Before the tsunami arrives, before big one arrives, before the capsizing blow, before the tsunami, the sea recedes, for a time that is maybe short or very long. The sea recedes, it leaves sand. It leaves swamp. It leaves a huge feeling of depression, the sense of not being there, the sense that everything is finished, and that it may never begin again.
Well, I have the impression that in this passage, we are in the undertow and I can feel that this undertow is preparing a comeback so overwhelming, so frightening, that we do don't even have the guts to think about it, the guts to imagine it. You can feel it around, on the train, on the bus, in the streets, you feel it distinctly, this sense of every energy receding, of depression, the cynicism - the only thing that remains in our culture - but a cynicism made of fragments of desperation, of moments, of deja vu, of an inexplicable, unspeakable word.
Well, the undertow, the cynicism, the depression, the sensation of not being able to coordinate will and action anymore. The sensation of an incapacity of the body to move, to perform actions for desire, for pleasure, for communication, simply for freedom, joy of being there, all this has vanished, finished. [...]
Wait for the tsunami, wait but great ready, because you'll have to think of something, what clothes to wear, a gesture to make, the moment before the wave finally wipes you out.
June 25, 2018 | Permalink
We were horrified at Trump’s great wall and indulged ourselves in an oh-so-liberal outrage. Again and again we were directed to loathe it, by the media and their politician-puppets. And we did loathe it, again and again. And all the while, a real wall continued to rise, far higher than Trump’s folly ever could. Britain, among other countries, is cut through by this real wall. On one side are those with access to the trillions ‘printed’ by ‘quantitative easing’, at zero percent, or even ‘negative percent’, interest-rates. On the other side is everyone else, who continue to suffer the ‘credit crunch’ and who sometimes pay interest-rates equivalent to one-thousand percent or more for loans from ‘pay-day’ providers. On one side, lots of cash at no cost. On the other side, very little cash at high cost. The result is neo-Feudal Britain, founded upon a drastically unequal distribution of money and risk allied with the very sinister principle that where the money goes the risk does not. How paltry Trump’s mere bricks and mortar, next to this financial engineering.
But what of the University in neo-Feudal Britain? Does it take issue with the accumulation-by-dispossession that has so surely impoverished all but the few? Does it put all its left-liberal posturing to work in defence of the right-to-livelihood of those it employs? On the contrary. The supposed institution of ideas accepts that there-is-no-alternative idea, and duly plays its part in the British horror show: the low interest-rates that have made such a playground for the elites on the other side of the wall have suppressed yield on investments on both sides of the wall, with the result that pension funds have to engage in more ‘imaginative’ speculation, where increased risk comes with increased potential return; and, on that sinister principle that risk must now be borne by the most vulnerable, the University has ruled that the worker take on the risk of her pension contributions doing badly in a market entirely rigged in favour of those who are paid money to borrow it and speculate with it – ‘Defined Contribution,’ not ‘Defined Benefit.’
My Zombie University makes and argues for the claim that, as the Bank now does nothing more or less than steal our money, so the University now does nothing more or less than suppress our thoughts. But it turns out that, given half a chance, the University will steal our money too.
March 09, 2018 | Permalink
... it's a little bit what we could say of Rothko and his work, which opens up and closes in all directions at one and the same time - it's unassailable. This seems to be characteristic of every singularity: impregnable from outside and totally open towards the inside - initiatory. Such sentences are more precious than a whole explanatory presentation. They are, by their transparent opacity, a kind of miracle, since they have behind them, nonetheless, a clandestine intuition of meaning. It isn't nonsense; it's just before meaning arrives; before the trap closes again.
I think of Hölderlin [...] when he speaks of rivers, trees, cities and mythical heroes. He doesn't speak of them in mythological terms at all, in allegorical or romantic terms. He's the site of their dramaturgy. He's the place where the gods metamorphose, the place where rivers metamorphose, the site where all the fragments of becoming converge. He doesn't liberate the world, he doesn't express it. He's at the confluence of the forces that come from all sides, and he's in thrall to their metamorphosis. You find this in Rimbaud, too, from Illuminations to A Season in Hell: it's a continual metamorphosis from one sentence to the next, and the form conveys this surprise of the whole world in a few sentences.
... the wonderful story of John, for example, who reaches the age of 14 without saying a word and then, one day, suddenly begins to speak in order to ask for the sugar. They ask him why he's never spoken before and he says, "Up until then, everything was perfect" ...
The world is perfect if you take it as it is, as absolute self-evidence. Then that self-evidence is disturbed, and you have to begin to explain it, to give it a meaning - and that's the beginning of the end.
Human beings can't bear themselves, they can't bear their otherness, this duality; can't bear it either in the world or in themselves. They can't bear failing the world by their very existence, nor the world failing them. They've sown disorder everywhere, and in wishing to perfect the world, they end up in a sense failing themselves. Hence this self-hatred, this detestation that fuels the whole technological effort to make the world over anew. A kind of vengeance on oneself or on the human race arising out of our having contravened the order of the world by the very act of our appearance. We can't do anything about this, but it in no way diminishes the fact that the situation is unbearable. It's on this failing of existence that all religions thrive. You have to pay. In the past it was God who took the reprisals, now we do it. It's we who've undertaken to inflict the worst on ourselves, and to engineer our disappearance in an extremely complex and sophisticated way, in order to restore the world to the pure state it was in before we were in it.
... evil is made over into misfortune. Evil is soluble in misfortune. That's what 'victimhood' is.
... ressentiment is the product of an - inevitably - disappointed idealization. Cioran says, for example, that it's the desire to give a meaning to life that makes us failures.
... everything's idiomatic. What remains strange is that we strive remorselessly to disenchant this singular object, to pervert the real, precisely by giving it meaning.
... thought is something different from - human, all too human - reflection; it is, rather, the refraction of what there is that's inhuman in the world. We might equally say: it's the inhuman that thinks us.
... this world, the virtual world, no longer asks itself the question of impossible exchange: it has swallowed its own mirror; it has swallowed its own reference; it is its own truth. No transcendence any more, and hence no questioning.
... the space of the screen, of virtual reality, is the space of the abolition of night, the abolition of the alternation of night and day and of waking and dreaming - in a kind of perpetual watchfulness. One of the great differences between a future 'trans-realised' species and ourselves will be the definitive absence of night and dreaming. Now, consciousness exists only by passing from night to day, from sleeping to waking.
Never being able to rest from oneself is the worst of hypotheses. Might that have happened to God? to indulge in more fantastical hypotheses of this kind, might God also be a victim of insomnia? Might we be the product of his insomnia rather than his dreams?
It's an abominable vision: we'd be a species akin to those battery hens who never see the light of day. The lights are permanently left on so that they lose all sense of time, so that they eat constantly and fatten up at great speed. This is how those hormone-inflated species grow, having never walked and never really been able to sleep.
It seemed to be that, in the guise of libidinal deregulation, Deleuze and Lyotard were simply ratifying the future state of things.
There are styles of writing [...] that have no secret to them, where you see how they've been manufactured - like a technical object. But sometimes, in writing, you have the delightful impression that something has worked secretly, something unforeseeable, something you have no sight of. A secret which is, in the end, a bit like the secret of birth - your own birth remains forever a secret to you (your own death too).
... art isn't useless in itself [...] it is useless additionally; it's beyond usefulness and uselessness. Unfortunately, it doesn't remain in that sublime zone: from the nineteenth century onwards, it aspires to be useless, it plays at the uselessness of 'art for art' and at that point it sinks into aesthetics.
... dysfunctioning is a variant - and perhaps the most successful variant - of functioning, that inadaption is the most successful form of adaptation, etc. Things are more complicated today, because the fact of dysfunctioning is part of the game. Everyone's required to be different, singular, anomic, subversive. And even disablement is a bonus. There's a whole paranormal conformism going on.
... what is worthless is precisely that which has forgotten the nothing. [...] from time to time, the nothing draws attention to itself as what it 'is'; the absent term of every exchange resurfaces in the breakdown, the accident, the crisis of generalized exchange.
Everything is exchanged for nothing - that is 'traditional' nihilism. By contrast, nothing is exchanged, the nothing is inexchangable - this is impossible exchange, though here we have the superlative dimension, the poetic dimension of impossible exchange. This is the opposite of nihilism. it is the resurgence of the nothing at the hear of the essent, at the heart of the something. Warhol talked, for example, of bringing out the nothingness at the heart of the image. And Barthes's punctum in photography is this too: the blind spot, the non-place at the heart of the image. what, then, would the opposite of nihilism be?
... it's the dual form that creates the void and preserves the void, whereas oneness, being always the oneness of the whole, of the something, no longer leaves space for the noting. Antonio Machado says that we always credit God with having created the world ex nihilo, with having created something out of nothing, but we ought to acknowledge in him a much higher power, that of having created nothingness out of something.
Let's go back to the question of nihilism. In the Heideggerain version, it's the forgetting of the nothing, and hence its exclusion. In the Nietzschean version, that of active nihilism, it might be said to mean pushing things, value systems, to their limits, where it turns out that there's nothing, that they lead to nothing. It is, all the same, a way of making the nothing appear in the end - a sort of forceps delivery.
... we're devouring history, this time retrospectively. For so long as it was unfolding, we could retain the illusion of understanding it. Today, it's coming to an end without our knowing why. We're trying, therefore, to revive it, so as to guess its meaning, to 'digest' it.
Nihilism, (which is the forgetting of the nothing) is technically realized.
... the story of a deep-sea creature with a minimal brain, which wanders around for a long time before finding a spot to which to affix itself. As soon as it's found one, it survives by devouring itself. And what it devours first is its own brain. this modicum of gray matter that served only to help it find its place is no longer needed, so it devours it. I wonder whether the human race isn't following the same course.
Endowed with a superior intelligence, which has perhaps enabled it to find its own place, the human race is devouring it. It's using its brain as an operational mechanism to the point of sacrificing it to artificial intelligence. There it is in its fixed spot. The operation's over. It's come to its end. And so it devours its own thought, that function that has now become useless. The species, having arrived at its ends, gives up on itself and its own specificity.
Q. Does a universe expurgated of its shadow (and its death) exert an absolute fascination? As Heraclitus said: "How will one hide from that which never sets"?
Baudrillard (roman) and Enrique Valiente Noailles (italics), Exiles from Dialogue
In another mental constellation, can we imagine time becoming a sort of space in which you can move in all directions, return to the point of origin etc.? Conversely, could space become like time: irreversible, so that you can't retrace your steps or get back to the point you started from? Or having, like time, its absolute horizon: eternity? What would be the equivalent of eternity where space is concerned? the negation of motion, stillness, or perpetual motion?
The events of a thousand years ago have shot off a thousand light years into space. Hiroshima is already sixty light years off. The moment that has just passed is already a light-second away. There is, then, no presence. Even if the discrepancy is infinitesimal, nothing is ever present - neither the wall nor the person opposite. we are barely even contemporaneous with our own existences.
Presumptiousness of the artist (John Cage; Bob Wilson?). 'We dream for those people who have no dreams of their own to keep them alive'. Always the same condescension - even worse when it relates to dreams and mental faculties.
We should invent days without afternoons, nights that stop before the dawn, seasons overlap at a quicker and quicker pace, a year that ends before beginning, and an endless alternation of joy and adversity.
What is exceptional hardly deserves to live. What is banal does not even deserve to die.
Everything is becoming functional. irony is disappearing in the critical function, the word is disappearing in its phatic function. Worse: critique, ethics, aesthetics become functions of each other, as they wait to become useless functions.
The best thing would perhaps be to remove consciousness surgically in utero, together with irony, criticism and intelligence - all those qualities that are so fragile and so dangerous to existence in general.
At last, a genuine madman in the street - someone who doesn't need a mobile phone to talk to himself.
All these novels in which the authors try desperately to dramatize their own histories, their experience,s to recount their own psychological dramas - this is not literature. It is secretion, just like bile, sweat or tears - and, sometimes even, excretion. It is the literary transcription of 'reality television'. It is all the product of a vulgar unconscious not unlike a small intestine, around which roam the phantasms and affects of those who, now they've been persuaded they have an inner life, don't know what to do with it.
To move in the space of deafness is like moving in an aquatic milieu. the same foetal, amniotic strangeness, the same cautiousness of gesture, the same mental lethargy - the same silence of the depths: it isn't you who are deaf, it's the world that's dumb. But the inner noise, the organic murmur is there. the body is all ears towards the inside.
Against Machiavelli's Prince, a treatise on the ploys of domination, we should set a treatise on the ruses of servitude. Its ploys are not those of the lion, but of the fox; not those of the eagle, but of the moray eel and the chameleon.
The truth they defend is merely the astrological sign of their stupidity.
Memento mori: Not: remember that you must die, but: don't forget to die, remember to die (before it's too late).
'History is speeding up? No: history has stopped, but it has left us with the acceleration' (Philippe Muray).
Artificial intelligence? The intelligence has left it, but we are left with the artifice, which flourishes the better on the ruin of intelligence.
The extreme of happiness leaves room for only one question: might we not already be dead?
... there is too much of everything everywhere. Too many people, too many places too many images on television, 'too many notes in Mozart', too many ideas and too many words to express them - too many old people among the old, too many young people among the young. And, ultimately, the worst of it is that there's too much culture on France Culture.
... cancer is the epitome of all our pathologies: the subdivision of cells to infinity provides a reflection of the proliferation of everything, and of the species itself in its transgenic frenzy.
Already God existed only in the desperate attempt to prove his existence. It is the same today with human beings, whose existence we attempt desperately to verify by the very means that make it improbable.
Strange disappearance of the idea of solitude, of the pathos of solitude. No one speaks of it any more, no one feels it any more. there is today only psychical isolation, mental, sensory insulation. Everyone is deterritorialised, or rather extra-territorialised from inside. The melancholy tone has disappeared.
But haven't human beings had enough of their own consciousness anyway? Why deck machines out with it? Except to be rid of it? Passing consciousness and intelligence on to machines so as to be rid both of machines and intelligence.
A mad idea is to manipulate ape genetically to the point where they conceive the idea of suicide, which was previously the prerogative of human beings. The ape is developed to the point where it prefers to kill itself because it can no longer even see itself as an ape.
The cultural greenhouse effect: the toxic cloud caused by emissions from million of museums, festivals, conferences and symposiums is much more catastrophic than the disappearance of the ozone layer.
The asphyxia caused by the activity of thousands of creative brains damages the quality of life more certainly than all the world's industrial pollution.
In the cinematic studios of Vancouver, it is specified contractually that no one must look the stars in the eyes, 'for fear of disturbing them or breaking their concentration'.
Time tightens and condenses to the point where it no longer lets time pass. A substance so intense, so dense, that the future will not be able to pass through it.
Against the advice of doctors, the governor refuses to allow an incurably ill man to be put out of his misery. This is the other face of capital punishment. On day we shall have to fight for the abolition of the death penalty.
Shadows have always precede us, and they will outlive us. We were dead before we were alive, and we shall be again.
... speech always begins with stammering. Acts and action always begin with trembling. there is no continuum of the will. It acts on the body by fits and starts and is the product of an interval, a rapid alternation, between tension and release: to act is to produce a difference - even a slight one - between you and yourself. If you eliminate the intervals, tetany ensues: you shake all over.
We have lost our shadows, not simply for the lack of a light source, but for lack of a ground on which to shine. So, the trapeze artist doesn't need a net now, given the absence of ground to crash down on.
... everyone today, at the steering wheel or sitting in front of his screen, seeing all the world's events pass by as he pleases, can imagine himself the epicentre of universal consciousness, and see the world spirit pass before him (no need to be Hegel to see the Weltgeist pass by on horseback - Napoleon).
... the banalized individual has only to look at himself to see the Weltgeist pass by. The world spirit is full achieved, not now in the form of the state or the end of history, but in every monad that is now the centre of the universe.
The weakness of many novels and films can be seen in the fact that one is forced to interpret them ironically to find any depth in them.
One is everywhere trapped between a literal and an ironic reading. A more or less conscious calculation that aims to disorientate any value judgement. It is particularly flagrant in the field of art, where this studied vagueness as to how a work is to be read has supplanted illusion and aesthetic judgement.
Deep down, however, it is reality itself that has become so banal and insignificant that it has induced us into an ironic reading. It has become so homogenised that it breaks off from itself into a parallel reality. It is out of nostalgia that we embed it in another order: in the face of this insignificance, we are forced to hypothesise a more subtle realm beyond, a dimension beyond our grasp. A critical masochism by which all the speculative arts have found success.
Blanchot is dead and the homages are raining in.
He will have lost the gamble of effacing effacement, and his proselytes and commentators will, in the very glorification of silence, have missed a fine opportunity to be silent. He could not have been unaware, himself, that his self-effacement made him an object of insatiable curiosity (of an ironic kind, of course!), a thwarted great game, the absolute snobbery of absence.
Ultimately, though, Blanchot (like Duchamp) is the original and all the rest is a joke. All this subtle, non-academic philosophy, imbued with his ideas, all this philosophically correct philosophy of the unsaid, the forbidden and the inexpressible in the end merely reaps the dividends of an experience of thought that is not its own.
Moreover, there is no need whatever to be a philosopher to play that particular game (self-effacement). Everyone effaces himself but no one speaks about it. The entire history of ordinary life is one of an effacement much more radical than that of thought yearning to disappear.
Simple folk, the uneducated, the artless are the thought of Blanchot. They have succeeded in effacing effacement. The philosophical exigency is embodied in those who know nothing of it.
Baudrillard, Cool Memories V
Suffering is a always a suffering of the world's pathetic indifference towards us (the pathos of the Stoics).
We should be amazed not that there is so much chaos and violence, but that there is so little and everything functions so well. Given the level of aggression of every car driver, the frailties of the equipment and the mad scramble of the traffic, it's a miracle thousands aren't killed every day, a miracle we only rarely slaughter each other and only a few of these disastrous possibilities come to fruition. When you see the immense bureaucratic chaos, the number of absurd decisions, the universal fraud and squandering of our civic virtues, you can only be amazed by the daily miracle of this machine which, somehow or other, keeps on going, dragging its detritus along in is orbit. Apart from a few episodic breakdowns (no more frequent, ultimately, that earth tremors), it's as though an individual hand manage to telemonize all this mess, to normalise this anomie. This is perhaps the same miracle as the one which prevents everyone from succumbing daily to the idea of death or to suicidal melancholia.
In a system as perfect as this, you only have to be deprived of breakfast to become unpredictable.
Philosophy would like to transform the enigma of the world into a philosophical question, but the enigma leaves no room for any question whatever. It is the precession of the answer which makes the world indecipherable.
The political class's current problem is that what is required today is not that it should govern, but that it should maintain the hallucination of power. And this demands very special talents. Producing power as illusion is like juggling with hot money, like dancing in front of a mirror.
The compact disc. It doesn't wear out, even if you use it. Terrifying. it's as though you'd never used it. So it's as though you didn't exist. If things don't get old any more, then that's because it's you who are dead.
At Disneyland in Florida they are building a giant mock-up of Holly wood, with the boulevards, studios, etc. One more spiral in the simulacrum. One day they will rebuild Disneyworld at Disneyworld.
It is easy to adapt to Australian or American life because they are the zero degree of the style of life. but the zero degree is also that of the extermination of all others, and the temptation of ease is the temptation of death.
The perfect crime, the only one, is suicide. because it is unique and final, whereas murder has to be repeated endlessly. Because suicide achieves the ideal confusion of executioner and victim.
The absolute precondition for thought is the creation of a void, for in any void the most distant objects are in a radical proximity. In the void, any body whatever, whether celestial or conceptual, shines out with a silent abstraction.
Prophesying catastrophe is incredibly banal. The more original move is to assume that it has already occurred.
There is no point questioning reality when more than ten are present. Every audience of more than ten automatically turns defensive and reacts violently to any challenge to reality and manifest truth. no radical statement can be made to more than ten people.
Why don't we accord more importance to the star signs of death, when we pay so much attention to birth signs? It's barely imaginable that the star sign you are going to die under doesn't exert an anticipatory power equal to the one you were born under ... This final determination certainly influences us like a strange attractor ...
... the serenity with which Brazilians take the failure of their projects or programmes. Nothing is destined to go straight to its target, no one can expect to take an operation through to its conclusion. No the end, the remainder, the denouement have to be left to chance, to the devil, to fatality.
Crisis is for the upper echelons of the capitalist class, who rake in all the profits from it on a world scale. Catastrophe is for the middle classes, who see their reasons for living disappear. The others (80 per cent) are so far below the level of the crisis, they don't even experience it. they survive it, if they can, instinctively. Having no economic existence, it is easier for them to find a symbolic catastrophe equilibrium.
Intellectuals are doomed to disappear when artificial intelligence bursts on the scene, just as the heroes of silent cinema disappeared with the coming of the talkies. We are all Buster Keatons.
God exists, but I don't believe in him. God himself doesn't believe in Him, according to tradition. That would be a weakness. It would also be a weakness to believe we have a soul or a desire. Let us leave that weakness to others, as god leaves belief to mortals.
Captive events, like captive animals and captive audiences; they no longer reproduce in captivity. over-information leads to their gentle extermination.
Communism had succeeded in wresting entire generations away from the work ethic, in killing in them the slightest desire to produce, in making them lazy. This historical scandal is coming to an end. The whole of Europe is going to work in concert. But the question still remains: shouldn't we have preferred a certain enforced idleness, linked to voluntary servitude, a certain aboulic and apathetic ethos to our frenzied go-getting utopia? to our suspect feverishness? Which will win out in the long term, enforced idleness or frenzied activism?
Our cultivated, high-society set only gorge themselves on Beckett, Cioran, Artaud and all today's hallowed forms of cynicism and nihilism the better to evade any analysis of the current forms of despair. they denounce with the greatest moral and political energy every present instance of nihilism, of the nihility of our values, while 'culturally' savoring the heroic but anachronistic forms of nihilism and the inhuman. They glorify the accursed share, but keep the holy water handy.
The transparency of those whose images, whose secrets, whose obscurity have been stolen, and who stand there, full in the light, more naked than naked, the transparency of people whose shadows have been stolen, of the hostage whose death has been stolen, of the world from which all appearance has been stolen, of the real from which all illusion has been stolen.
True poetry is that which has lost all the distinctive signs of power. If poetry exists, it is anywhere but in poetry. Just as, in the past, the name of god was scattered through the poem in accordance with the anagrammatic rule, today it is the poem itself which is dispersed into non-poetic forms. the same goes for the theatre: theatre today is anywhere but in the theatre. True theatre is elsewhere.
So it is with philosophy: if it exists, it is anywhere but in works of philosophy. And the only exciting thing is this anamorphosis, this dispersal of philosophical forms into all that is not philosophy. the whole world has become philosophical, since it has disavowed reality and the self-evident. There is no point questioning it as to its end: it is beyond its ends. Nor as to its cause: it knows only effects. So philosophical criticism is, in substance at an end. Cynicism, sophism, irony, distance, indifference and all the philosophical passions have passed in to things. All of philosophy and poetry come back to us from places where we were no longer expecting to find them.
Baudrillard, Cool Memories II
The point where the meridians meet and where, consequently, it is every hour of the day at once.
Modern activities have the same subtle function as scavengers in the desert: by devouring dead time, they leave pure time at our disposal. By putting an end to free time, they deliver us from the anguish of full time.
[Ambiguity] in the line from the Bible: 'Without him nothing was created'. In the Cathar version, this became: 'And without him the Nothing was created', which, in quite contrary vein, sets forth the principle of Evil.
When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players totally indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil.
Memory is a dangerous function. it retrospectively gives meaning to that which did not have any. It retrospecively cancels out the internal illusoriness of events, which was their originality. But if events retained their original, engimatic form, their ambiguous, terrifying form, there would doubtless no longer be any history.
Everything, before taking place, should have the chance not to take place. This suspense is essential, like the negative of a photo. It is this negative that enables the photo to have meaning; it is this negative which enables it to take place - never the first time, always the second. For things have meaning only the second time, like baptism in anabaptism, like form in anamorphosis. Hence the fantasy that there will always be a second meeting, another chance, in another world or in a previous life.
The beauty of the dead when they are laid out on their sides. Not with their faces upturned to the sky - a sign of annihilation and Last Judgement - but on their sides, their legs tucked up, as a mark of foetal coiling and of sleep.
Our feelings, which we delightfully term emotions in order to salvage the fiction of an emotional life, are not effects any more, merely a psychological affectiation, having lost all credence in our eyes.
Boredom [ennui] is a subtle form of filterable virus, of fossilized tonality, which might be said to pass invisibly across the substance of time without altering it. fine particles of boredom striate time like neutrinos, leaving no trace. there is scarcely any living memory of boredom. This is why it can superimpose itself on all kinds of activities, even exciting ones, since it lives in the interstices.
One must free oneself from one's ideas in writing, not take charge of them. One must free language from its purpose, free concepts from their meaning, free the world from its reality - which is an even greater illusion.
Artificial Intelligence inevitably produces an Artificial Intelligentsia, a body of intellectually correct, genetically immunized experts, which re-forms around numerical intelligence data and the digital mastery of the code.
Neurotic and erotic abreaction in every place marked out for discourse or for writing: libraries, conferences, 'round tables', examinations. A desire to climb the curtains and swing from the chandeliers as soon as the discourse of culture makes its appearance.
Under the heading of everyday atrocities: the daughters of Moscow apparatchiks buying up on the black market from the Mafia the foreign travel scholarships granted to the irradiated children of Chernobyl.
The stupidity of all commercial or cultural anti-Americanism. As if Americanism did not run through every society, every nation, and every individual today, like modernity itself.
Even in the daytime, a part of us is perpetually asleep. When we are fast asleep, part of us is constantly awake. This is how, even when we are asleep, we can wish for sleep. How, even when we are fully alive, we can want to live.
At the heart of the Pyramids, there was a central space from which immortality radiated. At the heart of our civilization, there is now merely a hole into which the dustbins of history are emptied.
That male beetle which dies without being born, since it is doomed solely to fertilize the other females in the womb which conceived them, after which it perishes without seeing the light of day.
The revolution of 'lived experience' is without doubt the worst, the revolution which swept away the secrecy with which everyone surrounded their own life and has transformed tat life into a huge 'reality show'. What has been liberated by all the revolutions of desire, expression, fantasy and analysis is not the dramaturgy of the unconscious or the theatre of cruelty, but the theatre of banality. It is not the taboo on the drives that has been removed, but that on triviality, naivety, idiosyncrasy and idiosyncretism. What has been liberated is not each person's singularity, but their specific stupidity - that is to say, the stupidity they share with everyone else.
Cards, that virtual money , protect us from the vulgarity of cash. but money itself, that artifact of value, protects us from the vulgarity of the commodity. and the commodity, that artifact of desire, protects us from the vulgarity of human relations. In this way, we are marvellously protected.
Those toadying intellectual curs, always wondering how it is possible to be both a genius and politically despicable (Celine, Leni Reifensthal ...), it being understood that the essential thing is not to be a genius, but one of the right-thinking. This is where the whole ambiguity of contemporary art resides: laying claim to worthlessness, insignificance, non-meaning and banality; staining for worthlessness, when it is in fact already worthless. Aim for non-meaning when it is in fact already insignificant. Aspiring to superficiality in superficial terms.
Gut reaction against yobbery, the masses and solid Frenchness. But an equally visceral distaste for the elite, for castes, culture and the nomenklatura. Do we have to choose between the moronic masses and the arrogant privileged classes (particularly when they have an odour of demogogic humility about them)? No solution.
Have I actually wiped away all the traces, all the possible consequences of this book? Did I reach a point where nothing can be made of it; did I abolish every last desire to give it a meaning? have I achieved that continuity of the Nothing? In that case, I have succeeded. I have done to the book what the system has done to reality: turned it into something no one knows what to do with any moire. but something they don't know how to get rid of either.
The advantage of being happy is that one is rid of the question of happiness. The advantage of being free is that one is rid of the question of freedom.
Baudrillard, Cool Memories III
October 16, 2017 | Permalink
Malraux is more than a nihilist. Not only is God dead, but so is Man, like a figure of the voice incarnated in history. But what they leave after them is not a void; it's a vitality swarming with larvae, spiders, octopi, and soft crabs; a nightmare in which the cycle of putrefaction and regeneration endlessly repeats itself. Without end and without purpose. The stars in the sky form a spider's web, indifferent and threatening; and 'more interior in one-self than the self', man does not discover the voice of God, as Augustine thought, but horrifying beasts vegetating in the bottoms of pits. The nihilism here is not philosophical; it's the body that experiences it like a filthy Repetition.
Lyotard, 'Being Done with Narrative by Cubism and Malraux'
October 05, 2017 | Permalink
If we went back only 20 or 30 years, we would be astounded by the sheer non-utility that made up good parts of society, which to us today look incomprehensibly wasteful, irrational and non-transparent: jobs maintained to keep people in employment, national sports team still amateur and unregulated, universities free of league tables and regimented performance assessment exercises. Even at the level of everyday culture and aesthetics, our currently condition perspective would view the formalities of the early 1970s as alien, meandering and uneconomical.
The tactics and practises of everyday life recorded by Certeau still implicitly hold onto the rather liberal assumption that a life is indeed possible within the universe of capitalism.
… our attempts to live, that futile optimism that fools even the most enslaved, is stymied at every turn by an existential darkness that denies complete synthesis. Our embodied and inexorable modi operandi are defined by a breathless and depressing, ‘It cannot go on like this’, things must change. But they never do change, and somehow continue as before.
… the most politically abject and ignored in our society must be considered foremost if the totality is to be understood. The absolute ‘worst off’ that part of the whole life we like to consign to the status of an exception or aberration, is really what gives the totalized system its false positivity. Its part is the part of everything. That is why society despises its untouchables so much, because in them we see the untruthful structure that bears witness to society’s own mendacity.
We now need to give our abandonment depth so it corrupts the smooth plane of one-dimensional rationality that makes the curve of capitalist reality seem unending. This is the ‘lost dimension’ of industrialised modernity. Are you worthy of your abandonment? If you are, then what are you going to do with the absolute impossibility that is now the defining quality of the late-capitalist worker? Where will you go, what will you say and who will you take with you?
Fleming, Mythology of Work
The apocalypse is typically depicted as humanity reduced to mere life, fragile, exposed to all forms of exploitation and the arbitrary exercise of power. But these dystopian future scenarios are nothing worse than the conditions in which most humans live as their day-to-day reality. By ‘end of the world’, we usually mean the end of our world. What we don’t tend to ask is who gets included in the ‘we’, what it cost to attain our world, and whether we were entitled to such a world in the first place.
What contemporary post-apocalyptic culture fears isn’t the end of ‘the world’ so much as the end of ‘a world’ – the rich, white, leisured, affluent one. Western lifestyles are reliant on what the French philosopher Bruno Latour has referred to as a ‘slowly built set of irreversibilities’, requiring the rest of the world to live in conditions that ‘humanity’ regards as unliveable. And nothing could be more precarious than a species that contracts itself to a small portion of the Earth, draws its resources from elsewhere, transfers its waste and violence, and then declares that its mode of existence is humanity as such.
To define humanity as such by this specific form of humanity is to see the end of that humanity as the end of the world. If everything that defines ‘us’ relies upon such a complex, exploitative and appropriative mode of existence, then of course any diminution of this hyper-humanity is deemed to be an apocalyptic event. ‘We’ have lost our world of security, we seem to be telling ourselves, and will soon be living like all those peoples on whom we have relied to bear the true cost of what it means for ‘us’ to be ‘human’.
Claire Colebrook, 'End-Times for Humanity'
The world wasn’t created for our happiness. It’s difficult to say whether we’re happy or not. It doesn’t depend on us. Sure, we can regret being born. But life can give us surprising things. The issue of happiness doesn’t exist for me. Happiness does not exist.
I don’t know what it means to hear myself speak. I wouldn’t recognise my own voice. I’ve never said anything.
Predestination. We’re getting ready for something. – but what? We’re being prepared – for what? I’ve never said a single word.
I’ve never spoken. This isn’t speech. As a child – I was immortal and all was feasible. Possibility? My childhood is beside me.
Art exists because the world isn’t perfect. A man wouldn’t look for harmony, but simply live in it. The search for harmonic relationships between art and life. between time and history.
I’ve ceased being happy now I understand life. As a child, I might have been happy. We don’t believe in nature, in our selves. We don’t have any time to think. We’re not emotional. We don’t contemplate. Children and animals are closer to the truth. We all like children more than adults. I’ve always thought that what I say and do is someone else’s decision. If we allowed ourselves, we could love the others. We could feel love for people. For life itself.
If I’m disgusted with myself, I’m disgusted with everyone. I’m disgusted with life. I’m too intolerant. I feel no sympathy. People annoy me. I’m not cheerful. The world is full of insoluble problems. This is no time for laughing. When I laugh, I feel guilty. I can’t approach people. Everyone annoys me. There’s stupidity everywhere.
When I read I feel ashamed. I can’t read. Even as I read, I can’t read. I’m too stupid. I keep on dreaming the same thing. When I am a child again. And everything lies before me. And everything’s possible. Life seems forced upon us. We made mistakes in the past. We should have lived differently.
Tarkovsky, interviewed somewhere
At the end of the day Myshkin is not the Russian Christ, as some readers have wished to see him - he succeeds in 'resurrecting' no one - and he is scarcely a traditional saint. Although he embodies to an unusual degree those features which Dostoevskii associates with the Christian personality (compassion, insight, humility, sensitivity to beauty, tenderness of heart, forgiveness) and shares Dostoevskii's own glimpse of paradise through the aura of an epileptic fit, this glimpse is followed by a sense of utter desolation.
Epilepsy. Quotes from Revelations: ‘time will be no more’. Ecstatic vision of a state beyond time and so beyond choice and action. Some sense in which this ecstatic vision of harmony is bound up with death. For all the compelling beauty of what is experience and the overpowering feeling of having really grasped the nature of things, the outcome is destructive.
Notes on Rowan Williams's book on Dostoevsky
Myshkin: … our people don’t simply become atheists, but they must believe in atheism, as in a new faith, without ever noticing that they’re believing in a zero.
… suddenly, amidst the sadness, the darkness of soul the pressure, his brain would momentarily catch fire, as it were, all his life’s forces would be strained at once in an extraordinary impulse. The sense of life, of self-awareness, increased nearly tenfold in these moments, which flashed by like lightning. His mind, his heart were lit up with an extraordinary light; all his agitation, all his doubts, all his worries were as if placated at once, resolved in a sort of sublime tranquility, filled with serene, harmonious joy, and hope, filled with reason and ultimate cause.
At that moment I was somehow able to understand the extraordinary phrase that time shall be no more.
… dullness, darkness of soul, idiocy stood before him as the clear consequence of these ‘highest’ moments.
Yes, for this moment one could give one’s whole life!
My gestures are inappropriate, I have no sense of measure; my words are wrong, they don’t correspond to my thoughts, and that is humiliating for the thoughts.
It’s all philosophy. You’re a philosopher and have come to teach us.
Such beauty has power. You can overturn the world with such beauty.
The point is in life, in life alone – in discovering it, constantly and eternally, and not at all in the discovery itself!
Why did I actually begin to live, knowing that it was no longer possible for me to begin; why did I try, knowing that it was no longer anything for me to try.
My dreams will change and perhaps become lighter.
stray lines from Dostoevsky's The Idiot
… we always view our own age as being the end of civilization, ‘its prophets false’ and so forth. Which is probably true. What was interesting about punk was that it actually celebrated and drew energy from this otherwise rather depressing generational habit.
Punk – this idea that you suddenly felt in your head as though we were living in the ruins of modernity. Jarman: It’s like the bomb has gone off in our heads already.
Michael Bracewell, The Space Between
Nietzsche saw that ultimately the problem of nihilism is the problem of what to do with time: Why keep investing in the future when there is no longer any transcendental guarantor, a positive end of time as ultimate reconciliation or redemption, ensuring a pay-off for this investment? Nietzsche’s solution – his attempted overcoming of nihilism – consists in affirming the senselessness of becoming as such – all becoming, without reservation or discrimination. The affirmation of eternal recurrence is amor fati: the love of fate. It’s an old quandary: either learn to love fate or learn to transform it. To affirm fate is to let time do whatever it will with us, but in such a way that our will might coincide with time’s. The principal contention of my book, and the point at which it diverges most fundamentally from Nietzsche, is that nihilism is not the negation of truth, but rather the truth of negation, and the truth of negation is transformative.
Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound
September 27, 2017 | Permalink
The system doesn’t believe. It doesn’t need to believe. The system’s unhinging itself.
The system is nihilistic and affects itself nihilistically.
Notes on Baudrillard
September 26, 2017 | Permalink
Our cultivated, high society set only gorge themselves on Beckett, Cioran, Artaud and all today’s hallowed forms of cynicism and nihilism the better to evade any analysis of the current forms of despair. They denounce with the greatest moral and political energy ever present instance of nihilism, of the nihility of our values, while ‘culturally’ savouring the heroic but anachronistic forms of nihilism and the inhuman. They glorify the accursed share, but keep the holy water handy.
Baudrillard, Cool Memories II
September 18, 2017 | Permalink
The illuminating mind is like lightning, it flashes rapidly over the greatest distances. It leaves everything aside and shoots for one thing, which it does not know before illuminating it. Its effectivity begins when it strikes. Without some minimum of destruction, without terror, it never takes shape for human beings. Illumination per se is too boundless and too shapeless. The fate of the new knowledge depends on the place of the striking.
Canetti, The Human Province
September 01, 2017 | Permalink
Redemption is not redemption from time, but a redemption of time. Happiness would not be to free oneself from time but to free time in oneself.
Werner Hamacher, ‘Now’: Walter Benjamin on Historical Time
September 01, 2017 | Permalink
An old interview (2013) by Foyles now with missing parts left in:
'Exodus' is the third in a trilogy - will we be seeing more from Lars and W. (and perhaps those elusive Essex post-graduates) in the future?
That’s all from Lars and W. for now. You have to know when to quit! Think of the last few seasons of The Sopranos! Having said that, there are some interesting real-life events coming up which might lend themselves, one day, to fictional treatment. For example, we’re bringing some of the Italian philosophers I mention in the trilogy to Oxford in April. And there are some parts of the backstories of Lars and W. still left unexplored …
This book is almost as long as Spurious and Dogma put together, and feels more expansive somehow - was there a reason for this wider scope?
I wanted to say everything, in some way. To say it all in this strange new style I’ve developed, to say everything it can allow me to say. And I wanted to draw together everything I’d written so far, to follow all the hares to their lairs …
Would you say Exodus is a more serious work than the previous two novels? There seems to be a more overtly political aspect to this one. Do W.'s feelings about the current state of academia in this country chime with your own?
The trilogy is set in neoliberal Britain in the mid- to late 2000s, but I also wanted to explore the way its characters had been shaped by the turn to neoliberal capitalism in the Thatcher years. There’s some of this in Dogma. But Exodus deepens this account of the characters, depicting a younger W. studying in the 1980s, as part of a group of highly politicized and utopian Essex postgraduates, and a younger Lars, studying in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in a rapidly regenerating Manchester. For his part, W. still burns with the desire for politics, but the case of Lars is more difficult to determine. Lars seems too ravaged by what Wendy Brown has called ‘quotidian nihilism’ – a general, barely individualised sense of despair - to have any real faith in political transformation.
You ask me whether I share W.’s feelings about academia. Like many others, I am worried by what Bill Readings long ago diagnosed as the collapse of the ‘idea of culture’ on which the modern university was based. The notion of ‘excellence’ that replaced this older ideal is a technocratic one, being concerned with narrow notions of productivity and market performance. For me, as for my characters W. and Lars, the humanities are in danger simply of servicing neoliberal capitalism, training students to fit in with the new ‘knowledge economy’ rather than encouraging them to more general ethical and civic reflection, and weeding out would-be academics who are not content simply to produce yet more academic papers, monographs and funding proposals.
You've mentioned daily cartoons like Peanuts as influences in previous interviews - I certainly saw elements of Garfield and Jon's relationship in that of Lars and W., a kind of outwardly relentless cruelty punctuated by moments of affection... Do you agree? Would you consider printing Spurious as a cartoon?
I’ve always thought of the W. and Lars material as a kind of comic strip. That’s how it functioned on the blog, back when I wrote in a greater variety of styles – it was supposed to be a kind of light relief, my equivalent of the ‘funnies’ at the bottom of the newspaper page. I wanted it to work in exactly the same way as Schultz’s Peanuts and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat: each daily ‘strip’ (in my case, each W. and Lars blog post) was to be free-standing enough to introduce new readers to these characters and their situations, but, at the same time, part of a longer story arc, part of a larger ‘mythology’. When I found it difficult to come up with new twists on the W. and Lars relationship, I reminded myself of Schutlz and Herriman, and what they were able to do with a tiny number of characters and a restricted range of situations.
But the trilogy could not be printed as a cartoon, for the same reason that it couldn’t be made into a play, or a film: so much of its effect depends on a narrative distancing, which means we can never be sure of the veracity of W.’s account of Lars. Is Lars really as fat as W. suggests, or as stupid? For me, it’s vital that the audience is unsure about the answer to these questions.
All three novels are written from an interesting perspective, from Lars' point of view but mainly reporting W.'s speech - yet somehow it feels natural. Why did you settle on this way of writing?
The critic and novelist Gabriel Josipovici praises those kinds of narrative which free us from believing that the stories we tell about the world are anything other than stories, thereby allowing the world to be what it is. I hope my fiction is freeing in this way, even if the ‘otherness’ of the world, in my work, is presented as a kind of horror.
I wanted to give a sense of Lars’s presence beyond the stories W. tells about him. I wanted him to be there
My novels are centred on conversation, around the reporting of conversations. For me the human capacity to communicate is of central importance, even if it seems so obvious that we forget it. The narrative technique I employ is supposed to remind the reader of this capacity, in all its wonder.
At many points in my trilogy, nothing seems to make sense to my characters. They feel bewildered – they feel that time is out of joint, that there is no intrinsically meaningful action that they can perform, that nothing is worthwhile. Sure, W. is capable of great hope, of believing in the possibility of writing a great philosophical work, or being part of some great revolution, but he slumps back from those moments into a kind of listlessness, regathering strength only by tormenting his friend Lars, and by sharing his frustrations. For his part, Lars is sometimes presented as a contemporary equivalent to Rabelais’s Gargantua, obsessed with his appetites, but Lars, too is someone who falls victim to ‘quotidian nihilism’.
In the narrative technique I use in the trilogy, I wanted to convey to the reader the sense both of the political and philosophical energies W. feels able to summon, but also of the failure of those energies – to give a sense of W.’s efforts to project political or philosophical meaning into the world, but also of the ultimate otherness of the world, its refractoriness and even indifference to those efforts. W. is constantly running up against this meaninglessness, he’s constantly rebuffed – not least by the Gargantua-like Lars, who seems to incarnate this meaninglessness, or at least enjoy a privileged link to it.
Lars is linked in the trilogy to chaos, to the passage in the book of Genesis about ‘welter and waste’, about the world ‘without form or void’. The character of Lars, considered from W.,’s point of view, in the trilogy, as well as the damp in Spurious and the rats in Dogma and the building noise in Exodus, were ways, for me, of presenting the world in its remoteness, its otherness – the world as it is totally refractory to human concerns. Commenting on the damp and the rats in my first two novels in an essay in The New Inquiry, Saelan Twerdy writes, ‘reality is infinitely more complex and multilayered than our frame of reference normally allows for and the forms of our entanglement in it often escape us.’ I think he is right, and appreciate his reading.
But I had something else in mind in deploying my particular narrative technique. My novels are books of chatter. We hear W. speaking. We overhear the conversations he has with his friend. We encounter their banter, their faux-profundity, their sense of fun in their exchanges. In focusing on the to-and-fro of these friends, I wanted to convey the importance of human communication in allowing us to speak of the chaos that lacks both form and void. I wanted to convey the significance of friendship as it permits such communication – of a joy which remains after despair – the joy of being able to talk (and write) about contingency and meaninglessness. For me, this capacity to communicate, is part of what allows us to live in the world without experiencing it as a solely impersonal fate, as sheer otherness. In speaking, we clear our little patch in the wilderness, we live our small human lives …
You've touched on the philosophers that are frequently mentioned in all three books. Did you feel it was a risk to include some of the more esoteric references, that the average fiction reader may be unfamiliar with? I certainly had to scramble Wikipedia a few times.
The most crucial philosophical references in the trilogy are to those late-nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish philosophers, who saw the meaning-giving significance of human communication, which they understood as speech. Does it matter if the reader is unfamiliar with Rosenzweig or Hermann Cohen? Not at all! The ‘message’ of the trilogy – of the importance of friendship, of love, centred on speech, is present in the very form of the trilogy – in its most basic narrative technique. It’s my hope that the reader is made to experience what very obscure and difficult philosophers like Rosenzweig have taught without any knowledge of those philosophers whatsoever.
I wanted to talk a bit more about the apocalypse, in its various forms. W. is convinced that the world is about to end, at times almost hopeful for it, and that 'the language of the end times is wholly appropriate to our times'. Do you think that the end of the world is something that we all secretly crave?
The characters do indeed believe that they are living in the ‘end times’, just as many thinkers have believed this before them. W. and Lars really do believe that the apocalypse is around the corner. But there is a crucial difference between W. and Lars and the millenarians that Norman Cohn has written about in his Pursuit of the Millennium (a book I explicitly reference in Exodus): my characters cannot believe that the apocalypse will actually reveal anything, will actually make things clear. Etymologically, the word, ‘apocalypse’, suggests a kind of unveiling, a revelation. The apocalypse is supposed to show God’s plan for the world. But what if there is no plan, and nothing to reveal? It’s no wonder that W. and Lars sometimes give in to despair!
Of course, as the work of Cohn shows us, there has always been a not-so-secret desire for apocalypse. It’s the moment of judgement, when the wicked are punished, and the meek rewarded. Yes, the apocalypse involves destruction, but it is a destruction in the name of a new hope, a destruction in the name of the Messiah, of the messianic age. The apocalypse is a moment in which the Messiah intervenes in human history. But what happens when you have no faith in a final judgement, in the coming of the Messiah, or in the opening of the messianic age? Instead of the ‘end times’, there is only an endless end, the continual resurgence of chaos and meaninglessness.
Things might seem hopeless for W. and Lars – they are overwhelmed by the ‘welter and waste’. But they actually have hope, which takes the form of their capacity to speak, to converse, to communicate. For the Jewish philosophers I have mentioned, messianism is to be found in human communication, in speech. Even in the ‘endless end’ of climatic and financial catastrophe, W. and Lars are still able to speak about the catastrophe. That, by itself, is a source of hope. Granted, it’s not going to prevent the catastrophe in question, but it does allow a kind of distancing from it. The characters, through their humorous exchanges concerning the catastrophe, are, for that reason, never its passive victims.
Let me make the point in another way. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is not simply a play about absurdity, about the fruitless waiting for a messianic figure who never comes. It is about characters talking as they wait, making meaning and amusing themselves in the meantime. It is actually in this talk that the ‘messianism’ of Beckett’s play lies, its lived capacity for hope. Sure, all the speech in the world isn’t going to make Godot keep his appointment. The Messiah isn’t actually going to turn up. But the friendship between Vladimir and Estragon is rich with meaning, with messianism, even if it seems that the characters are obsessed with meaninglessness and failure. Beckett’s play shows us how chatter is anything but insignificant, since it is part of the all-too-human effort to make meaning. Not only that, but it sets this effort against the constantly acknowledged otherness of the world. It is in this tension between meaning-making and meaninglessness, between the human and the inhuman, that Waiting for Godot is alive to me as a work of art.
There is a yearning for other places in other times that dominates all three novels, and especially for 'Old Europe'. Kafka's Prague, Kierkegaard's Denmark... Yet Lars and W. are permanently grounded in monotony - lager on trains and reduced-price sandwiches. Was it important to you to harness them to the here and now, even as they try and escape it?
Yes, W. and Lars find themselves mired in the ‘endless end’ of ordinary life in neoliberal Britain, with all its petty frustrations. W., in particular, dreams of being part of a larger community – whether it be founded on political activism, in the manner of the Autonomia group of Mario Tronti and his friends, or on something more nebulous, as when W. dreams of migrating to Canada, or undertaking an expedition to the legendary land behind the North wind. W. longs to have a whole army of thinker-friends; some great unguessed-at politico-philosophical leap might be possible then, he hopes. Instead, he finds himself stuck with Lars on a train …!
I wanted, in Exodus, to give a sense of the ‘endless end’ of neoliberal Britain, with all its frustrations and trivialities. I wanted to convey ordinary, banal experiences of everyday life – those intervals when nothing much happens. It’s in such banality that you can experience ‘quotidian nihilism’, to be sure, but in which you can also find the ‘messianism’ of banter, the to-and-fro of aimless conversation.
And think my focus on the everyday allows for more than this. Absurd as W.’s dreams might seem, there is a legitimate sense that ‘life is elsewhere’ in these times – that a whole cluster of philosophical, artistic and political possibilities, linked to what my characters call ‘Old Europe’, to Modernism, has disappeared. By bringing together the dreams of this vanished Modern Europe with the mundane world of contemporary Britain, I want to indicate just how remote these vanished possibilities have become. I want the audience to feel these possibilities too, and to feel the sadness of their passing.
Of course, there is a danger, in presenting this remoteness, of falling into the very British trap of laughing at the utopian dreams of would-be intellectuals. There is a danger of reconfirming the hegemony of ‘common sense’ – of saying, in effect: of course we can’t transform the world!; of course we can’t rediscover our political agency! My aim, by contrast, was to give the reader a sense that a real loss has occurred, reawakening a sense of lost Modernist futures, even for those who live in an everyday world as seemingly devoid of possibility as W. and Lars.
July 19, 2017 | Permalink
W. (William Large) and I will be discussing the Spurious trilogy at the great Cumberland pub in Newcastle on Thurs 6th July at 9PM. We'll be in the upstairs function room (free entry). Abstract below (though we won't be sticking closely to this.)
The Humour of Failure: Laughing at the Achievement Society
What does failure mean? Are you a failure? Do you find it difficult to remain upbeat and engaged? Does your capacity to hope seem merely a mocking reminder of your powerlessness?
In our world, what matters is success. We live in an achievement society, governed by a pressure to achieve and a stifling positivity. We are supposed to be entrepreneurs of ourselves – individual micro-enterprises, constantly networking and optimising skills. But this means burn-out and depression are never far away.
In this discussion, Lars Iyer and William Large, aka the fictional characters Lars and W. of Lars Iyer's Spurious trilogy (Melville House, 2011-13), consider how humour might permit a tactics of withdrawal from contemporary opportunism and cynicism.
June 29, 2017 | Permalink
I translated Blanchot’s texts because I felt a kinship there. I liked his lack of pretentiousness, his way of going deeply into a small, mysterious moment of interaction between people—or between abstractions that he treated as characters. I liked the fact that he didn’t need a dramatic story line.
Lydia Davis, interviewed
May 05, 2017 | Permalink
For a long time I had a system, I call it the 3-1-3 system. Three days of work. On the afternoon of the third day—drinking. Then you can get as drunk as you want. On the fourth day, you rest. Then you’re ready for three new days of work. I drink less now—age takes its toll. But when I was physically in better shape, I did that all the time. And it worked very well. It gives you a lot of work days, only one day off a week.
Dag Solstad, interviewed
May 05, 2017 | Permalink