posted by Caroline Picard

Our hero, (former volunteer and North Georgia Gazette transcriber/poet), Lily Robert-Foley recently published the following article in Issue 2 of Critiphoria. I’ve included the very beginning of the piece below but you’ll have to go to the original site to read all of it.

What Once to Read to Write: Locating the Other in Veils.

Lily Robert-Foley

Who writes the other. Well, Emmanuel Levinas for one. Or rather, Jacques Derrida. Or rather, Emmanuel Levinas, “…precisely where the words seem to get carried away and become disidentified in a discourse that opens each signification to its other (relation without relation, passivity without passivity, “passivity…more passive than every passivity,’ etc)”, writes Derrida. To open to the other in discourse is to disidentify the same with itself. It is
not written, the other is the other, or the same is not the other, or the other is not the same, but the same is not the same (the same without the same). Who writes the other. No one. Who: Something that is not, or won’t be, or isn’t yet, what it is. (I have a sudden memory of
Beckett, the final lines of Molloy, it’s Adieu, “It is raining. It is not raining.”).

Veiliiis is not a book by Helene Cixous. Veils is not a book by Jacques Derrida. Veils is a book by Helene Cixous and Jacques Derrida. Veils is a book of two: both authors not the other, two voices, too genres, two sexes too. Veils begins with a trope; Helene Cixous begins her Veils as a trope, “Myopia was her fault, her lead, her imperceptible native veil”iv. Leaving aside for the moment that both myopia and the veil function as a trope, both synonymously and antonymously at varying moments in Veils, this first phrase in isolation forges what will become a “prehistoric” alliance: a metaphor. What happens to Cixous’ veil and its substantiative counterpart, myopia, as it traverses and mutates (through) the text? In the beginning there was myopia, near ignorance, or a kind of ignorance that is based on indeterminacy. At first she has some sight, and navigates her way through the city based on little breaks in its “refusal” to her: there is a point of discrepancy between what she sees of the world and what the world is. If this makes her a foreigner to the world, unable to see what others see, it also locates her in a state of constant ambiguous unresolve, “To be and not to be were never exclusive”. The world, her vision, her self, is entrenched in otherness, in complete otherness, in “limitless pale nothingness…death” .

Read the rest by going here!

The Unnamable

November 18, 2008

by Cathy Borders

 

Berio’s Sinfonia, third movement.

This piece is Beckett’s Unnamable constructed on the backbone of the  third movement, the swinging scherzo, of Gustav Mahler’s 2nd symphony, the “Resurrection” Symphony, with numerous quotes from other pieces; most notably Claude Debussy’s La Mer, Maurice Ravel, La Valse, and Igor Stravinsky’s The Right of Spring. Eight different voices site quotations from Beckett, almost entirely from the first page of the Unnamable, and a few other fragments from Joyce, Claude Levi-Strauss, Berio’s own diary, and some other things. In this way, these familiar objects and faces, set in a new perspective, context and light, unexpectedly take on a new meaning. The combination and unification of musical characters that are foreign to each other is probably the main driving force behind this third part of Sinfonia, a meditation on a Mahlerian “objet trouvé.” When asked to explain the presence of Mahler’s scherzo in Sinfonia, Berio replied with the image of a river running through a constantly changing landscape, disappearing from time to time underground, only to emerge later totally transformed. He says, “Its course is at times perfectly apparent, at others hard to perceive, sometimes it takes on a totally recognizable form, at others it is made up of a multitude of tiny details lost in the surrounding forest of musical presences.”


Many of the spoken excerpts involve water, just as the “speaker” in the Unnamable considers his space an island. And Mahler’s thematic material of the third movement comes directly from Mahler’s previous opus, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, The Youth’s Magic Horn, specifically the 6th section entitled St. Anthony of Padua’s Sermon to the Fishes, which is about a man speaking to the sea, particularly to fishes, who do not hear him. “The crabs go backwards, the cod fish stay fat, the carp gorge a lot, the sermon’s forgotten. The sermon was a success, they stay as they were.” Fish do not understand language, or rather St. Anthony’s words are empty to the fish, his audience. He, in a way, said nothing.

This is what Berio is trying to capture, this, and Beckett’s schizophrenic, or split-personality over-lapping “discourse”.

 

Critique.

The listener experiences an almost failure to understand, which is essential to both this piece and the Unnamable. Berio is sticking other things, layering other things, on top of the Unnamable, or he is placing Beckett’s words on top of a distortion of Mahler. Everything he’s combined in this piece, has been cut up, reorganized, pasted back together, in a word, disfigured. Berio is not translating Beckett’s work, but collaging it.

My criticism lies in what was discussed last week, where actors act too much, and here, the voices give too much power to Beckett’s words, too much inflection and emotion. Because the Unnamable is a written text, the inflections aren’t meant to be heard, the reader is entirely responsible for the translating. There is a sort of flat, monotone repetition that is impossible to be read aloud without destroying its itness. In an ironic way, the Unnamable ceases to be once it is uttered, part of its essence is to remain silent after all. 

 

Bion and Beckett.  Or, how, Beckett Became Beckett by Abandoning Beckett.

Passages, and notes from Beckett and Bion by Kevin Connor.

Samuel Beckett and Wilfred Bion. 1934. Beckett was 27, Bion was 6 years his senior.

Beckett left Bion in 1935 and completed Murphy.

 

It has been said that these two were “imaginary twins” because they were both concerned with the possibilities of understanding and communication against the background of psychotic denials of meaning and human communication.

The originality of Beckett’s narrative writing derives from the attempt (unacknowledged and probably unconscious) to transpose into writing the route, rhythm, style, form and movement of a psychoanalytic process in the course of its long series of successive sessions, with all the recoils, repetitions, resistances, denials, breaks and digressions that are the conditions of any progression.

We may say of Beckett’s analysis perhaps what Bion says of the material uncovered by analysis: “In the analysis we are confronted not so much with a static situation that permits leisurely study, but with a catastrophe that remains at one and the same moment actively vital and yet incapable of resolution into quiescence.” In other words, the repetition of trauma. Usually because one cannot understand their own death, or birth. So in order to understand one repeats these traumas, or traumatic images as a mechanism of coping, but really, just reliving.

Traditional psychoanalysis functions like a nineteenth-century inheritance plot, in which the forward movement of the narrative is defined by the desire to retrieve the past, and this forward movement culminates and concludes with the reappearance of that past, the kind of analysis proposed by Bion would inhabit the looped, interrupted, convoluted duration of the modernist or postmodernist text, in the form represented by Beckett’s Trilogy.

While Beckett was writing the Trilogy, Bion was working on his Attack on Linking of the second “psychotic phase.” Both works explore the experiences of negation and negativity. Bion reports on patients who display in their attitude towards the analyst and the analytic session a hostile inability to tolerate the possibility of emotional links. The essay begins with taking the “phantasied attacks on the breast as the prototype of all attacks on objects that serve as a link and projective identification as the mechanism employed by the psyche to dispose of ego fragments produced by its destructiveness.”

Under these circumstances, the failure of the link constituted by projective identification then gives way to an angry denial of the link by the patient. Because the mechanism of splitting keeps open the possibility of a relation to what is split off, it is the activity of splitting that is thus itself denied. This can only take place through the primitive process of the original splitting.

In The Unnamable, this process of disidentification becomes both more urgent and paradoxical. The speaker begins by claiming that he will do without projective identifications’ imminent extinction: “All these Murphys, Molloys and Malones do not fool me…They never suffered my pains, their pains are nothing, compared to mine, a mere tittle of mine, the tittle I thought I could put from me, in order to witness it. Let them be gone now, them and all the others, those I have used and those I have not used, give me back the pains I lent them and vanish, from my life, my memory, my terrors and shames.” 305.

The speaker discovers that to dissolve, or attempt to dissolve these phantoms, is to reintroject them. The analyst is involved in this process since he is called upon to play the part of the mother prepared to introject the negativity projected into her by the anxious child. If the mother comes under attack so does the analyst, and the process of analysis itself. The particular form which this attack often takes, Bion suggests, is an attack on language as the medium of symbolic and cognitive linking.

The possibility that Beckett’s own discontinuation of his analysis was associated with an attack upon language is suggested in a letter he wrote to Axel Kaun months later: “It is indeed becoming more and more difficult, even senseless, for me to write an official English. And more and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. Grammar and style. To me they have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true gentleman. A mask. Let us hope the time will come, thank God that in certain circles it has already come, when language is most efficiently used where it is being most efficiently misused. As we cannot eliminate language all at once, we should at least leave nothing undone that might contribute to its falling into disrepute. To bore one hole after another in it, until what lurks behind it – be it something or nothing – begins to seep through; I cannot imagine a higher goal for a writer today.”

The struggle against language is identified with a struggle against a series of mysteriously oppressing tyrants, whose motivation appears always to be to force a coherent ego or human nature upon the speaker of Beckett’s fictions. These figures begin Molloy, to the one who demands Molloy’s narrative, and progress through to the tyrannical Youdi and his agent Gaber, who extort Moran’s report; and harden at last into the figure of Basil/Manhood and the “college” of tyrants which the speaker in The Unnamable evokes at various points through his monologue.

 

He then turns on, and others (splits) his own body. He represents his language in bodily emissions, he grounds himself in the muck of mammalian existence. Bion sees such processes or phantasms in psychotic patients as an intensified form of splitting, in which undesired or uncontainable feelings and ideas are not so much fragmented as pulverized. All abjections become bad. For the speaker in The Unnamable the process of logorrhoeic outpouring is the reflex of a process of unwilled introjection.

 

The terms of Beckett’s fictional verbal-corporeal economy in The Unnamable perhaps sums up some of the features of his own psychosomatic suffering, or the sufferings he was persuaded to see as such. These boils, cysts, and dermatological lesions led Beckett to seek psychoanalysis, they also suggest the importance of the relations between contained and container. A Bionian interpretation would suggest that the pulverization and moralization of the ejected contents of the psyche seek a form or receptacle. It’s as if Beckett’s psyche collided with his body, and this kind of representation excited Beckett, as is apparent with his grotesque characters in the Trilogy.  

 

As a text full of grotesque bodies, it is uncertain whether or not “the speaker” truly is alone, trapped inside his mother’s womb, or speaking with two even more grotesque figures. What is certain is that “the speaker” is at the heart of the narrative, and that whether or not these creatures (Manhood and Worm) are real or imaginary, he is never alone because he has othered his own body.

 

I think, the solipsism of the Trilogy derives its energy from alterity, its otherness. The aggressive purging of the other from the self reveals that the self will never glimpse or grasp itself except through the openings of its inauthentic others. “The battle of the soliloquy” as Beckett described it, is a battle with and against these others, a speaking to oneself via their speech. Like psychoanalysis, it demonstrates “How little one is at one with oneself” (in Moran’s words) as both Beckett’s and Bion’s final works show, it is a battle that is played and won, or successfully lost, but only and always in company. 
 

 


Late in the analysis, Bion suggested to Beckett that he attend a series of lectures being given at the Tavistock by C.G. Jung. In the lecture, Jung spoke of the mechanisms of splitting and dissociation within neurosis and psychosis. There he told the story of a young girl afflicted by premonitions of death who, Jung said, had never properly been born. This haunted and fascinated Beckett.

 

The term comes from “Evasion by Evacuation” by Melanie Klein: projective identification’, which Bion defines as “a splitting off by the patient of part of his personality and a projection of it into the object where it becomes installed, sometimes as a persecutor, leaving the psyche from which it has been split off correspondingly impoverished.”

 

Beckett’s Molloy

November 14, 2008

(This is a paper I wrote for class on Beckett)

Lily Robert – Foley

Oct. 21 5pm, 2003

 

Beckett’s Molloy demonstrates a self conscious use of language—one that questions its own foundations while admitting the impossibility of completely undermining them.  I will discuss this awareness of the formations that guide the movement of the text as it is enacted on the level of narrative, metaphor, metonym, sentence, character and punctuation (to categorize).  All of these elements serve to illustrate a text that simultaneously admits and recounts its assumptions and thereby is a process of interrogation of its own functioning.

Kevin Dettmar, in his essay, “The Figure in Beckett’s Carpet” proposes that the way the narrators of Molloy use language is an effort to question the status of metaphor, to practically refuse its validity, and to adopt metonym as a medium of communication closer to “raw experience” (70).  Dettmar describes metaphor as something that aligns two “raw” things through an abstract knowledge of both, removed from the state of “objects in and of themselves, with no ulterior motive,” or rather as it is implied, real objects.  Metonym, he goes on to conclude, is an experience of language which is much closer to an exact representation of the real world: “its potential to delude is diminished [from that of metaphor]” (76).  The assumption is that metonym is somehow more real than metaphor.

However, Dettmar recognizes that just because the amount of abstract configurations that must go on in order to make the jump from object to a representation of it (or perhaps from representation to representation) seems somehow greater when using metaphor than metonym, it doesn’t mean that it’s really that much closer to a true representation of the world.  Dettmar admits that “such a project…is doomed to failure” because of the inherent problems of representing the real world in text that I propose the narrators of Molloy themselves seem to be aware of (77).  Metaphor is not the only form of language that removes us from raw experience.  And, in the end, Dettmar’s conclusions even turn Beckett’s use of metonymy into a metaphor for the the problems of metaphor.  The point here, is one that Dettmar himself makes subterraneously: that Beckett’s text is essentially “mess[y]”, not just in his treatment of his narrators’ perception, but in its use of language.  It refuses the imposition of final analysis and likewise its interrogation of its own language by its own language refuses to determine where, in language, reality lies.  Beckett does not “reinscribe the hierarchy [of metaphor and metonym]”, merely reversing the terms, but removes them from hierarchy by shaking their foundations.  

The formation of the narratives lies in a space between reality and the stories.  The reader is informed early in the text that he is reading a written document, destroying the assumption that the story is real.  We are instantly aware that the story is written before we read it.  However, our narrator is not Beckett (the real author) but Molloy, a figment of Beckett’s imagination.  Molloy ends up where he begins; it is almost as though the narrative exists outside of time, annunciating that while we are reading, the writing is already written, circumscribed within itself.  “I began at the beginning, like an old ballocks, can you image that?  Here’s my beginning, do you understand?” (Molloy, 8).  Normally, one begins at the beginning, one can not have already begun at the beginning, as Molloy appears to do.  What we “understand” is not that we are at the beginning, but rather that we do not understand where the beginning of the narrative is.  In this way, the text questions our assumptions about narrative in and of itself, and tears down our reliance on our faith in it.  In this case, it is referencing its internal structures to demonstrate the ways in which they are inherently self-reflexive or contradictory.

Moran’s narrative functions similarly, “But in the end I understood this language.  I understood it, I understood it, all wrong perhaps.  That is not what matters.  It told me to write the report” (176)—as one does not normally “begun” at the beginning, one does not usually “understood” at the end.  The end in this instance, is both now and not now, just as Moran both  “understood’ and did not “understood”.   The narrative time is referring to itself here, by demonstrating the tautologies of its own presentation; in order to tell a story it has to mimic our perception of time when we are not reading the book—and in this case, again, it is aware of the many differences between our experience reading versus our experiences while not reading.  

Molloy’s sentences, like his narrative, find their derivation in themselves.  The language borrows, restates, refuses and propels itself forward.  “If you set out to mention everything you would never be done, and that’s what counts, to be done, to have done.  Oh, I know, even when you mention only a few of the things there are, you do not get done either, I know, I know.”  Molloy demands a definition of the word ‘done’, however in an effort to do this he repeats himself, using the word to describe itself and, not surprisingly, coming to a very problematic conclusion if any at all.  The words seem to escape the boundaries of the sentence, spilling over into the sentence that follows and then being phased out—building up a system of definitions that in the end relies only on itself. Molloy’s language is not created by a meaning, apart from the language, but from the language itself:  “All I know is what the words know” (31).  He is constantly reminding us that language and not what it refers to creates existence in the text.  On page 24 he writes, “I will not tell what followed, for I am weary of this place, I want to go” as though his telling of it were the sole generator of his experience.  The telling makes it real, and nothing else (after all, Molloy’s experience at the courthouse is not real).  Language is the sole provider of any reality that exists in the text, it is the agent of production—if the language disappears, so do the images it presents and visa versa.  

Molloy is always in the process of suggesting and then recounting in language.  It is his method wherein things (opinions, events, definitions, objects etc.) can both exist and then not exist in the text:  his movement through the text is unsustainably tautological (closing in on itself?).  He renders definitive interpretation impossible—an answer to a question that is either itself, or a contradiction of itself,  carries no logical thrust.  In the following quote, Molloy both sees and does not see the moon: “And it came back also to my mind, as sleep stole over it again, that my nights were moonless and the moon foreign to my nights, so that I had never seen, drifting past the window, carrying me back to other nights, other moons, this moon I had just seen, I had forgotten who I was (excusably) and spoken of myself as I would have of another.” His language is contradictory and therefore useless as a means to logical truth.

On the other hand, even though using language to say something that does not refer to itself in order to prove itself true seems practically impossible, the narrative relentlessly continues on.  The very language that rips itself apart is still always putting itself together. “It seemed to me that all language was an excess of language”  (Molloy 116).  Although when writing a book (i.e. Molloy) one must speak beyond language to a world that words themselves represent, that world is created with language only.  This movement mimics the way Molloy forgets himself and speaks of himself in the moon passage “as I would have another”.  Language seems to always speak about something other than itself and at the same time can only rely on itself to prove the stability of its connections:  when he is himself there is no moon, but when he is “another”, the moon exists.  This division is circumscribed by the fact that when writing of how he was “another” he is writing as himself.  To write of how he is not himself, he must write as himself; to undermine a belief in the scenarios language presents, one has to present the scenarios—and that implies a belief in their efficacy.

Occasionally, Molloy disrupts the flow of his narrative to write directly about his own language—as though he were reminding us that the story is in language and not in the world.  For instance, when he writes on p. 26, “I speak in the present tense, it is so easy to speak in the present tense, when speaking of the past.  It is the mythological present, don’t mind it.” He interrupts himself to speak about the medium he is using to present all the other information.  He is speaking directly about his own language.  Here, Molloy is attempting to step beyond the tautological bounds of his own method of representation.  In referring to the boundaries of the language itself he can almost define what lies beyond it, or at least where it stops.  The more he tries to escape language, the more he must immerse itself in its functions.  This is why it is easier to speak of the past by speaking in present tense (or perhaps also why it is easier to speak of writing as speaking rather than as writing)  the past is elsewhere, it is the other thing that language refers to;  on the most basic level, the present experience of the reader or the writer is language.  

In the beginning sentences of his narrative, Moran does not question language, but rather views is it as a means to truth.  He is an espion, a spectator of language—performing an omniscient interpretive violence upon his language world, assuming everything to mean what he assumes it means without question.  When speaking of his son, “He must think he is on the threshold of life, of real life.  He’s right there.  His names is Jacques, like mine.  This cannot lead to confusion.”  Everything is subsumed into Moran’s eye, he assumes everything and questions nothing.  He assumes knowledge of his son’s interior, and of the reliability of names, metaphor and language as being signposts of reality, of truth.  However, this reliance soon breaks down.  By page 105 (a mere 13 pages after the opening of his narrative)  he writes, “If there is one thing gets on my nerves, it is music.  What I assert, deny, question, in the present, I still can.  But mostly I shall use various tenses of the past.  For mostly I do not know, it is perhaps no longer so, it is too soon to know, I simply do not know, perhaps shall never know.”  Already, he is sounding like Molloy, speaking in the present, repeating himself, contradicting himself—these are all ways that Molloy reveals the formation of language.  Moran hates music because music is indescriptive and indescribable, unabashedly self reflexive, but these are the anxieties that are always boosting the facade of his narrative.  

Molloy’s language is never more real than Moran’s, it is just more aware.  When Molloy performs the same interpretive violence upon “C”—assuming a knowledge which is not so much a knowledge of the other but a projection of his knowledge onto the other, he writes, “I watched him recede, overtaken (myself) by his anxiety, at least by an anxiety which was not necessarily his, but of which as it were he partook.  Who knows if it wasn’t my own anxiety overtaking him.” (10)  Although he must allow a logical uncertainty into his perception, he is at least aware that his perception may influence the truth—and this is precisely how he deals with language.  He includes “(myself)” in parentheses as though to both state and revise his own interpretation at the same time.  A parenthetical is often inserted into the flow of language as a restatement of an assertion, or an addition.  It is never to be understood as something entirely distinct from the text, but always reserves its own (privacy—if I may be permitted a little poetry).  It is a way both to state and not state—to be both inside and outside of language.  On page 32 he writes, “But to tell the truth! (To tell the truth!)”

Moran’s first two uses of parentheses both refer to Youdi, “(one Youdi)” (107), “(all one to Youdi)” (115).  Youdi exists to Moran purely as a name.  He is aware of his existence only through the messenger, Gaber—who is often alluded to as a sort of hallucination, “And to keep nothing from you, this lucidity was so acute at times that I came to doubt the existence of Gaber himself.”  In this moment, it is almost as though Moran is stepping outside of the text, where Gaber has no proof of existence except in the language Moran’s narrative uses to refer to and describe him—for instance, his name.   Youdi is real only because Gaber mentions him—Gaber’s language is the instrument of Youdi’s creation, and to follow, Youdi is only real in Gaber’s language; he is enclosed forever within Gaber’s messages, just as he is circumscribed in parentheses.  But Moran believes in Youdi.  Here, Youdi functions to Moran the way Gaber functions to us:  “it was not enough for him to understand nothing about them, he had also to believe he understood everything about them.” Again, the text questions how real it actually is—every time we read we have to suspend our notions of reality—the text itself elucidates this and therein questions the formation of the novel.  Meaning itself is a kind of hallucination. The novel is like Gaber’s messages.  

To question here, does not mean to deny.  It does not say it is real, but it does not say it is not real, it merely tries to be aware of its own limitations.  This is why Moran’s reliance on language as a means to truth is completely broken down by the last page of the book, “It is midnight.  The rain is beating on the windows.  It was not midnight.  It was not raining.”  In the end, the text’s self referencing and its doubts about language’s ability to represent reality serve to undermine the stability of truth.  And that’s the truth

Speechless No. 4

November 12, 2008

Five points towards an extended essay about this poem:

image002xxx1

from Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives.

1.  Past scholarship.  I would like to compile a summary of recent scholarship on The Savage Detectives and in particular works that treat the text of Sion as a figure in the text.

 

2.  I would like to consider and pair in contrast to the other readings, a reading of the poem Sion that posits that the poem is completely obscure—that it yields no interpretation whatsoever.

 

Such a reading is actually impossible.  Since, in the instance of such a reading—a reading that posits that this text has no meaning whatsoever and cannot be interpreted, the text itself is not obliterated. Something like the form or material of a text remains.   

 

Perhaps a better way to position such a reading is not to say that the text is unreadable, has no meaning, or cannot yield to interpretation—it would be maybe be better to say that the text is untranslateable.  Which would situated it in a discourse on translation. 

 

Consider for a moment a reading of a text that is untranslateable in conjunction with Derrida’s remarks that translation is impossible.  In this case, the text is not different from any other text. 

 

3.  Is Sion linguistic?  In Savage Detectives, Sion is treated as a poem—that is as a linguistic entity, and in fact not only linguistic, but literary.  It is published in the book in a “literary magazine” and the author of the poem is a poet. 

 

Here, I’ll digress and turn to a different text that has a completely different context but is equally as obscure.  I’d like to do a reading of the Cascajal Block—a relic of the ancient Olmec culture of Southern Mexico.  This block contains 62 glyphs that anthropologists consider to be a language.  They substantiate the claim that the glyphs in their ordering represent a language in the following manner:

 

“The Cascajal block conforms to all expectations of writing. The text deploys

 

(i) a signary of about 28 distinct elements, each an autonomous, codified glyphic entity;

(ii) a few in repeated, short, isolable sequences within larger groupings; and

(iii) a pattern of linear sequencing of variable length, with

(iv) a consistent reading order.

 

As products of a writing system, the sequences would by definition reflect patterns of language, with the probable presence of syntax and language-dependent word order.”

 

Science. “Oldest Writing in the World”. Ma. del Carmen Rodriguez Martinez, Ponciano Ortiz Ceballos, Michael D. Coe, Richard A. Diehl, Stephen D. Houston, Karl A. Taube, Alredo Delgado Calderon. Vol. 313 15 September 2006 p. 1612.

 

Properly speaking, a reading of The Cascajal Block is impossible.  It is, in a very similar manner to the poem Sion, “untranslateable”.  It is untranslateable for the same reason:  there is no community of speakers or library of texts to create a cultural entity that one calls “language”.  For this reason it is impossible to decipher. 

 

However, here we encounter the same problematics as above.  Although the text is completely unreadable and is not inscribed into a larger totality of a “language” with a lexicon and rules of grammar—it is nonetheless a text and therefore an example of a language.  It has a grammar, even if this grammar is completely obscure.

 

It therefore—just as with the text of Sion—finds itself in a privileged location to begin a study of what a text—deprived of readability—is. 

 

All too often, readings of texts invoke a obsolete and dismantled theory of the signifier:  one which posits a vertical, hierarchical correspondence between signifier and signified.  And presupposes that language exists in order to represent essences.  [Here I would reference and cite some passages that successfully critique this model].

 

However, is not my intention to enter into this discussion.  In fact “il en va tout autrement” (that’s a French expression that I just remembered that means, “it’s the complete opposite).  It is rather my intention to make it impossible for me to do so—which is why I have chosen as a subject a text that does not signify, and that only contains the form or shell of signification.  It exists as though it were signifying and yet does not. 

 

As is the case with Sion, the Cascajal Block is considered a linguistic entity because (as you can see from the excerpt from the Science article) it looks like language.  It takes the shape of it, its patterns, its rhythms and it has graphic entities that wax symbolic.  No matter that they are not symbolic in any way, they look as though they were symbolic. 

 

More importantly, it is a language because the community of anthropologists associated with the block have determined it to be (although there is some dispute on that).  The moment the anthropological community comes to a consensus that the Cascajal Block does not indeed represent an example of a language—it ceases to be.  

 

 

4. Thus, the Cascajal Block is determined to be a language by those who read it.  This is much the same to the constitution of Sion and to the structure of The Savage Detectives as a whole.

 

The Savage Detectives is composed mostly of a series of interviews.  It is unclear for what purpose the interviews are being conducted. Likewise, it is completely unclear who is giving the interviews.  The interviewer—in his/her complete absence—becomes something like the main character of the story—or rather it is this absence itself that fills in a lacuna where the main character of a novel would be.  The interviewer becomes cast in a sort of shadow-form, a negative relief carved out by the separation between his/herself and the interviewees. 

 

(Apart from a portion of the interviews where the purpose comes and goes like something hidden behind a swaying branch:  it’s the search for Cesaria Tinajero’s poem, which turns out to be the text of Sion.  These particular interviews appear to be carried out by the author and two of his friends.  The rest of the interviews do not appear to be following this same purpose, although they also do not seem completely unconnected.)   

 

In other words, our interviewer is completely defined by a discourse surrounding him/her—in other words, by his/her interlocutor—as is the case with the poem Sion itself and the Cascjal Block. 

 

 

5.  Therefore, any meaning that comes to bear on the text—specifically, the designation that the text is in fact a linguistic one—is located somewhere other than the text itself.  There is likewise a Diaspora of signification.  The meaning does not come from one source in particular but rather exists in a collectivity of movement and provisional consensus. 

 

The meaning of the text is defined in contrast to what it is not. It takes up the negative space of the other.  It has no meaning of its own.  The figures in Sion therefore rather magnificently represent a trope of a thread in postmodern discourse on the substantiation of the signifier:  namely that the signifier is constituted in a relationship to dispersed web of other signifiers.  Specifics of my reading will thus adopt the figure of Sion in relation to moments in postmodern discourse on the signifier.

 

A useful metaphor in this case would be figure of The Unnameable (Beckett), in which a narrator without arms or legs sits in a dark space on a stool and watches characters from other Beckett novels rotate around him mysteriously.