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The Infernal Machine By David Brian Howard

“Properly written texts are like spiders’ webs: tight, concentric, transparent, well-spun and firm. The draw into themselves all the creatures of the air. Metaphors flitting hastily through them become their nourishing prey.” (Theodor W. Adorno in “Minima Moralia,” quoted in Gerhard Richter, Language Without Soil: Adorno and Late Philosophical Modernity. Bronx, New York: Fordham University Press, 2009: 167.)

“Little Fly Thy summers play, My thoughtless hand Has brush’d away, Am not I A fly like thee? Or art not thou A man like me?” (William Blake, “The Fly,” in David V. Erdman (Editor), The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. New York: Anchor Books, 1988: 23.)

“Andre Delambre: Help me! Help meeee!” (The cry from the bybrid fly/human caught in the spider’s web in the concluding scene from the movie, The Fly, 1958, IMDB.)

“Now I felt I have been precipitated unceremoniously into the very heart of an alien cosmogony. Beneath the earth, sweating as I was in its humid viscera, I felt a dull pressure of the desert, of the mountains beyond the desert, of the vast prairies, the grazing cattle, the corn; I


felt upon me the whole heaviness of that entire continent with its cities and its coinage, its mines, its foundries, its wars and its mythologies imposing itself in all its immensity, like a nightmare, upon my breast. I gasped. I choked. My fear took on a new quality; not only fear for my own safety, now, but dread of the new immensity of the world about me.” (Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve. London: Little, Brown Group, 1992: 52.)

“’At the beginning of the law,’ there is a certain ‘outlaw,’ a certain Real of violence which coincides with the act itself of the establishment of the reign of law: the ultimate truth about the reign of law is that of a usurpation, and all classical politico-philosophical thought rests on the disavowal of this violent act of foundation…this illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself is the positive condition of the functioning of the law: it functions insofar as its subjects are deceived, insofar as they experience the authority of law as authentic and eternal.” (Slavoj Žižek, “For They Know Not What They Do,” in Jodi Dean, Žižek’s Politics. London: Routledge, 2006: 138139.)

“The Consul walked on a little farther, still unsteadily; he thought he had his bearings again, then stopped: ¡BRAVA ATRACCIÓN! 10 C. MÁQUINA INFERNAL

he read, half struck by some coincidence in this. Wild attraction. The huge looping-the-loop machine, empty, but going full blast over his head in this dead section of the fair, suggested some huge evil spirit, screaming in its lonely hell, its limbs writhing, smiting the air like flails of paddlewheels. Obscured by a tree, he hadn’t seen it before. The machine stopped also…” (Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano. Harrowsmith, Middlesex: 1962: 224.)

“One creature only is most foul and false! Though making no grand gestures, nor great cries, He willingly would devastate the earth And in one yawning swallow all the world.” (Charles Baudelaire (Translated by James McGowan), “To the Reader,” quoted in The Flowers of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993: 7.)


“Through war, through the taxing and never-ending accumulation of armaments, through the want which any state even in peacetime must suffer internally, nature forces them [human beings] to make at first inadequate and tentative attempts; after devastations, revolutions, and even complete exhaustion, she brings them to that which reason could have told them at the beginning, and with far less sad experience, to wit, to step from the lawless condition of savages into a league of nations.” (Kant, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, quoted in Yirmiyahu Yovel, Kant and the Philosophy of History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989: 152.)

“Civilization, a wild hunt; a fugue or flight, on the wings, the pennants of penance. Remorse, the bite of a mad dog. Conscience, the superego, the introjected father or animal; now eating us even as we ate him.” (Norman O. Brown, Apocalypse – And/Or – Metamorphosis. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992: 42.)

“Every negation has value only as the backdrop for the outlines of the vital, the positive. So it is of decisive importance to continually redivide this tentatively isolated, negative part, such that, with a shift of point of view (but not that of standards!), it too, will reveal a new positive, different from the one previously described. And so on ad infinitum, until all of the past has been brought into the present in historic apocatastasis.” (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, quoted in Kornel Zathureczky, The Messianic Disruption of Trinitarian Theology. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2009: 151.)

“Suppose for an instant that political life did not appear as a dialectical adjustment of each person to the other, but as an infernal cycle of violence and unreason; suppose for an instant that the moral ends which politics claims to realize – but that it amends and limits in the process of this very realization – that these ends appear lost in the immorality which pretends to support them; suppose, in other words, that you have lost the sense of politics and the awareness of its grandeur – that the nonsense or the non-value of the political world was your first certainty, that you were a people apart from the peoples….a people capable of diaspora, capable of maintaining itself outside, alone and abandoned, and you would have a completely different vision of universality.”


(Emmanuel Levinas quoted in Susan Handelman, fragments of Redemption: Jewish Thought & Literary Theory in Benjamin, Scholem, & Levinas. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991: 334.)

“What happens when a machine is broken but still runs?” (Alex E. Blazer, I Am Otherwise: The Romance Between Poetry and Theory After the Death of the Subject. Champaign, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2007: 204.)

“Oh We Alll sing ze wibberlee wobberlee SONG” (Lowry, Under the Volcano: 26.)

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is selfimposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude? “Have courage to use your own understanding!”—that is the motto of enlightenment.” (Imammanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” (1784), quoted in James Bonham’s and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann, Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant’s Cosmpolitan Ideal. London and Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997: 41.)


“Of course, it could be argued she had courted reversals, much as a hero makes his own wars, that she had invented, then pursued the impossible, in order to push the possible beyond her reach, and thus had died, as so many have believed, of vanity, but never mind, the fact is, she was her own consummation, and we, in effect, had carried out—were still carrying out—our own ludicrous performances without an audience. Who could not laugh at us?” (Robert Coover, “The Dead Queen,” in A Child Again: New York: McSweeney’s, 2005: 55.)

“’As I approached the cage, my first impression was of an irritating buzzing of everincreasing volume. I found it both tiring and nauseating.’ He was speaking of fruit flies. In fact the fruit flies did not consider their situation in nearly the same light as Big George. At the bottom of the enclosure was a smooth waxy block of yeast food. This would last them quite awhile; there would still be plenty left when the corpses of dead generations covered it and the clean glass walls were pitted with excrement dots.” (William T. Vollmann, You Bright & Risen Angels. New York and London: Penguin Books, 1987: 623.)

“The spider-Narrator, whose web is the Search being spun, being woven by each thread stirred by one sign or another: the web and the spider, the web and the body are one and the same machine. Though endowed with an extreme sensibility and a prodigious memory, the narrator has no organs insofar as he is deprived of any voluntary and organized use of such faculties. On the other hand, a faculty functions within him when constrained and obliged to do so; and the corresponding organ wakens within him, but as an intensive outline roused by the waves that provoke its involuntary use. Involuntary sensibility, involuntary memory, involuntary thought are, each time, like the intense totalizing reactions of the organless body to the signs of one nature to another. It is this body, this spider’s web, that opens or seals each of the tiny cells that a sticky thread of the Search happens to touch.” (Gilles Deleuze (Translated by Richard Howard), Proust and Signs: The Complete Text. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000: 182.)

“In spiritual experience, concepts do not constitute a single continuum of operations, the thought does not advance in a single direction, but rather the moments are interwoven with one another as in a dense fabric. The fruitfulness of thought depends on the thickness of this interweaving. Actually the thinker does not think at all, but makes the thinking self into the scene of spiritual experience without unraveling it [ohne sie aufzudröeln].”


(Theodor Adorno, “The Essay as Form,” quoted in Roger Foster, Adorno: The Recovery of Experience. New York: State University of New York Press, 2007: 74.)

“The fly, like Kojève’s dog, or Hegel’s “Beauty”, is powerless to be other than it is. It is inseparable from its environment, with which it is in continuity. Left to its own devices, death does not strike the natural elements. “Without doubt, the individual fly dies,” but given that this fly is no different in kind from the ones living last year, or the ones to come, “nothing has disappeared. The flies remain, equal to one another like waves in the sea,” intimate to one another. The fly only dies when the biologist enters the picture, for the biologist separates the fly from its immersion in the elements, but he separates it “for himself, not for the flies,” and he does so by naming it. […] The monstrous power of the understanding, of language, alone founds the separation of elements, and it is only by considering something as individualized that death may be seen to strike it.” (Christopher M. Gemerchak, The Sunday of the Negative: Reading Bataille Reading Hegel. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003: 133.)

“THREE THINKERS LIKE ONE SPIDER.—In every philosophical school three thinkers follow one another in this relation: the first produces himself from himself sap and seed, the second draws it out in threads and spins a cunning web, and the third waits in this web for the victims who are caught in it—and tries to live upon his philosophy.’ (Friedrich Nietzsche (trans. by A.J. Hollingdale), Human, All-To-Human. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996: 351.)

“Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts.” (Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” in Kant, Perpetual Peace: 41.)

“The spider has loosened its jaws, withdrawn its venom fangs; its task completed, it climbs down to the floor, wavering slightly, makes slow, broken line and suddenly, at a speed so great that it seems more like a shadow, leaps toward a corner of the room, climbs from shelf to shelf up the empty bookcases to the top, whence it had come, and where it once again disappears.” (Alain Robbe-Grillet, Project for a Revolution in New York: New York: Grove Press, 1989: 167.)


“There were flies: the “boys” were covered with flies like a living garment. Flies swarmed around them like a veil, supping on the juices of their big, empty eyes, which they rimmed like animated mascara. Flies landed to drink at the trough of their loose lips or got pushed into their mouths along with the food. Naked puff-bellied children begged for scraps outside the diningroom window or just lay there listlessly in the dust, like sick iguanas covered with flies, cramming red earth into their mouths. Flies swarmed so thick on the dining-room tables that I took them for a furry tablecloth until a “boy” made a lazy swipe at them with a filthy rag.” (Brion Gysin, The Process: A Novel. New York: The Overlook Press, 2005: 29.)

“Insp. Charas: He put his head and his arm under the press. Why? Helene Delambre: I cannot answer that question; coffee, Inspector?” (excerpt from the script of The Fly, 1958, IMDB.)

“The more reified the world becomes, the thicker the veil [Netz] cast upon nature, the more the thinking weaving that veil in its turn claims ideologically to be nature, primordial experience.” (Theodor W. Adorno, “Why Still Philosophy?” in quoted in Richter, Language Without Soil: 167.)

“Oh! The drunken gnat in the inn’s urinal, in love with diuretic borage and dissolved by a sunbeam!” (Arthur Rimbaud, “Alchimie du verbe,” quoted in Georges Poulet, Exploding Poetry: Baudelaire, Rimbaud. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984: 85.)

“Dialectical thought thus becomes negative itself. Its function is to break down the selfassurance and self-contentment of common sense, to undermine the sinister confidence in the power and language of facts, to demonstrate that unfreedom is so much at the core of things that the development of their internal contradictions leads necessarily to qualitative change: the explosion and catastrophe of the established state of affairs. Hegel sees the task of knowledge as that of the recognizing the world as Reason by understanding all objects of thought as elements and aspects of a totality which becomes a conscious world in the history of mankind. Dialectical


analysis ultimately tends to become historical analysis, in which nature itself appears as part and stage in its own history and in the history of man. The progress of cognition from common sense to knowledge arrives at a world which is negative in its very structure because that which is real opposes and denies the potentialities inherent in itself—potentialities which themselves strive for realization. Reason is the negation of the negative.” (Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory. London: Routledge, 1986: x.)

“War and adventure, uproar and destruction: the torment of an unfamiliar urge swelling from every last corner of our hearts! Was this truly our desire—to tear a gateway through the constricting walls of the world, to march across fields glowing-hot, to stamp across rubble and scattered ashes, to hunt through tangled forest, across rolling heartland, to gnaw and jostle our way to victory in the East, in the hot, white, dark, cold country that stretched from here to Asia? I do not know if we did or did not desire such things—but we did them.” (Alfred Sohn Rethel, quoted in Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, Volume 2: Psychoanalyzing the White Terror. Minneapolis and Bloomington: University of Minnesota Press, 1989: 366.)

“For since the advancing culture of nations—along with their simultaneously increasing tendency to aggrandize themselves by guile or force at the cost of others—will multiply the number of wars, and since there will, because of that, be ever swelling standing armies (paid at the same rate) to keep in training and to equip with increasingly numerous instruments of war, expenditures must continuously increase. Meanwhile, the price of all necessities constantly grows, even without hope for a proportionately expanding growth in representative metal currencies. No peace endures long enough for the savings accumulated during it to equal the next war’s expenditures; and against this the invention of national debt is an ingenious but ultimately self-defeating expedient. Thus, impotence must finally bring about what good will ought to have done, but did not: Every nation must be so organized internally that not the head of the nation—for whom, properly speaking, war has no cost (since he puts the expense off on others, namely the people)—but rather the people who pay for it have the decisive voice as to whether or not there should be a war.” (Kant, “On the Proverb: That May be True in Theory, But Is of No Practical Use,” (1793), quoted in Kant, Perpetual Peace: 88.)

“Have I already indicated that even before the revolution, the entire city of New York, and in particular Manhattan Island, had been in ruins for a long time? I am speaking of course of the


surface constructions, those in what is called the open air. One of the last houses still standing, the narrator’s, located in the West Village, is now in the hands of a team of dynamiters. Having invoked the plan to construct soon, in its place, something higher and more modern, these four men with severe faces, dressed in dark gray sweatshirts, are skillfully and diligently planting all through the building their Bickford fuses and explosive charges, with a view to an explosion which cannot be long in coming now. Cut.” (Robbe-Grillet, Project for a Revolution in New York: 176.)

“But maybe it was not. Maybe I had not done enough. I fussed about choosing a ball teeing up, worried about this. Everything was remarkably green, the sky was deep blue, the balls a blinding white: my senses still on edge from the transmutation. Uncle Sam was now balancing a putter on his sharp thin nose while juggling the golf balls.” (Robert Coover, The Public Burning. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 1998: 85.)

“From within language experienced and traversed as language, in the play of its possibilities extended to their furthest point, what emerges is that man has ‘come to an end’, and that by reaching the summit of all possible speech, he arrives not at the very heart of himself but at the brink of that which limits him; in that region where death prowls, where thought is extinguished, where the promise of the origin interminably recedes.” (Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, quoted in Kimberly Hutchings, Kant, Critique and Politics. New York and London: Routledge, 1996: 107.)

“Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour His Finger Girls taken strippin that’s the idea” (Samuel Beckett, “Serena III,” in David Wheatley (ed.), Selected Poems: 1930-1989. London: Faber and Faber, 2009: 29.)

“Her tongue swells until it fills my mouth.” (Michael Palmer, “The Flower of Capital,” in Mary Ann Caws, Manifesto: A Century of Isms. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000: 642.)


“Go down and stay down, in the forbidden zone; a descent into hell. “I can only conclude with the wish that fate may grant an easy ascension to those whose sojourn in the underworld of psychoanalysis has become uncomfortable. May it be vouchsafed to others to bring to happy conclusion their work in the depth.” (Sigmund Freud, “History of the Psychoanalytic Movement,” quoted in Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990: 241.)

“The total identification in which thought continually threatens to become ensnared need not have the final word. Dialectics should be, without reserve, the capability of tracing “the difference that has been spirited away.” It should strive to break through, from within, the spell of what is apparently always the same “without dogmatically, from without, contrasting it with an allegedly realistic thesis.” Thought is able, Adorno further maintains, “to think against itself without abandoning itself.” Dialectics thus can “see through” the deception of its own inadvertent claims to identity and totality: “By means of logic, dialectics grasps the coercive character of logic, hoping that it may yield.” Of course, this supposed dissolution of logical rules, whose force even negative dialectics can never entirely elude, also implies a preparedness to take aim against itself “in a final movement” and to evaluate itself: “It lies in the definition of negative dialectics that it will not come to rest in itself, as if it were total. This is its form of hope.” (Hent de Vries, Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas. Baltimore, Maryland: Hopkins Fulfillment Service, 2005: 301.)

“The Angel of Death, Thomas Hobbes. ‘Are you dogs, dogs? Do you act without thinking? Will you always act stupidly and thoughtlessly? Do you even know what gives you pleasure?’” (Kathy Acker, Don Quixote: A Novel. New York: Grove Press, 1994: 113.)

“’She’s what people mean when they say America never grows up, America rewards the corrupt. She’s the type who goes to bad movies, acts in them, reads the love-story magazines, lives in a bungalow, and whips her husband into earning more money this year so they can buy on the installment plan next year, breaks up her neighbor’s marriage—‘ ‘Stop it, Guy! You talk so like a child!’”


(Patrician Highsmith, Strangers on a Train, quoted in Mark Seltzer, True Crime: Observations on Violence and Modernity. New York and London: Routledge, 2007: 128.)

“In Benjamin’s constellation of the Paris arcade, Corsets, feather dusters, read and green-colored combs, old photographs, souvenir replicas of the Venus di Milo, collar buttons to shirts long since discarded—these battered historical survivors from the dawn of industrial culture that appeared together in the dying arcades as “a world of secret affinities” were the philosophical ideas, as a constellation of concrete, historical referents.” (Walter Benjamin, quoted in Dianne Chisholm, Queer Constellations: Sub-Cultural Space in the Wake of the City. Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004: 34.)

“I have rarely seen the natural solemnity of a huge city represented more poetically. The majesty of piled-up stone; bell towers pointing to the sky; the obelisks of industry vomiting their coalitions of smoke into the firmament; the prodigious scaffoldings of monuments under repair, overlaying the solid body of openwork, of such paradoxical beauty; the tumultuous sky teeming with rage and resentment; the depth of all the dramas contained within it—none of the complex elements making up the painful and glorious décor of civilization were omitted.” (Arthur Rimbaud, “Paris Spleen,” quoted in Poulet, Exploding Poetry: 66.)

“Capitalism is probably the first instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement. In this respect the religious system is caught up in the headlong rush of a larger movement. A vast sense of guilt that is unable to find relief seizes on the cult, not to atone for this guilt but to make it universal, to hammer it into the conscious mind, so as once and for all to include God in the system of guilt and thereby to awaken in Him an interest in the process of atonement. This atonement cannot then be expected from the cult itself, or from the reformation of this religion (which would need to be able to have recourse to some stable elements in it), or even from the complete renouncement of this religion. The nature of the religious movement which is capitalism entails endurance right to the end, to the point where God, too, finally takes on the entire burden of guilt, to the point where the universe has been taken over by the despair which is actually its secret hope.” (Benjamin, “Capitalism as Religion,” quoted in (Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings editors), Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Volume 1, 1913-1926. Harvard, MA: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1996: 288-289.)


“Par toi je change l’or en fer Et le paradis en enfer; Dans le suaire des nuages Je découvre un cadaver cher, Et sur les celestes rivages Je bâtis de grands sarcophages.” “My gold is iron by your spell, And paradise turns into hell; I see in winding-sheets of clouds A dear cadaver in its shroud, And there upon celestial stands I raise huge tombs above the sands.” (Charles Baudelaire, “Alchemy of Suffering,” quoted in Charles Baudelaire (translated by James McGowan), The Flowers of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993: 154-155.)

“The prison and the shopping mall, the consumerism of preparedness and the militarization of everyday life, the selling of patriotism and the branding of the nation—these converge in contemporary American culture to maintain the notion of American innocence. The presence of the Hummer in the driveway masks the use of the Humvee in the war in Iraq, and the presence of the suburban big-box retailers allows for the erasure of the prison complex on the outskirts of town. The consumerism of comfort, whether it takes the form of kitsch or of preparedness chic, operates primarily to smooth over conflict and mask the consequences of the nation’s action. It is thus a primary aspect of the tourism of history, encouraging a tourist-consumerist relationship to the contemporary crisis of security in the United States. As the citizen-consumer has replaced the citizen, the maintenance of the innocence of that citizen is contingent on the effects of U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. prison industry being rendered invisible.” (Marita Sturken, Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007: 92.)

“Now they’re all on their feet! This is impossible! Executioner Francel steps out of his alcove scratching his head in stupid bewilderment. “Want another?” he asks, but he seems


confused, indecisive. The Warden, too, seems to have lost the initiative. There’s but a moment’s hesitation—long enough to reflect perhaps that it’s too late, the Sabbath has already begun—and then, as a gaunt hoary figure rises up from the front-and-center section in his familiar star-spangled plug hat to cry, “A little more grape, Captain Bragg!”” (Coover, The Public Burning: 516.)

“Meandering or labyrinthine paths, spirals, mazes, actually followed in ritual (initiation) dances, or symbolically represented in ritual objects, represent archetypal endeavors of the divine ancestor, the prototypical man, to emerge from this world, to be born. In the ceremony of the Dog totem in Northern Australia, “a winding path is cut through the bush for a processional march, which represents at the same time the flounderings of the ancestral beast through the primeval mud, and also the rope by which it was drawn onto dry land by the human companion.” This is what Freud meant by anal birth: “I cannot help mentioning how often mythological themes find their explanation through dream interpretation. The story of the Labyrinth, for example, is found to be a representation of anal birth; the tortuous paths are the bowels, and the thread of Ariadne is the umbilical chord.” Mother is mold, modder; Mutter is mud.” (Brown, Love’s Body: 38-39.)

“As a category of historical time, utopia proposes to the imagination only a new combination of elements already known; Redemption, on the other hand, rises up against all waiting, with the unpredictability of the brand-new. Hence, [Franz] Rosenzweig’s critique of the idea of progress, understood as infinite process, is supposed to lead humanity, almost necessarily, to its ideal flourishing. Hence, too, the rejection of Hegel’s philosophy of history: not only because the vision of history as theodicy, as the stage on which God’s judgment is played, justifies, in the name of the Absolute, the triumph of the victors and the disappearance of the vanquished, but also because on the horizontal axis of historical time, nothing radically new can occur, especially not that qualitative leap into an absolutely other reality implied by Redemption.” (Stephane Mosès, The Angel of History: Rosenzweig, Scholem, Benjamin. Berkeley: Stanford University Press, 2008: 51.)

“As regards artistic creation, what is of paramount importance is that imagination should be free of all constraints and should under no pretext let itself be channeled toward prescribed goals. To those who would urge us, whether it be today or tomorrow, to agree that art should conform to a discipline that we regard as radically incompatible with its nature, we give an absolute


refusal and we reassert our deliberate intention of standing by the formula: complete freedom for art.” (André Bréton, Diego Rivera, and Leon Trotsky, “Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art,” in Caws, Manifesto: 475.)

“Was this the face that launched five hundred ships, and betrayed Christ into being in the Western Hemisphere? But the bird appeared tame enough. Half past tree by the cock, that other fellow said. And here was the cock. It was a fighting cock. Cervantes was training it for a fight in Tlaxcala, but the Consul couldn’t be interested. Cervante’s cockerels always lost – he’d attended drunkenly one session in Cuautla; the vicious little man-made battles, cruel and destructive, yet somehow bedraggledly inconclusive, each brief, as some hideously mismanaged act of intercourse, disgusted and bored him. Cervantes took the cock away. ‘Un bruto,’ he added.” (Lowry, Under the Volcano: 288.)

“The Persistence of Memory. An empty beach with its fused sand. Here clock time is no longer valid. Even the embryo, symbol of secret growth and possibility, is drained and limp. These images are the residues of a remembered moment of time. For [him] the most disturbing elements are the rectilinear sections of the beach and sea. The displacement of these two images through time, and their marriage with his own continuum, has warped them into the rigid and unyielding structures of his own consciousness. Later, walking along the overpass, he realized that the rectilinear forms of his conscious reality were warped elements from some placid and harmonious future.” (J.G. Ballard (New and Revised Edition), The Atrocity Exhibition. San Francisco: RE/Search Publications, 1990: 76.)

“Sa robe est noire dit Sarah Bernhardt.” “Her dress is black, says Sarah Bernhardt.” (Marcel Duchamp, Littérature, quoted in Katharine Conley, Robert Desnos, Surrealism, and the Marvelous in Everyday Life. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 2003: 27.)


“This is so important! If you knew, citoyens, how the revolution depends on women, then you would open your eyes to girls’ education, and you would not leave them…in ignorance!...Ah! In the name of God! The women of Paris are fucking patriotic women!...But…there are those who are led by the fucking priests, and who swallow the wafers at mass instead of making soup for their husbands!...These citoyennes have not received their patriotic education!” (Carolyn J. Eichner, Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune. Bloomington and Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2004:122.)

“How ardent you are!” Tamara said theatrically. “Tonight you are my ardent lover. Tonight we are sentry and animals, birds and lizards, slime and marble. Tonight we are glorious and degraded, knighted and crushed, beautiful and disgusting. Sweat is perfume. Gasps are bells. I wouldn’t trade this for the ravages of the loveliest swan. This is why I must have come to you in the first place. This is why I must have left the others, the hundreds who tried to stay my ankle with crippled hands as I sped to you” “Horseshit,” I said. She eased herself out of my arms’ clasp and stood on the bed. I thought of the thighs of stone colossi but I didn’t say anything.” (Leonard Cohen, The Favorite Game. Toronto: McClelland & Steward, 1970:93.)

“To read B on subject of various Paris specters. George Sand dressed as man riding a horse across city. Accompanied by Lamartine. Dressed as a woman…I dressing. Tidying quickly. So when she handing in mail. Simultaneously looking over shoulder with quick left and right movement of head. Won’t see appalling mess. I even raising up outer store or shutter. To signal I on feet. Then she never coming.” (Gail Scott, My Paris: New York: Dalkey Archive Press, 2003: 50.)

“The soldier wakes up in the night with a start. The blue lights that hang from the ceiling are still burning. There are three of them, on the line of the room’s main axis. In one movement the solider has thrown off his blankets and sat up on the edge of the bed with both feet on the floor. He was dreaming that the alert had sounded. He was in a winding trench, the top of which was on a level with his forehead; in his hand he was holding a sort of elongated grenade whose delayed-action mechanism he had just set off. Without wasting a second he had to throw the thing out of the trench. He could hear the noise of the timing-mechanism, like the ticking of a


cheap alarm-clock. But he just stood there, grenade in hand, his arm stretched out as at the beginning of a throw, but for some incomprehensible reason paralyzed, becoming more and more rigid, less and less capable of moving even a finger as the moment of the explosion approached. He must have yelled aloud to jerk himself out of the nightmare.” (Robbe-Grillet, In the Labyrinth: 101.)

“Short Shadows. Toward noon, shadows are no more than the sharp, black edges at the feet of things, preparing to retreat silently, unnoticed, into their burrow, into their secret. Then, in its compressed, cowering fullness, comes the hour of Zarathustra—the thinker in “the noon of life,” in “the summer garden.” For it is knowledge that gives the objects their sharpest outline, like the sun at its zenith.” (Benjamin, “Short Shadows III,” in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings: Volume 2, 1927-1934. Harvard, MA: The Belknap Press of the University of Harvard Press, 1999: 702.)

“It has recently been pointed out how Benjamin’s theory of the ‘phantasmagoria’ and the collective ‘dream-sleep’ of capitalism itself draws on this theory of the unconscious production of history, and thus on a teleological, divine, or natural force operating in history to bring it to a close. “Capitalism was a natural phenomenon, with which a new dream-sleep came over Europe, and with it, a reactivation of mythical forces” […], Benjamin writes. According to some commentators, the task is thus for Benjamin, as for Marx, to awaken from this slumber in the formation of the class consciousness of the proletariat […]. Our analysis, however, demonstrates that Benjamin rejected the concept of a latent meaning of history to be freed in a supreme moment of awakening. Against the assimilation of Benjamin to the philosophy of history, one should note that, as I have argued, he rejects the idea of progress and of a historical teleology. Further, the connection between the unconscious production of history and the ‘dream-sleep’ remains unclear in Benjamin, as he saw himself. What is clear is that Benjamin associate the theory of awakening –which for him is an awakening from the nineteenth century and its mistaken ideas about history—with the “now of recognizability” in which a historical constellation of past and present, formed as in a dream, becomes legible and demands interpretation.” (Max Fritsch, The Promise of Memory: History and Politics in Marx, Benjamin, and Derrida. Albany, NY: The State University of New York Press, 2006: 43-44.)


“Who would believe it! It is said that, incensed at the hour, / Latter-day Joshuas, at the foot of every clocktower, / Were firing on clock faces to make the day stand still.” At this point a note: “This is a unique feature in the history of the insurrection: it is the only act of vandalism carried out by the people against public monuments. And what vandalism! How well it expresses the situation of hearts and minds on the evening of the twenty-eighth! With what rage watched the shadows falling and the implacable advance of the needle toward night—just as on ordinary days! What was most singular about this episode was that it was observed, at the very same hour, in different parts of the city. This was the expression not of an aberrant notion, an isolated whim, but of a widespread, nearly general sentiment.” (Barthélemy and Méry, L’Insurrection: Poème dédié aux Parisiens (Paris, 1830), quoted in Walter Benjamin (Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin trans.), The Arcades Project: Harvard, MA: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1999: 737.)

“The Angel of Death. ‘The American Revolution or American freedom is a mask of death. Our nihilism and dying must be the mask of our revolution.’ Having barked this, the Angel of Death turned back to Mr. and Mrs. Nixon, who had stopped fucking and were staring wide-eyed. Mr. Nixon ‘Our country doesn’t allow negativity,’ Mr. Nixon barked. ‘There’s no nihilism in this country.’” (Acker, Don Quixote: 115.)

“[…] they all rush forward, led by young Dick Nixon, followed by Joe McCarthy, Herb Brownell, Bill Knowland, Lyndon Johnson, Foster Dulles and Allen, Engine Charlie, and Estes Kefauver, virtually the entire VIP section, scrambling up over the side of the stage, fighting for position as though their very future depended upon it, racing for the switch—it’s hard to tell who gets his hands on it first, maybe the Vice President with his head start, maybe Francel himself, or the young Senator Kennedy, more athletic than most, or perhaps all of them at once, but whoever or how many, they throw themselves on it with such force they snap the thing clean off! The guard nearest the chair, seeing what was about to happen, has been frantically trying to belt Ethel up again, but only gets one of the straps done up, and loosely at that, when the charge hits, hurling him backwards off the stage and cutting a wide swath through the VIPs as he flies by.” (Coover, The Public Burning: 517.)


“¿Que hora?’ asked the Consul, shivering, noticing, in the runnel, a dead scorpion; a sparkle of phosphorescence and it had gone, or had never been there. ‘What’s the time?’ ‘Sick,’ answered the man. ‘No, it er ah half past sick by the cock.’ ‘You mean half past six by the clock.’ ‘Sí, señor. Half past sick by the cock.” (Lowry, Under the Volcano: 353.)

“The city’s paving stones are hot Despite the gasoline you shower, And absolutely, now, right now, we’ve got To find a way to break your power!” (Arthur Rimbaud, “Parisian War Cry,” quoted in Arthur Rimbaud, Arthur Rimbaud’s: Complete Works: New York: Perennial Modern Classica, 2008: 64.)

“The Commune took place in the streets and in the places of assembly and naturally on the barricades. And even in the final days, this discursive and activist distribution in space was still carried alongside the military battle. In this sense, the revolutionary machine of the Commune was, contrary to Marx’s words, less “the glorious harbinger of a new society,” but rather it was this “new society” already: as ongoing resistance, as recurrent insurrection, and finally as constituent power, through which the state apparatus is extended into the orgiastic and the war machine organizes itself.” (Gerald Raunig (Aileen Durieg trans.), Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Semiotext(e), 2007: 96.)

“This is indeed likely to be seen by future historians as the central tragic irony of the Bush Administration’s world policy: that the United States, which of all states today should feel like a satisfied power is instead behaving like a revolutionary one, kicking to pieces the hill of which it is king.” (Anatol Lieven, “The Empire strikes back”, quoted in Christie, America’s War on Terrorism: The Revival of the Nation State Versus Human Rights. Pittsburgh, PA: Edwin Mellen Press, 2008.) 82.)

“Surely, the State is the Sewer. Not just because it spews divine law from its ravenous mouth, but because it reigns as the law of cleanliness above its sewers. Cleanliness, order, and


beauty, defined by Freud as the cornerstones of civilization, are elevated to new heights when embodied by the State. “Civilization,” says Lacan, “is the spoils” the cloaca maxima.” We could easily substitute State here for civilization; we see proof of this in the fact that the more it institutionalizes Freud’s triad, the more totalitarian the state becomes. Civilization is the opposite of what the Greeks called barbaros in that it is always the embodiment of pure order and divine power: the ideal, even today, of the Etat-des Républiques. The proposition “civilization is the spoils” only holds if amended by a second: “the State is the Sewer.” Civilization is the purview of the conqueror. The barbarian craps where he pleases: the conqueror emblazons his trails with a primordial prohibition: “No shitting allowed.” This injunction is retained in the memory of conquered peoples and permeates the output of their authors.” (Dominique Laporte (Nadia Benabid and Rodolphe al-Khoury trans.), History of Shit: Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002: 56-57.)

“Mountains of Corpses. Television transmits endless images of the dying millions (how many? Two, four, five or more?): starving Pakistanis, Muslims killed by drowning, mountains of corpses in Biafra or Ethiopia, massacre in Tel Satar, strip bombing in Vietnam, hundred of thousands presumed killed in Cambodia…and we ourselves are always absent. These are images of our victories, they confirm our survival. They show us the fate of the teeming dead of the world who have screamed and still cry for revolt and upheaval. The next bank of corpses is only round the corner. Demands that we be exterminated are never quite so loudly, perhaps precisely because of the ubiquity of visions of mountains of corpses in the Third and Fourth Worlds. Those images seem to allow us access to the psychic ecstasy of power and survival.” (Theweleit, Male Fantasies, Volume 2: 269.)

“That the violence of the facts has become such a horror, that any theory, even the true kind, looks like a ridicule of that horror—this is burned as a sign into the very organ of theory, language.” (Adorno, “Aus einem Schulheft ohne Deckel,” quoted in Richter, Language Without Soil: 2.)



I will find for thee that which thou hast vainly sought for, by the gleam of torches, upon the faces of the dead,--or among those awful sands that are formed of human remains, where thou wast wont to wander beyond the Pyramids. From time to time, the fragment of a skull rolled under thy sandal. Thou didst take up the dust: thou didst let it trickle through thy fingers; and thy thought, blending with it, sank into nothingness.” (Gustave Flaubert (Lafcadio Hearn trans.), The Temptation of St. Anthony: New York: Random House, 1992: 177.)

“Its irreplaceable individuality is a finger that points to the abyss… To those who avidly desire laceration, individuality is necessary. Laceration wouldn’t be itself if not a laceration of a particular person, a person chosen for his or her plenitude… Hence this deep paradox: it’s not simple laceration that intensely lacerates us, but rich individuality…abandoning us to anguish… The greatest vertigo comes from the beloved’s uniqueness.” (Gemerchak, The Sunday of the Negative: 204-205.)

“Until ze day is dawning,” (Lowry, Under the Volcano: 26.)

“The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction….it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life…. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children having abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. But, perhaps, God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun.”


(G.K. Chesterton, quoted in (Creston Davis, John Milbank, and Slavoj Žižek editors), Theology and the Political: The New Debate. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005: 57.)

“With Adam’s skull the first head in its claws” (Beckett, “Zone,” in Wheatley (ed.), Selected Poems: 149.)

“Moral philosophy does not have privileged access to particular moral truths. In view of the four big moral-political liabilities of our time—hunger and poverty in the Third World, torture and continuous violations of human dignity in autocratic regimes, increasing unemployment and disparities of social wealth in the Western industrial nations, and finally the self-destruction risks of the nuclear arms race—my modest opinion about what philosophy can and cannot accomplish may come as a disappointment. But that as it may: Philosophy cannot absolve anyone of moral responsibility. And that includes philosophers; for like everyone else, they face moral-practical issues of great complexity, and the first thing they might profitably do is get a clearer picture of the situation they find themselves in. The historical and social sciences can be of greater help in this endeavor than philosophy. On this note I want to end with a quote from Max Horkheimer from the year 1933: “What is needed to get beyond the utopian character of Kant’s idea of a perfect constitution of humankind is a materialist theory of society.” (Jürgen Habermas, “Morality and Ethical Life: Does Hegel’s Critique of Kant Apply to Discourse Ethics?,” in Ronald Beiner and William James Booth (Editors), Kant & Political Philosophy: The Contemporary Legacy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993: 332.)

“The Commune made a reality of that watchword of all bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, by abolishing theses two great drains upon expenditure: the standing army and State officials. Its very existence supposed non-existence of the monarchy which, in Europe at any rate, is the usual burden and indispensable mask of class rule. It supplied the Republic with the basis of genuinely democratic institutions. But is ultimate objective was neither “cheap government” nor the “real Republic”: these were merely its corollaries. The multiplicity of constructions placed upon the Commune, and the multiplicity of interests making claims upon it demonstrate that it was a political form with every potential for expansion, whereas every form of government up to then had placed the emphasis on repression. And therein lies its true secret: it was essentially a working class government, the outcome of the producers’ class struggle against the appropriating class, the political formula—at last discovered—which made economic emancipation of labor become feasible.”


(Karl Marx, quoted in (Daniel Guérin and Paul Sharkey trans.), No Gods, No Masters. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2005: 211-212.)

“The shadow of the fly on the ceiling has stopped just near the spot where the circle of light form the lamp meets the top of the red curtain. Now that it is still its shape becomes more complex: it is indeed an enlargement of the bent filament of the electric bulb, but the main image is repeated not far away by two other identical images, paler, softer, framing the first. Perhaps other images, even less clear, are further multiplied on either side of these; but invisibly, because the whole frail pattern which the fly projects is not in the most brightly lit area of the ceiling but in a fringe of half-light, about an inch wide, that edges the entire periphery of the circle, where the shadow begins.” (Alain Robbe-Grillet (Richard Howard, trans.), In the Labyrinth: New York: Grove/Evergreen Press, 1960: 67.)

“All this to avoid. Describing singular L’Âme au corps, Body and Soul exhibition. Within. Affecting. Like no other. As if wandering on edge of uncanny. Or in Dr. Freud’s atelier. Where “one” confronting past (unconscious). In form of androids with beaks for noses. Pointed ears of rats. Chins of dogs. Or inversely. Animals sporting human features. Humanfaced silken baboons. Or organic. Meeting inorganic.” (Scott, My Paris: 108-109.)

“For I dance And drink & sing: Till some blind hand Shall brush my wing. If thought is life breath: And the want Of thought is death: Then am I A happy fly, If I live, Or if I die.” (Blake, “The Fly,” in Erdman (ed.), The Complete Poetry and Prose: 23-24.)


“And yet, if the Consul were a ‘spider’, he was one no longer and could be forgiven. After all, he was simpático himself. Had he not seen him once in this very bar give all his money to a beggar taken by the police?” (Lowry, Under the Volcano: 37.)

“Of what art thou afraid?—a wide, black hole! Perhaps it is a void!” (Flaubert, The Temptation of St. Anthony: 174.)

“According to Kant, the mechanisms which will bring about social peace are independent of the will of individuals as well as of their merits: “The guarantee of perpetual peace is nothing less than that great artist, nature (natura daedala rerum). In her mechanical course we see that her aim is to produce a harmony among men, against their will and indeed through their discord.” This was ideology at its purest.” (Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times. London: Verso, 2007: 42.)

“This signifying game between metonymy and metaphor, up to and including the active edge that splits my desire between a refusal of the signifier and a lack of being, and links my fate to the question of my identity, this game, in all its inexorable subtlety, is played until the match is called, there where I am not, because I cannot situate myself there.” (Jacques Lacan, “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud,” quoted in Alex E. Blazer, I Am Otherwise: the Romance Between Theory and Poetry After the Death of the Subject. New York: Dalkey Archive Press, 2007: 185.)

“[…] I think the Kantian system is a machine infernale of enormous dimensions and extremely intricate structure with innumerable elaborate gears, cogs, flywheels, sprockets, bells, and whistles. The system operates and gains plausibility by inviting the unwary in and exhibiting a truly fascinating internal structure so that one loses perspective on the project as a whole. To change the metaphor, if one tries to shake hands with the Kantian, one can easily find one has lost an arm. In my opinion one needs to see Kantianism at virtually infinite distance, in the context of a number of views of a completely different kind, and, ideally through a Brechtian Verfremdungsprozeβ, in order to see some major structural features of it clearly.” (Raymond Geuss, Politics and the Imagination: Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009: 60.)


“Kant hunched coldly over smoking Lisbon / to dream in generations of oak and forget one’s father / his eyes whether he wore a moustache / if he was kind what he died of / it won’t stop eating you for want of appetite / through bad times and worse / imprisoned at home imprisoned abroad” (Beckett, “The Fly,” in Wheatley (ed.), Selected Poems: 180.)

“Everything ends but what I write you continues on….Still, the best hasn’t been written. The best is between the lines….What I write you is a this. It won’t stop: it continues on.” (Clarice Lispector, The Stream of Life, in Fitz, Sexuality and Being in the Poststructuralist Universe of Clarice Lispector. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2001: 119.)

“I am like […] Eve because once I realize that I am constructed from Adam’s rib, I shed myself, then work to stitch the sutures of myself back together again. However, I am not like Eve because her conscious is cleared—she reaches down into herself and touches the origin of her anguished abjection, the nothingness that exists beyond the bounds of language—while mine is forever running—I am pure obsession that cannot stop talking…I am a run-on sentence; I am an infernal machine that knows no limit to language.” (Barrett Watten, “Progress,” quoted in Blazer, I Am Otherwise: 192.)

“[...] penis, through shorts, spurring belly, arse of gazelles; belted soldier wiping arse with fingers, rubbing fingers in sand ; vultures, gathering around the pool, snapping up clots of jissom ; soldiers, one by one, coming out of shelter, laughing, goading others forward with knees, bodies lightened, thighs shining ; inside shelter, two twins, throats dried by masturbation, suckling, sprawled, fingers interlaced around teat ; alone, helmeted soldier […].” (Pierre Guyotat, eden eden eden. Solar Books, 2008: WA: Australia, 2008: 63-64.)

“At last the earth had stopped spinning with the motion of the Infernal Machine. The last house was still, the last tree rooted again. It was seven minutes past two by his watch. And he was stone cold sober. How horrible was the feeling.” (Lowry, Under the Volcano: 227.)


‫אות אות אות אות‬ ‫אות אות אות אות‬ ‫אות אות אות אות‬ ‫אות אות‬ THESIS VII Bedenkt das Dunkel und die grosse Kälte In diesem Tale, das von Jammer schallt. (Consider the darkness and the great cold In this vale resounding with misery.) Bertolt Brecht, ‘Schlusschoral’ from The Threepenny Opera Addressing himself to the historian who wishes to relive an era, Fustel de Coulanges recommends that he blot out everything he knows about the latter course of history. There is no better way of characterizing the method which historical materialism has broken with. It is a


process of empathy. Its origin is the indolence of the heart, that acedia which despairs of appropriating the genuine historical image as it briefly flashes up. Among medieval theologians, acedia was regarded as the root cause of sadness. Flaubert, who was familiar with it, wrote: ‘Peu de gens devineront il a fallu ètre triste pour ressuciter Carthage!” The nature of this sadness becomes clearer if we ask : With whom does historicism actually sympathize? The answer is inevitable: with the victor. And all rulers are the heirs of prior conquerors. Hence, empathizing with the victor invariably benefits the current rulers. The historical materialist knows what this means. Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which current rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried in the procession. They are called ‘cultural treasures,’ and a historical materialist views them with cautious detachment. For in every case, these treasures have a lineage which he cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great geniuses who created them, but also to the anonymous toil of others who lived in the same period. There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is never free of barbarism, so barbarism taints the manner in which it was transmitted from one hand to another. The historical materialist therefore dissociates himself from this process of transmission as far as possible. He regards it as his task to brush history against the grain.” (Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Concept of History,’ Löwy, Fire Alarm: 46-47.)

The Infernal Machine  
The Infernal Machine  

New work from David Brian Howard