’d say. Did Habertruber have a profession? Of course! Though we ourselves, his Apprentice and I, didn’t know about it until later, and it would be very confusing to mention his profession here. He had very little to do with it; it was a technical profession. Even so it would be confusing to mention that he did sports, scenically, in fact. I’d happily let him go through his story in coat and hat, except that it was not what he did or wanted to do that constituted him, but rather what he knew or wanted to know. I understand his wish to record his life in writing, and he has dates around which his life was fixed. He even has something like a describable biography. Only we did not experience him as the subject of a biography, and had I written it down here,
/Atlantic I would have said in conclusion that the reader must forget all of this and should be concerned with the real subject of our interest, with Ingol Habertruber personally. Well, let’s leave it at that and restrict ourselves to declaring that he was married, a fact which was obvious to him. A kindly woman, incidentally, who always had a little smile left over for her Ingol and who always feared that someone, or everyone, wasn’t taking him seriously. She ran a dressmaker’s shop and appreciated, as we know, that he had her keep all the books. In reality he went on his daily walk through the city, through the cafés and through the parks, and also stopped by the trustees’ office and delivered the daily receipts, not without leaving a few suggestions and comments to note that he already understood a bit of it. And once more in reality: in reality he understood all too well that he was not able to do the books absolutely correctly; well, then, too much and too little knowledge. Well, so, coat and hat, and don’t ask me about the color. It does play a role, actually, but if I mentioned it you’d think I didn’t have any imagination. I can’t have him going around in Scottish plaid. Besides, I recommend imagining Professor Ingol Habertruber standing. He didn’t really walk around in the city so much as stand around in the city, and waited for his fine Apprentice and me. The first rhinoceros on the European continent, incidentally, was only to be seen very briefly. During its unloading, it fell into the harbor waters at Lisbon and drowned. Rhinoceroses have very short and extremely keen memories. As far as that is concerned, they do not belong to the pachyderm family, nor to the donkey family. The indulgence in yew leaves is deadly for horses, and probably for rhinoceroses too, but not for ruminants. Isn’t that strange, and do you really need to know that? Now, Habertruber wasn’t interested in zoology, nor in botany or biology. He saw no benefit for mankind in astronomy. He was much more concerned with natural history, that is, with the history of nature. He didn’t want to know anything from nature, but only to listen to her. So rhinoceroses became for him a European matter and a component of his European knowledge, and he knew this attitude was to be verified in the copper engraving by Albrecht Dürer, which probably represents the first picture of a rhinoceros in European knowledge. At the same time, Habertruber also had a truly exotic impression of cows. “I like them very much,” he would say, “but they’re not from here.” And it was first the story of some peasant boy who would later become a famous lion tamer and at home secretly practiced circus acts with the cows, getting them to jump up to two meters in the air, and his father was so impressed with their jumping that he couldn’t let the cows be penned up to graze anymore—it was this story first of all that made Habertruber view cows as worthy subjects of knowledge, and not merely as animals generally considered pleasant. And if I might here voice a suspicion, not substantiated by anything, and which Habertruber has never spoken of: he belonged to those who as children were always wondering which river could be declared the smallest in the world, which mountain the world’s smallest. He also once made a list of all the medications he could name
Paris by heart, and he was quite astounded at the unnecessary length of the list. Despite this, he never thought of writing a book with the title All The Things I Know. It would not have been anything but a long enumeration of proper nouns. “How long would we have to talk before everything had been said,” he would say, “how many names of painters, of poets, of food.” And one of his grandfathers was a baker, and one of his grandfathers was a weaver, and everyone he met had a profession and talked about it. Only the Apprentice of Prey always looked at him as if none of this had been known before, nor even heard of or thought about, and Habertruber liked his Apprentice of Prey very much. The Apprentice of Prey took in everything in tiny little amounts: food, drink, and all of Habertruber’s words. It’s astounding that his Apprentice, back in Prey, was never asked what had been learned during the apprenticeship. It might have been because the Apprentice was very reliable and hardworking and always engaged, so it didn’t occur to anybody that the Apprentice wasn’t learning anything. That you can’t apply your full diligence to nothing was something that people knew in Prey as little as anywhere else in Europe. “Only the one who sets his whole ambition upon not learning truly learns. He can only marvel at what he knows all about,” Habertruber would say. It’s becoming clear, but now he’s gone and there’s nothing to be gained by descriptions. If I wanted to describe him, to get into his nature, his bearing—and he had one, even a typical one—the description would distract from the knowledge that constituted him, from his half-knowledge with which no specialist could compete. Knowledge is more easily replaced than half-knowledge, specialists more easily than Habertruber. But since he’s gone, we simply have to let him go. Irreplaceable, that’s how it is, will not be replaced, and which part of his half-knowledge would we opt for, which half should we wish to make learnable. This letting go of Habertruber is final. Only the smile of his Apprentice of Prey remains to us. One day it too will be irreplaceable. People grinned at you, dear Ingol, when you mentioned that, by the way, you had personally known Rilke. Even those to whom Rilke meant nothing grinned. Why shouldn’t you have known him, since he was dear to you, a component of your knowledge? Why shouldn’t you have encountered Herr Robert Walser several times while hiking in Jura, when he was on his long way to Bellelay? A taciturn man, you said, who mumblingly returned your greeting and therefore failed to hear that people had spoken of him by name, and your Apprentice, who didn’t it like it that people grinned, carried Walser’s books around as evidence and grinned at the others—who had no examples to the contrary—as they themselves would have grinned. The Apprentice of Prey read these books without intending to prove that it was historically and biographically possible for Habertruber to have met Rilke. It was obvious to the Apprentice that Ingol Habertruber loved Walser, and love is acquaintance enough and requires no proof. Nevertheless, no matter how measured Habertruber was, no matter how superior and princely too, he must have still have suffered greatly from the fact that
/Atlantic nothing would ever come of him. Everything that was life lay behind him. He told editors about the time he’d spent as an editor in Vienna, pianists of the time he’d spent as a pianist, painters of his dealings with Gustav von Klimt. Ever fiber of his knowledge was in the past. He lived those twenty years that his Apprentice and I knew him from behind his life. And when I told him about Jean Paul, I recognized the sadness in his eyes that he could not say that he had once seen him just fleetingly in Beyreuth and that one of his aunts had been a chamber maid for Frau Rollwenzel. Also, his French was too poor to have been with Friedrich Glauser in the Foreign Legion. The life of Ingol Habertruber was, from the beginning, too short for his need for the past to cover it. His present was narration, and this present was too long. It didn’t have enough past to be able to fill the length of the present. Impatient people—and unfortunately I often belong among them—called his life a lie. He was not interested in going to America. He would much rather have already been to America, after a long voyage by ship and car, and moreover after a voyage without incident or adventure. He would have seen the worthy Joseph Conrad eating at the next table, he too being a man with a quiet past. The Apprentice had read The Rescue on Habertruber’s recommendation, and when the Apprentice talked about it, Habertruber had the feeling that he had also read that book once, long ago. Habertruber had a long past in which everything still to come had its place; he lived in a narrative. He imagined his life was a cozy one and so had a great aptitude for peace. He wasn’t afraid of boredom. He told of the particular tameness of the squirrels in American parks until his Apprentice had to imagine America as cozy and could mouth the word again without fear. “That’s the trouble with Europeans, who are always dreaming that squirrels can be tamed,” said Habertruber, “in America they’re long since given it up.” He added, “the ones in America aren’t actually squirrels, but tree rats. And these tree rats are the enemies of squirrels. Now there are zoologists who, in all seriousness, want to protect the squirrels from the tree rats in the places where people want tame squirrels, and the tree rats already have this advantage of tameness, and those bushy tails too that persist in people’s memory of squirrels and that, in reality, they so bitterly miss. Admittedly, they’re not of the same brown color. Or is it that people want to have such tame squirrels precisely because they are not tame?” said Habertruber in conclusion. The Apprentice valued his questions very much, never sought their answers, and never posed questions in return. In half-knowledge, the Apprentice had learned, questions are everything. “There’s only one question that we have to live in,” Habertruber would say, “and the question is always gentle.” Then his Apprentice of Prey would smile again and wish it could end with that. “We’re always living at the end, never at the beginning,” Habertruber would say, “always with the past and never with the future,” and the Apprentice would imagine how the quiet Robert Walser had passed by the very young Habertruber. And once again—this must be made clear—when the Apprentice appears, the
Paris story is at its end. But we still want to go on for a little while. Is it still necessary, after all this, to say that Habertruber was a decidedly lazy person? The reader must have noticed, and so the assertion comes easily to me. How difficult would it have been if my reader had known Habertruber? The professor was tidy; his wife was the sole caretaker of his affairs, clothes, papers, and body, obviously. Everything about him seemed to imply diligence. I had trouble asserting my conviction that he was lazy to anyone who knew him, or even maintaining that his orderliness was a component of his laziness. But I can’t for the life of me imagine that a diligent man could become a storyteller, because for those who know things that can never be completely verified, that are only ever partly accurate, that you cannot print without the risk of contradiction, which can even lead to libel action—for them, there’s nothing but the non-binding nature of the spoken word. “There is a great blessing in the alphabet,” Habertruber would say to his Apprentice, and after such statements he would pause for a long time, as if everything had been said forever. The last syllable, however, pulled him upwards and signaled that something would have to follow it, much later and almost independent of the previous statement. Then, after a long pause, he would say: “People know the letters, but they have abused the writing of them. They serve them now only as evidence and testament, and what’s signed is taken to be the whole truth. They carry identification with them, which records in writing that they exist. They abuse writing when they fill out official forms and put themselves at the risk of lying, because what is written down has to be the truth.” The police certainly liked Habertruber very much. He used to chat with them, since they were on the street as often as he himself. He told them things and listened to them tell him things, and he was, verbally at least, always on their side. Only writing prevented him from becoming a constant informant; he didn’t like it when policemen started searching for pads and ballpoint pens. It shouldn’t be assumed that the police understood him, but they were flattered that he gave them credit for understanding. Habertruber trusted in the good of everything and everyone, and so he also told the policemen that the sketches they used to track down unnamed culprits could actually be an invention of Albrecht Dürer’s, for the rhinoceros that he drew and engraved in copper had now really belonged to the Portuguese king, and was only to be seen very briefly at the time in Europe, and it’s not to be ruled out that a German sailor or travelling salesman, who had even seen this rhinoceros briefly in Lisbon, might later have told Dürer about it. Dürer could have picked up his pen and asked whether the animal might have looked like this, and the sailor could have corrected him, and in this way there arose a rhinoceros which ultimately resembled a rhinoceros so closely that everyone who came across it could recognize it as such—as Habertruber told the policemen. To his Apprentice he said later that he was sure that all of this had happened,
/Atlantic and that he was also sure that the especially beautiful horn on the rhinoceros’ back that Dürer had drawn was not a a failure of the sailor’s observation or memory, but rather Dürer’s own conviction. The Apprentice never posed any questions, and as a rule Habertruber didn’t even notice. If he did notice—for example on the topic of Dürer’s rhinoceros — he would be a little embarrassed, and would end his story the way he had begun it: with the very nice word “incidentally.” “Incidentally,” he would say then, “zebras are very closely related to rhinoceros.” After Habertruber’s death, in any case, everyone said that Habertruber’s vast and comprehensive knowledge had always astonished them, and that they had been happy to listen to him, and nobody talked about how useless his half-knowledge was or what a nuisance it had been. Only one person had spent hours listening to him, and that was his Apprentice of Prey, and the Apprentice never talked about it. As a result I too only knew very small fragments of Habertruber’s half-knowledge, and when I asked his fine Apprentice about them, I received the reply: “That has no part to play now either.” They were an odd pair. He upright with a concave lower back, a man in all his dignity, more like a burgomaster than a private scholar, but his Apprentice nothing more or less than dreamy and gentle. It often seemed to me that Habertruber didn’t know a thing about his Apprentice, took no notice of his Apprentice at all, but when I once made a comment to that effect, he started rhapsodizing about how even if he had only known his Apprentice by sight, he would have desired a closer acquaintance. He who lives by narrating leaves no traces behind, for there is nothing to tell about someone who narrates. The Apprentice had even looked for him in the hospital. He’d been in terrible pain, he said. At that time I was gone. But I wouldn’t have been able to imagine Habertruber in pain, nor Habertruber hungry, nor a freezing cold Habertruber. I knew him only in coat and hat and wondered whether then, for all these years, I’d only ever run across him in winter. He who wants to live his life in dignity cannot bear the summer. Now there’s nothing more to tell about him, except that he narrated. Not until after his death did it occur to us that it might have been possible for him to have lived. It might have been possible for him to have loved his wife. It might have been possible for him to have gone on long hikes and short trips with his Apprentice. But he only ever narrated. It’s not true that he was interested in fossils or rhinoceroses or carnivorous plants. He only knew of them, and only enough so that he could talk about them. But he didn’t talk about the fact that he still wanted to write everything down. Nevertheless he suspected that his Apprentice—rightly so, as it turned out in the meantime—would never narrate anything. The professor had missed out on his Apprentice. Next to him, next to him of all people, to whom everyone could tell everything, the
Paris Apprentice would have been able to go without narrating anything. We miss you, Habertruber; it’s completely different now. They sit in the pub and have written proof of everything they say in their bags—as if you could narrate the truth. At best, though, you can only state the truth, if it exists. Since Habertruber doesn’t exist anymore, people are no longer free. The freedom of words now only applies, after all, to the truth. Your Apprentice is weeping, dear Habertruber. No one’s smiling anymore over half-truths; they only quarrel bitterly over the Truth. When you were still alive, your Apprentice was quiet, but since then has become silent. We’ve parted ways, the Apprentice of Prey and I. No one must have wanted to be a witness to the case of Habertruber. About Habertruber I can now say what I like. People will simply have to believe me when I say that we liked Habertruber, because he was there and grew, in his half-truths, toward the half-truth. His Apprentice went back to Prey and now runs, so I’ve heard, a little stationery shop. When I talk about it, no one ever asks about the Apprentice, everybody asks about Prey, wants to know where it is and wants to know why the Apprentice, of all people, came from Prey. The Apprentice came from Prey, that’s all. The Apprentice was the Apprentice of Prey, just like the Hunter of Soest was the Hunter of Soest. I didn’t choose the place. Anyone else would have been fine with me not choosing Ingol Habertruber either. Nevertheless it occurs to me that I’ve never written about anybody besides Ingol Habertruber. No one was ever so close to me, because there was never so little to tell about anyone. He was tall and broad, smoked cigars—maybe I forgot to mention that he smoked cigars—I even know the brand, Wuhrmann BC, and when those weren’t in stock, then for a change, Wuhrmann C. I know it’s useless to mention the brand of the cigars. It doesn’t describe my Ingol. But anyone who knew him would be reminded of him by the name “Wuhrmann.” If I were to meet up with his Apprentice sometime, we would certainly talk about that. By the second glass the Apprentice or I would say, “Wuhrmann BC,” and we would smile. Now and then Habertruber would offer me a cigar. Incidentally he would emphasize that they weren’t cigars but cheroots, then would pull one of the cigars out, warn me about cigarettes, warn me about type A and type B, hand me a lighted match, take his cigar out of his mouth, hold it in between his fingers and say, “Wuhrmann BC.” Nothing that he did looked as if it didn’t have to be done. Each of his movements seemed in pursuit of occupation. He would sit in a café as comfortably as one who is making the most of a short recovery period, and he would leave the café like one whose break is over, like one who leaves five minutes early so as not to have to hurry too much. To the woman at the next table he explained in passing that she should order a vanilla ice cream, since vanilla wasn’t worth faking. With any other flavor the risk of artificial flavoring would be greater. Ah, if only he’d been right in at least this one
/Atlantic thing! But perhaps as it was in his time, so it remains in ours, as he used to say. When exactly his time had been, we didn’t know, but it was in Vienna, in a Vienna that he had never visited again, and he accumulated his knowledge without modifying his old knowledge. Everything new was added without the old knowledge being revised. The existence of cheap, artificial vanilla flavoring did not at all alter the fact that you could be sure to find a natural vanilla smell in vanilla ice cream. So he mentioned completely by the way that he had served in the Hussars— again, with Rilke, again, “Did Rilke serve? I don’t know”—but he was no friend of the army and military. He was only a friend to the fact of his having served in the Hussars, and the captain raised his hand to give the signal to charge, and the Italians, then one Italian ... We know that already, and the Apprentice and I could have said it in chorus. I want to explain that the Apprentice, who’s now back in Prey, the Apprentice’s apprenticeship was canceled rather than completed, canceled by the death of the master, an Apprentice who now would certainly have been capable of imitating Habertruber, but since Habertruber himself hadn’t done anything but imitate Habertruber, the imitation of the imitator Habertruber was now actually no longer a true imitation, and still much less a genuine Habertruber, who anyway never existed. So then the question of the people in Prey would be—a question, which as we’ve already mentioned, they never asked—would be the very valid question of what the Apprentice had learned. We could now say a little about what the Apprentice has probably learned. Professor Habertruber might have expressed it this way himself. But the Apprentice had learned nothing. The Apprentice’s only function was to be in relation to Habertruber, just as Habertruber’s function might have been to be in relation to “his” time in Vienna: one person’s narrative becomes another person’s past. And it would be recollection enough to remember that this other person had narrated; not what he narrated, but simply that he narrated. As Habertruber lived narrating, so smiling and silent now lives his Apprentice. The Apprentice succeeds, however, in distributing single, unassuming words like “Two sheets of paper” or “What’ll it be” or “Have a nice day now too”, like stories, to narrate and to silence at once. For stories do not tell themselves; it is those who remember stories who tell them. And Habertruber must have been nothing at all, must have done nothing. He was able to lead a life that was not worth narrating, notwithstanding that his life becomes a story when we remember it. It’s enough to remember him and to weep over his death. So this is the story of his Apprentice and me, and for us this story is story enough. But Habertruber definitely would have imagined this story about him differently. He would have once again begun with a narrative: how he used to play piano in the cinema, how he used to go hiking through the forest with Alexander Moissi, how he had met his wife—and we would have listened to him and nodded, and he would have gotten the impression that we would continue to tell the story in exactly that way. Who isn’t vain enough to imagine it like that?
Paris But in the meantime he’s dead, and it’s not his story anymore. Now he belongs in our story, and there it’s enough to remember his name. Perhaps I’ll visit the Apprentice sometime; perhaps I’ll let it be. There are also living memories, and these are also the past, and also I’m going to get older. I’ll hardly notice. I’ll approach it gradually, Habertruber approached it too, and to the Apprentice he’ll remain what he already is—a memory. And as a memory he won’t change any more, won’t age, won’t marry, won’t have children, won’t let himself grow bitter. And so here the Apprentice is too, on paper, and will not change any more. In that, certainly, the Apprentice is like the master, Professor Ingol Habertruber. It’s only the time that, without the two of them, seems to have become another time. It’s become a time of “Do you still know.” I love you, Apprentice. Already your face has faded from my memory. Already your voice no longer resembles anyone else’s, and already I see you wherever I go, vanishing into the corners. I’ll grow older, and more will turn into memory. What was once something in itself and came to me from outside will become a component of my story. When everything has become my story, I’ll be dead and will become a small component of some other story. No one has experienced this as much as Habertruber, who himself was nothing but a story. Only his pain, which the Apprentice narrated, stood outside his halftruths, and only it could suggest that behind Habertruber’s narrating there was also a life. Had I not written about him, he would have remained a name—a name, for instance, like Habertruber. Therefore I would like to beg my reader to do the same for me, and in reading to forget what he has read, just as in writing I forget what I have written, so that by the end only a name will remain: Habertruber. My attempt, however, to love the Apprentice was made in earnest. The Apprentice of Prey is a girl. Translated from Eine Erklärung an den Lehrling von Prey by Peter Bichsel.
HARDSHIP OF CHIEFS Marie Blanche Jueya
It’s a cloudy day in Balengou, a little village in Cameroon, central Africa. It’s 5 in the morning and the sky is full of fog and very dark. The village hens start to sing and the birds sing as day light is to come. The hens have this special song they sing: “Cou Kou Rou Cou ou”. When the villagers hear this song they get up and know it is time to get ready to go to the farm, or do their household activities. Today events will be different from those that usually happen. As the hens sing to the women in the chief palace, the villagers get out of their caves half-naked, and go to the center of the palace for a new chief Ganbeg, the new chosen chief ’s ceremony. This is in 1943, in the village of Balengou, far from the city where people still live as they did in an earlier age. Women are dressed in leaves from trees and men in leathers. The chief of the village has just passed away and a new one is to be chosen— from among his children. A chief can only be replaced by one of his children. The new chief is to take the old chief ’s wives as his own, and continue governing the village. The village consists of one chief, notables (people who assist him), his wives, and villagers. Nina, one of the chief ’s wives, is thinking, as she dances with the other ladies in front of the notable, how she is going to sleep with her husband, who is also her son. It is very cold at 5:30 a.m. but her body is sweating as she contemplates what tradition is making her do. On the other hand, she is very happy. As her son is the chosen one, she is going to get more power to talk to ancestors and see the unnatural. She will be able to go to Denheng (Secret Forest) and talk with the animals—Lion, Monkey, Hawk. At exactly 6 a.m., all the women are given village hens to dance with on their heads. The unlucky one whose hen falls first will be the one to clean the entire palace. After the chief sleeps with his first wives, their bed sheets will be given to her to wash in the Denheng. She is to eat the chicken’s internal parts for 30 days with red palm oil. This is to give her strength as she grows, and it will enable her to sleep with her husband-to-be. She will be obliged to repeat the tradition until the animal in the secret forest refuses to let her go. The hens are huge with a lot of feathers and dry skin. The cold makes their skin hard even when cooked. The smallest chicken is about 7 kilos. As the women dance for several hours, Tiko has the bad luck and her hen falls 27
/Atlantic off her head. Tiko is a small woman with brown skin and dark eyes. Her hair is longest of the chief ’s wives. This is her second dance, for the former chief took her from her parents when she was very young. The chief had the authority to marry anyone in the village who pleased him, and none were to refuse. Tiko just fell down crying as the other women came and gave her a goodbye kiss. Now, the notable has to go get the chief ready for his throning ceremony. The chief is chosen by the Lion in the palace. The ancestor has to speak to the Lion and he is to go shit in one of the caves where the notable has put the future possible chiefs. Each man is in one cave and they are to stay there for 30 days. If the Lion does not shit during those 30 days, other men from the chief ’s children replace those in the caves. During the 30 days, they have to eat goat shit, mixed with chicken shit, mixed with red palm oil. This is said to be the food that opens the ancestor’s eyes and brings the chosen one. Mr Golga calls to Mr Nosta—the Superior notable—as they enter the cave where the chief is. He has been there for days, waiting. They are very surprised to see the chosen chief well and healthy, compared with what the spirit said, that he was supposed to be tired from fighting with the evil ancestors. They take their chief out and bring him to the palace hall to put on his garments and seat him on the chief ’s seat. After being dressed, all the former chief ’s wives come and kiss his legs in a sign of respect. He is to sleep with all of them. They all become his, even if he is only 25 and some of them are upwards of 95. The whole village gathers to welcome the new chief by bringing gifts. A gift to the chief either has to be a complete white hen or a complete black goat. Nobody is to bring anything different, but either one can be given. All those who brought gifts will later be given water in which the chief has washed his hands and legs, in remembrance of their gifts and as a form of protection and guidance. His hands will take anything that the enemy wants to throw on them, and his legs are guidance to wherever they go and whatever they do—he will be with them. Later that night, after all the traditional ceremony has passed, Chaka, the new chief, calls his mum Nina to his bedroom. Chaka: Nina, you are now my wife, I will no longer be your son. Nina: In my, heart you will always be my big boy. Chaka: Nina! Nina! Nina! You call me your son again, and I will send you to the Denheng for 30 days or a whole year. Nina: Son, what has gotten over you? I am your mother. I understand it is tradition, but you do not have to be harsh with me. Chaka: If I hear ‘son’ one more time you will explain yourself to the ancestors. Didn’t you eat the secret food? Nina: I did husband. I am sorry if I hurt you. Please be my very good husband. Chaka: Now get off your clothes and wash your body with the secret water and come meet me in bed.
WORDS FOR WALLS Carolina Cavalli
Probably if I werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t young youth would have killed me Graffiti is not the problem Walls are
MARCEL DUCHAMP’S NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE NO. 2: THE “PUPPET-LIKE WOODEN DOLL” SETS THE STAGE FOR THE READYMADE Maritza Melania Lacayo
There may not be many people today who prefer the work of Marcel Duchamp to that of Picasso or Matisse, but no modern artist invites us to question the meaning of modern art and culture more than he (Seigel, 12). If one is to examine Duchamp’s career, lasting about fifty-nine years (1909-1968), one realizes that Duchamp ceases to paint by 1918, and completely stops producing by 1923 (Judovitz, 3). Having revolutionized painting with his landmark Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912), he opens the door to artistic possibilities that lead him to become one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. Marcel Duchamp broke from the classical tradition, chipping away the standards of hundreds of years of Western artistic tradition with his artworks. His use of the object, whether it was through painting or the readymade, allowed for a new interpretation of art to commence. Art was no longer painting and sculpture; art was no longer tradition or taste created by historical habit. For the purpose of this study, I will argue that Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 is Duchamp’s break from the painterly tradition of the past towards his own vision and understanding of art as ‘making,’ and, therefore, including various other mediums and techniques. Duchamp’s artistic progression carries with it Cézanne’s idea that any and all objects are equal and worthy of ‘artistic status’ and that no one object is more imperative than another. Therefore, the figure in Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 is more of an object—reminiscent of a wooden doll or chess pawns—pushing Duchamp even further towards his most famous contribution to the history of art, the readymade. His progression within painting will be discussed—such as his stylistic periods influenced by Cézanne and Cubism—and his move to the readymade, with a focus on Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 as the work that set the stage for the object to become Duchamp’s greatest material. Duchamp came from a French bourgeois family with strong artistic background. The family read and played chess together, which, as will be discussed, becomes a regular subject in the works of Marcel Duchamp. Music also provided an activity in which the family could spend time together, seen in several of his works, 32
/Atlantic especially his earlier paintings. At the mere age of 17, he decided to become an artist. As a matter of fact, all four of the older children in the Duchamp family became artists. For Marcel, the decision seemed clear from the very start. He began his artistic career at an important time for art; the first Cézanne retrospective was still echoing in Paris; Matisse was already well within his first phases that would lead to the movement of Fauvism; just a few years later, Picasso and Braque would create the movement that Duchamp himself later experimented with Cubism. Although Duchamp amused himself with testing and experimenting with different styles, not one adopted mode could satisfy him. “A technician can be learned but you can’t learn to have an original imagination,” he later said (Tomkins, 16). By the time he was 25, he found himself with nowhere to go except into unchartered artistic waters. His rapid progress from his early pseudo-Impressionist works to the machinelike works of his maturity reveals Duchamp’s eager impulses within his own artistic progression. Duchamp began to exhibit his art publicly in 1909, and some of his most significant works date to as early as 1910. With Cézanne and the Fauvists as a major influence, the use of color and unusual perspective in order to create the composition he desired, hint at his later works that became entirely abstract. In 1910, he painted Portrait of the Artist’s Father, Seated. The picture shows the artist’s father seated comfortably in a chair, clad like a respectable bourgeois man, but also looking comfortable and poised. His eyes look directly at the viewer, alert and interested. The French have a phrase for the way Duchamp portrayed his father in this picture: he is bien dans sa peau, at home inside the skin that both protects him from the world and puts him in touch with it (Seigel, 18). The portrait clearly demonstrates the subject’s personality as well as the artist’s comfort in his presence. In this picture, Duchamp clearly adopted Cézanne’s planar color construction, as he later acknowledged (Seigel, 18). The picture is painted using bright colors, obviously divided, in order to create an element of depth that is not created through detail. For instance, the father’s left sleeve contains patches of bright green and purple since it is further forward than his right arm, which is painted in darker violet and black. The same goes for the father’s shin, painted light blue since it is further forward than his thigh, which recedes into the chair. Most notably and most similar to the style of Cézanne is the fact that the artist’s father is not painted in any more detail than the chair he sits in or the background. He is arguably rendered more clearly, but the brushstroke remains disheveled throughout the picture. Comparing Portrait of the Artist’s Father, Seated to Cézanne’s Mont Saint Victoire series, the similarities in style and stroke are striking. Considering that Marcel Duchamp’s first significant works are in the style of Cézanne, it is also important to note that Cézanne’s view of the object was in accordance to Duchamp’s views later on in his career, as we will later see. For Cézanne, the object was in itself a subject. Whether it was a portrait or a still life, the subject did not take precedence over the rest of the figures within a picture in terms of details. The foreground and background, as is seen in Portrait of the Artist’s Father, Seated are
Paris painted in equal detail. Cézanne’s Still Life with Plaster Cupid is merely one example of the way Cézanne similarly ‘cared for’ his subject, and that was, by not giving it superiority in detail over the rest of the elements. By 1911, a dozen or more young Cubists, scorned by the public and art dealers alike, had joined forces and were meeting regularly at the studios of Duchamp’s brothers at Puteaux (Tomkins, 21). The Puteaux Cubists, who were rebelling against the casual or “intuitive” style practiced by Braque and Picasso, plotted their paintings with geometrical precision. Duchamp, though he rarely joined in the debates of his fellow opinionated Cubists, was a welcomed member of the Puteaux group, and his paintings were well received—for the time being. Attempting to understand Duchamp’s rapid and swift stylistic changes, comparing The Chess Players (1910) to Portrait of Chess Players (1911), puts his evolution into perspective. Scarcely a year separates them, and yet they deal with the same subject, a chess match between Duchamp’s brothers. The two pictures, stylistically, however, have nothing in common. The first, arguably “Cézannian” picture, appears to be a pleasant afternoon recreation, whereas the later Cubist picture appears to be a vigorous intellectual duel between transparent, shifting figures. One of the most notable differences is that all the elements that are not directly related to chess have disappeared; his brothers’ wives, the grass, the shrubbery, even his brothers’ distinct features are all absent from the second picture. The bright colors have given way to Cubism’s characteristically muted tones, and the two pictures are hardly comparable. In Portrait (1911), Duchamp uses five figures to represent a single subject, still in a loose cubist style. Yvonne and Magdeleine Torn in Tatters (an earlier picture from 1911) had depicted motion through time; now Portrait seemed to suggest motion through space, a concept that he would explore further in the primary subject of this study, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. The first picture in which Duchamp particularly tried to represent motion was Sad Young Man in a Train (1911), whose four or five successive profiles jolting across the canvas from left to right suggest the image of a passenger on a moving train (Tomkins, 26). For the first version of Nude Descending a Staircase, Duchamp clearly shows inspiration provided by Jules Etienne Marey’s chronophotographs of acrobats and animals in which multiple exposures revealed the dynamics of motion (26). In 1912, Duchamp establishes himself as a painter through Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. This work was a second version in which Duchamp added swirling lines and arcs that allowed the viewer to understand that his subject was in motion. The subject is rather simple; it is a nude descending a staircase, which is also clearly labeled on the picture itself on the bottom left corner. The overall composition is dense; it could also be defined as ‘controlled yet chaotic’ since we can see where the nude is descending even though the movement seems messy and somewhat frantic. Spatially, it is flat, unrealistic, and depth is not suggested. All we can really comprehend is movement, suggested by the nude, towards the right of the canvas. The colors are muted and resemble those used by the Cubists, as well as his
/Atlantic own previous cubist works. Different shades of brown, dark red, black, and green are used. The darker colors suggest background, whereas the lighter and brighter colors emphasize the parts of the nude that would be closest to the viewer if, say, the viewer was witnessing this moment in front of his or her eyes. The colors are also for the most part dull, and yet there appears to be some shine or brightness on the nude herself, especially at her ‘final’ step towards the right side. The outlines and contours are not particularly clear. They are, however, darkened, so it gives us a better sense of the shape Duchamp is trying to depict. There is no clear indication of brushstroke or impasto. The rendering, however, is careful and detailed since without clear rendering the image would not appear as a nude descending a staircase, but like “a collection of saddlebags” (26) as some critics later called it. The 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art, or, The Armory Show, gave America its first taste of the explosive new art of Europe. A public that had been brought up on a diet of strictly representational art was abruptly confronted with a host of “stranger things than you ever dreamed were on land or sea,” Alfred Stieglitz wrote in a newspaper article before the show. After the exhibition closed, the Tribune critic Royal Cortissoz wrote: “It was a good show, but don’t do it again” (Tomkins, 40). There could not be another show like this one—the art was toounlike anything the American public had seen before, and, in turn, American art would never be the same again. Four of Duchamp’s paintings were exhibited at the show. The show included work by nearly three hundred painters and sculptors, many of whom are recognized today as some of modern art’s most influential figures. Many of the artists and their works attracted considerable attention. The ‘abnormality’ and non-conformist works were bound to cause a stir, but Duchamp seemed to have been on the top of the list, with many curious visitors stopping by to ‘judge’ his works. Partly to blame, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, caused an enormous scandal among the visitors. It challenged expectations the viewer may have walked in with more so than any of Duchamp’s previous works (Judovitz, 26). It had been previously rejected by the Salon des Indépendants, infuriating the Puteaux Cubists, and sending Duchamp’s brothers to break the news that this piece had been rejected. That, alongside its “literary” title, as Metzinger and Gleizes, fellow Puteaux Cubists, described it (28), sparked a curiosity in the public. As Duchamp explained, the title played a significant role in the reactions to this work: “What contributed to the interest provoked by the canvas was its title. One just doesn’t do a nude woman coming down the stairs, that’s ridiculous. It doesn’t seem ridiculous now, because it’s been talked about so much, but when it was new, it seemed scandalous. A nude should be respected” (28). For centuries, Western painting had given special attention to the nude. The nude was not seen as sexual, per se, but as a representation of ideal beauty. As we can see in Edouard Manet’s Olympia of 1863, the subject was not always depicted as it had been in the past. In this picture, Manet clearly intended to make a statement, using
Paris eroticism and irony to make his point known. He was simply trying to show that modern life could not be avoided when it came to depictions in art, and that even traditional subjects had to give way to the new way of life. Therefore, despite the initial shock caused by Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, the rather traditional concept of the nude had already been partly toyed with and tested as early as the 1860s. Duchamp’s Nude, however, was bound to evoke confusion among the public since not only was the nude active, but the way in which she was depicted was mechanical, and entirely new. Duchamp, despite the heavy criticism, also turned out to gain a new group of fans, and in turn, became that much more famous. That all four of his pictures were sold, for prices that seem quaint now but were generous at the time ($324 for the Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2), does not necessarily prove that Duchamp was an instant hit, although it was enough for him to decide to move to New York in 1915. It was in New York that Duchamp met patrons and sponsors whose support would help sustain him for the rest of his life. Walter Arensberg is by far the most important of these patrons. Arsenberg’s collection of works by Duchamp is what began to form the admirable collection of his works now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Seigel, 3). Today it is somewhat challenging to understand why the painting was considered to be so shocking. Duchamp himself suggests that the title of Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 is what caused most of the trouble (Tomkins, 36). In traditional art, nudes stood or reclined; they had never been depicted down a flight of stairs, let alone, labeled as doing so. This picture created a clash for the viewer between the traditional and historical approach and a newfound way of depicting such a subject. Instead of reclining passively, Duchamp’s nude is descending a staircase; she is being active; she is not the traditional nude one would expect to see. It is quite clear that Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 caused a scandal since it essentially destroyed the nude as a traditional subject and figure, tossing historical and traditional methods out the window. In this work, we also see Duchamp moving away from figuration into abstraction. What was also incredibly controversial is the fact that Duchamp chose such a subject to take such an incredibly risky leap with. One would think still-life works or even portraits would seem the natural choice to make such a move from figurative to abstract. Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 reduces the anatomical nude to a series of a successively fractured array of nudes. Duchamp described the work: “Painted, as it is, in severe wood colors, the anatomical nude does not exist, or at least cannot be seen, since I discarded completely the naturalistic appearance of a nude, keeping only the abstract lines of some twenty different static positions in the successive action of descending” (Judovitz, 28). Moreover, the nude emerged as a sort of mechanized abstraction in downward motion, reminiscent of various everyday objects. It is no coincidence that when Duchamp revealed his infamous picture at the Armory show, the critiques we most remember today are those describing the Nude as a number of everyday objects. What viewers saw once they stood before the picture confused them. Finding
/Atlantic a human form in Duchamp’s Nude would be near to impossible if the title of the work were not there to guide us. Because Duchamp stripped the nude of all unnecessary elements, all that is left behind are lines, curves, and geometric shapes (Seigel, 2). A viewer desperately trying to make sense of the work could make out a head, shoulders, torso, hips, legs. All of these elements, however, are geometrically abstracted. The abstract ‘shapes’ that come together also make the nude look covered, despite being albeled a ‘nude’. Newspaper accounts reported that a crowd was always surrounding the work, making a good view hard to get. Few people actually liked it; most spectators only paid it a visit to try and take on the challenge of relating the title to the work. Many gave the picture a new title, replacing Duchamp’s label, yet, all related the Nude to an object. Punning viewers cleverly nicknamed the work “Food Descending a Staircase.” The most famous, “Rude Descending a Staircase,” was the ironic title of a cartoon of commuters rushing down subway stairs during rush hour. The picture was described as “a lot of disused golf clubs and bags,” “an assortment of half-made leather saddles,” “an elevated railroad stairway in ruins after an earthquake,” an “orderly heap of broken violins,” or, the description that seems to have made people laugh the most, “an explosion in a shingle factory” (Seigel, 2). The nasty comments made about the picture further prove that Duchamp’s Nude was reminiscent of an object, or various different objects. The figure lent itself to a number of different interpretations, all of which were comparable to something in our everyday lives. That the nude is reminiscent of everyday objects and that the picture is a study of motion through space makes it the clearest precursor to Duchamp’s use of the readymade. The first readymade Duchamp assembled in the United States was Bicycle Wheel in 1913. No idea was more important in his work at the moment than the idea of motion, as we have already seen in certain pictures such as Yvonne and Magdeleine Torn in Tatters. In 1913, when he put the wheel in his studio, Duchamp had recently abandoned the interest in linear motion and the “dissolution of form” evidenced in Sand Young Man on a Train, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, and the various images of “speedy” or “swift” nudes, in favor of a type of movement that remains suspended in a space it never traverses—a “delay” (Seigel, 122). This is merely one aspect of how Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 influenced the coming of the readymade object, which is, as most art historians agree, Duchamp’s most valuable artistic contribution. Duchamp understood that presenting objects such as bicycle wheels, bottle racks, combs, or urinals as art, broke with the tradition of conventional art. He was attracted to the idea of these objects as art since these objects weren’t alike and allowed for him to create non-repetitive series. Duchamp’s readymades allowed him to create works that would not allow for him to develop personal style or taste. The concept of taste was incredibly important, since he declared taste to be nothing more than a habit, “the repetition of something already accepted.” It is entirely reminiscent of what Duchamp did with Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, when he broke away from the traditional to make way for a new representation in art. According to the critic Clem-
Paris ent Greenberg, what made the nude scandalous was that, more than other entries, it “gave people enough clues to permit them to watch themselves being startled by the ‘new’” (Seigel, 6). It was this ‘disruption’ that caused for so many people to give the picture names of their own. Various taunting names, notably the popular “an explosion in a shingle factory,” conveyed disturbance and a sense of violence. It was the effect modern art was having at the time, connecting everyday objects and quotidian life to art. Duchamp would soon deepen and exploit these quotidian connections through his readymade. When understanding how Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 paved the way for the readymade through its similarity to the common object and its depiction of motion through space, it is important to understand exactly what a readymade is, as well as, what Duchamp intended. When asked whether he considers the readymades in the same order of achievement as his other works, Duchamp replied: “They look trivial, but they’re not. On the contrary, they represent a much higher degree of intellectuality” (Judovitz, 96). What kind of object is the readymade? Its three-dimensional character takes it a step further from Nude Descending a staircase No.2 and its unmistakable flatness. The objects Duchamp chooses for his readymade have been selected because they clearly lack beauty, or at least, beauty in the traditional sense. This deviation away from the the “visual” arts, toward an art that seeks to define itself. This process, begun with Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, allowed the picture to be questioned by the public and in turn labeled as something other than what it was intended to be. Although the picture “defined itself ” through its title, it lent itself to various visual interpretations, setting the stage for the readymade to lend itself to various intellectual interpretations. But as Duchamp admits, no object is free from the eventual judgment of the public or of its creator. Sooner or later, you begin to either love it or hate it, since the object is bound to fall beneath a predetermined category formed by your ‘taste’ or habit. Duchamp proposes that in order to escape taste, it is best to resort to a “mechanical drawing” since it “upholds no taste, since it is outside all pictorial conventions” (Judovitz, 99). This step towards mechanical drawing serves as an alternative to the traditionally pictorial since the technical and mechanic, inspired by the industrial, seem to escape artistic considerations. In 1913, Duchamp begins to incorporate machine imagery into his paintings (16), and in turn, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 is painted according to these new attempts at breaking ‘habitual taste.’ It is thus clear that Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 was pictorially the first significant work that led to Duchamp’s creation of the readymade in order to ‘escape’ taste. With the readymades, artistic endeavors entered a new phase, one that Clement Greenberg has called “avantgardism”, the now familiar form of activity in which “the shocking, scandalizing, startling, the mystifying and confounding, became embraced as ends in themselves and no longer regretted as initial side-effects of artistic newness that would wear off with familiarity.” We still live with the consequences of this challenge, constantly asking ourselves, “is this art?” The concept of art, having been put through the test of time and art movements alike, proves to mean not skillful
/Atlantic making (as the ancients defined it), but an act of creating a work that further explains a concept, that illustrates the idea of the artist. Readymades were, therefore, a way to illustrate the artist’s message, in a way entirely different from the conventional artist whose presence in a series of works could be recognized by known elements of style. Rejected by the Puteaux Cubists, scorned during the Armory Show, and labeled tauntingly, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, was the first work to push the boundaries of ‘expected’ taste, of ‘habit’ and of ‘tradition’ aside. Works Cited Duchamp, Marcel, and Anthony Hill. Duchamp Passim: A Marcel Duchamp Anthology. [S.l.]: Gordon and Breach Arts International, 1994. Duve, Thierry De. Pictorial Nominalism on Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1991. Judovitz, Dalia and Marcel Duchamp. Unpacking Duchamp: Art in Transit. Berkeley: University of California, 1995. Ramírez, Juan Antonio. Duchamp: Love and Death, Even. London, UK: Reaktion, 1998. Seigel, Jerrold E. The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp: Desire, Liberation, and the Self in Modern Culture. Berkeley: University of California, 1995. Tomkins, Calvin. The World of Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968. New York: Time-Life, 1968.
FEMALE “DIS-EASE” S. Sophia Chedid
This poem has no title, but it goes well with a beloved quote: “Poets are in the vanguard of a changed conception of being.” Martin Heidegger It is hard living in my Inherited world which Has matured into a sickly Zygote, floating In erratic motion Falling prey to the constant Judgment and beckoning of Those whom with certitude call Themselves scientists Moralists Additioners and subtracters Atheists Theorists Abstractionists, Politicians and terrorists. And the wide spectrum of anarchy that renders Itself in blinding, Deafening, Desensitizing, Deathening Bureaucratic Bureaucracy. My world, the 40
/Atlantic Global city where the Knowledgeable ones, the Farce. Who is that who tries to teach us a lesson? The diabolic schizophrenia of my World in need of silence, my World in need of noise, my World in need of perfectionist order, my World in need of chaos. The chaos of its institutions Where you read to misread Write to unwrite Be read to be misread Be written to be unwrittenâ&#x20AC;Ś Even the rain has merged with acid. I spend the rainy days wondering if it chose to merge, decided to merge, calculated to merge, evolved to merge, appears to merge, or lies about mergingâ&#x20AC;Ś The fact remainsIt has merged, And it makes a difference; I drink the water it chooses, decides, calculates, evolves, appears, and lies to Extinguish my land. In my world where Guidance is so scarce And always around the heart, never Towards it, never From it, never Considering its thought patterns; Even when it beats aloud for all to hear Its agony over the state of my world, Its tremors and shrieks and Its going around in circles warning every organ in every human to reap no
Paris Listening. In my world, Where you cannot trust poems They are made of words and Words are made of people and People are made of peoples or was it the other way round? I cannot remember where I got lost in deconstructing Nor do I remember along which line the magic burned out and the poem disappeared, and I along with it, graduated Doubtful, unable to stand on my own two feet because the last I read they do not exist, Or Maybe, they are not mine. Adapted from the complete work.
Miguel Angel Guerra
BODY MATTERS: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF CORPOREALITY IN DANTE ÁLIGHIERI’S INFERNO AND TONI MORRISON’S BELOVED Hynd Lalam
In the first canticle of his Divina Commedia, Dante Álighieri relates the protagonist’s journey through Hell, recounting in great detail the punishment and ensuing suffering of the Inferno’s sinful inhabitants. As Nancy Lindheim points out, the body is the locus of punishment in the Inferno: “the nature of the […] torments, we notice, is carefully constructed around the idea of the body” (Lindheim, 3). Dante’s exploration of corporeality anticipates features of what Toni Morrison will attempt in her novel Beloved, which recounts the struggles of Sethe, a former slave, and her daughter’s fight for freedom, as the two women cope with a vindictive ghost: Beloved. Both Morrison and Dante illustrate the link between corporeality and punishment. Both authors portray distorted and fragmented bodies that dehumanize characters in order to convey the horrors of slavery for Morrison, and to assert the Christian doctrine, by warning against the consequences of sin, for Dante. As such, corporeality is a narrative technique inherent to the structure and development of both Inferno and Beloved. In Dante’s Inferno, the punished sinners are ombre, shades bereft of proper bodies. The term “corporeality”, therefore, does not refer to tangible flesh in Dante, but rather to the tragic appearance of a body’s remaining shade. This nuance adds complexity to the relationship between punishment and corporeality. Where is the suffering taking place for these shades: in the mind or on a physical plane? Nancy Lindheim somewhat tackles this question by stating that the shades and their corporeality are a “necessary image or allegory” (Lindheim, 3) that symbolize the soul. In this case, it would seem that the souls are punished in Dante’s Inferno, instead of the flesh. The torture would therefore be psychological rather than physical. Dante breaks with our expectations by making punishment—a notion that is conventionally associated with flesh and physicality—intangible. In fact, the shades of the Inferno are punished for various sins in accordance with the Christian doctrine. The punishment must therefore become a spiritual condition rather than a material situation. The term “corporeality” can however still be used to qualify these shades and still remains central in Dante’s notion of punishment, because the punished sinners assume the appearance of earthly 45
/Atlantic bodies. More importantly, it is due to this corporeality—that is to say, it is because he can see and identify with these shades of human physiognomy—that Dante salvages his soul, repents for his sins, and cautions future generations. Dante further warns his audience by forcing the reader to identify with the sinners through the theme of corporeality. The fact that the suffering is taking place, to a certain extent, in the sinner’s mind, creates a link between the sinner and the reader, because the reader too must imagine the suffering, and aches at the thought rather than at the reality. Dante uses the corporeality – or lack thereof – of the punished shades to force the reader to identify with the sinners. It is by creating this continuity through corporeality that Dante is able to warn his audience of what might await a lifetime of sin. In Inferno, corporeality is fragmented in three distinct ways. The first fragmentation takes place when the sinner is separated from his initial earthly body. As Etienne Gilson points out: “Virgil’s true body, the one that used to cast a shadow […] lies buried in Naples” (Gilson, 124). This initial separation from the flesh is followed by a second fragmentation: the literal tearing and violating of bodies. This is witnessed, for example, by Dante the pilgrim in the ninth bolgia of the Inferno where lie the sowers of discord: Him I saw who was ripped from the chin to the part that breaks wind; between the legs hung the entrails; the vitals appeared, with the foul sack that makes excrement of what is swallowed (Inf.22.28; Sinclair 347).
This precise example of fragmentation is an illustration of corporeality used as an allegory. Indeed, punishment is instilled upon the body in a way that systematically symbolizes the sin perpetrated. In this case, the sinners “were in life sowers of scandal and schism” (Inf.28.35; Sinclair 349): they are therefore torn, as aforementioned, to represent the houses they caused to divide1. Corporeality is fragmented for third time by focusing the description upon distinct body parts. Indeed, Dante rarely sees or describes bodies in their entirety, as is shown by the pilgrim’s encounter with the Giants in Canto 31: “There is no point of view from which to see their figures entire. The imagination is excited and must create a whole out of visible fragments [my emphasis] and from measurements” (Sinclair, 392). By fragmenting corporeality throughout his work Dante shows that the shades are not only stripped from their earthly being, but are also bereft of unity and wholeness. In consequence, the author uses corporeality to dehumanize the damned and to enhance the tragic hopelessness of their fates. In Beloved, Toni Morrison also makes use of fragmented corporeality by focalizing on distinct body parts throughout her representation of the main character, Sethe. This fragmentation is best illustrated in the bathing scene, in which Sethe’s mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, bathes her after she has ran away and freed herself from slavery: “She led Sethe to the keeping room and, by the light of a spirit lamp, bathed her in sections, starting with her face” (Beloved, 93). The bath “in sections” symbolizes 1 This idea was taken from a class discussion with Professor Roy Rosenstein held on October 23rd 2012
/Atlantic that slavery has broken Sethe’s corporeality into disparate pieces. Baby Suggs attempts to reconstruct a whole out of the shreds Sethe has been forced to become. Moreover, the corporeality of Baby Suggs has also been fragmented by slavery. The elderly woman, a legally freed slave2, continues to define herself in accordance with the corporeality that slavery has shattered: [Sethe’s] mother in law, who had made it to Cincinnati. Who decided that, because slave life had ‘busted her legs, back, head, eyes, hands, kidneys, womb and tongue,’ she had nothing left to make a living with but her heart – which she put to work at once. (Beloved, 87)
As such, corporeality is represented by Morrison through fragments so as to highlight the effects of slavery upon the individual. Morrison further fragments the boundaries of corporeality in Beloved by expanding the bodies of Denver and her mother, Sethe. Morrison first described Denver’s body as being endowed with “far too womanly breasts” (Beloved, 14). The emphasis on the breast is also present in the descriptions of Sethe, who repeats that “nobody had her [daughters’] milk but [her]” (Beloved, 16). By creating similarities between the bodies of Sethe and Denver, Morrison joins these two characters together, thereby creating a cycle that negates distinct identities by destroying the boundaries of unique corporeality. In other words, the bodies of Sethe and Denver are fragmented through expansion and are consequently used as a narrative technique to bring to light the destructive consequences of slavery. What is more, two men violate Sethe’s breasts before she runs away to Ohio (Beloved, 16 and 70)3. As a result, a fragment of Sethe’s corporeality— her breasts—is used by Morrison to symbolize the painful burden of memory: “What [Sethe] knew was that the responsibility for her breasts, at last, was in somebody else’s hands” (Beloved, 18). Using the body as a symbol further expands corporeality, which no longer solely qualifies flesh but also comes to embody past suffering and remembrance. The character of Beloved, the spiteful ghost, is another example of this fragmentation through expansion. The young woman first appears to be the ghost of Sethe’s murdered child. Several arguments are made in favor of this idea: most notably the fact that the grave of Sethe’s daughter’s grave read the word “Beloved,” and that Beloved is aware of intimate details that occurred prior to her arrival amongst Sethe’s household (63)4. However, as Denver herself points out, Beloved is also a vindictive, restless ghost that is more than the embodiment of a single infanticide: “Uh, that girl. You know. Beloved?” “Yes?”
2 By this I mean that her freedom was bought (by her son Halle). She did not run away 3 “[T]hose boys came in there and took my milk. That’s what they came in there for. Held me down and took it.” (Beloved, 16) and also “two boys with mossy teeth, one sucking on my breast the other holding me down, their book-reading teacher watching and writing it up” (Beloved, 70). 4 “The questions Beloved asked: ‘Where your diamonds?’ ‘Your woman she never fix up your hair?’ And most perplexing: Tell me your earrings. / How did she know?” (Beloved, 63)
Paris “You think she sure ‘nough your sister?” Denver looked at her shoes. “At times. At times I think she was — more”. (Beloved, 266)
Indeed, Beloved is the embodiment of the “sixty million and more” victims of the slave trade, which Morrison mentions in the novel’s epigraph5. This association is shown by Beloved’s monologue (Beloved, 210-213) in which she recounts, through frequent mentions of corporeality, the middle passage:
I am always crouching the man on my face is dead his face is not mine his mouth smells sweet but his eyes are locked some who eat nasty themselves I do not eat the men without skin bring us their morning water to drink we have none […] we are all trying to leave our bodies behind.6 (Beloved, 210)
Beloved’s corporeality is expanded and is used by Morrison to embody the memories of many different souls. Jean Wyatt also notices this expansion of corporeality and infers that “the boundaries between persons are permeable [in Beloved]” (Wyatt, 480). He concludes that corporeality is used by Morrison to denounce and portray the atrocity of slavery:
Morrison everywhere demands that readers confront the horrors of slavery “in the flesh” rather than at the comfortable distance of metaphor (In Darling 5). “I wanted that haunting not to be really a suggestion of being bedeviled by the past,” she comments, “but to have it be incarnate”. (In Rothstein) (Wyatt, 480)
The corporeality of Beloved in Morrison’s work is therefore expanded and fragmented to fit this purpose; the young ghost does not belong to a specifically delineated body but instead becomes an empty space filled with various fragments of identities. Morrison is thus able, through the use of corporeality, to dehumanize her characters and hence to denounce the consequences of slavery upon both the body and the soul. Dante also fragments corporeality by expanding it, as is seen by the pilgrim’s encounter with Ciacco the glutton (Inf.6.35), whose body has been distorted and stretched beyond recognition: “Ciacco, whom Dante had known in his own youth in Florence, was now disfigured almost out of knowledge by his vice and its punishment” (Sinclair, 94). Ciacco’s corporeality is expanded by the punishment enforced upon it. This expansion is exacerbated by the significance of the name “Ciacco” which, as Sinclair points out, means “hog” (Sinclair, 92. Footnote 2). Having the name of an animal and an unrecognizable body, Ciacco’s corporeality, it can be inferred, is expanded and inflated past the boundaries of mankind. Furthermore, the other gluttonous have become one with their surroundings (Inf.6.8) as they are forced to absorb the stinking mud in which they lie. This erases the boundaries intended to separate bodies from their surrounding spaces, and irrevocably expands—ergo fragments—the shades’ cor5 This information was obtained from Laurie Lambert, the PhD candidate who taught the course I took at NYU this past summer entitled: “World Lit in English (ENGL-UA.163.6W2.001. SU12) 6 The extra spaces and overall syntax are part of the original text.
/Atlantic poreality. By conveying such hopelessness through the portrayal of corporeality, Dante fulfills his cautionary intent. Dante does not only make use of corporeality to warn his audience but also to ensure his own salvation and absolution. Indeed, the pilgrim’s body language conveys guilt of various sins. It is therefore through the pilgrim’s corporeality that Dante avows and repents. The pilgrim’s fainting episode when forced to hear the tale of Francesca and Paolo—the lustful sinners of the second circle—is a clear expression of this guilt: “while the one spirit said this [Francesca] the other [Paolo] wept so that for pity I swooned as if in death and dropped like a dead body” (Inf.5.139; Sinclair 79). Consequently, the pilgrim’s corporeality (and compassion) reveals the Italian poet’s propensity for lustful behavior. Dante later reveals he is also guilty of desiring excessive knowledge when the pilgrim falls while catching sight of the false counselors: “if I had not taken hold of a rock I should have fallen below without a push” (Inf.26.40; Sinclair 323). The pilgrim’s corporeality brings to light Dante’s fear of misusing God’s gift and conveys the dangers of attractive rhetoric and mala curiositas. Dante does not only use corporeality to admit his sins, but he also shows, through the pilgrim’s body, his innocence. Indeed, the pilgrim’s fears for his body (Inf.31.109; Sinclair 389)7, in spite of Virgil’s repeated assertions that his passage is “willed where will and power are one”, show that Dante is not prideful or arrogant. Consequently Dante, like Morrison, uses corporeality to empower his message of warning and to enable his absolution. As previously stated, Morrison uses corporeality to call attention to the traumatic consequences of slavery. However, the American author displays a second noteworthy concept through her exploration of corporeality: one’s bodily appearance cannot define one’s actions. The character who most radically illustrates this is Schoolteacher, the epitome of evil, for he is the one who orders his nephews to assault Sethe and to whip her with a cowhide during her pregnancy, as punishment for reporting on them. Schoolteacher’s appearance, however, is immaculate and seemingly harmless: He was a little man. Short. Always wore a collar, even in the fields. […] He brought two boys with him. Sons or nephews. I don’t know. They called him Onka and had pretty manners, all of ‘em. Talked soft and spit in handkerchiefs. Gentle in a lot of ways. (Beloved, 36)
By depicting characters whose actions are at odds with their appearance, Morrison negates preconceived notions and refutes easy conclusions. Corporeality is inherent to the structure of Inferno because the punishments become increasingly focused on the body as the pilgrim journeys deeper into hell. In fact, punishment becomes measured through corporeality once the pilgrim makes his way from the incontinent (circles one through five) to the violent (circle seven). Indeed “those that by violence do injury to others” (Inf.12.48; Sinclair 157) lie in a river of boiling blood that reaches an allotted level of the bodies, in accordance with their guilt (Inf.12.74; Sinclair 159). In other words, corporeality is the unit of measurement in the seventh circle. From this point forth, punishment gradually and 7 “[T]hen more than ever I was in fear of death, nor was need of more than the terror, had I not seen the fetters” (Inf.31.109; Sinclair, 389)
Paris increasingly focuses on corporeality: the sorcerers’ bodies are contorted in the same way that their art contorted reality (Inf.20.23, Sinclair 249)8, the bodies of the makers of discord are ripped apart (Inf.28), the bodies of the falsifiers are consumed by disease and putrefaction (Inf.29.46-51; Sinclair 361)9 and the bodies of Judecca are consumed by Satan himself (“In each mouth he crushed a sinner with his teeth” (Inf.34.55)). The three souls punished in Judecca by Lucifer are Judas, Brutus and Cassius. Their sins “were not mere examples of personal treachery; they were unexampled treason against Church and Empire, refusals and denials of the whole divine order” (Sinclair, 430). The three offenders were the embodiment, in life, of Satan himself. It is, therefore, only fitting that their bodies, in death, also become linked to Lucifer. The Inferno’s progressive focus on corporeality proves that it – corporeality – is central to the structure of Dante’s work. In Dante’s work, the study of corporeality also enables a greater understanding of hell’s operations. Indeed, the Inferno’s various guardians are assigned to their respective circles in accordance with their corporeality. For example, the Minotaur and the Centaurs of canto twelve possess bodies that are constituted of both manlike and beastlike characteristics. Both mythological creatures are assigned to guard the violent sinners that is the souls guilty of sins that are neither fully bestial nor fully human: The Centaurs, of composite brute and human natures like the Minotaur, are set in charge of the violent […] And yet, while they are thus closely associated with the spirit of violence, the Centaurs […] are attractive, dignified and courteous figures. (Sinclair, 163)
Hence the mixed-corporeality of the guards is in accordance with the sin and punishment of sinners in their allocated circle10. Again, corporeality mirrors the structure of Dante’s Inferno. In conclusion, both the Inferno and Beloved make corporeality the site of punishment: the body is raped and scarred in Beloved, while it is torn, twisted and chewed in the Inferno. The two authors portray fragmented bodies, in which pain can no longer be confined to the boundaries of human corporeality. Although corporeality is used by both authors as an allegory and as an inherent element to the development of both texts, the theme is used to serve diverging purposes. In Dante, the punishment that is administered upon corporeality is legitimized by Christian doctrine and is a continuation of the earthly sins of the damned. In Morrison, however, the punishment that is inflicted upon corporeality is unjustifiable and highlights the horrors of slavery. Because punishment in the Inferno is represented as an endless projection of the sin upon the body, it can be concluded that the theme of corporeality enables the portrayal 8 “[Their] form so contorted that the tears from the eyes bathed the buttocks at the cleft” (Inf.20.23, Sinclair 249). 9 “As the pain would be if the diseases of the hospitals of Val di Chiana between July and September, and of the Maremma and Sardinai, were all together in one ditch, such was it there, and such stench issued from it as is wont to come from festered limbs” (Inf.29.46-51, Sinclair 361). 10 The Centaurs and Minotaurs watch over the seventh circle.
/Atlantic of a life in Hell that is not a negation, but rather an assertion, a fulfillment, of a sinful life. Through this portrayal of corporeality, Dante was able to present an original rendition of Hell that has withstood the test of time. Works Cited Dante, Álighieri, and John D. Sinclair. Inferno. New York: Oxford University Press, 1939. Darling, Marsha. “In the Realm of Responsibility: A Conversation with Toni Morri son.” Women’s Review of Books Mar.1988: 5-6. Gilson, Etienne. “Dante’s Notion of a Shade,” Medieval Studies 29 (1967), 124-42. Lindheim, Nancy. “Body, Soul, and Immortality: Some Readings in Dante’s Commedia.” Vol. 105, No. 1, Italian Issue (Jan. 1990): 1-32. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. London: Vintage, 1997. Rothstein, Mervyn. “Toni Morrison, in Her New Novel, Defends Women.” New York Times 26 Aug.1987: C17. Wyatt, Jean. “Giving Body to the Word: The Maternal Symbolic in Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” PMLA 108,3 (May 1993), 474-488.
THE PARTS OF ME THAT WERE YOU Olivia Baes
Just beyond the metal gate—which is majestic in the way it opens, always so slowly, as if, from the garden, someone was pulling at one of its long iron bars with a string—is a beautiful house. The house is built in the provincial style of the South, with its weathered stonewalls, high vaulted ceilings and large wooden doors. Some of its windows, u-shaped and very small, remind me of a medieval castle. From the small apple tree they planted over the dead African Grey to the broken rhythm of the old washing machines in the cellar, I remember this house. Within its walls and among its vast gardens, are secret buried parts of me. I don’t mean actual bones or limbs that over time I have severed and scattered carelessly on the grounds. I don’t even mean fingernail clippings or a few sun-streaked loose hairs. The parts I speak of are of a more precious kind, a great deal more precious than my hands, or perhaps even my feet. The parts I speak of I didn’t know existed until I went to live within the walls of this house. They developed there over the years, manifested themselves as first, for example, an ache between my elbow and forearm, a sting behind the knee, a burn between two fingers. When they appeared, they always pricked. I would look down and expect a bruise, or the red bump of a bite, but I never saw a thing. They were like the wounds of my first bicycle fall: incomprehensible, yet most memorable. Every single one of those aches became a part of me, became as irreplaceable to me as my liver, or pancreas. Because they were mine, I never thought I would have to leave them behind, never thought I would be forced to dismember them. And yet, here I am today, in the small Parisian flat it has taken two years to call that elusive word ‘home’, and when I touch my left shoulder I know it to be mine, but somehow when I lift that left arm, the movement isn’t quite my own: something like a ligament is missing. I haven’t misplaced it. I know exactly under which floors it is buried. I know exactly which patch of that garden might have swallowed it up.
Paris And so I continue living, not without hands, not without feet, but without you. And sometimes, when I clutch at my chest in the night, or breathe a little too hard as I imagine the sea, the glittering Mediterranean Sea, I can see clearly that (like a broken, rusted machine, which, in theory, looks to still work) I am missing my most valuable parts.
Ina Kristin Ulleness 58
59 Henry Dean
DIRECTOR’S NOTE: The short film Requiem was shaped from Mozart’s requiem Lacrimosa and inspired by the contemporary choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. My best friend Clémence Boucon, former ballet dancer and student at Les Cours Florent, improvises a sensual performance for the camera. The desired effect of increasing tension to an emotional burst comes about through a complete deconstruction and montage of her performance within an undefined space, in which the images and the music are slightly offset. Imitating the cycle of life, the dancer rises then falls to the floor in a dramatic death, pleading for mercy. Or her lover might just have dumped her—I leave it up to you. Sara Julia Waller
ARTIST’S NOTE: Every generation has their high. We have MDMA, Gen-Xers had ecstasy, cocaine ruled the 80s, and hippies had weed to aid the comedown from all that acid. At wild late 19th century ragers it was absinthe. While every generation has a different high, every generation does get high. So what if we switch it around a little? In this series, I took the rave culture’s drug of choice and dropped it into the hands of various artists, one of whom was Van Gogh. How would his famous smoking skeleton have looked if Van Gogh’s drug of choice had not been green fairy liqueur, but our crystallized fairy dust? I made the models, in this case myself, strip down. From the curvature of their backs or in the broadness of their shoulders, an image would come to mind, out of all different periods of all different artists. I then proceeded to replicate the classic image, submitting all elements involved (background, hat, jewelry, rug, cigarette, et c.) with their thematic raver’s equivalent. Accessories became geometric, textiles were covered in stark patterns, paintings were painted in the dark, and the only forms that could be seen were those painted on the bodies. By blending the model into the background I made my canvas limitless. Once I was able to replicate the image, I then allowed myself to run free. Paint whatever, wherever, add any prop or or change any position. This freedom to change and creativity, this disruption to the legitimate, was the greatest high of all. Elissa Freiha
SIMPLICITY Lethokuhle Msimang
She’s carrying a baby on her back, resting a neat bundle on sticks on her head. As a newspaper floats out of place landing near her feet on the red sand its heading quotes a speech by P.W. Botha: “Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles simply because they look alike” Unable to read she uses the paper to fuel the fire preparing a supper, perhaps thought it a gift from the gutter. She learn’t an inked paper burns just as efficiently as a blank one A simple lesson...
THE DREAM WAS A PRAYER Jessica Proett
Ash, honey, pomegranates, and rubble. ‘Can you touch me between lines of black fabric and sand?’ ‘It’s dust, not sand,’ he says, ‘and why are you dressed in blue? You are white to me my love.’ A hawk flies around her head. White explodes. A hotel full of guests collapses. I knew the place. I knew the lady with the ticking box. I knew where to duck behind a sofa. I call out for God, but the Name wouldn’t come. Don’t know how we created these collective memories that live and become life. Paint drips from the moon. Her hair has live roses. She’s looking down without eyes or features. The sky is lavender. It wasn’t just a dream. It was a prayer. A silhouette.
Light. Brief warmth. Orange light, yellow light. White. Explodes. Calling back to the source.
Samantha Khoury 69
Ina Kirstin Ulleness
YVES KLEIN: DEMATERIALIZING THE OBJECT Elizabeth Melton
Yves Klein, a French artist associated with the artistic movement Nouveau Réalisme, is perhaps best known for his monochrome paintings, particularly those done in his patented color International Klein Blue. The painting IKB 3, currently in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, is a characteristic work of Klein’s “blue period”. Its close analysis will serve as a useful point of departure for inquiry into Klein’s relationship to the notion of painting as object (Figure 1). In many ways the blue monochromes of Klein follow the precedent set by Cézanne and the later belief in the self-sufficiency of paintings. Additionally, these same works, and their presentation in gallery spaces, also seem to anticipate Donald Judd’s later conception of Specific Objects. Interpreting Klein’s blue monochromes strictly as the inheritors of Cézanne’s earlier innovations or as laying the groundwork for the Minimalism of artists such as Judd fails to take into account the ways in which Klein’s artistic production represents a profound rupture with the Western artistic tradition. The blue paintings are essentially paradoxical: both present as tangible, finite objects, and by the artist’s own interpretation, symbolic of the void and infinite space. Remaining a consistent subject throughout Klein’s career, the notion of the void inspired later works such as Le Vide (1958) and Ritual rules for the transfer of areas of immaterial pictorial sensibility (1962). In the context of Klein’s larger oeuvre, an explanation for the difficulty in considering the blue monochromes as objects emerges. Representing a crucial step toward the artist’s break with Western art historical precedent, the blue monochromes mark the beginning of Klein’s quest to free the aura of painting from the object itself. IKB 3, created in 1960, is comprised of pure pigment and synthetic resin on canvas mounted on wood. It shares this medium, and the technique of applying the medium to the support with the aid of a commercial paint roller, with many of Klein’s blue monochromes (Ramade, 49). Produced for the artist’s first retrospective, held in Krefeld Germany, the work is one of the fifteen largest International Klein Blue monochromes, measuring nearly two meters in height, one and a half meters in width, and two and a half centimeters in depth (Fleury). It is an abstract, non-representational painting; there is no instantly definable 71
Paris subject presented to the viewer. Although the sense that IKB 3 is a painting lacking a subject is heightened by the monochrome’s nature and non-descript title of the work, this is a false impression. The artist’s use of International Klein Blue was highly significant, and the color itself can be considered to be the subject of the work. For Klein, this blue represented “immateriality and the boundlessness of space,” as well as the void (Schoenholz Bee and Heliczer, 242). This work can also be viewed as an expression of Klein’s position in the long debate between color and line in art, with the artist clearly coming down on the side of color. As IKB 3 is only pure color, without figures or lines, the viewer is denied a central point of interest or an area of greatest importance, causing the gaze to travel over the entire surface of the work. It has been left unframed by the artist, like several other monochromes. The lack of a traditional frame is a deliberate choice, calling attention to the rounded corners of the support. Also, Klein has chosen to paint the edges of the support, creating the impression that the painting is in fact a solid slab of pigment, an effect heightened by the artist’s decision to mount the canvas on wood. While the lack of lines and figures, and the lack of interaction between different colors would seemingly point away from IKB 3’s ability to depict space, this is another deceptive conclusion. Klein’s choice of International Klein Blue is again significant, as the deep blue hue creates the illusion of infinite recession within the canvas, without the need to rely on traditional linear perspective. The continuation of the pigment around the edges of the support comes into play here as well, reinforcing the perception of depth for the viewer. As a monochrome, this work utilizes only one color: International Klein Blue, patented by the artist in 1960. The color itself was not a great innovation, as Klein used an artificial ultramarine produced commercially since 1828 (Baas, 133). Instead, the drive for invention came from Klein’s desire to locate a binding medium that would not dampen the vibrancy of color, which he had come to see as a living being (“Selections from ‘The Monochrome Adventure’”, 220): What upset me was to see this incandescent powder lose all its value and become dulled and lowered in tone once it was mixed with a glue or whatever medium was intended to fix it to the support. One could obtain the effects of impasto, but in drying it was no longer the same thing: the actual magic color had disappeared. Irresistibly drawn to this new monochrome material, I decided to undertake the technical research necessary to find a medium capable of fixing the pure pigment to the support without altering it. (Stich, 59-60)
Success came with assistance from Edouard Adam, the owner of paint supply store in Montparnasse, and an engineer at Rhône Poulenc, an industrial chemical manufacturer (Stich, 60). With the new binding material, “a colorless, transparent polyvinyl acetate,” Klein gained a means of presenting pure pigment, apparently in its natural state, as art in its own right (Thill, 118). In terms of rendering, IKB 3 is an example of Klein’s attempts to create uniform fields of color, unmarred by the presence of the artist’s hand. Having used a com72
/Atlantic mercial paint roller for the application of the pigment to the support, there is no visible brushstroke. A slightly velvety texture on the surface is apparent, but this is related to the texture of the pigment itself and not the artistic gesture. As the color continues around the edges of the support, it is difficult to determine the thickness of the paint’s application, but it seems to have been applied in a relatively thin manner. Having examined the formal qualities of IKB 3, attention can now be given to the work’s relationship to the object. Attempting to position Klein’s artistic output as either following or anticipating the work of other artists fascinated by the object is particularly useful, as it helps to identify the areas in which his oeuvre broke away from the artistic tradition. Although this research has been unable to identify any reference to Cézanne by Klein himself, it seems certain that the artist would have felt an affinity for his predecessor’s belief in the self-sufficiency of painting (Shiff, 294). In many ways, the work of Klein seems to confirm Cézanne’s belief that anything could be worth painting, even simple color (294). While Cézanne used individual areas of pure color to construct a portrait or landscape, Klein extends this process to its logical extreme, zooming in on the pure color itself (Figure 2). However, this comparison begins to disintegrate once technical aspects of the artists’ paintings are considered. Cézanne was reliant on “sequences of passage,” or the individualized brushstroke, in order to insist upon materiality (294). Klein had virtually no interest in rendering visible the artistic gesture, going to great lengths to actually avoid its appearance in his work, as is evidenced by his use of commercial paint rollers1. While Cézanne used the individualized stroke to insist upon the materiality of the painting, Klein’s rejection of the technique seems to hint at his paintings’ de-materiality. This difference is profound and essential, forcing us to reject viewing Klein strictly as the inheritor of the Cézannian tradition. Similar issues arise when Klein’s work is considered as proto-Minimalist. In his conception of the Specific Object, Donald Judd called for a new art that couldn’t be categorized as either painting or sculpture and would activate its surrounding space (Judd, 809-810). Klein sometimes instructed gallerists to display his works twenty to twenty-five centimeters from the wall, moving them into an ambiguous realm where they existed both as paintings and as sculptures, engaged with the physical space around them (Figure 3). This effect was seen most clearly at the exhibition Proposte monocrome, epoca blu held in Milan at the Galleria Apollinaire from January 2nd to 12th, 1957, in which an entire gallery was given over to blue monochrome paintings of identical dimensions (78 by 56 centimeters) (Stich, 81). This apparent repetition can also been seen as a link to Judd’s own “stack” sculptures, comprised of identical boxes mounted to the wall at regular intervals (Figure 4). Moreover, Klein’s Reliefs Bleus of 1 Although beyond the scope of this paper, it is interesting to note that in the Anthropométries Klein eliminated the need for the artist to directly mark the canvas. Instead he covered nude models with paint and instructed them to leave the imprint of their bodies on the canvas. For a full discussion of this topic, see Stich, 171-191.
Paris 1957 bears a striking resemblance to the later work of Judd and appears to anticipate the production of the Minimalist artist (Figure 5) (94). Through the lack of lines and color interactions in the monochromes, Klein also honors Judd’s call for the abandonment of the traditional conventions of perspective (Judd, 811). We can imagine Klein nodding in agreement to Judd’s statement that, “it isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting” (813). Investigated at the surface level, the work of Klein seems very much akin to Judd and Minimalism as a whole. Apparently echoing Frank Stella’s iconic declaration in regards to his own work that “what you see is what you see,” Klein also anticipated the artist’s adoption of house painter’s tools as a means of creating a unified surface (“Six Mile Bottom”; Stella, 806). Despite these many similarities, viewing Klein’s work as an announcement of the values of Minimalism fails to take into account all aspects at play in the blue monochromes. In choosing to interpret them through the lens of Cézanne or Judd, we ignore an important and consistent theme in Klein’s work: the void. As has been previously mentioned, International Klein Blue had a very specific meaning for the artist, existing as an agent of “immateriality and the boundlessness of space” (Schoenholz Bee and Heliczer, 242.). Speaking during a forum on March 2nd, 1956 at the Galerie Colette Allendy, Klein stated that: I seek to put the spectator in front of the fact that color is an individual, a character, a personality. I solicit a receptivity from the observer placed before my works. Thus he can impregnate himself with color and color impregnates itself in him. Thus, perhaps, can he enter into the world of color. (Stich, 66)
This comment illustrates Klein’s belief that, as a living entity, color could not and would not be restricted by the surface of the support itself, but was instead capable of reaching into the space inhabited by the viewer (66). Two differences with Minimalism already become apparent here. Klein’s reference to viewers of his art—he called them readers—underlines that the paintings’ interactions with the world go beyond their physical support’s presence (66). Klein’s “reader,” then, is placed in an active, rather than passive role in regards to the work of art, implying that there is the transmission of information from one to the other. Additionally, Klein is clearly diverging with both the traditional and modernist conceptions of painting. Rather than existing as a representation of the world exterior to its surface, the painting is present as a portal into its own interior world of the void (67). It contradicts modernist assertions that a painting should necessarily call attention to its inherent qualities, and especially challenges their insistence on the flatness of the picture plane and its finite nature (67; Greenberg, 755-756). Thus, Klein flatly denied that the blue monochromes were limited by the dimensions of their support. These rejections force us to see Klein’s blue monochrome paintings as paradoxical objects. While it is true that the blue monochromes are physically present, they 74
/Atlantic also represent the starting point in Klein’s ambitions to dematerialize the art object, placing the emphasis squarely on the spiritual sensibility of the paintings rather than their existence as tangible objects. Klein would continue to pursue his vision of creating an art that did not require the presence of an object, and develop the notion of immaterial pictorial space. Klein stated that painters should strive to create “an immense picture without limits” (“The War: A Little Personal Mythology of the Monochrome”, 218). An extended quote from Klein clarifies his ambitions: The object of this endeavor: to create, establish, and present to the public a palpable pictorial state in the limits of a picture gallery. In other words, creation of an ambience, a genuine pictorial climate, and, therefore, an invisible one. This invisible pictorial state within the gallery space should be so present and endowed with autonomous life that it should literally be what has hitherto been regarded as the best overall definition of painting: ‘radiance.’ ...Invisible and intangible, this immaterialization of the picture… must work much more effectively than ordinary, material, usual, representative pictures… However, in them it is transmitted through the suggestion of the entire physical and psychological appearance of the picture: lines, contours, forms, composition, opposition of colors, etc. In the present case there are no such intermediaries: one finds oneself being literally impregnated by the sensitive pictorial state, previously specialized and stabilized by the painter in the given space, and this is direct and immediate perception-assimilation, devoid of any other effect, trick, or deception. (“Preparation and Presentation of the Exhibition of 28 April 1958”, 225)
These experiments with the intangible would culminate in Le Vide, a 1958 exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris, in which Klein would liberate art from its support (Figures 6 and 7) (Ramade, 54). In the gallery, walls whitewashed by Klein and an empty glass case greeted the visitors; where they expected to find art objects for purchase they found nothing (Banai, 205). Far from barren, Klein viewed the space as impregnated with the aura of his blue monochromes, now relieved from the restrictions of their supports (204-205). Scholar Bénédicte Ramade offers an art historical precedent that does much to illustrate this idea of an empty space full of “sensibility and presence,” comparing Le Vide to the small gap that exists between the fingertips of Adam and God in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam (Ramade, 55). The dematerialization of the blue monochromes was hinted to by nods to Klein’s more typical artistic production. Guests arriving at the exhibition first had to pass through an entryway draped in fabric dyed to resemble International Klein Blue, before proceeding down a short hallway and passing through a final blue curtain that delimited the start of the exhibition proper (Banai, 209-210; “Preparation and Presentation of the Exhibition of 28 April 1958”, 226). The decorative scheme was a visual pun on the artistic progression followed by Klein: just as he had passed from tangible blue to intangible “white,” so too did the guests (Stich, 136). Further proof of the presence of the blue monochromes’ aura was provided to those lucky enough to attend the exhibi75
Paris tion’s opening. A cocktail made with methylene blue was served to visitors, with the side-effect that their urine was apparently turned blue for several days, projecting the image that their bodies had literally been impregnated by the dematerialized paintings (“Preparation and Presentation of the Exhibition of 28 April 1958”, 226). The divorce of art from the tangible object would continue to be a theme of interest for Klein, forming the basis of 1962’s Ritual rules for the transfer of areas of immaterial pictorial sensibility (Figure 8). Rather than an exhibition, this work consisted of the sale of “a space saturated with invisible blue in exchange for pure gold” and could be repeated for all the buyers who wished to participate (Banai, 212). While the buyers were given a receipt as proof of the purchase, the transaction was not considered complete until they agreed to burn the receipt, essentially leaving them without a physical artwork in exchange for their payment (212). An economic concern present in both Le Vide and Ritual rules for the transfer of areas of immaterial pictorial sensibility further underscores the rupture with the traditional relationship between art and the object. Previous transactions between artist and the collector had always revolved around the fact that the collector would leave with an object for display. While admission to Le Vide was free for those who had received a postcard invitation, those who had either not received one or lost it were required to pay a fee of fifteen hundred French francs (203). In both instances, the collector’s expectation of receiving something physical in exchange for money is upset; they are left with only an experience or an intangible product. Although analysis of Klein’s blue monochromes and their relationship to the object can be completed through the lens of Cézanne and Minimalism, these perspectives ignore far more intriguing aspects of the artist’s work. While Cézanne’s belief that all subjects can be portrayed in art and many of Judd’s tenets for the Specific Object are useful in explaining Klein’s work, both of these approaches fail to account for the insistence on dematerialization present in the blue monochromes. Over the course of his “blue period”, Klein would reject both the traditional and modernist definitions of what a painting should be. For him, International Klein Blue’s nature – he understood it as an individual living entity representative of the immaterial - meant that it could not be confined within a support, but was capable of interacting with the physical world, as was emphasized by Klein’s adoption of the term “reader” when referring to viewers of his work. Having already depicted both immateriality and the void in the blue monochromes, Klein pursued dematerialization to its logical conclusion in Le Vide and Ritual rules for the transfer of areas of immaterial pictorial sensibility. Representing a distinct rupture with Western art historical precedents, the blue monochrome paintings, such as IKB 3, remain a critical step toward Klein’s liberation of painting from the limitations of the physical object. Figures
/Atlantic Figure 1: Yves Klein, IKB 3, 1960, pure pigment in synthetic resin on canvas mounted on panel, 199 x 153 x 2.5 cm, Centre Pompidou. Figure 2: Paul Cézanne, Apples and Oranges, c. 1899, oil on canvas, 74 x 93 cm, Musée d’Orsay. Figure 3: Proposte monocrome, epoca blu, exhibition held January 2nd-12th, 1957 at Galleria Apollinaire in Milan, Yves Klein Archives. Figure 4: Donald Judd, Untitled, 1969, anodized aluminium, 15 x 68 x 60 cm, Walker Art Center. Figure 5: Yves Klein, Reliefs bleus, 1957, dry pigment in synthetic resin on pasteboard, 12 x 9.5 x 19.5 cm each, Private Collection. Figure 6: Le Vide, exhibition held April 28th-May 12th, 1958 at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris. Figure 7: Le Vide, exhibition held April 28th-May 12th, 1958 at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris. Figure 8: Yves Klein, Ritual rules for the transfer of areas of immaterial pictorial sensibility, transferred to Dino Buzzatti on January 26th, 1962 in Paris, Yves Klein Archives. Works Cited Baas, Jacquelynn. “Yves Klein, 1928-1962.” Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. 133-143. Banai, Nuit. “Rayonnement and the Readymade: Yves Klein and the End of Painting.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 51 (2007): 202-215. Cabañas, Kaira M. “Yves Klein’s Performative Realism.” Grey Room 31 (2008): 6-31. Calvocoressi, Richard. “Yves Klein at the Centre Georges Pompidou Paris.” The Burlington Magazine 125.967 (1983): 642. Cheetham, Mark A. “Matting the Monochrome: Malevich, Klein, and Now.” Art Journal 64.4 (2005): 94-109. de Duve, Thierry, and Rosalind Krauss. “Yves Klein, or The Dead Dealer.” October 49 (1989): 72-90. Fleury, Alice. “IKB 3, Monochrome Bleu.” CentrePompidou.fr. Centre Pompidou, n.d. Greenberg, Clement. “Clement Greenberg (b. 1909) ‘Modernist Painting’.” Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. 754-760. Hopkins, David. After Modern Art, 1945-2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Judd, Donald. “Objecthood and Reductivism: Donald Judd (1928-1994) ‘Specific Objects’.” Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. 809-813. Klein, Yves. “Preparation and Presentation of the Exhibition of 28 April 1958.” Trans. Nan Rosenthal. Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 225-228. Print.
Paris —. “Selections from ‘The Monochrome Adventure’.” Trans. Lane Dunlop. Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 220-224. —. “Selections from ‘The War: A Little Personal Mythology of the Monochrome’.” Trans. Thomas McEvilley. Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 218-219. — . “Truth Becomes Reality.” Trans. Howard Beckman. Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 229-232. Mancusi-Ungaro, Carol C. “A Technical Note on IKB.” Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 258-59. McEvilley, Thomas. “Modernism, Post-Modernism, and the End of Art.” New England Review 27.1 (2006): 129-148. “Yves Klein: Conquistador of the Void.” Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 19-83. “Yves Klein and Rosicrucianism.” Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective. Houston: Menil Collection, 1982. 238-51. Medina, Joyce. Cézanne and Modernism: The Poetics of Painting. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995. Ramade, Bénédicte. “L’esprit Klein.” Yves Klein: Corps, Couleur, Immatériel. Paris: Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2006. 47-59. Schoenholz Bee, Harriet, and Cassandra Heliczer, eds. MoMA Highlights. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2005. Shiff, Richard. “Mark, Motif, Materiality: The Cézanne Effect in the Twentieth Century.” Critical Readings in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Ed. Mary Tompkins Lewis. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. 286-321. “Six Mile Bottom.” Tate.org.uk. Tate Modern, Sept. 2004. Stella, Frank. “Objecthood and Reductivism: Frank Stella (b. 1936) Pratt Institute Lecture.” Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. 805-806. Stich, Sidra. Yves Klein. Stuttgart: Cantz Verlag, 1994. Print. Storr, Robert. “How Simple Can You Get?” MoMA 3.5 (2000): 10-11. Thill, Robert. “Intellectual Property: A Chronological Compendium of Intersections between Contemporary Art and Utility Patents.” Leonardo 37.2 (2004): 117124. Welish, Marjorie. “The Spector of Art Hype and the Ghost of Yves Klein.” Signifying Art: Essays on Art after 1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 118-124.
RED PEN Carolina Cavalli
The translation of thoughts into ink has always fascinated me. Spoken words do not have the same power; they are made of too friable dough. They are able to maintain their duration only through memory or repetition, and they have no spatial dimension. To me, the possibility of writing, or painting, or printing mental energy is exciting. However, studying literature, I discovered that if I have so much energy to give to the world. Maybe it is better if I go for a run, or study a bit, and only then should I start to write and create something. There is so much creative pollution that we have to start understanding things before doing things. Basically, I understood we have to understand. No matter what I want to do after, it became clear what and how I should learn before. A beautiful synthesis: be open but critical, analyze directly and personally, but never forget to contextualize, to listen to other voices that have already drawn paths. Preparation is not equal to curiosity. I guess it is much harder: while curiosity is a dot, culture is a wide framework, and a starting point. Dispersive and disorganized as I am, I noticed very quickly that something was missing, that I needed to change my attitude, and my education helped me to do this. I found that the rules gave me more freedom. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find any tools, but I found the instructions to build them, and that prevented me from rejecting them as ready-made impositions. These aspects are fundamental nourishment, the foundation that makes people feel more confident in life, more able to judge, to choose, or to avoid with deliberation. I have never been a big fan of rules. From my bedroom to my writing, from my hair to my thoughts, I had previously marginalized rules into the claustrophobic category of limits. Now, I can see them as a possibility, as an improvement and as a new clarity, the doors of meaning towards the world. When I learnt that knowledge is not a building but a city, I became much wiser. Lack of analysis is the consequence of a pre-structured mentality. I had adopted the 80
/Atlantic wrong certainty, similar to that of people who do not move, but soon I discovered that oneness of knowledge is ignorant and incomplete. Even when there is no arrogance in one’s language and method, a certain feeling of comfort and fondness is always present, and it closes your eyes to the wide range of options and possibilities. The revision of everything is a constructive demolition, creating sensible pieces, small like atoms. The link among them is not fixed, but ever-changing, and it pays for its openness with a great instability. It was not an incapability for a critical point of view, or a problem of passive absorption. If I walk straight and someone tells me to walk in zigzag, nothing shocks me. I can remain on my straightness, I can try to walk in zigzag and go back to my street, I can start to walk in zigzag. But if someone tells me to walk in a blue way, my universe shakes. Luckily, I realized that my universe is not the universe. I realized that completeness is not exactly a suitable word to relate to culture. A totally different universe was waiting for my ignorance. I could recognize the authors and I could identify the titles, but the angles, connections, and considerations were so different that I had to review many of the chapters I had dismissed. Since English is not my first language, my interest in language, and in all the ontological questions connected to it, increased. Frustration has been a useful engine. My literary studies have been much more focused on classical literature and philosophy, because these cultures themselves were attentive and sensitive to language, to poetics, to rhetoric, to persuasion, and to the aesthetics of words. I reread Plato’s Gorgias in that transcendental moment of my life in which I thought: I am language, I exist because I speak (and other deep consequences of my linguistic segregation). I reviewed my opinion on the existence of rhetoric and the transparent distance between rhetoric and language. As for anyone who learns how to speak, short forms were my first step, even and in particular when they carried meanings that were not elementary at all. My lack of skills in English left me huge freedom within its barriers. When the short forms started to become habits, I moved from the box of candies and the packet of cigarettes to small forms by great authors. I adopted Callimachus’ thought “big book big evil”, and my passion grew for everything that was easy to read and complex to analyze. I reassessed my literary taste in Ungaretti and the Italian and French Hermeticisms. Verlaine, Rimbaud, Quasimodo, and Montale helped me discover the occultism of poetry. The meaning drips, and the syntax is reduced. Realities and perceptions wobble and melt down. The genius appears in the unclear ecstasy of the composition. That is what words can do, and it excited me. I really believe that daily moments and objects can create art and literature, also in the poetic form. For example, I have always thought that Jacques Jouet and I would have gotten along very well. In his Poems of the Metro, I noticed that if we see
Paris the world and we understand it in its physical appearance, this tri-dimensional realism is often interrupted by words; they are symbols, scattered everywhere in our daily vision. Warning signs, lists, instructions, and notes are the short forms that draw my attention, because they manifestly show their power through their immediate usefulness, and they are so metaphorical and lost in different dimensions that are close to the concept I have of the sublime. Pushing this conviction to the excess and to irony, I started to write a lot about toilets. I spent one month in India travelling through Rajasthan. Unluckily, on the second day, I got a viral gastroenteritis, and the only places I saw for 30 days were toilets. I understood that reading and writing do not disconnect me from the world; on the contrary they help me to live with major intensity. The consciousness that everything I think, I do, and I perceive can become matter and be written is able to make me feel very caring and imaginative about life. The creation of images and stories gives me freedom, and it straightens and embellishes my contact with the world at the same time. It makes me look at life as an immense inspirational basin, full of elements that can be mixed and twisted according to my imagination. We can comprehend and we can express notions thanks to rules, and we need to be sure we follow them in a tidy and appropriate way to guarantee communication and interaction, as the base and the engine of knowledge. Even a small change is a big achievement for me, since I write and read in a language that is still not mine. I still feel that my contents are stronger than my ways, but at least I know which direction I should go: the handwriting changes, but the red pen stays always the same: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Be more structured, Carolina.â&#x20AC;? I expressly saved some space for this essayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s red pen:
Yes. I will. I am really working on it.
THE GAMES Carolina Cavalli
An avant-garde and universal guide to the discovery of both that very city and your happiness. The quest adventure: A mix of Holy Grail, Joyce’s Odyssey and rough-and-ready Pnl. Inception of the quest. Preparation is important. Get dressed, and don’t be shy! Which adventure are you dreaming about? Ninja turtle? Wear a strap on your forehead. Obi Wan Kenobi? Light saber at your side. And if you like the cute blue dress of Alice and you are a guy, even better. You are free today. In short, be yourself. Don’t feel ridiculous. You are just questing for the best pancake in Paris dressed like an idiot. Are people looking at you? They are envying you! I shouldn’t spend time on the don’t, I am sure (especially if you are reading this article taking notes) you have common sense; you already know you cannot wear bunny ears if you are an agent incognito etc. Reminder: “Stay hungry, stay foolish!” does not work in this case. Remember to take something to eat with you, do not let stomach cramps destroy your adventure. D’annunzio: “Living life as a work of art” means: document your live performance, bring a camera or a pen, makes art out of you. You are in the binge of your creative paranoia. Quester accepts quest. Time to act and time to act. Quester gathers companion. None is perfect. Even if you are Dorothy, do not wait to find a tin man. Best couples are the impossible ones, so use you fantasy without preju83
Paris dices or stereotype in your head. Remember: even if the quest is your personal idea, you need a friend, not a “Rudolph the reindeer”. Make a call and share your project. Advice: don’t take your girlfriend with you; unless I am your girlfriend, she will not appreciate it. Wake up Lancelot, you will have time for Shopping odysseys, existential dramas and other literary genres another time! Quester’s progress is hindered. Hopefully you do not have a scriptwriter. You are the scriptwriter of yourself. Choose and create your obstacles carefully. If the “contrarypotion” makes you take the metro in the opposite direction and reach a completely unknown place, it could be a problem. Maybe someone is following you and you should hide under the furthest tree in town. In two words: GET LOST!. As the wordly wisdom advises “If you never get lost, there is a chance you may never be found.” Quester suspends quest. You are an hero, but you are also made of flash and bones. The difficulties can make you waver or feel pooped. Choose a place close and inspiring. You need to restore your energy and your positive thoughts; it is your temporary nest and your white space. Talk with your companion about life and the beauty of life. Remind yourself of your childhood, when uncle Tim taught you how to fish, your first kiss, the day in which “Call of Duty” was released, the smile of your mum and the only time you handed in an assignment on time. Remind yourself of all the moments that make you laugh, like when someone falls and pretends to be still on his feet. And remember all of the challenging situations you overcome with success, when nobody believed you could eat a Big Mac in less than 15 second for example. Feel regenerated! Quester resumes quest. You are going straight to the point now, and nothing can stop you; at this point soundtrack is the most important thing. Turn on your iPod, listen to something that gives you a boost, no matter if it is heavy metal, Britney Spears, The Bee Gees or a Gregorian Chant. If you do not have an iPod or your quest is precisely to go and buy an iPod, you should remember you have a beautiful voice and you can still use it to sing. If your companion owns a hat or a Starbucks’cup, you can also make money out of it! Arrival at destination. Your mission is not finished yet, but enjoy this moment, please! This is your Leopardi’s Saturday evening of the village. This is the X on your map.
TOILET POETRY NO. 1 Carolina Cavalli
T.S. Eliot: “My name is only an anagram of Toilets” Though it’s a toilet, you smell roses Ladies are “powdering their noses” Meditating, probably where Proust completes his questionnaire On the exact same toilet seat That intimately knows Brigitte She squats there, bored by conversation But please arrest your imagination! Don’t mingle beauty with defecation Actresses and producers Married ladies and seducers All share a dirty secret story Shit, where is the past glory? Now young girls are praying in the loo To grandpa for a pair of Jimmy Choo
STRAY CATS Carolina Cavalli
The day didn’t start well for him, apparently. He was brushing his teeth and smoking at the same time. —Are you nervous, by any chance? She asked candidly from his bed. —No. Why? —You are mad at me. —No. Why? —You are wearing yellow shorts on purpose. —So? —You know I am allergic to yellow. —You are not allergic to yellow. Nobody is allergic to yellow. Rage, toothpaste, and smoke were all kneaded together in his mouth. —Yellow makes me hungry. If I am hungry, I eat, and if I eat, I feel guilty. I know you want to make me feel guilty. You should respect my feelings more, as my chromo therapist said. —Your chromo therapist is Chinese and yellow. —You see? You have no respect for anyone. Me instead, you ordered a leopard from Tanzania, it was obviously too yellow for me, I managed to buy you a white one. —It was a Dalmatian, not a white leopard! It was a stupid Dalmatian, and I pretended to be happy only because you are so emotionally disturbed that there was no need to put the boot in! —Sometimes I wish I were a stupid Dalmatian. I am too sensitive for this world. I think I will go back to sleep now. —I think that is a good idea. And then I woke up. My roommate was already smoking and painting. He told me he made a horrible mistake and he was feeling guilty because he was using my favorite cup to clean his paintbrushes. He was violet. He was cold and violet as a student room in Berlin. 86
/Atlantic I have never had a Dalmatian. However, I had two nannies and a playground modeled on the ancient city of Knossos. I am sure that if the leopard had not been too yellow, I would have had a leopard too as a childhood friend. Mum was so young and so busy with herself that I grew up a perfect spoilt child. I wanted to hate her, but she was so beautiful that I think nobody ever hated her for more than ten minutes. They used to say she had become my mum only because she wanted to become his wife. However, they have always accepted her because she was so beautiful. I remember her explaining her allergy to his friends. I heard one of them laughing and saying: —She is allergic to yellow, but she can put up with gold very well. I was sorry for her, because she was so pure and lost that she was almost like me. My mum was a very bad marriage according to his friends, and to his friend’s children, as far as I can remember. Before he adopted her, she was Cuban and my skin still talks about that. Her skin seemed pasted with sea salt, drenched in coconut milk and wrapped up in Hoyo de Monterrey tobacco; to me the Queens of the South had skins like that. —Do you think I can write “Hoyo de Monterrey” in a book? My roommate was already so confused that he was smoking flowers and painting smoke. —I don’t know. —Thank you. —I wish I were a cat sometimes, not to have this kind of difficult questions. —Yes. Thank you. My roommate had a passion for stray cats; we were never less than 6 in our apartment. 12, after the ‘Mindy is now a mum!’ reception, and back to 7, after his mature decision and ten days of post-traumatic depression, shared by him and Mindy with the same poignancy. —You should give them away! Give them away! I feel like walking on cats every morning. —When you say those kinds of things your mouth becomes bigger, and your eyes much closer to the nose. —Give them away! —You look like the woman with the yellow fur coat from the cartoon, the one who eats Dalmatians. —She doesn’t eat Dalmatians! You probably had a communist version. —You probably had a tape made of gold, so you couldn’t even watch it. — Don’t twist the argument now! You are the problematic one here! — Of course, you want to eat my kittens… My roommate was cold, violet, and homosexual as a student room in Berlin
Paris full of stray cats with a proper name. —Why were you asking me? Are you writing a book? —The biography of my mum. He was smart. He touched my hair. —The autobiography of your mum you said? —That is very lame. We can keep these cats till when we find someone who will love them. Let’s go to sleep now, on the cats.
Miguel Angel Guerra
HEAD OF SECURITY Symonne Torpy
(Cordoba 01/01/12) Religion (noun): 1) 2)
From the Latin ‘religare’: to bind fast From the Latin ‘relegare’: to go through again, read again
Attending church can be a religious experience. Bound to the pew, even the most zealous Christian will escape into passages of glassy-eyed, frankincense-induced delirium. It is a place for people-watching, where the women in mink coats are as weathered as the flooring and it is easy to spot the young—conspicuously in-bloom and invariably shackled to infirm relatives. Read and reread gospels induce divine syncope. It is the art and the extravagant grilles and monstrances that continue to bewitch, long after the fantasies of written Edens, Immaculate Conception, and Resurrection have lost their lustre. There is some greater grit in the barbarity embodied in the grandiose goldenness of church booty. Cathedrals litter Spain. Once envisioned as synagogues or raised as mosques, the edifices were conquered by the Catholics and converted into sites of Christian worship. The Mezquita Cathedral in Cordoba is a place where the three monotheistic faiths found peace, for a time, and worshiped together. Still intact, it is a relic of that lost era of concord. The Head of Security at the Mezquita could have been rather handsome, but there was something incongruous about the assemblage of his features. It was as if his face had fallen, perfect and complete, through the floor of one designer’s sluice box, and then been stitched to a body that had fruited out of a more practical vision of humanity. Here, Italian chisel met the German production line. Deo Design and Construction: under new management. Fuck aestheticism, we’re building human Volvos to get you through 92
/Atlantic an age of terrorism. Terrorism was indeed what this man was fighting. More specifically, my mother, the jihadist—all five-foot-two-inches, clad in brown boots and corduroys, toting a recently doffed hot pink beret. So moved had she been by the emotional tenor of the place that she had decided to perform a full Islamic prostration, kneeling to the ground and bowing her head to the stone floor in the direction of Mecca. The reaction to the display best parallels a dramatic reading of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Crossing himself and moving with great speed to mother’s side, the guard urgently whispered into his walkie-talkie. Approaching her in rapid Spanish, the word ‘Mussalman’ was launched into the dusty, silent space before Mother interjected ‘no habla Español’. ‘This forbidden in Spain. No Mussalman. This forbidden. You cannot do this!’ Mother’s face went from an expression of fear to one of indignation. Ever the star of international diplomacy, I scanned my limited Spanish vocabulary for helpful phrases: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)
‘¿Cuánto cuesta?’ – ‘How much?’ ‘Poquito’ – ‘Little’ ‘Rapido’ – ‘Fast’ ‘Caliente’ – ‘Hot’ ‘Muchas gracias’ – ‘Many thanks’
Listing them here brings realisation that I was ridiculously well prepared for a sexual encounter in a Spanish-tongued city. Not so much for a run-in with the conservative Catholic Spanish church authority. ‘Mussalman, mussalman!’ the guard repeated, and we were surrounded by five other guards, armed conspicuously with large rifles and thickset shoulders. French, English, and limited Spanish melted awkwardly together as mother accepted her God-appointed duty to educate the guards in the singular root of monotheistic faith. She was back at St. Leo’s Catholic College in her classroom of teenage boys. She would get through to them. She would singlehandedly herald a renewed world order of religious harmony! After a long struggle against her increasingly impatient audience, Mother realised she was failing. In a desperate attempt to avoid expulsion from the cathedral, she pointed to her ring, rosary-beaded and purchased in Rome—a symbol of her Christian devotion. The security guards’ defensive mode evolved into deep perplexity. Mother was
Paris begrudgingly restored to the status of ‘odd tourist’. We walked around for a time and exited into the sun. The next morning brought new resolve to the heart of my flame-stoking, ever-pious parent. She would not depart from the land of the Mezquita without partaking in the Blessed Sacrament at the Bishop’s New Year’s Day mass. She wished to enter the centre of worship, which had been cordoned off and secured for the midday ceremony. Sashaying up to our best friend, the Head of Security, she raised her voice an octave: ‘Je suis proffessorio! I am proffessorio de religion!’ She pointed to her rosary ring again. “I am the same as you. Same Christian.” By this stage he had realised, like most people who try to argue with my mother, that his only real option was to let her have her way. His team would maintain maximum readiness—alert, alarmed, and, most importantly, heavily armed. He repeated: ‘No bow. Mussalman forbidden. It is wrong here.’ We quietly passed through the barrier and mother dropped to her knees in solemn prayer. She prayed for the miraculous healing of his intellectual hebetude… Perhaps the Mezquita Head of Security showed wisdom on that final day of 2011. On more than one occasion, my mother has posed both a perceived and very real threat to the male demographic. And people associated with religious practice are especially aware of the dangers of castration. On Sunday, the first of January 2012, two Australian women left that historical seat of religious harmony with eyes trained on our backs. Threat of arrest and repetition of the rights—attending church can be fucking religious.
THE RETURNING SOLDIER AND THE HOLLYWOOD STYLE: A COMPARISON OF THE WAR VETERAN’S RETURN TO AMERICA IN THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) AND TAXI DRIVER (1976) Henry Dean
War or conflict provides an ideal setting for an American film. Action, drama, camaraderie, enmity, heroes, villains, glory and hardship are already at the centre of a war story without it being dramatised in any way, thus making it an almost perfect scenario to be picked up by a film crew and turned into an entertaining example of cinema. However, for the soldier, the conflict does not necessarily end with the war; the return home and reintegration into civilian society are often just as, if not more, testing than any physical or psychological strain he would have been through whilst away. Both The Best Years Of Our Lives (henceforth, Best Years), directed by William Wyler in 1946, and Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese in 1976, deal with this story of the war veteran’s return to America and adapt it to the ‘Hollywood style’ of American cinema. This story form lends itself well to the style of the American film due to its character-driven plots, seemingly insurmountable obstacles and engaging, sophisticated narratives. Despite being produced, and set, thirty years apart, there are unmistakable similarities between Best Years and Taxi Driver, as well as some glaring contrasts, in the way that they present this homecoming of the soldier to the post-war audience. Exploration of these likenesses and differences demonstrates the evolution of both the ‘Hollywood style’ and American cinema’s treatment of the affected war veteran, if there truly can be said to have been any evolution at all. Almost instantaneously in both films, the plot and protagonist’s drive are quickly centred around money, something to which any audience member can relate. Unlike in the army, in the civilian world you need money to function. This need or desire for ready money highlights the capitalist society into which these returning veterans are thrust, a society where money means priority and money means importance. This is highlighted outright in Best Years’ opening scene: as Fred struggles to find a seat on a plane home, a portly, all-American businessman, a human manifestation of capitalist, consumerist America, pushes him out of the way, immediately receiving a ticket and brandishing his wallet, ready to pay excess baggage fees in order to travel with his golf clubs. The middle-American values of courtesy, respect and patriotism that Fred would have been accustomed to before he went to war have been replaced by 95
Paris corporate, conspicuous greed, a shift which has created within society a sense of “indifference to its returning war heroes” (FilmPhest). Earning respect is not enough in Best Years’ post-WWII society and this shifting of values for the veteran is made very clear through Fred’s attempt to get home and vocalised later in the film when Al announces “Got to make money. Last year it was kill Japs. And this year it’s make money.” In Taxi Driver however, the importance of money does not come as a surprise to Travis Bickle. In fact, he seems very much a capitalist himself, as his notion of insomnia demonstrates: “if I’m not gonna sleep I might as well be getting paid”. While in Best Years the realisation of the significance of money comes from an external source, the businessman, in Taxi Driver it is clearly inherent within Travis. Rather than choose to better himself personally, perhaps by attempting to cure or even simply address his insomnia, he chooses to make money. Therefore this notion of money being all-important to the civilian population is presented quickly and swiftly in both films. For these veterans, their experience of having served for their country amounts to nothing upon their return to an increasingly capitalist society. In both cases, senses of strife and disharmony within the protagonists are revealed, creating a depth of character and alluding to the almost mandatory ‘past’ of a main character in American film, ultimately allowing for what the PBS/BBC documentary The Hollywood Style terms one of the ‘I’s of American cinema: identification. In addition, a lot can be deduced from the reactions of others to the veterans‘ returns when considering the difference between the two wars and what they meant to society. World War II was seen as what Charles Bogle calls a “good war”, a just war that the United States as a nation is winning and largely happy to fight. On the other hand the Vietnam war was what could then be termed a ‘bad war’, a poorly-thought-out, losing, guerrilla fight that split the nation and provoked many domestic and international tensions. Therefore, in Taxi Driver, we see a reaction of what almost could be called pity in the very few people with knowledge of his military background with whom Travis has genuine interactions. For example, he seems to be granted the job of taxi driver largely thanks to the “honourable discharge” that he received from the Marines, as he certainly did not get it for educational merit (Travis claims that his education is “here and there”). The job is the interviewer’s, and society’s, token of commiseration towards those who fought in a hopeless, pointless war. When considering the situation three decades earlier in Best Years, the reactions are predominantly of pride and genuine happiness. All three soldiers receive poignant, forthright (if somewhat underwhelming in the case of Al) homecomings. It is during Homer’s homecoming, however, when his family demonstrate the beauty of American cinema by subtly revealing the darker, emotional disquiet of those who were not exposed to the horrors of war. From a cinematographic point of view, the scene is composed to encapsulate the realism of the ‘Hollywood style’, which contributes towards a complete focus on character, an essential characteristic of an American film in the documentary The Hollywood Style. It provides a perfect example of invisibility in editing, discussed by both David Cook and John Belton in their works on American cinema, which allows audiences to focus
/Atlantic entirely on narrative and character rather than being distracting them with cinematographic expressionism. Wyler and cinematographer Greg Toland literally apply this concept with a point of view shot from the taxi vacated by Homer, revealing exclusively the faces of those greeting him. The audience are forced into sharing the anguish on the face of his mother upon seeing her son’s dismembered hands for the first time. This reaction is made even more visceral by its contrast to the sense of pride felt by the entire family, despite any underlying shame or regret they may feel. However those who have no personal association with the veterans feel no sense of pride or valour, which is established in film through the pity given to Travis Bickle and the “indifference” of those in society who did not fight in Best Years. It is also interesting to note the treatment of women in both Best Years and Taxi Driver. To the returning war heroes of the World War II, women seem to work like maids, cleaning, cooking, tucking in and generally looking after their husbands, partners and fathers as if they were babies. Thirty years later, after the war in Vietnam, the treatment of women seems to be even worse. Women are sexually objectified, violently abused and even sold by men everywhere, such as in the pornographic theatres that Travis frequents. Critics like Carrie Gorringe have argued that these post-war films belittle women by reducing them to nothing but machines to fulfil the needs of men . However, this stance may be too simplistic. When imagined through the eyes of the returning veterans, this reading can be subverted. The viewer might argue that the women are, ultimately, what keeps these men going. This applies in a literal sense, when Wilma helps Homer to remove his prosthetics and button up his pyjamas, or whens Peggy puts drunken Fred to bed and cooks for him in the morning. In a metaphorical sense, Betsy, and then Iris, propel Travis’ narrative; it is his quest to either sexually possess or save these women that gives him purpose in the civilian world. From the perspectives of the protagonists of both films, women are everything. These men rely on women in order to function. Their intentions towards these women are good, and clean, ‘invisible’ American cinematography allows audiences’ interpretations of these intentions to be distorted. The lack of visual, cinematographic manipulation in both films means the audience’s first assumptions of the degradation of women automatically take over. However, a closer analysis reveals that this is not necessarily the case, as these men are dependent on women in order to integrate back into society. Moreover, metaphorical presentation of this issue in Taxi Driver expresses how the ‘Hollywood style’ evolved to prefer more semantically complex methods of narrative in 1976 compared to 1946. This evolution is to be expected given the vast development of the medium throughout that time period. The most direct comparison of the two films looks at the moral purpose of these returning veterans: they all try to instil the values of what they were fighting for, and what they learned whilst doing it, back into American society. As a result of the Production Code reinstituted by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributers of America in 1934 ,“in response to protests by certain civic organisations and members of the clergy” (Belton), moral issues such as graphic violence and adulterous sex
Paris could not be explicitly shown in Best Years. However, they are both delicately implied: first, violence through Fred’s punching of the outspoken drug store customer, and then adultery through Marie’s suggestively promiscuous job at a nightclub. Instead, Fred, Homer and Al seem to be trying to bring values of ‘democracy’, what they had essentially been fighting for, back to the United States, yet they find nothing but the selfishness that stems from an entirely capitalist meritocracy. Bogle outlines this matter through writing about how “their survival and success in combat depended on placing their reasoning faculties in the service of the group’s needs rather than the whims of the individual”, yet when they return home, these morals are “dashed by... general anarchy... [and the] acquisitiveness and shortsightedness” of American society. The attempt to infuse what was learnt in war with what is found at home is presented differently in Taxi Driver, emphasizing moral disgust more than moral values. Because of the replacement of the Production Code with a rating system, Scorsese was able to be graphic and explicit in his portrayals of immorality. Travis’s disgust at the “scum” on the streets of New York, at the “whores, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies” is instantly established through De Niro’s initial voiceover. This disgust builds up incrementally throughout the film and erupts in a final, murderous rampage. Bickle’s sensitive yet moral conscience is what causes his psychosis, and portrays the strong sense of (displaced) morality that accompanies veterans home after experiencing war. The lucid and graphic sexuality and violence shown on screen constantly reminds the audience of Travis’ ultimate moral purpose. An incentive to introduce moral value to society is therefore inherent within the narratives of returning soldiers in both films, yet it is obvious that the restrictions of the Production Code, which ruled over American cinema, made sure that Wyler was never allowed to show his 1946 audience what Scorsese could in 1976. In conclusion, it is evident that the story of the war veteran’s homecoming provides the ideal narrative for an American film. Both Best Years and Taxi Driver highlight the difficulties that arise for the soldiers themselves and those around them once they lose their uniform. The overarching theme of the two films is the difficulty of losing one’s uniform. In Best Years, Marie makes clear that Fred is no one outside of the military. She barely recognises him without his uniform, and only after convincing him to put it back on, will she admit that he looks like himself. Travis is seen throughout large portions of Taxi Driver wearing his beaten up green field jacket. Although he is no longer at war he is still stuck in this jacket. The lingering presence of the uniform can be seen to symbolise the lingering psychological presence of war in the minds of these men. This presence, and the uniform, can only be removed via catharsis. Yet even then, the characters’ experiences of this cannot be said to be entirely positive. Fred only loses his uniform when he is with Peggy, and Travis’s jacket is only substituted when around Betsy or Iris. These situations provoke two elongated processes of catharsis that both ultimately end in disaster: a broken marriage, and a suicide attempt followed by a coma, despite the films’ seemingly ‘pleasant’ outcomes. It seems that the American cinema wants to suggest that although reintegration into society is possible, it will not
/Atlantic come without trauma. The ‘Hollywood style’ did not change fundamentally yet clearly evolved between the two films, largely due to the Production Code. The portrayals of violence and adultery in each film differ greatly, but the narrative style, association with character and cinematography remain consistent. The Hollywood Style claimed that point of view can be used as a tool of emotional expression. Where Wyler leaves off, looking out of the taxi onto Homer and his family, Scorsese picks up, looking out of Travis Bickle’s taxi onto the scum-ridden streets of New York. Despite the use of colour, foul language, inclusion of hardcore pornography and all other changes witnessed between 1946 and 1976, American cinema still managed to maintain the distinct ‘Hollywood style’. Works Cited Belton, John. American Cinema/American Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994. “The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).” Filmphest. FilmPhest.com, 1999. Bogle, Charles. “The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Realism and Reformism.” Wsws.org. International Committee of the Fourth International, 11 Aug. 2007. Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film. New York: Norton, 1981. Early, Emmett. “Conclusion. The War and the War Veteran.” The War Veteran in Film. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003. Gorringe, Carrie. “Taxi Driver.” NitrateOnline. Nitrate Online, 1995. The Hollywood Style. Dir. Lawrence Pikethly. PBS/BBC/Premiere Gmbh, 1995. McMillan, Dereck. “Ideological Dimensions of Taxi Driver.” DerekMcMillan.com, n.d.
Sara Julia Waller
“THE POET IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE POET”: DISCREDITED AUTHORITY AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN DANTE’S INFERNO AND JEAN COCTEAU’S ORPHEUS Emmeline Butler
Dante Álighieri’s Inferno and Jean Cocteau’s film Orpheus, produced during times of tumultuous political and social transition, both narrate pilgrimages to Hell and back. Dante alludes to Florentine papal and government conflict, writing on the edge of Medieval tradition before the Renaissance, while Cocteau’s pilgrim grapples with a post-Second World War modernism turning post-modern. By artfully referencing and interlacing their own narratives into storied earlier mythologies, both Dante and Cocteau are able to legitimize their voices as part of a historical, and literary, continuity (even when Cocteau was directing films, he considered himself a poet). Their pilgrim poets re-emerge from Hell with the exceptional wisdom of those who have been able to see and understand death without actually dying. For Dante, the Inferno records, in part, a counter-narrative to the Ghibelline and Guelf conflicts that led to his exile, invoking figures from Classical mythology and the Bible alongside contemporary Florentine figures, such as the “gaunt and tragic” (Sinclair, 141) Ghibelline Farinata. The Florentines in Hell are among “the most imposing creations of Dante’s Inferno” (141), and as a Guelf son (140) whose “political ideas…were neither Guelf nor Ghibelline in the common sense of the words” (141), Dante’s emotional depiction of Farinata offers an alternate third view, imploring “civil and religious reconciliation and peace” (142). Some “commentators” (HudsonWilliams, 38) have interpreted an opening scene in which Dante the pilgrim is greeted by “people of much worth who were suspended in… Limbo” (Inf.4.44; Sinclair, 61), including Orpheus among the “philosophic family” (Inf. 4.138; Sinclair, 65), as “proof of Dante’s modesty” (Hudson-Williams, 38), but this should rather be considered a deliberate association of Dante’s own myth, and its suggested allegories, with history’s great parables. The Orpheus myth in particular had been “repeatedly manipulated” by writers “to bolster their own literary aims” in the Medieval period, “when pagan myths were typically explained…euhemeristically”, that is, as if derived from a heroic history, and “syncretized with Christian ideology” (Schwebel, 62) of the time. Dante’s seemingly casual inclusion of Orpheus among the philosophers “invokes the network of Orphic literature” that would have been “easily recognizable to Dante’s audience” (63), perhaps 103
Paris associating the Orphic poet “Ovid’s exile from Augustan Rome [with Dante’s] own exile from Florence”, in order to further suggest “the capacity of literature to transcend the divisive ages of humanity and so achieve immortality beyond the author” (66). Linking the figure of the poet with the figure of the philosopher is a way to elevate the poet from charming minstrel to a qualified position for commenting with authority on politics (Aristotle wrote the book on Politics, after all), ethics, and the general state of humanity. Dante also elevated the Italian language itself by choosing to compose his Divine Comedy in Italian, making his narrative accessible to a wide audience. In Cocteau’s Orpheus, the similarly popular medium of film is used to tell another “myth of the people”. Cocteau’s Orpheus was released in 1950, but like the Inferno in 1300, it is a myth of its time, inspired by an ancient canon. In the original Orpheus myth, “a troubadour so gifted that he could charm men and beasts with his song…sways the netherworld denizens into releasing” his dead wife Eurydice, but must not look at her until they have re-emerged from Hades together. “Unable to resist, the poet looks behind him, Eurydice vanishes into the shadows, and the grief-stricken Orpheus is torn limb from limb by the Furies” (Polizzotti). The myth is comparable to the biblical story of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the sinful city of Sodom, and Cocteau directly references the biblical pillar of salt in the dialogue of his film. While the film Orpheus introduces its mise-en-scène as “beyond time and place” (dir. Cocteau), the setting is clearly post-Second World War France, and the long shadow of the war looms over the plot and scenery. Cocteau “served honorably in the ambulance corps in Belgium during World War I” and “chose to remain in Paris— where he was born and lived all his life—during the German occupation in World War II” (Guenther, 23). For every sly classical statue that decorates Orpheus’ garden, there are countless references to the war; from coded radio messages (the deciphering of which becomes Orpheus’ obsession), to the mysterious court hearings between his world and the other, which resemble war tribunals or official interrogations. As in Dante, Hell in Cocteau is a tangible, even mappable, place, resembling war-time ruins, such as The Zone, “the no-man’s-land between life and death, shot in the ruins of the bombed-out Saint-Cyr military academy” (Polizzotti). In constructing Hell, Cocteau uses identifiable “‘emblems and images’ of recent European history ‘and merges them with other, more primitive images of fear’” (Polizzotti). Layered within the re-telling of the ancient myth was the political consciousness in Cocteau’s strategy for casting his actors. For example, “Death is figured as an imperious woman (the princess), played by the Spanish-born Maria Casarès”, who was involved in the Resistance. Tensions between characters in the film mirrored professional tensions between rival actresses cast in the film, and romantic tensions between actors who had been romantically involved with Cocteau (Polizzotti). Cocteau’s preference for “stage illusions” over “trick photography” (Hammond, 29) suggest the transition from theatre to popular film, a parallel of the time of post-war transition during which the film was made. Even Orpheus’
/Atlantic comment “To hell with the press!” seems to indicate an interest in the long-term, in historical legacies over contemporary peer opinion. As Dante’s Medieval Florence and Cocteau’s post-Second World War Europe struggle towards re-unification, the poet emerges as a complex figure, simultaneously an individual and societal representative. For example, there are two Cocteaus, just as there are two Dantes. Where the Inferno claims both a Dante as writer and a Dante as pilgrim, Orpheus has both Cocteau the director and Cocteau the film. “‘It is much less a film than it is myself,’ Jean Cocteau wrote to a friend at the time he was making Orpheus… ‘a kind of projection of the things that are important to me’” (Polizzotti). Cocteau “produced work in many fields, including nearly thirty books of poetry, plus works in the ‘poetry’ (as he termed it) of fiction, criticism, drama, film, painting, and illustration” (Guenther, 23)—the core identity of the poet takes precedence over the irksome detail of a precise medium. The poet is a pilgrim between worlds, and poetry is his religion and authority when religion and authority can no longer be relied upon, and established political conventions are revealed as inept or abruptly obsolete—poetry is “an ‘immemorial rite’ as mysterious to the reader as religious mysteries appear obscure to the believer” (23). Because death is not death for poets, their “deaths and rebirths” (Polizzotti) make meaning, usually defined in proximity to religious death, ambiguous, and open up that space for re-definition. Able to travel where others cannot, specifically to Hell and back, the role of the poet is that of an attentive witness, going on his journey “by a warrant higher even than that of his reason” (Sinclair, 56). People make sacrifices for the poet or perform favors for him on his way, because they know his journey has wider benefits for the whole of humanity. As is said of Orpheus in the film, the poet is a man but also “a poet is more than a man”, and both his strength and his fault is “knowing how to get away with going too far” (Dir. Cocteau). The poet also has a mystical connection to a historical continuity of other poets. The cryptic radio messages Orpheus spends hours listening to in Death’s car “were based on coded broadcasts from England during the occupation”, “poaching the phrase ‘The bird sings with its fingers’ from the poet Apollinaire” (Polizzotti), sending a poetic message, between one poet and another, beyond time and space – and beyond life and death. When Dante “[recasts] Orpheus as a speechless intellectual” in the Inferno, he is “implying the superiority of textual over oral discourse”, which, through its material durability as printed, replicated, and disseminated text (including the “text” of Cocteau’s equally material poetry of film), “can speak for the poet either out of exile, or after death” (Schwebel, 71). In the chapter “On responsibility” of his book The Difficulty of Being (La Difficulté d’Ệtre), Cocteau addresses his future readers directly, as if through his printed words they have met in this future as peers: I had come to imagine us so clearly, youth matching my youth, standing at a street corner, sitting in a square, lying face down on a bed, elbows on a table, gossiping to gether. And I leave you. Without leaving you, needless to say, since I am so loosely merged with my ink that my pulse beats into it. Do you not feel it under your thumb,
Paris as it holds the corner of the pages? That would astonish me, since it throbs under my pen and produces that inimitable, wild, nocturnal, ultra-complex hubbub of my heart, recorded in Le Sang d’un Poète. ‘The poet is dead. Long live the poet.’ (Cocteau, 153)
This, Cocteau says, “is the whole difference between a book that is simply a book and this book which is a person changed into a book”, just as Orpheus is not only a film but the poet-filmmaker, Cocteau, as a film. Through his recorded textual discourse, the poet is “crying out for help, for the spell to be broken and he reincarnated in the person of the reader”: This is the sleight-of-hand I ask of you. Please understand me. It is not so difficult as it seems at first sight. – You take this book out of your pocket. You read. And if you manage to read it without anything being able to distract you from my writing, little by little you will feel that I inhabit you and you will resurrect me…Naturally I am addressing the youth of a period when I shall no longer be there in flesh and bone…a pact of mutual assistance by which the living help the dead and the dead help the liv ing. Let us say no more about it. (154)
The tradition of older poets helping younger poets obviously also relates to Dante the poet’s choice of the Roman poet Virgil as Dante the pilgrim’s guide through the Inferno. Transport is dangerous (in Orpheus, both Orpheus’ wife Eurydice and the young poet Cégeste suffer death by motorbike), and Virgil provides not only directional guidance but facilitates mobility, even taking over entirely sometimes, swooping in to shield Dante from Medusa (a link to the ancient Orpheus) or physically carrying Dante, as he does in the pivotal scene at the center of Hell over Lucifer. He arranges for centaur and boat travel, and, when Dante faints, one could say that Virgil even takes the place of Dante’s own consciousness, paralleled by the scenes in Cocteau where Orpheus professes a desire to sleep. Cocteau’s poet’s guide is also associated with mobility, as a chauffer (it is on the radio of the car he drives—Death’s car—that Orpheus hears the coded messages), and also had an irreparable “bad death”—where Virgil was “born too early”, having “had not baptism” (Inf.4.35; Sinclair, 61), Heurtebise committed the sin of suicide. However, where Dante’s choice of guide in Virgil draws upon the strength of ancient reputation and wisdom of experience, Cocteau’s choice of Heurtebise as a guide reflects a post-war loss of not only direction but also of faith and order. Heurtebise is morally conflicted, loyal to Orpheus but an employee of death and in love with Orpheus’ wife. Heurtebise is not so much a chauffer, as he himself explains, but a student. Similarly, the figure of the guide Heurtebise began for Cocteau as a kind of invoked muse (“O Muses, O lofty genius, aid me now!” [Inf.2.5; Sinclair, 45])—after finding the name Heurtebise on an elevator (transportation to and from heaven, the sky), Cocteau became obsessed with an imagined angel figure, saying the angel “forced [Cocteau] to write against his will” until he wrote a poem at “7 P.M. on the seventh day” (Guenther, 23). This character eventually became the Heurtebise of the film, and Cocteau “later found out that the name of the elevator was not the name Heurtebise at 106
/Atlantic all, but Otis-Pifre instead” (Hammond, 27). It seems fitting that this student standing in for a chauffer is also a ghost standing in for an angel, in the secular post-war religion of poetry—in a new, morally ambiguous, self-determined post-modern world. The reality of the changed world is heralded for Orpheus by the sudden death of his wife Eurydice, bringing him to attention from his place of self-absorption. When Orpheus says of Eurydice, “I would follow her to Hell”—“Men always come back. They’re so absurd!”, Eurydice pronounces at one point (Dir. Cocteau)—he is responding reflexively in defense of the comfort of the old pre-war order, because Eurydice is “the cliché of the celebrity’s wife, a figurine in a toy marriage”. “The crux of the drama for Cocteau lies in” the erotic draw of the new ambiguous space, yet to be defined, that Orpheus has been introduced to and attempts to discover through his new obsessions, all while neglecting and lying to the wife he still professes loyalty to: “the relationship between Orpheus and Death itself ” (Polizzotti). Where Eurydice is a metaphor for the old world, Beatrice, who died young and without consummating her love with Dante, is a reminder of idealistic youth and “pure” love—an ideal that escaped Dante before he could possess it, but which he can now, halfway through his life (middle age), draw comfort and motivation from on his arduous journey. While Beatrice is venerated, the woman sinners populating Hell result in a balanced representation of women as saint or sinner (including the more ambiguous pitiable sinner, in the case of Francesca), just as the long-suffering housewife of Eurydice in Cocteau is balanced by the characterization of death as female, as well as the Bachhic Bacchantes women’s club (who indulge in late-night drinking, but only champagne!). Aglaonice’s threatening League of modern Women (“Beware of the Sirens” [Dir. Cocteau]), are also unafraid to stand up to men, and an uncanny foil to Beatrice, Lucy, and Rachel, Dante’s trio of helpful holy women. While Eurydice acts as a catalyst and Beatrice as protective comfort respectively, going through Hell is ultimately a personal journey for both poets, and a call to an individual self-examination that is self-aware rather than self-absorbed. In Cocteau especially, Hell is associated with mirrors broken, and entered through a watery looking glass, a portal between the living and the dead. Dante’s gates of Hell are doorways in the natural world, with nature being a place of reflection but also savage dangers, away from the rest of civilization. Once inside Dante’s Hell, nature is twisted into torturous punishments, while the sights of Cocteau’s Hell “at once derive from our everyday world and stand outside of it” (Polizzotti). Without self-examination, like Orpheus, the pilgrim is already “dead and didn’t notice” (Dir. Cocteau), and mirrors are only the “eau de Narcisse (Narcissus water)” (Hammond, 30). The watery mirrors are “a vague hint of man’s primordial aquatic nature”, rather than of nature derived from the divine. Purportedly natural meaning is actually man-made, and in the original script for the play from which Orpheus the film evolved, “the idea of fishing is deliberately confused with a hint of the three fates… Death prepares the dead for removal from earth with a string or thread and a spool… akin to the fates spinning, measuring and cutting” (30). So, the only true, pre-determined fate is death. When the poets stop faint-
Paris ing (as Francesca and Paolo also did) or wishing to sleep when confronted by what they begin to recognize as their own shortcomings (Death watches Orpheus still more closely when he sleeps), they empower themselves. For example, Cocteau’s Orpheus enjoys fame and success as a self-absorbed “national hero… resting on his laurels”, but when confronted by his wife’s death, he experiences a shift in values. Heurtebise introduces “no-man’s land. Here are men’s memories and the ruins of their beliefs”, and clinging to these ruined beliefs is not an act of loyalty but a kind of self-imposed exile or limbo. The poets’ café at the beginning of the film, for example, is a crooked establishment. Poetry itself is holy (a complication comparable to the split between the Black and White Guelfs on issues of religion and government during Dante’s life), but the café arrogantly considers itself the center of the universe, and the legal authorities associated with it are corrupt. When Orpheus is faced with the dilemma of Living again with Eurydice but not being able to look at her, giving rise to a fear of catching a glimpse of her in the mirror, the simultaneous impossibility of absolute self-examination and the necessity of attempting it are suggested. When Orpheus declares that, despite his longing for the return of his wife, he is “not going to live with blinders on” (Dir. Cocteau), Death, the princess, sacrifices her love for Orpheus in order that he may look in the mirror—death is the sacrifice that gives meaning to life, and “Cocteau’s preoccupation with death reduces to a preoccupation with the preparation for death” (Hammond, 30)—of living well in order to, unlike Virgil and Heurtebise, ultimately die well. Like Orpheus, who says his “life had begun to pass its peak” before his journey, Dante sets out on Good Friday “in the middle of the journey of our life” (Inf. 1.1; Sinclair, 23), a collective and individual first step to Easter rebirth. “Dante pilgrim is in mortal danger of re-enacting Orpheus’ role as the eternally mourning lover” (Schwebel, 70) for the obsolete world that must be left behind, “yet he is saved by Beatrice, who tells him ‘do not yet weep’” (70). The loss of established authority has been replaced with individual accountability, borne of Dante’s value for “intellectual integrity, and profound sense of the sacredness of freewill” (Sinclair, 256), underlined by Cocteau’s allusion to the Nuremberg trials with “Heurtebise’s self-defense (‘I was her aide’)” (Polizzotti) in court. The worth of lived personal experience off the page is also reflected in a court scene, when Orpheus himself is interrogated: “’Your profession?’ ‘Poet.’ ‘The card says writer.’ ‘It’s almost the same thing.’ ‘There’s no almost here.’ ‘What do you mean by poet?’ ‘To write, without being a writer’” (Dir. Cocteau). In Orpheus, Cocteau takes his “well-rehearsed private mythologies” (Polizzotti) and directly involves the outside viewer (reader), the potential subsequent poet he helps guide toward their own private accountability, by recombining his private elements “into something both unabashedly idiosyncratic and widely accessible. It is fitting that a work so preoccupied with mirrors and reflections should send back the image not only of its maker but, more than any of Cocteau’s other films, of its viewer as well” (Polizzotti). Dante, by superseding the authority of the Bible to assign mythological and Florentine sinners alike to his self-conceived circles of Hell, “arrogated himself ” (Hudson-Williams, 41)
/Atlantic a “more than papal power of dispensation” (41), defying exile and taking power away from the church and political conflicts he disagreed with, all while maintaining the integrity of his sense of religion—Dante became his own church. The poets’ poetry, now a part not only of the literary but of the historical record, has made sense of political and social unrest in the absence of old authorities, which have been discredited and gone the way of ancient myths—guides are wanted, but ultimately they are just figurative ghosts and shades. “‘I thought I knew death, but I didn’t know her’” says Orpheus, but Heurtebise replies, “‘You know her, in person’” (Dir. Cocteau). Death, not what may come afterward, is the poet’s personal and compelling force to live better. Works Cited Dante, see Sinclair. Cocteau, Jean. The Difficulty of Being (La Difficulté d’Ệtre). Trans. Elizabeth Sprigge. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press, 1995. Orpheus (Orphée). Dir. Cocteau, Jean. DisCina, 1950. Guenther, Charles. “A Note on Jean Cocteau and ‘L’Ange Heurtebise’”. The American Poetry Review 3.1 (2004): 23. Hammond, Robert M. “The Mysteries of Cocteau’s ‘Orpheus’.” Cinema Journal 11.2 (1972): 26-33. Hudson-Williams, T. “Dante and the Classics.” Greece & Rome 20.58 (1951): 38-42. Polizzotti, Mark. “Orpheus: Through a Glass, Amorously.” Current (The Criterion Collection). 30 August 2011. Schwebel, Leah. “Dante’s Metam-Orpheus: The Unspoken Presence of Orpheus in the Divine Comedy.” Hirundo 4.1 (2006): 62-72. Sinclair, John D. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961. Print.
EXISTENTIAL VAUDEVILLE: SAMUEL BECKETT V. BUSTER KEATON AND FILM Emmeline Butler
American silent film comedian Buster Keaton starred in his supposed “great admirer” (Lieberfeld and Sanders, 19) Samuel Beckett’s only film, called simply Film, at a moment of renewed renown. In 1926, Keaton’s The General, “the film he considered his masterpiece, was panned by critics and failed to earn back its high production costs”, beginning a period of obscurity that lasted until the 1950s, when international film critics, many of them French, declared him an auteur of a vanished art form, culminating in a “jubilant homage” at the Venice Film Festival in 1965, the year Film was released (19). Beckett, an Irish expatriate, had also found critical success in France, a success now growing into international acclaim “after decades of obscurity, poverty, and struggle” (McKee, 32). Both men had a masterful knack for a kind of vaudevillianexistentialist sensibility that appealed to the tumultuous mid-century French intellectual and social climate—Keaton and Beckett were choreographers of the uncontrolled, integrating the physical and the psychological in structured displays of lack of structure. Their “pairing… seems, at first, inspired” (32), but Film, “shot in a withering heat wave during Beckett’s only trip to America” (31), stirred its audience into a “disastrous reception at the 1965 New York Film Festival…the audience stood and booed” (31). Keaton died of lung cancer the following year. Was their pairing, as some critics argue, ultimately a “mismatch” (McKee, 31) of irreconcilable artistic differences? The vaudeville-influenced physical, material comedy in their respective bodies of work—articulated fundamentally with the use of audible words, or fundamentally without—contain complementary common concerns. A French critic pronounced Keaton’s gags “more philosophical than slapstick in that they test the nature of reality” (Pasquier and Silverstein, 271). Keaton and Beckett’s existential “gags” present routine and familiar objects and behavior, then exaggerate them to comic effect through extended physical movement and repetition, pushing into the realm of the absurd through a kind of precisely orchestrated surrealist amplification. Through the deliberate, physical methods of existential vaudeville, conventional actions—social or solitary, spoken or involving objects—are demonstrated to be performative and without fixed meaning. The effect is novel. In “Waiting for Godot”, 111
Paris the characters “seem confined in the vaudeville routines of their stichomythia, hoping, or fearing, that some novelty will jolt them into a more spontaneous response to the world” (Albright, 5)—the word “stichomythia” evoking the ancient and eternity. The effects of these existential gags may act as a similar catalytic novelty for Beckett and Keaton’s audiences, as a re-evaluation of the real through “super-realism [sur-réalisme]… calculated disharmony” (9)—the process of “creating new realities” (11) through the surreal by articulating the “real” through the artificial, fictional, and staged more competently than “realism” had, in “a parody of realism” (45). Keaton’s films “differ from earlier slapstick films by using gags neither as gratuitous [that is, imprecise] happenings nor as sudden breaks in logic, but rather as a means of attacking the verisimilitude… portrayed in the realistic films of his day” (Pasquier and Silverstein, 269), by disrupting meaning. “The gag exploits the hidden multiple meanings of realistic discourse. The hollow character of the original realistic discourse is revealed in an almost surrealistic shock” (Pasquier and Silverstein, 276). The gag “denies the realistic signifier the signification it presumed to possess… it is precisely by overstepping the norms of the realistic story that the gag makes those realistic norms apparent” (276). The shock was not only almost surrealistic. Keaton’s film Sherlock, Jr. (1924) has been critically acknowledged as a “surreal tour-de-force” (276). Beckett also used “extraordinary doting on technique” (Albright, 3) in order to “[call] attention to the bizarreness of this universally-accepted premise… [that] actors pretend they have just made up the words they speak” (5). By deliberately crafting “the simulation of psychosis (10)”, the appearance of involuntary action and improvisation by his actors, Beckett evokes the surrealist idea that hysteria is “’a supreme means of expression’” (11), as conceived by André Breton in his 1930 book The Immaculate Conception (L’Immaculée Conception), which Beckett had translated into English (11). Vocal instructions and the appearance of loss of control, mini-mental breakdowns, were written into Beckett’s scripts to allow an element of unpredictability and precise imprecision, so that “the boundaries between script and improvisation are unclear” (5). Beckett could also evoke surrealistic psychosis in the action of his prose through repetitive writing about repetition: “counting games, arranging…all the various orders that come to mind… psychotics play with a limited number of elements” (11). The “false starts” (5) in “Krapp’s Last Tape” are an example of this kind of “deliberate error” (17) in Beckett’s dramatic works, in an effect achieved by “painting small—two or three characters on a set profoundly stalled” (McKee, 32). Though by contrast “Keaton favored epics—his most memorable gags involved locomotive chases and houses blowing down” (32), Keaton’s medium allowed for and facilitated this indulgence. There could be more expansive movement across his “set”, and it could hold physically bigger things. Beckett further limited the already existent limits of his medium for effect, while Keaton took advantage of the cinematic medium to eliminate the limits of the vaudeville theatre tradition. “Theater’s poet laureate of paralysis” and “the most agile of all silent film comics” (32) used their opposing approaches to movement in complementary ways, as
/Atlantic different approaches to the same end. Beckett’s contained action, such as the stonesucking ritual in Molloy, is a kind of stationary vaudeville, exaggerated to a ridiculous degree for absurd effect, while Keaton’s pratfalls and falling houses exaggerate physical movements on his more expansive and cinematic scale. In both cases, the fixation on these movements and repetitions reduce their “sets”, the larger stories and plots (such as Molloy’s journey to his mother’s house), the overarching, to the merely tangential. It is not only the destination that is secondary to the journey, but both become irrelevant next to the more minor actions. The set is destroyed—as in Keaton’s films Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) and One Week (1920); the house has collapsed, and all that remains is Keaton, the stone-faced clown and his clowning. Conventional plot and character tropes in Keaton’s films, such as the love story, also serve a similar purpose to Beckett’s spare stage settings. For example, Keaton’s character’s impetus toward action in The Cameraman (1928) is his hope of impressing a girl, a cliché so harmless, straightforward, and uncontroversial as to render this larger plot invisible. This complements how Beckett subverts the love story cliché in “First Love” (“Premier Amour”). Beckett establishes the expectation in the title, then disregards it for a solipsistic, cynical, and scatological narrative instead. Once liberated from the context of setting, these more minor actions can also avoid the appearance of fixed meaning through calculated “speech-pattern as well as stage-movement-pattern” (Albright, 56) by the actors, the dramatically delivered equivalent to prose stone-sucking in Molloy:
Watch me closely. I take a stone from the right pocket of my greatcoat, suck it, stop sucking it, put it in the left pocket of my greatcoat, the one empty (of stones). I take a second stone from the right pocket of my greatcoat, suck it, put it in the left pocket of my greatcoat. And so on until the right pocket of my greatcoat is empty (apart from its usual and casual contents) and the six stones I have just sucked, one after the other, are all in the left pocket of my greatcoat. Pausing then, and concentrating, so as not to make a balls of it, I transfer to the right pocket of my greatcoat, in which there are no stones left, the five stones in the right pocket of my trousers, which I replace by the five stones in the left pocket of my trousers, which I replace by the six stones in the left pocket of my greatcoat. At this stage then the left pocket of my greatcoat is again empty of stones, while the right pocket of my greatcoat is gain supplied, and in the right way, that is to say with the other stones than those I have just sucked. These other stones I then begin to suck, one after the other, and to transfer as I go along to the left pocket of my greatcoat, being absolutely certain, as far as one can be in an affair of this kind, that I am not sucking the same stones as a moment before, but others… (Molloy, 67)
The effect in prose is overwhelming, disengaging, and effectively erases the movements and objects described through the act of exaggerating them—a word repeated becomes strange, alien, and returns to sound from imposed, artificial significance. The words neither “inform nor enlighten nor persuade, but work towards discursive pattern... tracing complex loops in discourse-space” (Albright, 57). “Beckett, possessing the most remarkable literary equipment of his age, spent a lifetime learning how to write like a mental defective” (17), that is: learning how to convincingly simulate an irrepressible surrealist hysteria or psychosis. In Beckett’s dramatic works, these patterns sometimes eliminate language 113
Paris completely, becoming “brief mimes” (46) in Keaton’s own tradition. In “Happy Days”, the incongruous juxtaposition of language with action (Winnie’s monologue as she is buried) is also disorientating: the “calculated irrelevance of language to the visual image is mutually discrediting… this jangling, this inconsistency, cannot be palliated by any strategy of interpretation” (66). In Keaton’s The Cameraman, policemen fail to keep order, and Keaton assumes the camera store owner is just another customer waiting. The authority figures Keaton’s characters hope to consult prove unhelpful, and their alleged authority, underwhelming. Beckett constructs his dialogue in a way that forces the audience or reader to acknowledge no authority exists to definitively identify or bestow meaning and instruction. Is Vladimir and Estragon’s anticipation of Godot “chiliastic”, in wait of their catalyst, a coming of Christ, or “preteristic” (61)—has the Ascension already happened, and will they dutifully await the instructions of an authority who has wandered off? And is that hell, purgatory, or just life on earth? The abrupt bomb-wielding anarchist from Keaton’s Cops (1922) is a reminder to resist invitations to analyze or explain meaning. When Keaton’s vaudeville gags disrupted the relationship between signifier and signification, they were facilitated by props, “a hot air balloon, a cow, even an abandoned ocean liner” (Lieberfeld and Sanders, 18). Beckett admired how, in the writing of James Joyce, “form is content, content is form…not about something; it is that something itself” (Albright, 3). Physical forms in Beckett are objects rather than symbols, against which Beckett inherited a “revulsion” (13) from Proust, and they can barely indicate their own material reality, since in Beckett “each prop is altered so that its functional part is diminished, while some conspicuous non-functional part is exaggerated” (73). In Keaton’s films, too, props do not perform their expected function. The cameraman’s new camera is destructive rather than productive. He “can hardly manage it; he keeps shattering the glass office door with the tripod legs” (Lieberfeld and Sanders, 26). The camera then becomes notable not for its intended use by Keaton’s protagonist, despite being so essential to the plot, but instead for its own physical dimensions, the shape and weight that Keaton’s character struggles with at length just to pass through a doorway. In Keaton’s work, “a fence may keep your pursuers out or lock you in. A stepladder should be for climbing, but balanced horizontally over a fence it can become first a see-saw and, later, with the addition of sudden weight on one side, a catapult” (Pasquier and Silverstein, 271). Through his “intensely physical” (Lieberfeld and Sanders, 18) comedy, Keaton “tries to remove man from objects, whether cultural or contrived, so that man will be isolated from deep meanings and, though locked into his separateness from people and things, be free” (Pasquier and Silverstein, 271)—an existential freedom from meaning, or from the search for a meaning that does not exist, the false promise that finding the nonexistent meaning also means finding outside relief from an existential condition that must be individually endured. Adapted from the complete work.
/Atlantic Works Cited Albright, Daniel. Beckett and Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Beckett, Samuel. Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable. New York: Grove Press, 16 June 2009: 1-170. Lieberfeld, Daniel and Judith Sanders. “Dreaming in Pictures: The Childhood Origins of Buster Keaton’s Creativity”. Film Quarterly 47.4 (1994): 14-28. McKee, Al. “Buster’s Hat”. Film Quarterly 57.4 (2004): 31-34. du Pasquier, Sylvain and Norman Silverstein. “Buster Keaton’s Gags”. Journal of Modern Literature 3.2 (1973): 269-291.
Miguel Miguel Guerra Angel Guerra
A LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD IN A HUGE WORLD Eva Ben Dhiab
— after reading Our Town by Thornton Wilder The Universe, the Solar System, the Earth, Northern Hemisphere, Europe, France, Paris, 15th district, Breteuil Avenue, 79. Carole lives in this precise place, somewhere on Earth. For her, this place, which is very small compared to the size of the world, is the most important corner on the planet. It’s where she is growing up, where she has all her memories. In fact, her neighborhood is her home, maybe more than someone else’s neighborhood. Since the day her family moved to their flat, she rarely, except for vacations, goes out of the district. You must probably think she has a sad childhood if she never goes out of this district. However, she does not. It is a choice. The distance between her primary school and her home is 475 meters; between her middle and high school and her place, 350; between her sport club and her flat, 490. And her best friends lives at 500 or 600 meters from her. So why should she go out of this district? Everything her life is made of is next to her. Of course it is a bit exaggerated, but everything she loves is at hand. When she was a child, she went to a primary school in the 7th district because she lives at the border between the 15th and the 7th. It is an easy border to cross but the culture is obviously different. She did not see it at this time but children were not only children, they were sons and daughters of him or her. It meant that some parents would look after the children their children went around with. In this school, one can find the daughter of the chairman of a multinational and at the same time, the son of their cleaning lady. She was with lovely children; everybody was friends and today some are still friends. Now she can understand the context of this period. The 7th quarter is a wealthy Catholic district. All the children were friends, but this was not so with their parents. Even if they were tolerant, parents in general did not like this kind of mixing. Fortunately for her, Carole did not receive this education. Her mother is a psychologist who works in a poor district of Paris. She hates all kinds of discrimination and stereotypes. She teaches her respect and the acceptance of the other. For Carole, a child was a child as anyone else and a potential friend. She has some truly good memo117
Paris ries of that time and thanks to this primary school, she met her first true love. Her middle and high school was the Collège-Lycée Buffon. Her first day was a revelation, she looked at all the new schoolboys and schoolgirls and she realized that there were no black people in her primary school. It is a pretty strange first reaction when one enters a middle school. Usually, children are afraid, puzzled or excited. Carole was pretty quiet and wanted to see everything and talk to everybody. But this detail that she never thought about confused her. When she came back home that same day, the first thing she said to her mother was “Maman, there are people coming from everywhere, I mean people of all colors!” She was not afraid, she was excited. She knew that Black people or Asian people existed, but she never had any such friends. The second day, she tried to talk to each of her classmates. The kind of pupils was not the same. They all came from the poor area of the 15th district. They were mixed up with all kinds of religions, colors, and ways of life. The atmosphere was amazingly different and more relaxed. She really enjoyed it and her mother did too. As her mother saw that Carole appreciated this kind of melting pot, she enabled her to go to a private club to swim. She understood that Carole would not become a contemptuous girl, so that she offered her the luxury of a private swimming pool. Now Carole is nineteen years old, she has been swimming for more than ten years. The training at the Lagardère Paris Racing is one of the best things in her life. Swimming has an extraordinary power over her. It is a part of her personal story; it makes her grow. Thanks to it, she learns to make efforts, to go further than she thought she could go; she learns to be self-reliant, and, at the same time, to work as a team. She swims twice a week, but last year she swam four or five time per week. Her mother is one of the most important people in her life. As her parents are divorced, she has raised Carole and her sister alone. She teaches them to rely on nobody and to be strong. However, to educate them, she chooses to show them the world. They travel a lot, all around the world. These travels have helped Carole to create her own opinions about the world. They have visited every museum in the places they go. When they come back, they usually know the city by heart. Museums are also a part of her, especially museums of paintings and sculptures. This culture of travel has given her the desire to work in the world of Art that she loves. Understanding art is a very good way to open one’s mind and be tolerant about everything. This passion for traveling is the perfect opposite to her everyday life. When she is in Paris, she stays in her little neighborhood, but when she moves, she goes very far. Her family culture is pretty simple: understand your surroundings through what you want, but do not be close-minded. Thanks to her different kinds of schooling, she understands how a little society can be and what sort of life she wants. She does not know how her life will be. But she is sure she wants to swim and to travel.
Miguel Angel Guerra
Miguel Angel Guerra
Miguel Angel Guerra
IT TOOK SO MUCH Aubrey Reeves
It took so much to get me to you It took othersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; pain and moving boxes It took a visa and a transatlantic flight It took a Maltese cross It took a marble hotel It took money It took a baklava recipe passed down through generations It took Velasquez It took a burning moon It took a prisoner of war frigid with paranoia who built a house It took a field of deer It took a genetic trend for missing molars It took a pineapple fountain It took a gram of sanity It took verbal abuse It took shot glasses of limoncello It took terra cotta It took an iris queen It took the bite of Australian black swans It took jasmine from shuttered windows It took a stuffed and mounted dolphin It took a caramelized pear It took the birthmark on my right arm It took a yellow kayak in a ring of sharks It took a bath of milk and crushed pearls It took swordfish carpaccio It took a childhood of interchangeable smocked dresses It took a semi-automatic 123
Paris It took 35 mm It took a pack of cigarillos It took lavender macarons It took cubism It took the legend of the tiare flower It took lambrusco It took monologues It took Desire Under the Elms It took theft and forgery It took jazz and mezzanines It took the nautilus and its golden ratio It took Hokusai postcards It took coffee and cigarettes It took kohl-rimmed eyes It took Soutine and hanging carcasses of beef It took a yellow finch It took Antonioni It took large boulevards lined with cherry trees It took Sensucht It took staying up all night to read Pablo Neruda It took jade colored caftans It took depressive realism It took heat lightning It took Sufi poetry It took a bottle of aspirin It took misunderstandings It took Narcotic Venus It took incubi and succubi It took Pushkin It took red lace garter belts It took acquired situational narcissism It took secondhand opium It took Ang Lee It took a lychee martini It took malachite It took conflicts of interest It took a Filipino nun in Naples It took baccarat It took a cryptologist and a mime It took Via Krupp It took ginger beer It took a magnolia tree on Palm Sunday
/Atlantic It took a Chippendale chair It took gemstone acupuncture It took a long batik skirt It took a tarnished silver samovar It took melatonin It took a helleva lot of postmodernism It took Neo-Palladian architecture It took a Nubian goat It took three drops of colonia It took a pair of strong tanned arms It took wallpaper shopping It took a pillbox hat It took a 1970s love song It took motion sickness It took back issues of interior design magazines It took the Tyrrhenian Sea It took the primordial sound It took Zeus turning Paeon into a flower to save him from the wrath of Asclepius It took the anchor tattoos of abstract painters It took sweet potato latkes It took Vesuvius It took Kandinskyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s blue horses It took miles of Czech garnet It took a chimera in an empty room It took seven stitches It took alchemy It took a stack of orange scarf boxes It took Sophia Loren It took a bicycle race It took too-long visits in taxidermy museums It took Rachmaninoff It took a port in a storm It took giving a damn
Miguel Angel Guerra
Miguel Angel Guerra
ALLEGORY OF THE SEA Jorge Franco IV
It was dark under the ocean. Under, not in, for the fish girl lived at the bottom, beneath the blankets of currents, painted green with algae. She often swam close to the seabed, letting the sand and broken bottles scrape her belly. She was bored; there weren’t a lot of fish people in the ocean, not since the colossal squids ran out of slimeheads and started eating everyone. It was a dark time for fish folk. Whatever, the fish girl thought. She was just bored as anything. She began to pass the time by telling herself stories of land dwellers and life in the dry lands. The stories were imagined purely to occupy time and entertain her down in the empty blackness of the deep, dark sea. She had no idea that, when she spoke under the ocean, her stories were coming true above it. She couldn’t tell, obviously, for until this moment, the stories had been about others, very far away. This time, she told a story to herself, about herself. “And then the girl’s fin turned pale. Her scales melted away into soft, white flesh. Her tail split, and from the leftover ribbons formed two fine and delicate walking sticks. At the end of each stick were little stubby fingers, painted red as in that framed picture on the little boat she had once found. Her gills folded away, and she could taste the sweet flavor of air.” As she said it, the little fish girl, down under the world at the bottom of the ocean, grew lungs and tried to breathe.
AFTER THE SHIPWRECK, 130
BEFORE THE ALARM 131
HOLDING US Karen Albright Lin
In your eyes that rhythmically wash away blue I see me naked with you. But tugging past the mangrove, grasping for your tall manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hands, my dress tears. Me, a whale belly up, oars wrung white, washed until the skin of my heart peels like bark, pushing the sky to teal, the ocean red. I can only huff out a single gurgled sigh. The strip of my dress is waltzed upon until it resembles the earth, my eyes the ocean. But you make no move to come back to me. When the sun cracks, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m no longer a whale or a bicyclist pumping rhapsody into dew air. No. I nuzzle into tear-moist sand, a morning-ready child crawling to yank the seams of a dry horizon. 132
I will, until the sea calms, watch waves clean the dawn sky, knowing I could have had more than the sea to hold.
Miguel Angel Guerra
Sara Julia Waller
THE RISKY CROSSING: PAUL CELAN AND POETRY AS TRANSLATION Madeleine LaRue
Language remembers, wounds, and dies, but not the same way a human does. The memory of a language lasts longer than the memory of an individual; “everything forgets,” George Steiner writes, “But not a language” (Steiner, 108). Language goes through everything, experiences everything, but that does not mean it has words for everything. Attempting to convey experience with language is an act of translation, a risky and uncertain activity. Translation necessitates holding two things together at once; it creates a space in which opposites, silence and utterance, co-exist, one in focus and the other in blur, though which is which is variable. Opposites co-exist, but not easily. When it comes to experiences that should have been impossible, language and life seem fundamentally incommensurable. It is in this space, and to this type of language, that Paul Celan is writing: Du warst mein Tod: dich konnte ich halten, während mir alles entfiel. You were my death: You I could hold when all fell away from me.1 Celan once stated that during and after the Second World War, it was only language which “remained reachable, close, and secure amid all losses” (Waldrop, 34). This is both true and not true; language was damaged in the war, contorted into hideous shapes by Nazism, and afterward found itself less able to explain experience. Nevertheless, in Celan’s poems, language continues to reach out to those things outside it; the poet continues to help it reach, to and beyond its breaking point. This is tragic and difficult work, but not entirely hopeless. It was perhaps not language itself which 1 Hamburger, 260-261.
Paris remained secure against loss, but Celan’s conviction that it could, in theory, be the opposite of loss. For Celan, language is something autonomous, not to be commanded, but reckoned with, cared for. The poet and the poem are bound to each other, not as master and servant, but as two who are wandering in the same direction. They are travelling companions in a wasteland: Wir hier, wir überfahrts froh, vor dem Zelt, wo du Wüstenbrot bukst aus mitgewanderter Sprache. We, here, grateful for the passage, before the tent where you baked bread-of-the-desert from co-wandered language2. We here, we passage-happy, in front of the tent where you baked desert bread out of camp-following language3. I include two translations mainly to draw attention to the difficult and essential word mitgewanderte, rendered as ‘co-wandered’ or ‘camp-following.’ It is formed from the words mit (with) and gewandert, the past participle of the verb wandern (to wander, roam, or migrate). A mitgewanderte Sprache is a nomadic language; it has been detached from its homeland, but it continues to provide nourishment in the crossing abroad. In this sense, language is the opposite of loss: it remains, wandering with. The poet stays with the lonely poem4; the language stays with its grateful, or passage-happy, companions. In the journey, they seek some breath of renewal, some words capable of reaching the outside. For the German language, the war was a rupture, a kind of death. “It gave me no words for what was happening,” Celan said in his Bremen speech, “but went through it” (Celan, 34). The same could no doubt be said of a person who went through the war. Both language and survivor, then, emerged on the other side wounded by silence, and took to wandering, looking for a way out. If Celan, multilingual as he was, chose to write in German, perhaps it was because he required this co-wandering, this difficult co-existence with his native tongue. Their shared space was the only one which could allow for, as Jacques Derrida says, “a [poetic] event that marks language” (Derrida, 99); in other words, a possibility of life. 2 Olschner, 64. 3 Hamburger, 245. 4 “The poem is lonely. It is lonely and en route. Its author stays with it.” In Celan, 49.
/Atlantic German, many argued, had become unusable after the war, irrevocably tarnished by Nazism. Marking the language, or making it usable again, meant for Celan inciting it to co-exist with something else at the same time as this trauma. If there was no possibility of going back to a pre-Nazi German, then there was at least the possibility of a turn, that is, an opening up of language, an increasing of its flexibility, resistance, and potential to move and signify differently. Celan introduced into German something that, according to Derrida, “comes to pass in both senses of the term: something that approaches the language, that reaches it, without appropriating it, without surrendering to it, without delivering itself to it; but also something that enables poetic writing to occur. . .” (99). Celan’s word for this strategy is Atemwende, a turning of the breath; with this turn, he sets the poem in a different movement (Celan, 47). It is usually a movement downwards, away from the sky and towards the things of the earth: graves and flowers recur as frequent symbols. They represent mourning, but then, in the moment of the turn, they become translations of otherwise unspeakable experience. The trauma of language The German language itself was traumatized by the war, but it was itself “not innocent to the horrors of Nazism” (Steiner, “The Hollow Miracle”, 99). George Steiner argues that there was something in the language that consented to the destruction; this realization shattered the faith it had been possible to have in the language of Goethe and Schiller. Furthermore, ordinary German words were appropriated for such horrific purposes and distorted in such a way that to disassociate them from their new, demonic meanings seemed impossible: “How,” Steiner asks, “should the word ‘spritzen’ recover a sane meaning after having signified to millions the ‘spurting’ of Jewish blood from knife points?” (99). Just as an individual may find that the moment of trauma refuses to become the past, may find himself/herself unable to stop existing in that moment, wherever else he/she may be, so the German language after the war continued to co-exist with Nazism. The Holocaust continued to infect and stifle it:
Something of the lies and sadism will settle in the marrow of the language. [. . .] The language will no longer grow and freshen. It will no longer perform, quite as well as it used to, its two principal functions: the conveyance of human order which we call law, and the communication of the quick of the human spirit which we call grace. (101)
In other words: no two things, once they have co-existed, can cease to do so. The ‘lies and sadism’ that accompanied German threatened to arrest its potential, to suffocate its literary future. Steiner writes that when a language has been so “injected with falsehood, only the most dramatic truth can cleanse it” (108). What sort of truth could be dramatic enough? Indeed, it could be argued that what we ask of literature is precisely ‘dramatic truth’, but if Adorno was correct in saying that to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric, how could a poet produce truth, how could he renew his language, the language of Auschwitz, from within that very language (Colin, xvii)?
Paris He could, perhaps, turn to religion and appeal to transcendence. Celan rejects this completely. His own relationship to religion, particularly Judaism, was complex and deeply ambivalent. His poetry attests to his vast knowledge of both Jewish and Christian traditions, frequently evoking religious imagery or patterns of speech, but for Celan these references to God are painful, both bitter and rebellious. According to Amy Colin, this attitude itself is part of a Jewish tradition: “the dialogue with God, even if God is silent and absent” (xx). There is a tension in this paradoxical relationship, relying as it does on God’s simultaneous existence and absence; it is reflected in Celan’s language. When he draws on biblical phrasing, it is usually to destabilize it, to question it: glory becomes Aschenglorie (ashen-glory), the sky becomes a graveyard. In “Death Fuge,” he writes, “we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined” (Hamburger, 31), in “Psalm” his anti-prayer is “Praised be your name, No one” (153). In Celan’s poetry, there is either no God to be praised, or a God who “wanted all this” and “knew all this”. Celan’s flowers are “heaven-ravaged” and so heaven-forsaking (131). Against transcendence, then, Celan moves in the other direction, downwards, toward the earth. His poems are rich with images of digging, going down, finding depressions. Though his poetic language grows increasingly abstract throughout the course of his career, he never abandons these earthy nouns—dirt, dust, flowers, ashes. Approaching the ‘cleansing’ of the German language via dirt and dust seems counter-intuitive, but even his choice to write in German is a kind of going down. He seeks to change German from within itself, to ‘set it beside itself.’ He chose German deliberately, or perhaps inevitably; he and this language, “the mother’s and the murderer’s tongue” (Colin, xvii), were also bound to one another in their co-existence, in their attempt to journey together out of trauma. Steiner, in a later essay, even suggests that German is the only language in which it is possible to write about the Holocaust (Steiner, “The Long Life of Metaphor”, 48); Celan’s work could testify to this, but only because of the changes he wrought on the language. He does not attempt to go back to a pre-Nazi German, but rather moulds his post-war German into a shape simultaneously denser and more fractured than before. The movement of his language is toward, through, and around; Derrida writes that Celan’s poetry “seems to turn-re-turn around the axis of its own syntax. To the point of vertigo” (Derrida, 88). With this motion that sets language into a spin or an uncertain journey, Celan also exposes the void at its center: the silence that is both an absence and a weight. He remains fascinated with the earth itself, and the relationship between humans and earth; we often turn, in his work, between an earth pocked with graves and a sky empty of gods. “Bury the flower” and “Psalm” These themes are evident in one of Celan’s shortest prose pieces, from the collection Gegenlicht (Backlight): Vergrabe die Blume und lege den Menschen auf dieses Grab.
/Atlantic Bury the flower and put a man on its grave.5
It is difficult to do a ‘close’ reading of this piece because here language is not close to itself. Steiner once stated that “all of Celan’s poetry is translated into German” (Steiner, After Babel, 409), and this strange phrase almost reads that way, as if it had been conveyed from some otherworldly speech into human words. The utterance has a glassy surface and no easy point of entry. But it would be too simplistic to leave it at that, for though the phrase is enigmatic, it is also profoundly intimate, and this intimacy invites us to examine things more closely. The sentence is a command to a familiar ‘you,’ and it describes a poignant and perplexing ritual. As elsewhere in Celan’s work, opposite directions of movement seem to hold themselves together in a single moment, or rather, every movement somehow undermines itself. The unnamed ‘you’ is compelled to move: bury the flower (vergrabe, literally, ‘put into a grave’); put a man on its grave. And yet these movements depend on a cessation of movement—someone’s or something’s death—and can only take place underground, in the non-space of the grave. Also held in an uncomfortable balance are silence, in the mystery of the utterance itself (why must we bury a flower and put a person on its grave?), and the spoken word, the very fact that the words exist. The reader is confronted simultaneously with the words of the utterance and the absence or silence that must have preceeded—and necessitated—them. The imperative exists only because of its articulation in words, but the reason for the imperative is left unsaid. Therefore what is articulated and what is not find themselves not only in co-existence, but in co-dependence. The utterance ultimately seems both suited and unsuited to language, both embedded in it and beyond it. It is also in this short piece that we may see Celan’s curious tendency to identify people with flowers, or to reverse their roles. An equivalence emerges particularly between flowers and the dead. In “Time’s Eye,” for example, he writes, “it’s growing warm in the world / and the dead burgeon and flower” (Hamburger, 63). Nowhere is this identification more pronounced, however, than in “Psalm,” which relies heavily not only on a confusion between flowers and people, but also on evocations of biblical language which, like the ritual of burial in Backlight, are immediately subverted: Niemand knetet uns wieder aus Erde und Lehm, niemand bespricht unsern Staub. Niemand. Gelobt seist du, Niemand. Dir zulieb wollen wir blühn. 5 Celan, 12. N.B. ‘Mensch,’ though translated as ‘man,’ simply means ‘person’ or ‘human’ and does not imply masculinity.
Paris Dir entgegen. Ein Nichts waren wir, sind wir, werden wir bleiben, blühend: die Nichts-, die Niemandsrose. No one moulds us out of earth and clay, no one conjures our dust. No one. Praised be your name, No one. For your sake we shall flower. Towards you. A nothing we were, are, shall remain, flowering: the nothing-, the No one’s rose. Mit dem Griffel seelenhell, dem Staubfaden himmelswüst, der Krone rot vom Purpurwort, das wir sangen über, o über dem Dorn. With our pistil soul-bright, with our stamen heaven-ravaged, our corolla red with the crimson word which we sang over, o over the thorn. 6
6 Hamburger, 153.
/Atlantic The first line turns between a recollection and a negation: the speakers are descendants of Adam and recall his creation, literally out of earth, yet there is no one to mould them the way Adam was moulded, and yet they exist. Celan invokes biblical language and rhythms at numerous points—in “we were, are, shall / remain,” for example, and in the word himmelswüst (heaven-ravaged), and yet he immediately unsettles the weight of that heritage. We “were, are, shall / remain” nothing but “a nothing”; himmelswüst as well recalls a void in echoing the second verse of Genesis, “Und die Erde war wüst und leer (And the earth was without form and void [literally, And the earth was desolate and empty]).” Despite its biblical structure and title, Celan’s poem is a psalm only insofar as it is an anti-psalm, or the negative contour of a psalm. Where we would expect “God” and “Praised be your name, God,” there is “No one” and “Praised be your name, No one.” The relationship of the speakers to this ‘No one’ is not one of love or even of anger, but is instead deeply ambiguous. The speakers say that they are flowering “Dir / entgegen (Towards / you),” but entgegen can mean both ‘towards’ and ‘away from.’ While Hamburger’s translation seems correct and justified by the hint of motion towards in the phrase “Dir zulieb (literally, ‘out of love for you’, i.e. ‘for your sake’),” as well as by the general prevalence of motion towards in Celan’s oeuvre, this other meaning—of movement away from ‘you’—lingers subversively behind the line. The following stanzas continue this turn between one meaning or set of associations and another. There is an affirmation of existence and activity in “we were, are, shall / remain, flowering”, and then a negation, “the nothing-,” and then, in “the / No-one’s-rose,” both an assertion of identity and an assertion of its insignificance. The speakers (who have transformed from dust into flowers), despite their “were, are, shall / remain,” exist only in the present. They, in their nothingness, have no origin, no past or future. They are a rose which belongs to no-one, and equally a rose for no one, destined for no one. No one has died, no one is there to mould or be molded, and so no one is there to be mourned or in need of a rose. ‘We’ are remaining, flowering, for nothing; that is, for an absence. The suggestions of giving shape—moulding out of earth and clay, flowering—are undone by the insistance on nothingness, but the nothingness is in its turn undone by its very fullness, its ability to endure (“were, are, shall / remain”) and to move towards. These conceptual opposites of fullness and void, shape and nothingness, are some of the many that are held together in tension by the poem. The tension arises not because Celan refuses to directly name either one possibility or the other, or because he refuses to commit to one or the other, but precisely because both possibilities exist, because Celan turns from one to the other, and back again. They are not properly tensions, but co-instances or co-existences. In this way Celan counteracts the Nazi influence on the German language. Under the Nazis, Steiner writes, “the language was turned upside down to say ‘light’ where there was blackness and ‘victory’ where there was disaster” (“The Hollow Miracle”, 100). Celan works against these falsehoods: instead of blurring or conflating opposites, he juxtaposes them, sets them into a single
Paris space as if to bring each into sharper focus. This is not necessarily a matter of bringing language back to itself (in the sense of denying the Nazi disaster entirely), but of turning it around so that relationships to reality can be re-established. The loneliness of the poem and its strange plurality co-exist because such things co-existed in experience, and within German itself. The poem is a re-writing of the relationship of German to itself in terms of flowers; this translation produces new words for new affects, such as the Purpurwort, which settles into the body of the flower and colors it red. (In this way it is the opposite of metaphor: it is not an object which lends color to language via an image, but language which comes first and colors the object.) These opposite possibilities co-exist not only on the level of concept or meaning, but on the level of the mechanics of language; they are contained within the words and letters themselves. Celan sets language into two opposite spins: a centripetal one, in which German is thickened and condensed, and a centrifugal one, in which it is spread apart and fractured. Contributing to the density of the language are the double meanings of many of the flower nouns. Griffel means pistil, but also stylus (‘our’ writing materials are then also soul-bright — again language colors an object); Staubfaden means stamen or filament (literally ‘dust-thread’); Krone is the corolla but also the crown, and its promiximity to Dorn (thorn) calls to mind the Dornenkrone (‘crown of thorns’) (Felstiner, 169). In addition to this, Celan takes advantage of German’s ability to form compound nouns, and leaves “Psalm” heavy, particularly in the two final stanzas, with such inventions as seelenhell (soul-bright), himmelswüst (heaven-ravaged), Purpurwort (crimson word), and Niemandsrose (no one’s rose). But against and amid this density Celan carves out tiny interruptions in language: pauses, haltings, waitings, voids. Sometimes these take the form of a line break (as in “Towards / you”), sometimes they collapse in the middle of a word (“the nothing-, the / No one’s rose”). The last stanza especially is splintered into tiny chunks of language, three words at a time at most, beginning with prepositions, articles, or relative pronouns, so that it reads like a skipping, sinking, stone: Mit dem Griffel seelenhell, dem Staubfaden himmelswüst, der Krone rot vom Purpurwort, das wir sangen über, o über dem Dorn. (emphasis added) I have emphasized these ‘minor’ words in order to highight their role in the structure of the stanza; it must be kept in mind, however, that when the poem is read aloud in either German or English, these words are left unstressed. The words to which our voices give weight are those nouns and adjectives dense with double or compound
/Atlantic meanings, and so Celan’s syntax, half frayed and half coiled, turns continually between these two modes, ‘to the point of vertigo.’ And just as these short bursts of language have begun to add up and gain momentum, Celan makes us pause for breath, startle at the repetition: “over, o over / the thorn.” It is in this pause for breath that we suddenly become aware of loss. Loss is different from that absence called up in “Praised be your name, No one.” There is a defiance in that line which defends it from loss; by the final stanza, however, the defiance has become less certain. What are we meant to understand by “over the thorn”? Does it simply describe the physical configuration, in which the speakers are singing above the thorn? Or is it a sign of lamentation? Perhaps the speakers are mourning over the thorn, that is, for the sake of, or on behalf of, the thorn. The ambiguity is intentional; in either case, humans again find themselves on top of flowers, as they did in Backlight. Maurice Blanchot writes about Celan, “it is possible to add: nothing is lost, in that nothing is perhaps articulated in terms of loss” (Blanchot, 235). Indeed, nothing is articulated this way, but the loss is there nonetheless, in the spaces that break words apart: die Nichts-; über, o über. This space of breath gives us, the readers, time to build a grave, or to turn and look into the void which is not empty, but is, as Blanchot says, “a void saturated with void” (235). The poem itself is a dangerous crossing towards and through this void. Atemwende, Übersetzung Derrida writes that Celan ‘touches’ the German language, “in the sense that he leaves upon it a sort of scar, a mark, a wound” (Derrida, 99-100). But German had already suffered a wound; Celan is, on the contrary, attempting to bring language back from the wound, even as he writes from within it. He was the first to admit that such an attempt might be hopeless, but as John Berger reminds us, the despair of the artist cannot be total, for “it excepts his own work” (Berger, 56). It takes great courage to make art, and great and somber hope to write poetry after Auschwitz. Celan’s poems, as wary of religion as they are, are prayers, fragile and necessary, each “a letter in a bottle thrown out to sea with the — surely not always strong — hope that it may somehow wash up somewhere, perhaps on a shoreline of the heart” (Celan, 34-35). Such poetry cannot be written in total despair; in it is inscribed a wish for a cure, or at least for encounters that would make a cure possible, “paths from a voice to a listening You, natural paths, outlines for existence perhaps, . . . A kind of homecoming” (53). A homecoming is a return, but not necessarily to a place of origin. Celan is not interested in places of origin; they are not to be found, not for the speakers in his poems (“No one moulds us”; “the nothing- / the No-One’s-Rose”) and not for the German language. A healing, a post-war existence, cannot be achieved by a return to origins, but by another way. Celan finds it:
None of these places [of origin] can be found. They do not exist. But I know where they ought to exist, especially now, and . . . I find something else. I find something as immaterial as language, yet earthly, terrestrial, in the shape of a circle which, via both poles, rejoins itself and on the way serenely crosses even the tropics: I find . . . a meridian. (54-55)
Paris A meridian is a ring, a perpetual turning traced over the surface of the earth: a continual crossing, travelling, wandering, around and towards. The meridian is the trajectory of the poem, grounded in the earth and yet ‘immaterial’ enough to be alterable, and therefore usable. The poem, running along the meridian, translates what Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe calls experience, on condition that this word be taken literally — from Latin, experiri: the risky crossing . . ., and this is why one can refer, strictly speaking, to a poetic existence, if existence it is that perforates a life and tears it, at times putting us beside ourselves. (Laporte, 224)
Celan’s poems are certainly ‘risky crossings’; without the promise of success, they nevertheless reach across, out of the trauma of history and towards a ‘poetic existence,’ that is, a way of being in language (‘flowering,’ even admid funereal nothingness). He does not seek a pure German, but a free German, in which there is space to speak of experience. The movement of his poems, reaching across and putting beside, is the emancipatory movement of translation. The etymology of the German übersetzen (to translate) is much like its English counterpart: to cross over, to convey or ferry. Formed on the same principle is freisetzen (to set free), and in these two movements, translation and liberation, we begin to sense the turn of Celan’s poetry.7 The turn of poetry is, of course, the Atemwende, a pause in the breath and the breath between life and death (Colin, 100). Derrida describes this breath through the word ‘Shibboleth,’ the word that hangs between life and death, and which therefore represents the place of all words, at least for Celan.8 Celan’s poetry, both historically and psychologically, stands between him and death: “You I could hold / when all fell away from me.” And yet: “You were my death” (emphasis added). The breath is then not only between two states, but also of them, comprising both of them. In the turn it is possible to hold at once, in the same gaze, life and death, the German language’s Nazi past and its wandering future, the greyness it acquired during the war and the Purpurwort of the post-war poem. The intermediate state is translation: the Atemwende is a risky crossing, but it is only here that an utterance is possible, despite the surrounding silence. The Atemwende, even in its proximity to death, is the poem’s breath of life. Works Cited Berger, John. “The Honesty of Goya.” In Selected Essays of John Berger, edited by Geoff Dyer, 55-57. New York: Vintage Books, 2003. Blanchot, Maurice. “The Last One to Speak.” Translated by Joseph Simas. In Trans lating Tradition: Paul Celan in France, edited by Benjamin Hollander, 228-239. 7 “In other words: language actualized, set free under the sign of a radical individuation. . .” in Celan, 49. 8 Derrida, 1-65 (Chapter 1: “Shibboleth: For Paul Celan”).
/Atlantic San Francisco: ACTS, 1988. Celan, Paul. Collected Prose. Translated by Rosemarie Waldrop. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1986. Colin, Amy. Paul Celan: Holograms of Darkness. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. Derrida, Jacques. Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan, edited by Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen. New York: Fordham University Press, 2005. Felstiner, John. Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. Hamburger, Michael, trans. Poems of Paul Celan. New York: Persea Books, 2002. Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. La Poésie Comme Expérience. Paris: Christian Bougeois Editeur, 1986. Laporte, Roger. “Readings of Paul Celan.” Translated by Norma Cole. In Translating Tradition: Paul Celan in France, edited by Benjamin Hollander, 222-227. San Francisco: ACTS, 1988. Olschner, Leonard. “Anamnesis: Paul Celan’s Translations of Poetry.” In Translating Tradition: Paul Celan in France, edited by Benjamin Hollander, 56-89. San Francisco: ACTS, 1988. Steiner, George. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. —. “The Hollow Miracle.” In Language and Silence: Essays on Language, Literature, and the Inhuman, 95-109. New York: Atheneum, 1977. —. “The Long Life of Metaphor: A Theological-Metaphysical Approach to the Shoah.” In Comprehending the Holocaust: Historical and Literary Research, edited by A. Cohen, J. Gelber, C. Wardi, 45-61. Frankfurt am Main 1988.
Miguel Angel Guerra
SUCCESSIVE FIDELITIES Marion Tricoire
2 – Paris – The War Detention center of Clairveux Evening of March 20, 1949 I am a convict. On my prisoner’s rags, they sewed 1724, my service number, along with the perpetuity “P” of those sentenced for life. Just like every night, I am locked up for twelve hours behind the bars of my cage, my “hen coop” of two meters squared. In my wing, there are twenty-three similar cages, all occupied. The tenant of number 7, Sylvain Balivet, is telling his neighbor how he had picked up the corpses of his father and younger brother, both killed by an American torpedo during the raid on Marseille in May 1944: “I felt something elastic lying under a coating of rubble. It was a woman’s torso, cleanly severed below the hips. Nearby, I recognized one of my friends, speared by a stake from a beam. Under him, I found my headless father, and my brother in pieces a little further away.” Sylvain Balivet was twenty-one. He was a law student preparing for the École Coloniale. He did not read newspapers; he did not belong to any political faction. He was a tall, well-built lad, quiet and prone to pondering on his ideas. On July 17, 1944 in Paris, he joined the Milice. He had absolutely no doubt as to the outcome of the war, but that no longer mattered to him. The Milice sent him with a gun to Burgundy. Then they ordered to retreat to Germany. He followed, became a SS for the SS Charlemagne division, used up all of his munitions in Pomerania against the Russian avalanche, and retreated five hundred kilometers on foot. The Americans collected him. A judge from Dijon gave him ten years of forced labor. Sylvain Balivet: a destiny. A trajectory rather… Mine is just as pathetic, just as erratic. I am twenty-eight years old and an old man already. I have destroyed everything beautiful I ever had: the love of a brother, the love of a woman. This is why I deserve the death the judges have denied me; this is why I will make justice happen myself. Very soon. But beforehand, I intend on writing the truth. My truth. 151
/Atlantic This is neither an apology, nor a plea. Neither do I excuse, nor do I accuse. I can simply recount. This is my last luxury. 1 September 1, 1939, 4:30 a.m., Hitler’s army invaded Poland. That same morning, at 7:08 a.m., an unlikely pair nervously got off the Cherbourg-Paris train. The two men were quite similar: pale complexion, dark hair, gold-tinted glasses sitting on a massive nose. They could have passed for brothers, were it not for the differences in age and clothing style. The older one’s white linen suit was crumpled because he had probably slept in it. The other one, a younger man with his bruise-covered face, was sweating in a rough woolen sweater that he seemed to have put on in a hurry, without thinking of how warm it would be in Paris. Carrying two big leather suitcases, they walked along the platforms of the Saint-Lazare train station, coughing in the engine smoke. They both seemed lost. —So, is it true? the older one said, asking every passerby and all the station staff. —What is, sir? —The war? Has the war been declared? —How should we know? most of the travelers answered, annoyed by the intruder. Buy newspapers, like everyone else! But the event having occurred in the wee hours, there was no mention in the newspapers so far. Yet it was on everyone’s lips, spread around by the first morning radio shows. “The Nazis are attacking! The Nazis are attacking!” The news should have terrified me, it should have pushed me right back to Malderney, but this was nothing in comparison to the slap that hit me in the face when I left the station. The slap smelled like pavement, coal smoke, oil, and dung. —Paris, I let out in awe, rendered speechless, as Bloch grabbed my arm to run down the stairs leading to rue de Châteaudun. Pushing me inside a taxi, he shouted to the driver: —22, Quai de Conti! And hurry! I need to make some phone calls! ** The trip had taken longer than expected. We went against the tide the whole way, so the ride on Captain Fortin’s boat took half a day instead of the barely two hours it should have lasted. “I’m sorry,” he apologized while pushing the engine, “I think nature is against us. The sea doesn’t want you leaving Malderney…” He avoided making eye contact with me, and instead probably preferred thinking of the bundle of money Bloch had given him in exchange for his complicity. The compensation was big, but the sea did indeed seem to oppose my de-
Paris parture. The Channel reflected my inner turmoil with troubling precision. Was I right to leave? How could I abandon my family, my country, my loves? Was this not the ultimate cowardice? What was I to do in a country where I knew nothing and no one? Could I really rely on this Simon Bloch to whom I was entrusting my life, present and future? The island was pulling away, the coast slowly disappearing, melting into the horizon, sinking into the sea the way I would have liked the memories of that awful morning to do. All my muscles were aching. My arms, my chest, my legs were covered in bruises. My face, though Bloch had tried putting ice and bandages on it, made me look like a boxer after a fight. Perhaps that is why Fortin had not said anything. I had so little in common with “the young master Guillaume” that the captain could make the distinction between the image of Virginia Berkeley’s son and the injured wreck staring at the wake, contemplating a paradise he had finally decided to flee. Once in Diélette, we were stricken with bad luck: the bus to Cherbourg had left half an hour earlier, and the next one would not come for another three days. —It’s so stupid! Bloch grumbled while crumpling his Panama hat. I could feel he was ready to resent me. Hadn’t the Channel been so agitated only because it refused to lose one of its beloved children? The torture was double for me. Not only had I just abandoned my childhood land, but I could not even lose myself in the discovery of a new life since we were stuck waiting in Diélette for three days. No car was available in the small harbor and the taxis from Cherbourg refused to come this far to get to us. —It’s not a big deal, Captain Fortin attempted to argue, you can always sleep at my brother-in-law’s… This is how we ended up staying at the Saint-Marcouf, the only inn in town, a nauseating shack where Bloch and I had to share a bed. Supreme irony: the only window of the room looked onto the sea and in the lightest hours, I could clearly see the cliffs of Malderney on the horizon. “Fate is not devoid of humor,” I said to myself while spreading balm over my bruises. To be honest, this forced stop at least provided useful recovery time. It eased some pain that a train ride would have undoubtedly worsened. The presence of Simon Bloch, in this old country-style bed, was a troubling experience. Don’t misunderstand me: the Parisian never attempted a single inappropriate move. Every night, after saying good night, he would settle in his corner of the bed facing the wall. I would face the other side of the room, towards the window. But I could not get my mother’s diatribes out of my head, blaming Bloch and his “inversion”. Anyway, nothing would get out of my head. For three nights, while Bloch would noisily and rhythmically snore, my last hours in Malderney ran before my eyes ad libitum. My stomach was knotted with pain, sadness, jealousy, and desire. Sometimes, silently and without waking Bloch up, I masturbated. I thought it would calm my rages but it
/Atlantic only made my memories more vivid. So I had definitively abandoned Pauline to Victor, running away from that most beautiful night of love. If that had been all… I had also forever lost the brother I loved so, who protected me: my double, my accomplice, my friend, he whom I confided in, occasionally my father figure. In a way, Pauline had stolen him from me. Leaving Malderney meant renouncing all my rights. How would my mother handle my departure? Impassibly, I assume. Immutable Virginia… But I knew that she would suffer inside. Oh God I suddenly missed her, the unfair and cold mother. How I wanted to see her figure appear on the island horizon, from this hotel room window. Her figure beckoning me to come back, telling me everything was forgiven, everything would be the same, anew, forever. But there was no way back. I had unburied the hatchet and there was no stopping the war. When we finally left Diélette, my remorse wound down, and when I boarded the Paris-bound train from Cherbourg, the novelty was so exciting it overshadowed my doubt and torments for a while. I had never been on a train before. I felt like a child facing a new toy, wanting to try, to see everything: the restaurant car, the bunk beds, the steam engine… The other passengers were so surprised they treated me with growing offence. —He’s only a kid, you know? Bloch said when he was dragging me back to our car after I’d disturbed the train conductor for the third time. But I was not a kid, and that is what intrigued the passengers. These last few weeks have made me grow up much faster. I was an eighteen-year old lad, maybe frail and covered in bruises, but well-built and proud. The train ride as well included some obstacles and we had to stop for long hours in the stations of Caen, Evreux, Vernon, and Mantes. In our car, Bloch worked hard to distract me because he could see that the more the train lingered, the more my ghosts came back. —You made the right choice, my friend. Paris is your future, I swear… But he seemed to exaggerate his act, much too preoccupied by the trajectory of the world. He would get off the train to buy newspapers at every stop, and, aghast, he’d read about the consequences of this infamous German-Soviet pact. Honestly, I had trouble getting interested. Whenever my insular remorse left me alone, I was caught in the absolute novelty of my life. The spectacle that was happening before me, through the window, was a constant surprise: the fields, the orchards, the countryside train stations, the villages; I wanted to see everything, understand everything, take in everything. It made me dizzy and close to nausea as my mind kept swaying between my torments of exile and my dreams of conquest. On September 1 at dawn, when the inspector went through the aisles shouting “Paris! Paris! Arrival in thirty minutes!”, I jolted awake, aware that for the first time I had slept the whole night on end without dreaming of Malderney. 2
Paris When Simon Bloch introduced me to his building on Quai de Conti, I remained speechless in front of such a treasure trove. Even a hero from the Arabian Nights would be envious; the Malderney Seigneurie would pass for a Calvinist temple compared to the wealth of this small palace. Spread over the last two floors of a beautiful seventeenth century hôtel particulier adjacent to the Institut de France, this lair seemed to me as vast as a castle. —Sir, this is… extraordinary! I said while climbing up the majestic floor-tiled staircase. —You have yet to see most of it! Bloch rejoiced to introduce me to his kingdom and it seemed to appease his political worries for a short while at least. His eyes glimmered when he worked the complex lock of the tall armored door; it half-opened in a thunder’s noise. —Welcome to Valhalla, young Maldernian… I was taken aback. —You had not mentioned you lived in a museum, Sir… —Museum might be a little much, but I do have a few treasures… I walked in like a robber in a secured vault, the sumptuous Versailles-like wood floors creaking under my steps. Extravagant! The rooms followed one another, each decorated with different taste and style. In spite of the highly refined furniture, gorgeous fabrics and curtains, and breathtaking carpets, what really caught my eyes were the walls. “This truly is a museum…” The entrance hall hosted hunting scenes, including veneries, wolf hunts, and other kills, while the sitting room featured Italian and Flemish Primitives. The living room hosted Poussin and Chardin and the library had Ingres and David. As for the dark labyrinthine corridors of the apartment, they were “enlightened” (Bloch’s word) by some Claude Gelée and Turners; the bedrooms shared the rest of the collection: the “Renoir”, the “Corot”, the “Monet”, the “Cézanne”… Simon Bloch had kept the “Picasso”, a bright room with high-ceilings, for himself. I was given the “Religious knick knacks” room, a round lofted candy-jar room on the third floor, with lopsided walls covered in a thousand Christian icons, ex-votos and stations of the cross, hagiographic biographies, and a superb collection of ivory crucifixes. —This is my little confessional, Bloch laughed, putting my suitcase on a red velvet and ebony prie-dieu, at the feet of a large bed that had belonged to a Roman cardinal who almost became Pope in 1867. Such pious bedding! Finally, opening the bull’s eye window, he added: —It also has the prettiest view of all the rooms… Attracted like a moth by the light, I walked towards the oval latticed window and remained struck. Was there a more perfect view of Paris? It felt like being in one of the postcards that Bloch would send me every winter, or inside an engraving from the Larousse
/Atlantic encyclopedia, with additional smells and sounds. —The Louvre, the Pont des Arts, the Pont-Neuf, the tip of Île de la Cité, Notre-Dame, I recited, studious. —You are not really disoriented, are you? —I am finally able to put names on landmarks I have dreamt of my whole life, Sir. My host came closer and kindly put his hand on my shoulder. Contemplating the gorgeous view together, he said softly: —From now on, Guillaume, you are under my roof, so my rules prevail. I couldn’t help tensing up, but he went on unperturbed: —I am no longer “Sir”, stop the formalities. Call me Simon, that’s all, alright? I was a little disconcerted; despite looking like a kid, I had been educated in the rigorous etiquette of the Lady of Malderney, but I nodded: —Yes, Si… Yes, Simon. —Good job, young friend. I felt I needed to be a little more zealous, so I backed up to the bed and sat on it. The huge red quilt enveloped me like shifting sands. —Simon, may I please ask you… I mean, I have a question. Curious, Bloch looked at me a glimmer in his eye. —I am all ears, young disciple… —Actually, I have two questions. —Go ahead. —The first is about this collection you have never told me about: where does it come from? —And what is the second question? I felt uncomfortable under his gaze, but I showed him the religious objects around us. —All those, they are not very Jewish, are they? Bloch giggled and sat down comfortably in a crimson armchair with a coarse yawn—the overnight train ride had not been restful and the Saint-Marcouf inn’s bed was of low quality. —In 1905, when my parents left Vienna, I was four. They were art dealers in the capital and they wanted to get some fresh air, so they opened the Elias & Rachel Bloch gallery at 104, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. —Is all this theirs? I asked. —Oh no, that’s only my small part of the collection. —Your “small part”? But your parents, where are they? His look was suddenly overcast. —My parents were always on the move. In 1925, they felt like they had seen enough of Paris and they needed someplace larger: they opened the Elias & Rachel Bloch gallery at Madison Avenue and 56th St. —In New York City?
Paris —Indeed. —And you did not follow them? Bloch shrugged in a nostalgic and somewhat embarrassed way. —I almost did, but I loved Paris too much. My old nomadic blood notwithstanding, my roots are here. —Did you keep the Parisian gallery? —My parents wanted me to, but I never was an art dealer. My passion was live performance: stages, studios, theater, cinema… His eyes lit up, as though a spotlight had just targeted him. —My parents were smart and magnanimous enough to let me choose; I sold the art gallery and some of the art, I kept my favorite pieces, and I started in show business. —Just like that, out of the blue? —Not really. My parents were close friends of the old Auguste Renoir and I always got on well with his son, Jean. —Did you start out in the business with him? I asked, surprised that Bloch had never before mentioned his family or childhood. I realized that I had never enquired, always too eager to talk about myself, my drawings, my projects, my dreams. —You understood well. I first acted as his assistant, thinking I had an artistic vein too. But it was soon clear to me that production is more up my alley. Somewhat conceitedly, Bloch then drew up the list of movies he had produced or co-produced, the posters of which covered the walls of all six bathrooms in the apartment: —Boudu, La Chienne, Golgotha, Pépé le Moko, Fanny, L’Habit vert, Les Rois du sport, La Bête humaine, La Belle équipe, La Kermesse héroïque, La Grande Illusion, Drôle de drame, Quai des Brumes, Le jour se lève… Fine list, isn’t it? —What about the next one? Bloch seemed embarrassed. —Well, Renoir insisted on making a kind of social fable entitled La Règle du jeu; it will launch in a few days. I have only seen the first cut but people are not going to like it… —Do you like it? —Ye...Yes, I think… —Is it failed? —That’s hard to say. I think the French will need time to digest this vision of them… The tour of the apartment had offered a nice break, after which Simon put back on his worried face, looking at least concerned by the future of the movie. He seemed as anxious as he had on the train platform two hours earlier. —The movie, the war… Everything is so blurry, so opaque… —Are you really so scared? Is it that bad?
/Atlantic —My dear Guillaume, he winced powerlessly, I promised you the city of Lights but you are really not arriving at the best of times. Everything could blow up in an instant. As to the fate of the Jews… —By the way… I interrupted him, pointing out at the virgins, the ostensoria and other reliquary that took up all the space in the room. —Oh, that is only a joke of sorts, a nod of the head. Eager to fit in, my parents converted and raised me in the Catholic faith. I was baptized, did my First Communion, my confirmation. As a kid, I would even confess once a week at Saint-Philippedu-Roule, the church near the gallery. I was confused: what did he fear then? —So the Nazis can’t do anything against you, can they? Simon barely hid a disdainful and almost cruel face; I could not decipher whether it was aimed at himself or at me. —“No matter what you do, Simon, a Jew you are, a Jew you will remain.” Those were my father’s words, before he left to New York. He sensed that someday, fortunes would turn. —Why don’t you join them in New York? —I am considering it, actually. Now that you are here though, I cannot leave you alone. I did not know what I should answer. Should I be thankful? Object and say, “No, you should not stay just for me”? Offer, “Take me with you to New York then”? I did not say anything, inwardly repeating the only word that truly mattered to me that first day of September 1939: “Paris, Paris, Paris…” 3 “Paris is mine!” I started shouting, from that day onwards, at 7 every morning of early September, when I would leave Simon’s building. I would not come back before dusk, empty, sore, my feet bloody, sick with the bulimia of someone who believes they have ten lives to catch up on. I had so much to learn, so much to understand. These days, busy as an antiquary shop, always started with a café-crème. Heading down rue Bonaparte, I would sit at the Deux-Magots café terrace, where the waiters soon got to know me. —Here comes Ze Angliche, they said when I came to eat a freshly-baked croissant, clean-shaven and wearing a suit Simon lent to me. I would stay at least two hours, with the sole intent of listening to the humming of the city grow. What a ruckus! What fascinated me, besides the cars, the bicycles, and the trucks going noisily down boulevard Saint-Germain—the only motorized vehicle in Malderney was the mailman’s old moped—were the voices. There were so many people on the sidewalks, as though the whole of humanity had made an appointment to meet at the bottom of the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where an old Swiss guard was on watch. Men in three-piece suits; ladies with hats and half-veils;
Paris young lads with short flannel trousers, their legs full of bruises and scars; young ladies in long skirts, looking down at their leather sandals, holding the hand of their nanny or the butler in livery taking them to school. Priests in cassocks stooped to face the street, their fingers crooked around their missal. The ruddy bakers breathed in some fresh air on the threshold of their stores, their undershirt drenched in sweat. Alongside them, grocers in blue aprons, craftsmen of all kinds, especially ones going from one place to the other. Glaziers, grinders, repairers of seats or simple rag-pickers, wandered up and down to offer their services. Farmers were heading towards les Halles, the main marketplace, their barrows full of produce painfully led by an ageless bag of bones. Coming down from Vaugirard and bringing carcasses of beef, veal, and horse, the massive slaughterers headed towards les Halles as well, eager to gulp down a liter of red wine. And then, the street hawkers, Parisian kids in shapeless clothes, les titis with a cigarette always in mouth, roamed the streets to sell L’Intransigeant, L’Aurore, Gringoire, Le Figaro, L’Humanité, Le Cri du Peuple, and so many other newspapers which, each in their own thrilled or upset way, clustered in unison around a single headline: “The War!” Because that much was certain, it was war. Translated from Les fidélités successives by Nicolas d’Estienne D’Orves (éditions Albin Michel).
TRANS… SHHT Marion Tricoire
Q, X, Y and Z are orphans. They often are in my dictionary, just like in others. I could have left them hanging on the page, but I pitied them. To be honest, I felt guilty not to have used them. Lexical discrimination, underrated letters. There are so many words starting with C. I considered cutting considerably certain contributions; couldn’t contort contract. The constraints (because in the end, they are the common element to all kinds of transformation) were made up, invented, apparently meaningless. I started by making a list of terms that came to mind when I thought about our work together. The pool of terms is finite, but even finite is not constricted enough. I decided to only draw from my own accounts describing, explaining, and thinking back upon works I have produced. I erased the previous list. There are some terms I expected and did not find. Interpretation, idea, inspiration or discovery. “I” words much. They had travelled with me though, had been part of the game all along. I would like this to be self-contained, to, in a way, encompass its content in its form. Consequently, I will not use any of the terms of my dictionary in this explanation of it. It would be cheating, because what I want to do with it, is it. Too easy. Interestingly enough, “easy” is not a term that showed up much in my recounting of tasks. Talking about self-contained and alphabet, pangrams are fascinating and inspired me partly for this. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. It took years to come up with a self-descriptive pangram. It was computer-generated. This Pangram contains four as, one b, two cs, one d, thirty es, six fs, five gs, seven hs, eleven is, one j, one k, two ls, two ms, eighteen ns, fifteen os, two ps, one q, five rs, twenty-seven ss, eighteen ts, two 161
Paris us, seven vs, eight ws, two xs, three ys, & one z. Lee Sallows, 1984. I was also inspired by a potentially upcoming confidential piece of work. Unofficial inspiration matters. I wonder what I absolutely missed, the asperities and aspects that escaped me. It also feels so clichĂŠ. Essential. Obvious. I am paranoid, I am certain I used content I shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have. I did not check. Self-trust, misplaced confidence, or a dubious taste for challenges. Creating risks. Account attempt
Accuracy, Angle, Appropriation, Arbitrary, Artificial, Assumptions, Audience Biased, Birth, Blanks, Boundaries Care, Changes, Comfort, Complete, Compromising, Concerns, Constraints, Consuming, Context, Control, Convince, Create
Decipher, Decisional, Definitive, Direction, Discussion Echo, Emotions, Engaged, Execute, Exist, Experience, Experiment Failure, Faithful, Familiar, Foreign, Forgetting, Formulate, Fragmented, Frustration Gather, Grammar Hands, Hesitate Implications, Importance, Impose, Incarnated, Influence, Intuition, Invisible, Iteration Journey, Justifications Knowledge Language, Legibility, Legitimate, Light, Literature Meaning, Medium, Meeting, MetaNecessary
Observer, Oppose, Original Perspective, Power, Precision, Pretense, Process, Project, Punctuation Reading, Reconcile, Reflection, Rhythm, Role, Rules Selection, Sentence, Slow, Smoothing, Space, Stage, Structure, Struggling, Style, Submit, Syntax, System
Tempting, Text, Theoretical, Thread, Tone, Tool, Transcribe, Translation Unbalanced, Uniqueness, Useful Versions, Voices Weight, Wholeness, Words Stripped from all my material, I feel null and void. Unable to support the purpose for which I was intended. Yet less haunted. Wordy ghosts. Make your own dictionary of ghosts below:
THE “NON-PLACE” AS TOPOS AND TROPE: DEFINING A “SUPERMODERN” SPACE, AND ETHICS, OF (CULTURAL) TRANSLATION Jennifer Carr
It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox (goodthinkful would be the Newspeak expression) in tendency. In practice this meant that no book written before approximately 1960 could be translated as a whole. George Orwell, 1984 Introduction, and a brief outline of scope and problematics: Discourses on translation are rife with metaphors, a number of which evoke the supposed “space” in which the practice occurs. Yet just what constitutes the “locus” of translation remains highly ambiguous, even fervently contested, and conceptualizing this “spatial dimension” can be further complicated—indeed, almost dizzyingly so—if we broaden the definitional scope of translation to include culture and the ways in which the latter is represented and rendered “legible” in, for instance, major cities and their attendant institutions. Yet I believe valuable insight into the “space,” epistemological potential, and ethics of translation can be gleaned by analyzing the practice in tandem with—or, perhaps more accurately, via the metaphor of—the “non-place,” a term coined by French anthropologist Marc Augé in his 1992 Non-Lieux, introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité (Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity). The non-place is a variable yet increasingly ubiquitous type of space, one that “cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity” (Augé, 63). This category includes transit lounges, highways, airplanes, and other modes of transport, but also refugee camps and, as Robert Davidson argues in his article “Spaces of Immigration ‘Prevention’: Interdiction and the Nonplace,” “spaces of excision,” too. These are defined in relation to the nation-state and its attempts to shore its borders against immigration, and through them Davidson offers an incisive look at space and power that resonates with the work of Michel Foucault, who insisted that “space is fundamental in any form 165
/Atlantic of communal life [and] in any exercise of power” (Foucault, 170). Space is also a prerequisite for movement, with “non-places [being] the spaces of supermodernity” through which we move in increasing anonymity and solitude (Augé, 89). This sense of movement calls to mind the etymological root of the term “translation” itself: the Latin translatus, meaning “carried across.” This sense is explicitly conserved in several definitions of the verb “to translate,” which can signify movement from one place or state to another, for instance. Such definitions prove applicable in the most literal sense to certain situations, yet they also serve to illustrate—and perhaps even account for—a certain slippage between the literal and the metaphorical in use of the term “translation” and its attendant lexicon. This leads us to the potential—and problematics—of the non-place as a metaphor for translation (understood as the process whereby a source text is rendered into a target language). Much has been made of the “trajectories” of translated texts, as well as the spaces occupied by translators themselves, with common metaphors equating translation to a “bridge” or else conferring upon it the slightly more ambiguous quality of “in-betweenness.” Maria Tymoczko does a convincing job of dismantling such tropes in her “Ideology and the Position of the Translator,” arguing that translators do in fact operate from ideological standpoints and pursue their own cultural and political agendas. This notion of translation as somehow inevitably ideological also surfaces in theorist Lawrence Venuti’s essay “Translation, Community, Utopia.” What is more, Venuti’s attendant claim that translation is fundamentally utopian paradoxically leads us both away from the concept of place—“utopia,” after all, signifies “no place” in Greek—and toward it. At the very least, it suggests the “imagined community” upon which nation-states are premised and thus the “anthropological place” Augé contrasts with the non-place. “Utopia,” then, represents another imagined, metaphorical “space” of translation that, though surely more nuanced than the “bridge” or the “in-between space,” is nevertheless problematic. The notion of the non-place can also be applied to concrete institutions and the ways in which these vehicle and “translate” (i.e. render and represent) culture. In this essay, I propose to explore the non-place as it both reflects and escapes the control of the nation-state by focusing on two Parisian institutions—the Musée du quai Branly and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Site François-Mitterrand), or BnF for short—that represent the legacies of two former French presidents (Jacques Chirac and François Mitterrand, respectively), and which thus boast an explicit relationship to power and the French nation-state’s forays into the realm of “cultural translation.” While I will not pretend that either institution can be labeled a non-place in any totalizing sense—after all, “In the concrete reality of today’s world, places and spaces, places and non-places intertwine…[and] the possibility of non-place is never absent from any place” (86)—I do believe they possess qualities that make them useful for thinking through not only Augé’s concept, but also the ways in which the non-place can be used as a productive spatial metaphor. The architectural features of the Musée du Quai Branly and the BnF will
Paris constitute one foundation of my analysis; the contents they display or otherwise make available to their publics another. Subjective descriptions—supplemented by several photographs—of the way in which I experienced these institutions also seem both inevitable and important, as Augé and Davidson are careful to insist upon the “solitary contractuality” inherent in the experience of the non-place. Yet the very notion of the cohesive individual upon which such contractuality is premised would appear somehow fundamentally unsettled by the non-place (indeed by “spaces” as opposed to discursively-constructed, ostensibly coherent “anthropological places” in general), where the individual, immersed in an environment characterized by movement and the ephemeral, is free to “repeat the gleeful and silent experience of infancy: to be other, and go over to the other” (68). This precarious oscillation between subjectivity and its evacuation is further detailed in Non-Places as follows: “a person entering the space of non-place is relieved of his usual determinants…Subjected to a gentle form of possession, to which he surrenders himself with more or less talent or conviction, he tastes for a while – like anyone who is possessed – the passive joys of identity-loss, and the more active pleasure of role-playing” (83). The uncanny aspect of this description finds an equally uncanny echo in the practice of literary translation, in which the translator is expected to relinquish his or her subjectivity and serve as the author’s “medium,” so to speak. The “othering” of the translator is a key component of Gayatri Spivak’s ethics of translation and, indeed, a few of the key terms she uses to discuss the practice in her “Translating Into English” are also operative in Augé’s work. The final section of this paper will therefore explore the ways in which the non-place as both quotidian phenomenon and metaphor can enrich not only Spivak’s ethical project—premised as it is on a “‘surrender’ to the other’s text” (Staten, 114)—but also our ability to conceptualize, and productively locate, the practice of translation. The Musée du quai Branly as Non-Place: Just inside the main entrance to the musée du quai Branly, a marble plaque hung on the wall proclaims the following: Monsieur Jacques Chirac Président de la République qui a voulu le musée du quai Branly pour rendre justice aux arts des peuples d’Afrique, d’Asie, d’Océanie et des Amériques en reconnaissant leur place essentielle au sein du patrimoine universel, et contribué ainsi au développe ment du dialogue nécessaire entre les cultures et les civilisations a inauguré ce bâtiment le 20 juin 2006
/Atlantic Mr. Jacques Chirac President of the Republic who wanted the Musée du quai Branly to serve as a means of doing justice to the art of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, by recognizing its crucial place at the heart of our universal heritage, and who thereby contributed to the development of a necessary dialogue between cultures and civilizations inaugurated this building on June 20th, 2006 [my translation]
A museum brochure then entreats the visitor: Faites le tour du monde en 2h environ… Explorez chacun des continents à travers des oeuvres emblématiques de la diversité des collections du musée [Go around the world in 2 hours or so… Explore each continent through emblematic works of the museum’s diverse collections; my translation]. This “journey” begins with the visitor walking along a ramp whose wide undulations suggest those of a river. The implicit sense of organic movement or “flow” is further reinforced by moving text projected onto the ramp’s floor. The oscillating words themselves are in an array of languages, prefiguring the diversity of cultures represented inside the actual exhibition space. Incidentally, the presence of these words substantiates—at least in part—the following statement by Augé: “The link between individuals and their surroundings in
Paris the space of non-place is established through the mediation of words, or even texts” (Augé, 76). This assertion would seem to posit a distinction between the “words, or even texts” of the non-place (plaques, advertisements, instruction manuals, and the like) and the discourses and narratives that constitute anthropological definitions of place and the ostensibly bounded, cohesive cultures they contain. Explanatory notes, dates, artists’ names and similar bits of text are museum fixtures—guaranteeing that the visitor’s experience will be mediated to a certain degree by language. Yet this language is always somehow disjointed, fractured, and I have difficulty imagining a scenario in which it could effectively convey temporal depth and narrative import. This has implications for the accuracy of cultural representation in the context of museum displays—an issue whose ethical stakes are ratcheted up when the cultures in question are non-Western ones affected by the West’s colonial history. To insist that the visitor can tour the world in “2 hours or so,” and that, by placing temporally and geographically distinct objects in the same space, a “necessary dialogue between cultures and civilization” will inevitably result is to insist on a form of magical thinking that is profoundly—indeed, almost shamelessly—disorienting, both spatially and temporally. Such premises risk flattening the very historical depth and cultural distinction that other mediating texts in the Musée du quai Branly attempt to convey. Granted, this flattening is an unavoidable feature of all museums—institutions limited, like most things in this world, by considerations of time, space, and funding. And surely it is important, even praiseworthy, for a country such as France to showcase and valorize the art of the non-Western world in an establishment located mere minutes from the Eiffel Tower (which is framed by the musée du quai Branly’s architecture from certain vantage points in the museum’s garden). However, regardless of how we interpret underlying intentions, the fact remains that certain features of the Musée du quai Branly make it an unexpected and yet quite remarkable example of a non-place. In his essay “On Collecting Art and Culture,” James Clifford asserts: “In the West…collecting has long been a strategy for the deployment of a possessive self, culture, and authenticity” (Clifford, 60). If individual identity is both constituted and communicated through the accumulation of material possessions—a result of what Clifford terms the “possessive individualism” of Western cultures—museums such as the quai Branly can be viewed as broadening that model by implicating non-Western objects. This can prove quite problematic, not least of all because, as Clifford explains: collections, most notably museums, create the illusion of adequate repre sentation of a world by first cutting objects out of specific contexts (whether cultural, historical, or intersubjective) and making them ‘stand for’ abstract wholes – a ‘Bambara mask’, for example, becoming an ethnographic met onym for Bambara culture…Paralleling Marx’s account of the fantastic objec tification of commodities…in the modern Western museum ‘an illusion of a relation between things takes the place of a social relation’…The objective world is given, not produced, and thus historical relations of power in the work of acquisition are occulted. (61)
/Atlantic The musée du quai Branly would appear to be a paradigmatic example of such tendencies. The overwhelming number of masks in the museum’s collection, in particular, prompts an interesting set of considerations. If museum displays risk synecdoche, that is to say the conflation of a certain, necessarily selective and arbitrary, set of objects with the accurate representation of an entire culture, this is complexified when the objects in question insidiously promote themselves as synecdochic representations of the body—and the gaze—of the “other.” The visitor is constantly confronted by and invited to return this gaze as she passes through the Musée du quai Branly’s various “geographical regions” and comes “face to face,” as it were, with a caricaturized and flattened version of an “other.” Such reified, eminently consumable foreignness can be understood as an inevitable byproduct of the West’s “possessive individualism.” Furthermore, visitors’ oftentimes solitary interaction with, and appraisal of, a museum’s displayed objects relates not only to Clifford’s assertion that, in modern Western museums, illusory relations between objects replace and obviate social interaction, but also Augé’s insistence that, in our supermodern era, “the community of human destinies is experienced in the anonymity of non-place, and in solitude” (Augé, 98). One final aspect of the Musée du quai Branly worth mentioning in relation to the non-place is that of historical time, or—more accurately—the museum’s flattening thereof. Again, this is surely unavoidable, and yet, to return once more to the museum brochure, the moment in time constituted by those “2 hours or so” stands in glaring contrast to the vast historical span encompassed by the museum’s collections, which feature objects ranging from ancient African stone carvings to 21st-century Bolivian costumes. Significantly, the Musée du quai Branly also includes objects that date from the colonial era. Although at times Augé can be frustratingly circumspect when it comes to defining the non-place, he does state, in no uncertain terms: “Empire, considered as a ‘totalitarian’ universe, is never a non-place” (92). Yet here imperialism and colonialism have been somehow obscured and abstracted. Nevertheless, France’s colonial legacy persists on some level, and its government’s decision to inaugurate the Musée du quai Branly through one of its former presidents can be read in a number of ways—as a gesture of atonement, for instance, or simply as an attempt to valorize aesthetic experience of a different sort. Yet regardless of how its overarching purpose is understood, any “ethnographic” or “anthropological” museum risks obscuring historical realities and their lingering effects if it renders the visitor’s trajectory through a “world” of different cultures too facile; in other words, if it tends too far toward the defining qualities of the non-place. After all, “non-places are there to be passed through…They are lived through in the present. The present of the journey (83-83)”; in this case, one lasting “2 hours or so.”
Paris The BnF as Non-Place:
The Bibliothèque nationale de France (Site François-Mitterrand) represents the tangible legacy of its namesake, former French President François Mitterrand. It was inaugurated in 1996, the year of his death. The sheer size of the complex speaks to its intended purpose as repository for all works published in France (and some beyond). And yet its most striking architectural features (four symmetrically-arranged towers framing a central, subterranean stand of trees), which would seem the logical place to store these texts, had to be ruled out due to concerns over the large glass structures overheating. They now loom eerily empty over the site while the library’s vast collection of books occupies a series of rooms below ground. With rather poignant irony, this set-up calls to mind an analogy employed by Warren Weaver, a noted innovator of machine translation. In discussing his views of language as coded meaning, Weaver asks us to: Think…of individuals living in a series of tall closed towers, all erected on a common foundation. When they try to communicate with one another, they shout back and forth, each from his own closed tower. It is difficult to make the sounds penetrate even the nearest towers, and communication proceeds very poorly indeed. But when an individual goes down his tower, he finds himself in a great open basement, common to all the towers. Here he estab lishes easy and useful communication with the persons who have also de scended from their towers. (“Warren Weaver: Translation”
/Atlantic In the case of the BnF, that “great open basement” is where the library itself is located. Unfortunately, this space would not seem to promote “easy and useful communication,” but something rather more akin to the experience of the non-place. It is perhaps misleading to liken it to a “great open” space at all. Instead, the BnF’s many rooms and halls evoke Foucault’s understanding of the relationship between architecture and autonomy, in which “architecture…is only taken as an element of support, to ensure a certain allocation of people in space, a canalization, as well as the coding of their reciprocal relations” (Foucault, 170). The “channeling” of visitors through the various spaces of the BnF, as well as the “coding” of relations—whether reciprocal or between the individual and the spaceas-frequented-place (Augé, 64) of the library itself—is salient in a variety of ways. For instance, the visitor who wishes to make full use of the BnF’s facilities must first obtain a reader’s card, which she can subsequently use to gain access to otherwise restricted areas. Entering into these spaces requires passing through mechanized turnstiles similar to those of the Paris Métro—an exceptional example, incidentally, of a non-place. Several of the BnF’s protocols mirror those Augé posits as characteristic of the “infrastructure” of travel—spaces in which “Alone, but one of many, the user of a non-place [enters into] contractual relations with it…the passenger accedes to his anonymity only when he has given proof of his identity; when he has countersigned (so to speak) the contract” (82). This paradoxical process—asserting one’s identity in order to obtain what Augé suggests is a liberating anonymity—echoes a common way in which the process of literary translation has been articulated and normatively framed. For instance, in “Translating into English,” Spivak insists on “the irreducibility of the imperative to translate rather than its denial for the sake of identity” (Spivak, 103) while also alluding to the “irreducible cultural translation in any claim to identity” (Spivak, 105). Subjectivity is foregrounded in Non-Places as well, as Augé notes that the field of anthropology, whose main category of analysis is “otherness,” breaks down, in a sense, at the level of “the individual, defined by all ritual systems as a composite steeped in otherness, a figure who is literally unthinkable” (Augé, 19). Similarly, Spivak argues: “A face and body, a figure, is a cipher, to be deciphered, read. [Yet] the figure cannot read itself ” (Spivak, 106). What then are we to make of the “solitary contractuality” between the individual, as “unthinkable” figure or “cipher,” and the non-place—a relationship that can be productively mapped onto the one between the translator and the process in which she is engaged? Perhaps it is precisely a testament to our tenuous, multifaceted, and rarely coherent sense of our own identities that we experience non-places as somehow liberating. Entering into a space with no totalizing narrative, where presence is ephemeral, and where we are not expected to embody our “culture,” allows for a certain leeway, a different means of inhabiting our body, and a temporary reprieve from the points of reference that usually frame our subjectivity. As for the translator, she must “[grasp]
Paris the writer’s presuppositions as they inform his or her use of language, as they develop into a kind of singular code…what Jacques Derrida…calls entering the protocols of a text…And this is why…translation is the most intimate act of reading” (94). Translation involves not only a “movement between languages,” but also a “movement” of translators as they “other” themselves and inhabit a space defined by that precarious othering of self and of text—in other words, a non-place. To return to our analysis of the BnF, however, one final dimension worth mentioning relates to that structuring agent of space addressed so explicitly by Foucault: power. The library is, after all, a manifestation of the French nation-state and its formidable intellectual tradition. The BnF’s various rooms are each dedicated to a different category of works, ranging from philosophy to political science to foreign literatures. The remaining rooms host a variety of temporary exhibitions. A current one at the time of my visit (on May 9, 2012) was titled “France – Algérie: dessins de presse” and was sponsored by the Association France–Algérie—uniting two countries with a fraught history rooted in colonialism. France’s colonial legacy is further referenced in a display of massive globes (dating from the 17th century) that belonged to Louis XIV. A golden plaque affixed to the side of one of these boasts the following dedication: A L’AUGUSTE MAJESTE LOUIS LE GRAND L’INVINCIBLE, L’HEUREUX, LE SAGE LE CONQUERANT TO HIS AUGUST MAJESTY LOUIS LE GRAND THE INVICIBLE, THE HAPPY, THE WISE THE CONQUEROR [my translation] France’s imperial ambitions and legacy (from the 17th century through to Algeria’s independence in 1962) are thus, in a sense, housed by the BnF, whose careful cataloguing and displaying of texts and objects lends itself to the sort of analysis Clifford and others have applied to museums. Historical power dynamics are thus both displayed and obscured even as the visitor confronts not only the full weight of the French canon, but also a marked sense of insignificance as she experiences the sheer size of the complex and the various ways in which movement through it is channeled, monitored, and restricted. The hegemony of the nation-state in relation to non-places constitutes the main theme of Davidson’s “Spaces of Immigration ‘Prevention’.” Davidson argues that “spaces of excision,” which allow the nation-state increased power and flexibility in controlling immigration, are increasingly mapping onto non-places such as airports and hotels, thus lending a rather sinister dimension to Augé’s concept. Most of Davidson’s examples and arguments are not directly applicable to our study of the BnF. Nev-
/Atlantic ertheless, they do serve as useful reminders that space is often still defined in relation to the nation-state, and that certain political and economic agendas are operative— however insidiously—in places and non-places alike, and in processes of translation, for that matter. Yet the way Davidson frames his essay is very pertinent to this paper. Davidson begins by asserting: Dealing with the concept of “space” has become a veritable prerequisite for critical assessments of representation…As the breadth of critical inquiry in the humanities continues to expand, the use of geographical metaphors and techniques to analyze not only the imagined spaces of artistic production and theoretical discourse, but also the real physical spaces of the built environ ment and the shifting coordinates of “the national,” grows concomitantly. (Davidson, 3)
Translation can prove a fruitful metaphor for thinking through certain phenomena that occur in the “built environment” surrounding us. (This process can even be subjected to a mise en abyme of sorts—as when we take an analogy like Weaver’s, itself contingent upon metaphorical language drawn from concrete architectural forms, and reapply it to a physical feature of the Parisian “landscape.”) Conversely, the notion we develop of “space,” through our interactions with the built environment, can inflect the vocabulary and metaphors we use to discuss translation. Using “space” as a means of articulating and reinforcing our notions about the practice of translation is surely not problematic in and of itself—if only because its most obvious alternative, assuming that translation occurs in some sort of vacuum (and non-places are not vacuums!), is highly problematic, if not downright absurd. There is risk involved, however, if we become careless or naïve in defining the “space” of translation. The inherent intangibility and “slipperiness” of metaphors render them a precarious set of terms upon which to “construct” (and here, once again, spatial metaphors appear inevitable) a discourse. Yet as long as the ideological stances, cultural biases, and other tacit factors that shape translation are acknowledged and accounted for, I believe metaphors can prove richly productive means of conceptualizing the practice of translation. This conviction will be the focus of the following, and final, section of this paper. The Locus and Ethics of Translation: Translation studies’ penchant for spatial metaphors is surely attributable in part to the fact that “[f]or at least a quarter of a century now, it has been generally agreed that translation is a text about a text or, to put it another way, a form of metastatement” (Tymoczko, 215). The critical distance implicit in the prefix “meta-”— which can naturally be found in “metaphor” as well—squares with other notions of distance thoroughly ingrained in discourses and practices of translation: geographical distance between cultures, temporal distance between author and translator, even structural and syntactical “distance” between languages, to provide but a few examples. 175
Paris Furthermore, according to Tymoczko:
questions about the place of enunciation of the translator—both the ideologi cal positioning and the geographical and temporal positioning—are related to the recent development within translation studies of a tendency to speak of translation itself as a place or space somehow disjoined from (or mappable over) the actual physical and cultural space that the translator occupies, and somehow distinct from the ideological position of the translator as well… translation has been characterized as a place or a space in between other spaces. The locution between has become one of the most popular means of figuring an elsewhere that a translator may speak from—an elsewhere that is somehow different from either the source culture or the receptor culture that the translator mediates between. (217)
That Tymoczko uses the phrase “the translator mediates between” in a critique of the trope of “in-betweenness” is telling. It suggests the inevitability of spatial metaphors, however problematic they may be. The notion that a translator mediates between cultures is also problematic insofar as it implies the existence of bounded, cohesive cultures between which movement and mediation is possible. However, Tymoczko does acknowledge the legacy of poststructuralist thought and concede that its “conceptual framework has made the term between useful insofar as it gestures toward the inevitable vagaries of cultural constructions” (222).
Augé addresses these ambiguities explicitly in Non-Places—when, for instance, he proposes a difference between anthropological place (as a discursively-
/Atlantic constructed, culturally-inflected one) and the non-place: “Place and non-place are rather like opposed polarities: the first is never completely erased, the second never totally completed; they are like palimpsests on which the scrambled game of identity and relations is ceaselessly rewritten” (Augé, 64). This destabilization of dichotomies invites us to envision similar palimpsests—involving the immigrant and the emigrant, for example—in which categories and identities are not so much fixed in opposition as mutable and contingent upon perspective. The situatedness implied by the notion of perspective is precisely what Tymoczko insists upon in her analysis of the translator, and of language itself, as she employs systems theory to support her claim that “when translation is conceptualized in terms of transfer between languages as systems, this spatial metaphor [of translation as a space between] breaks down” (Tymoczko, 223). Tymoczko’s insistence on the cultural situatedness and ideological agenda of the translator is echoed by Venuti in “Translation, Community, Utopia.” According to Venuti, translators attempt to engage an audience by: [involving] the foreign text in an asymmetrical act of communication, weighted ideologically towards the translating culture. Translating is always ideological because it releases a domestic remainder, an inscription of values, beliefs, and representations linked to historical moments and social positions in the receiving culture. In serving domestic interests, a translation provides an ideological resolution for the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign text. (Venuti, 498)
Yet Venuti is careful to counterbalance these assertions. Translation, he insists, is “utopian” as well. It anticipates the formation of an “imagined community” around the translated text, as the confluence of “domestic inscription” and “foreign context” establishes a happy medium within domestic and foreign cultures and readerships. Venuti’s approach is one way of conceptualizing the practice and results of translation in spatial terms. It boasts an ethical dimension as well, insofar as, “seen as domestic inscription, never quite cross-cultural communication, translation has moved theorists towards an ethical reflection wherein remedies are formulated to restore or preserve the foreignness of the foreign text” (483)—remedies that, in the end, remain inescapably couched in domestic terminology. Nevertheless, a gesture has been made toward the foreign, toward a complexification of the domestic idiom without which we would run the risk of entering a “non-place” of a different kind, one in which language tended toward oversimplification and self-referentiality—an Orwellian “Newspeak” of sorts, already lurking in our “supermodern” era’s tendency toward the lingua franca and technologyfriendly abbreviations. A particularly effective counter to such dangers can be found in Spivak’s theorization and normative ethics of translation, in which she evokes the “paleonymy” of language (a term lifted from Derrida and that seems to refer to the historical trajectories and latent possibilities of certain words). Spivak insists that “unless the paleonymy of the [source, but also the target] language is felt in some rough historical or etymological way, the translator is unequal to her task” (Spivak, 100). Instead of viewing 177
Paris translation as the mere transfer of sense—or as the descent into and reemergence from Weaver’s “great open basement” of language, or as a “dialogue” achieved through juxtaposition and other strategies of display—we should instead understand it as a complex process of othering, one that involves “trace rather than achieved translation: trace of the other, trace of history, even cultural traces” (105). These “traces” imply trajectories, movement, and thus conjure with elegant precision the defining characteristics of the non-place. I would like to conclude by returning to Venuti’s use of the term “utopia” and, more precisely, to the ways in which it complicates our analysis of spatial metaphors of translation. “Utopia” may very well be a useful term for designating the “space” occupied by a translation in certain teleological or ethical frameworks, but its particular set of resonances (evoking as it does an ideal, bounded space) undermines its usefulness as a metaphor for thinking through the process of translation itself. Furthermore, as Augé is careful to state: “The non-place is the opposite of Utopia: it exists, and it does not contain any organic society” (Augé, 90), only solitary and anonymous “travelers.” Augé does, however, suggest that Foucault’s notion of “heterotopia” could effectively serve as a synonym for “non-place.” In “Space, Power and Knowledge,” Foucault defines “heterotopias” as “those singular spaces to be found in some given social spaces whose functions are different or even the opposite of others” (Foucault, 170), and this notion of spaces escaping—even countering—dominant discourses and thus embodying a certain “otherness” and palimpsestic “fullness,” however fleeting, does resonate quite powerfully with Augé’s conception of the non-place (though not necessarily Davidson’s). Venuti envisioned a utopian community forming around a text post-translation, yet the “locus” or “space” of translation itself can be conceptualized via what I would argue is a much richer and more nuanced metaphor—one that avoids the pitfalls of the “bridge” or the “in-between space” by instead representing a complex situatedness that is at once inescapably subjective and profoundly “other(ed)”: Augé’s non-place. Works Cited Augé, Marc. Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity. Translated by John Howe. London: Verso, 2008. Clifford, James. “On Collecting Art and Culture.” The Cultural Studies Reader, Second Edition, ed. Simon During. London: Routledge, 1993. 57-76. Davidson, Robert A. “Introduction: Spaces of Immigration ‘Prevention’: Interdiction and the Nonplace.” Diacritics 33 (2003): 2-18. Foucault, Michel. “Space, Power and Knowledge.” The Cultural Studies Reader, Third Edition, ed. Simon During. London: Routledge, 2007. 164-171. Machine Translation Archive. “Warren Weaver: Translation.” http://www.mt-archive.info/Weaver-1949.pdf. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Translating Into English.” In Nation, Language, and the
/Atlantic Ethics of Translation, ed. Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. 93-110. Staten, Henry. “Tracking the ‘Native Informant’: Cultural Translation as the Horizon of Literary Translation.” Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation, ed. Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. 111-126. Tymoczko, Maria. “Ideology and the Position of the Translator: In What Sense is a Translator ‘In Between’?”. Critical Readings in Translation Studies, ed. Mona Baker. London: Routledge, 2010. 213-228. Venuti, Lawrence. “Translation, Community, Utopia.” The Translation Studies Reader, Second Edition, ed. Lawrence Venuti. New York: Routledge, 2004. 482-502. Photographs my own (taken in Paris, France on 3/28/12, 1/26/2011, 11/18/11, 11/18/11, 5/8/12, and 5/8/12, respectively).
OBJECT + SUBJECT: MULTIVERSES OF THE PRESENT Manon Carrié
Say the present isn’t just now. Say it’s now, but then as well, and there, paralleled between what is considered “happening” and absolute nothing. This in-between space is present, yet not entirely; it is missing an element of reality and possesses an added distortion. It is both imaginings of the past and hopes or fears for the future: sensations that cannot be seen or grasped, cannot be entirely present, yet sensations that exist nonetheless. In this unknown space of reality lie two, or potentially several, parallel dimensions of the Present—alternative realities where the self exists, but under different concepts of possibility: the parallel dimensions of Memory and Dreams. Travel between these parallel dimensions of the Present is achieved through the unification of two components of the present state: object and subject. The utility of objects in the present moment is vital to the creation of a parallel dimension. Objects must no longer be simply perceived, but thought, combining the self with that which is “outside” to bridge the newly distorted present into the budding parallel dimensions of memory and dreams. The resulting limbo is not composed of the object or the subject, but of a breed between the two combining both and neither, instances of unification and spaces for exploration that can be witnessed both in Marcel Proust’s first two volumes of In Search of Lost Time and Vladimir Nabokov’s Terra Incognita. I. Memory-Verse and Proust Though memory is a result of a past experience, it cannot be considered an occurrence of the past since it is being experienced in a new present state, distorted by perceptions that shadowed the event as well as by current surroundings. It is not, however, necessarily positioned definitively in the present reality since it is not currently happening within the visible outer world. With this consideration, the memory state becomes an alternative present, which both is and isn’t occurring—one of two psychological limbos of reality. This limbo possesses qualities of the present state we recognize, with added and subtracted qualities of reason, and contains itself in its own present universe, a kind of memory-verse, which is void of its parallel universes until the moment it must transform into one. 180
/Atlantic This notion of “time travel” is represented in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way when the narrator cannot physically re-live the past, but mentally emerges into the dimension of a memory-verse through contact with an object—such as a madeleine dipped in tea: No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched to my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory—this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature. (Swann’s Way, 52) The madeleine here is no longer simply perceived, but rather thought; not contained by the self, but fused into it to create a new realm—“something isolated, detached” from the senses, yet “could not, indeed, be of the same nature” as that of object. The narrator continues to declare this state as more than mere correlation or connection when he meditates upon a newfound reality: What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking and where all its equipment will avail to nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, which alone can make actual, which it alone can bring into the light of day. (52) He addresses the separation of this universe as a new creation, his entrance into the alternative dimension of memory. The idea of a concurrent bubble of time, or of the various realities that may exist in one present moment, is explored further in Jenann Ismael’s “Remembrances, Mementos, and Time-Capsules,” a contribution to Craig Callender’s Time, Reality & Experience. Ismael comments on the condition of the present state, saying “the state of the world at any moment has the structure of what Barbour1 calls a ‘time capsule’, which is to say that it constitutes a partial record of its past, it is pregnant with interrelated mutually consistent representations of its own history” (Callender, 317). Ismael then expands on this idea using Proust in particular, stating: … think of something like Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past conceived not as an historical novel, but as a description of the intrinsic structure of a single moment. For the book is not really about the past, but about the traces that it has left on the Present, and what it gets exactly right is the way in which each temporal part of one’s conscious life is a kind of Barbourian time capsule. Each living moment has written into it, into its intrinsic structure, a representation of times that preceded, replete with their internal representations of those that preceded them, and theirs of those that preceded them, and so on, potentially 1 Julian Barbour, British physicist known for timeless physics, the theory that time is an illusion and time-capsule theory, further elaborated on in Jenann Ismael’s “Rememberances, Mementos, and Time-Capsules”.
Paris ad infinitum. (317) However, in Barbour’s universe, “…time capsules bear one another internal relations of similarity and accord, but there is no external dimension in which they are collectively ordered. There are not really any genuinely external relations between time capsules, none that don’t supervene on their internal properties” (319). The approach is altered slightly in Bohm’s2 notion, where “spatio-temporal relations [are] full-fledged, external relations between point-like events…” (323). It is with this combination of the time capsule concept and its relation to the external object that Proust juxtaposes object and subject to create the alternative state of memory. II. Dream-Verse and Proust The dream state also poses an extra juxtaposition to reality. Again, it cannot necessarily be positioned in the present reality since it is not occurring within the outside world, yet it maintains footing within the present reality through a momentary consideration of real-world perception, including fears and the potential3 future, to place itself in another alternative universe of the Present—a dream-verse, concurrent with, yet separate from, reality and memory. The juxtaposition of reality and dream is carried out later in Swann’s Way, when the narrator observes objects in the Roussainville landscape on a walk and synthesizes them with his subjective desires for a woman, consequently causing a dreamverse to spring forth out of the former present state: I found an additional merit in everything that was in my mind at that moment, in the pink reflection of the tiled roof, the grass growing out of the wall, the village of Roussainville into which I had long desired to penetrate, the trees of its wood and the steeple of its church, as a result of this fresh emotion which made them appear more desirable only because I thought it was they that had provoked it… But if, for me, this desire that a woman should appear added something more exalting to the charms of nature… it seemed to me that the beauty of the trees was hers also, and that her kisses would reveal to me the spirit of those horizons… (Swann’s Way, 187) The narrator continues to equate objects of the land with his hopes for the potential future, pushing himself into an absolute dream limbo: Moreover—just as in moments of musing contemplation of nature, the normal actions of the mind being suspended, and our abstract ideas of things set aside, we believe with the profoundest faith in the originality, in the individual existence of the place in which we may happen to be—the passing figure whom my desire evoked seemed to be not just any specimen of the genus “woman,” but a necessary and natural product of this particular soil. For at that time everything was not myself, the earth and the creatures upon it, seemed to me more precious, more important, endowed with a more real existence than they appear to full-grown men. (Swann’s Way, 187-188) 2 Bohm’s time-capsule theory is further explored in Jenann Ismael’s “Rememberances, Mementos, and Time-Capsules” in relation to Barbourian and Leibnizian theories. 3 Here I use “potential” as representative of a future that is not yet set, but pregnant with hopes, fears, and fantasies of the self.
/Atlantic The narrator’s recognition of an otherworldly position in the Present places him outside the realm that he knows, yet in a realm “endowed with a more real existence.” The remainders of the former state are almost abolished to allow for the new state, which becomes the new present—a product of both his desires and of Roussainville’s soil. The dream-verse can be found again in Proust’s second volume of In Search of Lost Time, Within A Budding Grove, as the same narrator is carried into the unity of self and object by way of a letter from Gilberte, the target of his affection: Now, a sheet of paper covered with writing is not a thing that the mind assimilates at once. But as soon as I had finished reading the letter, I thought of it, it became an object of reverie, it too became cosa mentale, and I loved it so much now that every few minutes I had to re-read it and kiss it. Then at last I was conscious of my happiness. (Within a Budding Grove, 99) The narrator allows Gilberte’s letter to become an “object of reverie,” or rather “cosa mentale.”4 The precise incidence of an object being thought allows him to travel into his state of reverie, an alternative present that does not exist in the outer world, but is created and inhabited at this moment of unity. From this episode of a dream state, Proust immediately follows dream-verse into memory-verse using the same object: As regards this letter…if we persist in looking for a rational explanation of the sudden change of feeling towards me which it reflected, and which made me so radiantly happy, we may perhaps find that I was to some extent indebted for it to an incident which I should have supposed, on the contrary, to be calculated to ruin me for ever in the eyes of the Swann family. A short while back… (Grove, 101) Gilberte’s letter becomes an object of time travel, now more properly defined as space travel, into the narrator’s memory of the moment that may have produced the onset of the letter. Again, this new memory state, being distorted by the Present, is not an accessory of the past, but rather an induction of the unification of subject and object to create a parallel present. III. Dream-Verse and Nabokov Parallel dream-verse can also be observed in Vladimir Nabokov’s Terra Incognita, a term defined as “unknown or unexplored territory.”5 The protagonist of the story, Vallière, experiences a dream state under ominous invasion, softly relaying to his comrade Gregson that “…something keeps trying to come through” (Nabokov, 8). Slowly, objects of his present reality begin to merge with a dream-verse situated deep within the jungle: I tried not to look up; but in this sky, at the very verge of my field of vision, there floated, always keeping up with me, whitish phantoms of plaster, stucco curlicues and rosettes, like those used to adorn European ceilings; however, I had only to look directly at them and they would vanish, and again the tropical 4 Italian: Exact translation being “thing” (cosa) and “mental” (mentale). 5 Latin for “unknown land,” origins and meaning further explored: Dead Media Archive, Terra Incognita, http://cultureandcommunication.org/deadmedia/index.php/Terra_Incognita (2010).
Paris sky would boom, as it were, with even, dense blueness. (Nabokov, 5) The fusion of reality and dream, through the union of object and self, escalates as Vallière navigates the elaborate jungle with a rising fever: Meanwhile delirious visions, taking advantage of the general confusion, were quietly and firmly finding their places. The lines of a dim ceiling stretched and crossed in the sky. A large armchair rose, as if supported from below, out of the swamp. Glossy birds flew through the haze of the marsh and, as they settled, one turned into the wooden knob of a bedpost, another into a decanter. (10) Yet, there is a difference in the experience that Nabokov produces in that it is the reversed act of the “real state” into the memory or dream state. Here the experience begins in the alternative present state of the narrator’s self, his potential fears, and merges into the outer reality. However, in both instances this fusion is generated through the employment of one or several objects. IV. Bubble Universes Within the Present Because of the ability of the object to travel in both the direction of real-space to memory-space and dream-space to real-space, the notion that an object can form many interconnecting alternative dimensions in the present moment becomes similar to a “multiverse”6 of the psychological present state. Andrei Linde’s Bubble Universe Theory7 within a multiverse can be used as an example to identify what a multiverse of the Present might look like: Space as a whole is stretching and will continue doing so forever, but some regions of space stop stretching and form distinct bubbles, like gas pockets in a loaf of rising bread. Infinitely many such bubbles emerge. Each is an embryonic Level I multiverse: infinite in size and filled with matter deposited by the energy field that drove inflation. (Tegmark, 44) A basic visual model would look like this:
6 David Deutsch, in The Structure of the Multiverse, defines a multiverse as containing “an ensemble of casually autonomous systems, each of which resemble a classical physical system…”; conditions of a multiverse, bubble universe theory, and “quantum parallelism” are further explained. 7 The role of Andrei Linde’s Bubble Universe Theory within multiverse levels is further explained by Max Tegmark in Parallel Universes.
/Atlantic Without diving too deep into quantum parallelism, this model can be used as a basic structure for the parallel states of the Present both Nabokov and Proust explore. By connecting and creating each parallel state through interaction of the self and an object, their protagonists can “travel” back and forth, experiencing a previously unexplored limbo that is neither object nor subject, but a realm of its own. This is the multiverse of the Present. V. Dream-verse, Memory-verse, and the Death of Self Nabokov explores two additional elements: One involving memory within the dream-verse, which juxtaposes all three parallel presents, and the other involving death of the self. In the instance that Vallière experiences a merging of his outside reality with his parallel dream reality, an element of memory comes into play. Vallière must recall his present reality in order for it to appear. For his once-present state of reality to recreate itself, the memory must become active, recollecting objects of his former real state to produce the juxtaposition of all three parallels—memory fusing with the dream to shape reality. The complexities of this process are portrayed in the final advances of Vallière’s fever: But suddenly, at this last stage of my mortal illness—for I knew that in a few minutes I would die—in these final minutes everything grew completely lucid: I realized that all that was taking place around me was not the trick of an inflamed imagination, not the veil of delirium, through which unwelcome glimpses of my supposedly real existence in a distant European city (the wallpaper, the armchair, the glass of lemonade) were trying to show. I realized that the obtrusive room was fictitious: since everything beyond death is, at best fictitious: an imitation of life hastily knocked together, the furnished rooms of nonexistence. I realized that reality was here, here beneath that wonderful frightening tropical sky, among those gleaming sword-like reeds, in that vapor hanging over them, and in the thick-lipped flowers clinging to the flat islet, where, beside me, lay two clinched corpses. (Nabokov, 13) Vallière’s dream state is portrayed here not as a branch of reality which can be vanquished upon waking, but as its own very real present dimension. The former reality has become “fictitious”, representing a “nonexistence”, which can now only be recreated through the recollection of objects, the fusion of objects within both the memory and dream, to produce a new state of reality—only an instance in the cyclical travel of objects from one creation to the next. Within this same passage, Nabokov’s second element is explored—the necessity of death to accomplish the parallel creation process. In order for Vallière to create a new reality, to juxtapose his present self with an object and to form another present, part of the self must die, allowing space for the object to merge: the birth of a parallel reality. Vallière’s statement in the previous passage, that his “supposedly real existence” is now nonexistent, insinuates that for him to have reached his present state means part of his former self had to die, allowing space for the object to merge, and thus birthing a
Paris new reality. As Vallière approaches his ominous demise, his memory labors in conjunction with objects of both the past and now-to-be future, increasing the effect of this transformation, and causing Vallière to lose his grasp on existing objects until his death is complete and the new parallel present has been formed: And yet I conquered this impatient fog of death and looked around. Blue air, heat, solitude…And how sorry I felt for Gregson, who would never return home – I even remembered his wife and the old cook, and his parrots, and many other things…Hazier flashed the reeds, dimmer flamed the sky. My eyes followed an exquisite beetle that was crawling across a stone, but I had no strength left to catch it. Everything around me was fading, leaving bare the scenery of death – a few pieces of realistic furniture and four walls. My last motion was to open the book, which was damp with my sweat, for I absolutely had to make a note of something; but, alas, it slipped out of my hand. I groped all along the blanket, but it was no longer there. (Nabokov, 14) The completion of his conversion into a new present state represents the several deaths that preceded it, in order to arrive back in his “former reality”, which in actuality is now changed and new. Thus, each reality, each created present, is ever changing in the cycle of the multiverse. The juxtaposition of self and space occurs not by the self simply being in a space, but occurs when an object of space is simultaneously perceived and thought. Both Proust and Nabokov portray the sensation of this occurrence and delve into exploration of parallel universes of the Present—Memory, Dream, and Reality—created by the unity of object and subject. However, part of the self must die in order to allow space for the object to merge with the self, thus distorting the present reality into one, or many, parallel spaces. The psychological limbos of dream-verse and memory-verse must be considered not within the realms of linear or chronological time, but as an alternative, yet equally present, universe, built through the fusion of components already within our familiar reality. The vivid and treacherous quality of this transformation and its expanding spheres encourages an otherworldly sensation within literature, which transcends the grasp of human awareness and carries the intellect through the imperceptible voyage between parallel universes—a route which reading itself, uniting the novel and the ego, triggers in its very act. Works Cited Callender, Craig. Time, Reality & Experience. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print. Deutsch, David. “The Structure of the Multiverse.” Proceedings: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 458.2028 (2002): 2911-923. The Royal Society, 8 Dec. 2002. Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Terra Incognita. London: Penguin, 2011. Print. 186
/Atlantic Proust, Marcel, trans. Terence Kilmartin and C. K. Scott-Moncrieff, In Search of Lost Time, Volume II: Within a Budding Grove. New York: Modern Library, 2003. Proust, Marcel, trans. Terence Kilmartin, and C.K. Scott Moncrieff. In Search of Lost Time, Volume I: Swann’s Way. London: Vintage, 2005. Tegmark, Max. “Parallel Universes.” Scientific American May 2003: 40-51. “Terra Incognita.” Dead Media Archive. NYU Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, 2010. “Terra Incognita.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, 2012.
Sara Julia Waller
IPHONES AND ANTIQUITY Kristen McGuiness
We land in Pisa to grey skies. For days, I have dreamt of the Italian sun — warm, obliterating, striking my face, and piercing my sunscreen until my sunspots return and I recognize myself in the mirror again. In Paris, I have become someone else, as though the stable pillars of my sunny California optimism are being swept away by the Parisian attitude of cement grey. Each morning, I pull the covers back up over my shoulders, wishing to avoid a truth that, for a few hours every night, I am somehow able to escape. And that truth is that my wildest dream came true and I am living in Paris. Because for every flower shop on a Parisian street corner, every great baguette or pain au something awesome, there is the awkward moment, the dirty look, the frustrated translation, and the streak of dog shit, already smeared across the pavement by another’s foot. “Why did we move here then?” my husband Tere often asks, his voice filled with frustration as much as concern. We were married only in July, and less than two months later we packed up our lives, said goodbye to our friends, and embarked upon an adventure that I had decided would be much easier than it has become. Tere has adapted, loving the ease of the Metro, the old socialist leftovers of the strong French state. But who knew that moving to Paris would make me so miserable? Somehow I think Italy might restore my missing mojo, that in its sundrenched landscape and bluefilled skies I might find again that bright, blistering energy that I once believed was God. The journey to the South is a sentimental adventure, an adventure of the spirit and an encounter with a very different world; it is a journey in search of yourself, of your authentic self, freed of the layers of superimposed manners and constraints. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) I walk through the streets, as though living in a diving bell, listening to Joni Mitchell’s famous verse from her song “California”: “It’s old and cold and set in its ways”. Paris, the city of World War II grey, where the memories of that time still linger 189
Paris like greyscale images of the past superimposed on its present. I cough and choke on the language that, despite four years of high school study, I cannot understand. The syllables ring out, tempting me as I root through them hunting for comprehension. Like little birds, the people “Coocoo” and “Hawhaw” and “Flefle” to one another and I walk amongst them with the guilty resentment of the monoglot. And yet for all of Paris’ Frenchness, everywhere I go I still find the convenience of speaking my native tongue, at once a cruel gift and a gracious torture—the convenience of cheeseburger and Coca Cola and Kit Kat (though initially a Britishowned candy company until Nestlé acquired it in 1998). I hear it spoken on the street, and I am simultaneously comforted and embarrassed, reaching out for the American football flatness of our American English. Amongst my friends, many of whom are expat artists and writers, no one had ever felt particularly American in our own land. In fact, most of us have been protesters and lawbreakers, people for whom the traditional “ideals” of Church and Family were responded to with Shame and Rebellion. But here, we are bound by accent and custom to our identity. As foreigners, we embrace them as never before, homesickness turning us towards the home we all thought we were escaping. I have never loved us so much, nor pitied us more. But then we land in Pisa to grey skies, and we rent a car. We wind our way down one-way streets and already I feel time pressing down on me. I want to get us through Firenze and onto Roma so that we can walk through the Forum against the twilight of a recently retired sun. As a Virgo, and a control freak, I am inherently a travel agent. Timetables and Travelocity comfort me like little else, and planning every waking moment of a vacation is often better than actually going on it. As we drive away from the Pisa International Airport, I am consumed by expectation, ignoring the words of Goethe, who forewarned, “A thousand times I have heard people complain that some object they had known only from a description was disappointing when seen in reality, and the reason was always the same. Imagination is to reality what poetry is to prose: the former will always think of objects as massive and vertical, the latter will always try to expand them horizontally.” Finally, I begin to feel upbeat. The Tuscan countryside rolls past, and it is beautiful. We find American music on the radio and I can feel my nerves expand, relaxed by rock-n-roll. We arrive in Firenze to begin our 90-minute tour of the city, and though the rain starts to fall, it is soft and gentle. We finally pull out the umbrella, but still take turns walking through the old city in the rain. Milan Kundera once said that in the first days of a relationship, lovers are like lawyers drawing up a contract. I would say that in the first days of marriage, lovers are like treasure hunters, sifting through their travels, looking for totems and mementos to mark the memories of their new life. Problem is, we enter right into the 7th circle of hell—the wealthy tourist part of town—tortured by the Louis Vuitton, the Gucci, the Prada. Already, memory is playing its part in the trip, as I tell Tere of other nights in Florence. Eating dinner and watching an a cappella group perform in a church with my mother, listening to Puff
/Atlantic Daddy on the TV while smoking pot in a hostel with my college friends. These snippets of a city I have brought back from my Swiss cheese brain, memories that drugs and alcohol almost killed. I cannot tell Tere much about the Uffizi, though I have been there three times (I vaguely remember a Botticelli, a statue with gardens, and the name Medici, which might be all I really need anyway). The one memory that does stand out is of the Duomo, though I can recollect nothing of its façade, not a single detail, only its prominence in Florence’s landscape. By the time we make it to Florence’s centerpiece, the weather has changed from grey skies to pouring rain. I have my small umbrella out but Tere buys a big one from a young African man who sells them under the imposing eye of the Firenze police. They rush in just as Tere finishes the sale; the hustling salesman takes off down the street like a laughing pigeon that has just experienced the stampede of harmless children. We stand under the overhanging roof of the Baptistery that sits across the way from the Cathedral, the same Baptistery in which Dante himself was christened. Its parapet stretches far enough to keep us dry, and Tere and I sit down on the high curb as the large pink and green edifice lights up the dark, rain-trodden night. Though the weather is cool and wet, my heart is warm, warm against the Lily Pulitzer palate of the Firenze Duomo. “It’s kind of ugly,” I start to tell Tere. “But it’s happy,” he finishes my sentence. “It is,” my mouth twists as I bite my lip, looking up at its smiling saints, so different from the grotesque beauty of Notre Dame’s gargoyles. “I imagine it’s what heaven looks like. A big chunk of Catholic cake.” People take pictures of it in the rain and a couple of young tourists stand around its front door, but other than that the piazza in front of the well-visited Cathedral is empty. And though a sizable group of travelling Italians stand next to us, talking, there is a moment where Tere and I feel completely alone. And from there we get lost. Not lost lost, just the kind of lost one gets in Italy—the kind where you find the craftsmen and the artisans because you finally shake Louis Vuitton. This was the kind of lost I used to love, why Rome became my favorite city. Because I would throw away the map, and let the heart lead. But now I can’t throw away the map, because it is also my camera and my phone and a hundred other inane objects which miraculously all fit into my pocket. We are no longer in 1998; we are in the iPhone century. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the iPhone is no match for Italy (as we will learn further in Rome). No, the iPhone refuses to find us, showing me the city of Firenze but failing to post the little blue dot that signifies Tere-and-Kristen on the Google map of the world. Instead, we find an Asian man leaving the shoemaking shop he and his sister/wife/cousin run together. She is still at work, sewing leather into leather, when they too try to find our location through technology, using their iPad. When Steve Jobs fails us again, they are forced to pull out a physical map. That works, and another twenty minutes later we arrive back at our car in the pouring rain.
Paris Though memory is a finicky mind trick, fantasy is a surefire game. For weeks, I have fantasized this part of the trip. Driving from Firenze to Rome through the Tuscan valley, watching as the sun sets into a comfortably warm October night. Instead, we find ourselves in a downpour. Tere is forced to drive the whole way because I am a monoglot, not just in language but in driving too. I am confident in my native transmission, but ask me to translate into French or standard shift and forget it. My vehicular clutch is just as ground down as my verbal one. But maybe it’s just the fear that’s stopping me there too. Years ago, I drove through Spain with a stick shift even if I stalled the whole time. I didn’t care. I wasn’t afraid of sounding stupid or getting in a car accident. I have become more nervous about many things lately—having given away the alcohol and tobacco and marijuana that kept me calm all those years. I am scared of foreign languages. I am scared of other people’s driving, most especially my husband’s. I am scared of being late. I am scared of being wrong. I am scared of the torrents of rain coming down around the car. I am scared I have made a terrible mistake, and that by choosing the wrong path I have threatened our happiness, our marriage, and, as the rain only gets worse, our lives. Tere talks about the upcoming American elections but I don’t really hear him as I turn up the volume to the mixed CD I have just made. Bob Marley’s voice soars and Tere and I begin to sing. I just keep thinking, “We can’t die listening to Bob. We can’t die listening to Bob.” Tere and I pull into the outer district of Rome when his phone begins to fail us. Mine is already long dead so we have been relying on his outdated iPhone software (3G, first edition) to navigate us into one of the most unnavigable towns in the world. Three times we try to enter the city, and three times we get turned back to Appian Way. I feel like soldiers trying to sack Rome, entering through the illustrious walls of the city’s well-bleached charm. Finally, we give up on the phone and decide to go with our guts. We turn left on Via Labicana (which sounds like labia and makes us laugh) and it doesn’t take long for the hulking Colloseo to emerge. Every town has a Colloseo—the tall or the wide, the domineering or the impotent heart of the city. In New York, it’s the Empire State Building, in LA, the Hollywood sign, and in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, about which Roland Barthes once commented, “Maupassant often lunched at the restaurant in the tower, though he didn’t care much for the food. ‘It’s the only place in Paris,’ he used to say, ‘where I don’t have to see it.’” Though Tere and I have done an enormous amount of romantic things together (waterfalls and rainbows included), there has always been an easygoing rationality to our relationship that reduced any overly romantic overtures. We have never been star-crossed or ill-timed nor have we been separated by oceans, pain, or war. We came together, we made sense in our nonsensical way, and we got married like the people who raised us would have expected us to do. Me, the former cokehead party girl, and he, the former meth-head who used to sleep in a park. We found one another in a 12-
/Atlantic step meeting in our shared hipster neighborhood in Los Angeles, and whereas suicide or Skid Row might have been our futures, we instead look forward to composting and to Montessori schools for our kids. Our love is sensible even if, in many ways, we are not. Though we currently live in one of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris has already become worn-in for us. Sure, we ooh and awe, but we don’t dance on its streets. After a typically touristic meal (overpriced, undeserving) at the typically touristic Piazza Navona (fewer tourists, more townies), we walk down the cobble alleys and tiled byways, past museums and mansions. The low-slung buildings wrap around us, and wandering together, we get lost, lost like I used to get in Rome. So lost that I actually begin to lose that old nagging woman inside me and instead release the woman I have not been for so long. I am suddenly removed from the diving bell and freed into Paul Celan’s belief that, “Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul.” I can feel the cool air grace my cheek, I can hear the quiet tinkle of water flowing from the statue of a lion’s head into a stone fountain below. I can smell the sweet blossoms and faint urine of the fall night. And when Tere’s strong hand presses into my back, his fingertips clinging to my denim shirt, I lean my head into his cleanly shaven cheek and hear his breath exhale into my hair. The next morning we awake, ready for another day of tourism on speed. We start through the Imperial Fort, and into the Roman Forum, heading over to the Colloseo, but there is not enough time for us to stay and see it and still make our way to Matera, our next destination. After talking to a couple from Norway (Norwegians are the new Germans) about how long the line might take us, we decide to head back to the hotel, wandering through a much smaller park of antiquated ruins. Years ago, I saw an episode of The Sopranos where Carmela goes to Paris, and it changed my life. I had never been a Francophile. Even in high school, though I took French, most of the other girls in my Catholic parochial school were much better at it. They were girls who had posters of the Eiffel Tower and Holly Golightly on their walls, girls who wanted to learn French in the hopes that they might be French. I never held such misconceptions, and after two rough trips to Paris (first one: heartbreak, second one: food poisoning), I didn’t think the city would ever be on my list to live in. But then I saw Episode 76 of The Sopranos where Carmela goes to Paris. In it, she finds herself in the middle of the city, standing in a small set of ruins (much like the ones I find in Rome), and she begins to weep. She says to her travelling companion, a friend who fails to understand, “Who could have built this? You think of all the people who lived here, generation after generation, all those lives. We worry so much sometimes it seems that’s all we do, but in the end, it just gets washed away. It all just gets washed away.” And I wept with her. I felt my mortality like a lightning rod—not in translation, but in transmission. And I decided I wanted to go to Paris. In fact, when people ask me why I came to France, that is the answer I give them. I came because Carmela. As Tere and I walk through those Roman ruins, which sit in the shadow of a Jewish
Paris synagogue, I tell him Carmela’s words. He has heard the story before, knowing how a fictional New Jersey mob family irrevocably changed his life, but he stays quiet long enough this time to understand what it really means for me, for both of us. I worry so much these days it seems like that’s all I do, and yet I know, I know from the bottom of my sad turtle heart, that it all just gets washed away. And whether by the cold water of the Seine, or by the trauma of war, or by a terrible accident on an old highway, or by the quiet peace of old age, one day, one day, this will end, and these moments, this young married pair standing amongst the stone pillars of others’ lives, will be the faded images that stay long after we’ve escaped. We drive out of Rome the way we came in, understanding its roads and routes much better; conquerors in only a day, we walk away with our spoils of three hours of tourism and three millennia of civilization. And then the rains begin. We quickly find ourselves slowed down by what I can only imagine is a terrible Italian car accident, which now blocks our way to Naples. But then the cars in front of us begin to reverse and we soon follow suit, driving backwards along the highway. We make our way off, and find ourselves in a small town, Castel d’Angelo (Angelo being the name of my Sicilian grandfather). Perhaps it is his spirit that has stopped us from going to Naples. Instead, we drive up to an abandoned castle in the hopes of finding lunch (“Castles don’t have lunch, assholes”) and that’s when we meet the sheep. Sheep. For the next week, we will meet sheep, goats, and lambs along the roads of Cephalonia, honking to clear them from our path, waving hello, half expecting a greeting in return. But this is our first set of sheep, and with them shepherds, whose hard lined faces betray that they are near our age, or even younger. They do not speak English and so the best we can do is smile and wave just as we have done with their chattel. The sheep are friendlier, as the shepherds nod coldly in our direction, frustrated to find a car on this typically deserted road. And yet there is a part of us that belongs to these men, and we know that too. Neither of us is quite so civilized as to think that we aren’t part shepherd. Even with our iPhones and modern American life, we love the sheep and the dogs, we crave the scent of the earth. And I wonder whether these shepherds feel the same way about us, retiring at night to their hip-hop and video games – all of us straddling the world that came before and the one that lies ahead. The idea of a culture existing on its own makes no sense. All cultures are ways of relating to other cultures. (Claude Lévi-Strauss) Two hours later, we pull off the darkened highway and into Matera, which our hotel’s website describes as “one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is known for its splendid Sassi, a vast Historical District made up of an ensemble of millennia-old buildings and caves excavated into and built out of the characteristic tufa limestone of the area.” If Florence’s Duomo is a slice of Catholic heaven, then Matera is the place setting on which it should be served. We aren’t surprised to find they filmed The Passion of Christ there. At once cruel and mysterious, at other turns touched by the 194
/Atlantic sacred, it feels as though only God’s hands could have carved this town, and then, like a master builder frightened by his own talent, he abandoned it before he ruined it. Tere and I check into our hotel, which contains an underground spa. We head down and swim in the hydraulic pool, the sounds of the rainforest drifting through the hotel’s sound system. In a rare moment, our chatter-filled relationship feels quiet, expanding horizontally across the surface and into the deep end. We make love upstairs before heading out into the city. And we have never been so solid, so immutable, so made of skin and bone and muscle and heart and dreams and fears and the knowledge that this, my love, is just the beginning. We walk down the carved limestone steps of Matera, led on by the unexpected sound of a thrashing guitar. Somewhere in the crevasses of this Millennia-old city someone is playing psychedelic surf rock from California. I feel like I am in a Quentin Tarantino film as Tere and I follow the sounds to a small bar carved into the side of a wall. We nearly lose our breath, foreign and home colliding as the sounds of our city bounce off these ancient walls. If only we could close our eyes and click our heels three times. Instead, we keep moving through the quiet stone streets that lie an epoch away from the place we call home. It seems that there are very few tourists left in the old city at this time of year. Tere and I walk alone, sharing the sights with a handful of feral cats who eye us but run as we approach, prancing along the roofs of the stone-carved homes, as though the city was built for their amusement, for their small feet alone. Tere and I find an elderly couple, the man walking a good ten feet in front of his wife as she slowly works her way down the stone steps. In broken Italian and unforgivable English, we ask if they know of a “ristorante”. They point up the hill to the one lighted balcony overlooking the city. It appears to be the only restaurant open in Matera, and though from the outside it looks more like a bar then a place of fine dining, Tere and I don’t seem to have a choice. As we approach the restaurant, we see a plastic tub of olives, and though the sight may be common in Italy, it is a great sign of hope for us. We walk into a large cavern sculpted out of the now-ubiquitous limestone and filled with the scent of Italian food and the chatter of Italian voices. We order pasta and veal and pizza and salad. We eat and eat and eat until finally Tere sits back in his seat and laughs, “This is the longest honeymoon ever.” “It is,” I agree. “I guess, in a way, it’s our last hurrah.” Tere nods, “Our last hurrah?” “Yeah, I mean, this is it. If this summer we’re going to start trying for a family... I know we’ll travel with kids, but it won’t ever be like this again, just you and me and a whole wide world.” “And we’ve just gotten started,” Tere reminds me, knowing how many countries we hope to see this year, not treating Paris as home but simply as base. And maybe Paris is not the city of my Depression, but rather the city of my Destabilization. Maybe it’s like Goethe once wrote, “It gave me proof that all impressions of sensory-moral nature are strongest when a man is thrown completely on his own resources.”
Paris We go back up to our hotel room and even I begin to take pictures. I want to take Matera with me. I want to never forget. And even if that means I am stripped of my language, my confidence, my sunlight, I want to see again. I want to feel. Because, though in the end it might all get washed away, it is these cities, these moments that remind us, some things might also stay. Adapted from the complete work.
Sara Julia Waller
OPÉRAGARNIER Marion Tricoire
“Mais si ces noms absorbèrent à tout jamais l’image que j’avais de ces villes, ce ne fut qu’en la transformant, qu’en soumettant sa réapparition en moi à leurs lois propres; ils eurent ainsi pour conséquence de la rendre plus belle, mais aussi plus différent de ce que les villes de Normandie ou de Toscane pouvaient être en réalité, et, en accroissant les joies arbitraires de mon imagination, d’aggraver la déception future de mes voyages.” Marcel Proust, Du Côté de chez Swann It started out in a single sound: Opéragarnier. The word opera did not mean anything to me yet. Opéragarnier, on the contrary, was where I wanted to be more than anything. I knew it was in Paris, but not what Paris was, and even less where in Paris it could be. Playing with my favorite doll, I would either be a petit rat de l’opéra, or a well-educated young lady exiting the opera with furry coat and muff, or even an orphan begging on the steps of the palace with a starving sister doll in my arms (I read Les Misérables earlier than I should have). This was the period when I was also frantically reading the Comtesse de Ségur series, in which the perfect nineteenth-century girls live through amazing, sometimes sad, often happy, lives. To my knowledge, none of the characters ever went to the Opéragarnier. They lived in the countryside or in Fleurville, which I possibly wrongly picture to be in Normandy. Yet, my reading experience and my dream of becoming a ballet dancer all merged into a fantasy that could fit in one word: Opéragarnier. I grew up, but the fantasy remained. I learnt that Opéra Garnier was indeed composed of two words, one meaning opera house, the other being a name, and the origin of which would necessarily be less dreamy than its sound. The first time I saw the Opéra Garnier, I had waited impatiently for days, knowing it was on our list of landmarks. I do not reckon having ever mentioned to my parents what it meant to me. I was asked if I wanted to go in and answered I did not; there was a long waiting line. Actually, if looking at it from afar only nourished my fantasy of this place of all won198
/Atlantic ders, I knew that standing in line, adding noise, smells, and other people to my dream place, would make it fade away. In my mind, the OpĂŠra Garnier only belongs to and exists in the nineteenth century. You need to get there in a carriage led by two horses, and there has to be a floor-length dress that gently rustles while you go up the stairs. It has led to conflicted feelings about the actual OpĂŠra Garnier place. It has been my dream for over fifteen years to attend a ballet there, something classical like The Nutcracker, Giselle or Swann Lake. At the same time, I have invested the place with so much meaning that I am not sure the actual experience could hold up to it. My OpĂŠragarnier does not have much in common with the real one. It is not about buying a ticket on a website, or about being placed behind a pole in a third category seat. The only thing they share is their name, in one word or in two; a name that has changed importance but has remained, unstained and forever attached to the realm of fantasy and ignorance.
TIMES SQUARE Marion Tricoire
July 2012 I had insisted that Times Square would be our first stop in New York City, because I felt that after a few days it would not have the same weight, the same symbol. I wanted to be a tourist, I wanted the dazzle I had been promised with. When we got there, first thing after having dropped our luggage in Brooklyn and barely recovering from a red eye flight, I felt like I was walking into a movie set, one that I already knew by heart. The only element out of tune was the heat, as movie sets tend to be air-conditioned, at least in my imagination. As soon as I set foot in, or on, Times Square, I could check it off my list, say “I have been there” and move on. The stores were exactly those I would have expected. So were the ads, and even the tourists (among which I myself was) looked exactly like the actors who would have played them in my New York movie. All around me I could hear a lot of French, a lot of first timers, a lot of sugar-smeared children followed by branded-bag-bearing parents. People were giggling, shouting, buying in all-awareness and none. I joined in, trying to get meaningful souvenirs out of meaningless stores, but my souvenirs resembled all the others. I still got them because there are expectations, yours and others’, and though I escaped from anything “I Love New York”, I bought a yellow cab miniature car and some multi-colored M&M’s from the eponymous store. It was not the first time I was a tourist in a very touristic area, but this time nothing around me was untouristic. There was no nook and cranny, no secret. Everything was there for everyone to take, unashamedly, out in the open. Soulless, but it did not seem to raise any panic. Souls were to be found somewhere else. Here, identity-deprived ghosts were walking day and night, the faceless cast of a never-stopping movie featuring the fantasy of Times Square. I wondered about the history of Times Square, and it seemed nowhere to 200
/Atlantic be seen. I wondered about what it would do to a soul to stay there forever. Lose your identity in this place and never get it back. More than that, feel like you never had an identity before. In a way, it was restful, filled only with questions that have answers, and problems that have solutions, often wallet-related. I was there but I could as well not have been; the only thing I learned is that I knew it already. Times Square trembling under my feet and constricting my shoulders was no different that the myth it had always been: a movie-set, no more. But even non-places are entitled to moments. We were on our way out of Times Square when it started to rain. It was suddenly pouring, a thick, heavy thunderstorm rain, in no way cold. Sunglasses booths turned into umbrella booths, people started running, cursing and ranting at the sky. How could it be so? Who dared? Summer dresses were drenched, streets were flooded, people were getting tiny pieces of their souls back through their anger. They started to notice each other for the first time, they shared, they connected. Not for long. They were looking for shelter, trying to go back to being dry, anonymous, smoother. But in that glimpse of time, and not for long, caught off-guard and so ashamed it would later claim it did not happen, Times Square became a place.
contributors Olivia Baes is a Comparative Literature student who grew up in Europe and the United States. Nomadic at heart, she finds inspiration in spur-of-the-moment travels and new places. She is working on a novel. Jennifer Carr is from Washington, D.C., and has lived in California, Cannes, and Paris. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Cultural Translation from AUP, and will begin a French PhD program at Yale in the fall. Manon Carrié is in her senior year at AUP. She is a screenwriter and filmmaker on the side. She can also ride horses. Carolina Cavalli’s short biography: 1990-present. S. Sophia Chedid has self-designed a major combining film, philosophy, writing, performance, and the arts, hoping to explore human existence and the infinity of the self. Jackson Connor is a journalism student at Northeastern University in Boston, and spent a semester as a visiting student at AUP. His writing on the arts, culture, and current events has appeared in the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate, and the Village Voice. Henry Dean is a Film Studies major at AUP. Originally from the outskirts of London, he hopes his interests in film, language, literature, creative writing, and comedy will serve him well in his future career as a waiter. Eva Ben Dhiab has lived in Paris since birth, and chose to pursue her studies in English at AUP to develop new understandings and perceptions. She plans to major in Art History and History, Law and Society, and her interests include climbing, swimming, and dance. She hopes to become an art auctioneer. Jorge Franco IV was born in Tempe, Arizona. His poems have been published in national anthologies as well as local periodicals such as Hoozdo Magazine. In 2011, Jorge graduated with a degree in Acting from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he was the recipient of the Lawrence Langer Award for Voice and Speech. The following year, Jorge became a member of the 2012 Academy Company and his first play Atiya was staged in New York City. He is signed with Don Buchwald & Associates and AR Entertainment Management.
/Atlantic Elissa Freiha is a graduating senior, inshallah. She was born in Paris to a Lebanese father and American mother. She will paint anything, at any time, in any place—try her. Mona Gainer-Salim is an illustrator and literature student living in Vienna. She is leaving behind a monochromatic phase in drawing to explore ink and oil pastels. Her art appears on the title page. Miguel Angel Guerra is a Mexican AUP graduate student working in advertising. His longest-running passions are photography and music, with a special attraction to the older sides of both. After jumping between the United States, China, and France for the last eight years, he is ready to either go back home for tacos or open a restaurant here. Marie Blanche Jueya was born in Cameroon and has lived in China, where she attended the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing before studying at AUP. Samantha Khoury graduated from AUP in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Literary Studies and the Creative Arts. Karina Klindtworth is a Global Communications major and Fine Arts minor, She plans to become a photojournalist, and has explored other media, such as oil painting, while at AUP. Alex Knechtl is from rural Pennsylvania. He hopes to move to New York, but for now studies Economics and paints in beautiful Paris. Maritza Melania Lacayo is an Art History senior with a minor in History. She has served as editor-in-chief of student newspaper The Planet and as Art History representative in the student senate throughout her time at AUP. She is originally from Miami, and can usually be found in museums or in workout gear, ready for a run. Jana Lahitova is a graduate student concentrating on branding, and specializes in portrait, fashion, media, and advertising photography. She holds several photography certificates and enjoys capturing contrasts and paradoxes in her work. Hynd Lalam is a Franco-Algerian student of Comparative Literature and Latin at AUP. Her interests include post-colonial theory, post-war European literature, and Édith Piaf. She is a research intern for The Letters of Samuel Beckett project at the Center for Writers and Translators. Madeleine LaRue has a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and a Master’s degree in Cultural Translation, both from AUP. She lives in Berlin.
Paris Marshall Lewis is in his first year at AUP, and intends to graduate in Global Communications with a minor in Film Studies. Karen Albright Lin is a freelance editor and writing coach. She is a screenwriter, celebrity ghostwriter, and award-winning author of novels, screenplays, short stories, cookbooks, magazines, and newspapers. Karen received her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas. She spent her junior year at AUP while it was still the American College in Paris (83/84), and was an editor for that year’s issue of Paris/Atlantic. She completed her graduate work in Clinical Psychology at the University of Arizona. She lives in Colorado with her husband and has two sons. Ainsley Lundeen was born and raised in San Francisco. She trained at the San Francisco Ballet School for ten years, and began drawing last fall during her first semester at AUP. Kristen McGuiness is the author of the best-selling memoir 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life, published in September 2010 by Soft Skull Press. She is currently finishing a Master’s degree in International Affairs at AUP. “iPhones & Antiquity” is an excerpt from her proposed second book, The Last Hurrah. Elizabeth Melton graduated from AUP with a Bachelor’s degree in Art History in January 2013, and now lives in Seattle. She hopes to continue her studies at the graduate level, focusing on the intersection of visual and performing arts. Lucie Moore quotes Raymond Depardon: “I was there. I took the picture. That’s how it is.” Lethokuhle Msimang is a Literary Studies and the Creative Arts major at AUP. Lethokuhle grew up in South Africa and spent her adolescent years in Copenhagen. She has a passion for the creative arts, focusing on creative writing, and her work has appeared in the Spanish publication Luxury Rules. Jessica Proett is studying a Master’s degree in Middle East and Islamic Studies at AUP. She is American and has lived and taught for the last five years in Saudi Arabia and Andalusia, Spain. Her research interests include the Muslim history of Spain and modern interpretations of this period. Creative writing is her artistic passion. Aubrey Reeves is a native of Charleston. She is a student of Comparative Literature at AUP, a professional actress, and enjoys writing poetry in her spare time.
/Atlantic Shamayel Shalizi was born in the United States and is of Afghani descent. She has lived in Washington, D.C., New York City, Moscow, and Kabul, and intends to major in Global Communications. She dabbles in several creative mediums, but painting is her favorite. Inna Thalmann is an AUP Economics student from Germany. As an artist, she tries to capture her impressions of a life lived in many different environments, while exploring new styles and techniques. Symonne Torpy is currently wearing red lipstick and drinking champagne as a Master’s student in Global Communications at AUP. She is immersed in fashion journalism, and writes on gay culture for Polari magazine. What are the ingredients of champagne anyway? Just grapes? And mystery. Marion Tricoire studied a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature and a Master’s degree in Cultural Translation at AUP. She will begin a PhD in French Literature at Emory University in Atlanta in the fall. She works as a graduate assistant for the Center for Writers and Translators at AUP. Ina Kristin Ullenes is from Oslo and studies Psychology. The creative classes she took during her semester at AUP inspired her to pursue a degree in architecture next year. In the mean time, she is finishing a Bachelor’s degree and traveling. Sara Julia Waller knows people like making categories, but to her, art is art. Cinema, ballet, literature, fine arts, photography, and music all influence, complement, and complete each other, together constituting something distinct from what they were separately. Sara Julia went from working as an artist manager in the world of classical music to experimenting with “this stuff ” herself. In addition to studying cinema and fine arts at AUP, she exhibits her photography in galleries across Europe.
Emmeline Butler studies Comparative Literature and History at AUP. Fanie Collardeau studies Psychology and International and Comparative Politics at AUP. She is graduating in May 2013 and will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.
Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not sorry to go, of course. With people like us our home is where we are not.
â&#x20AC;&#x201D;F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise