On Hermann Broch, The Death of Virgil

“…he knew of the innermost danger of all artists, he knew the utter loneliness of the man destined to be an artist, he knew the inherent loneliness which drove such a one into the still deeper loneliness of art and into the beauty that cannot be articulated, and he knew that for the most part such men were shattered by this immolation, that it made them blind, blind to the world, blind to the divine quality in the world and in the fellow-man, that–intoxicated by their loneliness–they were able to see only their own god-likeness, which they imagined to be unique, and consequently this self-idolatry and its greed for recognition came more and more to be the sole content of their work–, a betrayal of the divine as well as of art, because in this fashion the work of art became a work of un-art, an unchaste covering for artistic vanity, so spurious that even the artist’s self-complacent nakedness which it exposed became a mask; and even though such unchaste self-gratification, such dalliance with beauty, such concern with effects, even though such an un-art might, despite its brief unrenewable grant, its inextensible boundaries, find an easier way to the populace than real art ever found, it was only a specious way, a way out of the loneliness, but not, however, an affiliation with the human community, which was the aim of real art in its aspiration toward humanity, no, it was the affiliation with the mob, it was a participation in its treacherous non-community, which was incapable of the pledge, which neither created nor mastered any reality, and which was unwilling to do so, preferring only to drowse on, forgetting reality, having forfeited it as had un-art and literarity, this was the most profound danger for every artist; oh how painfully, how very painfully he knew this.” – Hermann Broch, The Death of Virgil


Joseph Tecson’s Millenial Classicism

18671326_428938450812117_666755962949987617_nReview of Joseph Tecson’s ‘Abstracts’ at Art Undeground Gallery

Joseph Tecson’s paintings, like those of other young Filipino painters exhibited and recognized internationally, perfectly capture a prediction made by Jürgen Habermas in 1980. In a famous lecture, Habermas talked about postmodernism in relation to the “incomplete project” of modernity: that, notwithstanding its claim of a complete and absolute break, the postmodern condition faces the same set of unresolved problems that can only lead to the return of history, if not the return of “modernism.” Habermas’ note of dissent—delivered at the height of postmodernism’s critical vitality—helps us situate the concerns of contemporary art, particularly Tecson’s gravitation towards abstraction in light of society and politics today.

Tecson’s current work follows the logical progression of his pictorial successes. The particular material references of his current monochromatic creations give his works a degree of accumulated intensity that is as palpable as in his figurative works: grave and confining.

Tecson’s emphasis on the material is reminiscent of the concerns of painters of an earlier era whose entire body of work was anchored in the use of a particular medium or a technique. Tecson merges the artistic oil medium with industrial resins and metals. His manipulation of the specialized medium gives his paintings a timeless air which his chromatic surfaces convey with a sense of millennial classicism.

More than other artists of his generation, Joseph Tecson combines European pictorial traditions with the forms of aesthetic experience rooted deeply in the art scene of the post-war, which undoubtedly influences the understanding of his work; at the same time, it connects with Southeast Asian aesthetic currents with which it shares the evident sensitivity for the use and exploration of the material and the taste for the unexpected and accidental.

From this perspective, his work suggests two opposing reflections. The first would be to perceive his work as linked to an artistic line indebted to the sophisticated artistic conceptions that emerged in 1960s-70s Manila (primarily Lao Lianben and also Fernando Zobel, Lee Aguinaldo, et al.), by ignoring contemporary developments and returning to more traditional pictorial notions. A second perspective, would lead us to a vision of his work as an unstable and hermetic project. Both views are somewhat positively justified since we are able to see vital pulses in contemporary art triggered by what happens in Joseph Tecson’s paintings.

In his paintings, modern art seems to go back on itself and reconsider its fundamental principles, as if the basic foundations of abstraction had been subjected to a new critical analysis, emphasizing the autonomous valuation of matter and color or lack of it.

Musing about abstract paintings, Jurgen Habermas asks what gives a roughly painted surface of canvas, which has been stretched over a frame, such sensual power?

In the vein of Habermas’s reflections, the answer we can find in Tecson is somewhat solemn: The paintings appeal to the viewer’s intuition, rather than his intellect. His focus is directed at the interplay between coarse monochromes that emerge from a repertoire involving contrast, variation, and repetition and its breakdown. There is a dynamism that is full of tension. The two dimensional painting syntax is undermined and rendered irrelevant. There is a sense of intimacy: as if the paintings demand to be felt rather than merely seen. Description becomes a nuisance.

That is the sensation that the work of Joseph Tecson produces. We have the feeling that for the artist, painting is an isolated matter filled with tangible silences.

Joseph Tecson (b.1985) learned to paint on his own during this period of incarceration (2008 – 2012). By the time he had been acquitted of the charges, Tecson had already participated in a number of art exhibitions including his first solo show at Mag:Net Gallery Katipunan in Quezon City titled “Inmates,” which featured 50 portraits of detainees and convicts from Quezon City Jail where he was imprisoned. After holding five solo exhibitions in various art galleries, he mounted the exhibition “Inmates + Outmates” in 2014 at WhiteSpaceBlackBox, Switzerland, where inmate portraits were exhibited alongside portraits of members from members of high society. Joseph Tecson lives and works in Manila, Philippines.

Joseph Tecson: Abstracts opened at Art Underground, Balagtas St. Mandaluyong 1550, Metro Manila, Philippines, last Saturday 27th of May 2017.

How revolutionary is the revolution?

Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence

Walter Benjamin’s passport photo in 1928

At first sight, the question of violence from the left is easy to answer. Anyone who has ever been a tenant with rent in arrears, anybody who has organized a demonstration, knows that the liberal state is also using violence to protect social inequality. Why, in view of this, should the subordinates, the subalterns, determine the freedom of violence? Insurgent violence may not always be smart, but it certainly does not lack legitimacy.

For Walter Benjamin, however, there is an objection which one should know when dealing with the question.

The essay “On the Critique of Violence” was published in 1921, at a time when Benjamin was more influenced by Marxism in a leftist manner, and is one of the few explicit political texts of the cultural theorist. Benjamin discusses the relationship between violence, justice and justice. For this purpose, he first outlines what the two great schools of law theory have to say about the subject: For nature – law students, the The application of violence for just ends does not pose a problem. According to Benjamin, violence is “the raw material of history” – an unavoidable means of enforcing justice.

The problem with this argument is obvious: the discourse of revolutionary left is hardly distinguishable from the authoritarian right. The Bush, Blair and Cheneys also justified their campaigns, pointing out that in the fight against terror all means, including open terrorism, such as abduction and torture, were unavoidable.

On the other hand, legal positivism, as the second major theory tradition, has always emphasized that a concept as fuzzy as “justice” can not serve as the basis of legal orders. It is true that juridical positivism is by no means blind to righteousness, but in the narrower sense the question arises whether something is legally constituted. It is not decisive whether violence serves a “just purpose”, but whether it is exercised within the law.

An example: If, as in the case of natural law, only the “just purpose” were concerned, it would be irrelevant whether a murderer is punished by the power of the state or a Lynch mob. Both would serve the “just purpose”. Legal positivism, on the other hand, proceeds from the contrary: it is decisive whether the persons who are punishable are also entitled to do so. The result can be quite identical: some state legal systems also address death. But the killing by the judiciary is – unlike that of the Lynchmob – legally constituted.

Benjamin, however, accuses the two legal theories of sharing a common basic dogma: Both consider that just ends can be achieved by just means, and vice versa, justified means can be used for just ends. But what if this is wrong? If the means of violence and the purpose of justice are incompatible?

Benjamin refers here to the remarkable circumstance that for the liberal state not the violence as such presents a problem, but the exercise by unauthorized persons. In order to understand this more precisely, Benjamin discusses a form of violence that the state just tolerates: the strike. Now it can be argued that the strike is less a means of violence than a form of refusal. However, it can be said that the strike is a very militant means of countering its own interests. Strangely enough, according to Benjamin, this campaign is legal if it forces the entrepreneurs to do something concrete, eg wage increases, but illegally, if it threatens to overthrow the government. This example shows that not the means is the problem, but the intentions pursued with it.

In a further step, which is based on the international constitutional law, whose origins go back to the question of how the result of warfare can be a “state of peace”, Benjamin then develops his core thesis: violence and justice are inseparable , Whereby the violence has two basic functions: Either it acts as a right-wing or right-wing . The right-wing violence as expressed in the police, the judiciary or, in the most extreme way, in the death penalty does not fulfill the task of preventing the citizens from concrete crimes. It is, on the contrary, a demonstration of power, by which, without a word, the remnant and the essence of the law are recalled: the power set by force.

Remarkably, at the same time, Carl Schmitt has developed an almost identical thesis – albeit in the opposite direction. The authoritarian state theorist, who was to become a Nazi jurist in the 1930s, in his writings “The Dictatorship” and “Political Theology” derives the right from the violence. Where there is no order, according to Schmitt’s credo, there is no right; And order was again created violently. This is the core of the famous Schmittian decisionism : the right decision is found in the interior of the law: the enforcement of an order, which must be defended in all situations, even in crisis situations.

While, however, Schmitt is concerned with proving the legitimacy of dictatorship and the state of exception, the same combination of law and violence is the abyss for Benjamin. There is dark emptiness in the interior of the liberal constitutional state. For violence is the real center of gravity of law.

The dramatic aspect of Benjamin’s reasoning is that this connection is also true of revolutionary violence. It, too, establishes a state of order which does not lose the Cain time of arbitrariness. This gives Benjamin a kind of pendulum movement between the functions of violence. Since the right-wing violence can not shake off its wrongdoing, it provokes rebellious reactions that attempt to set a new right. But this means that revolutionary violence is not in a position to leave the circle of rule and insurrection.

Even if Benjamin does not mention the young Russian revolution at this point, these paragraphs read like a prophetic prediction of the state socialist history. For the development of the revolutions can be interpreted as such a pendulum movement: the right-wing, ultimately arbitrary revolutionary power immediately left the new order of justice rotting within. In order to maintain the new order, the “right-wing” violence to the Stalinist terror had to be extended. This provoked a counter-movement that called for a new, alternative legislation.

With his inconspicuous, 36-page essay, Benjamin ultimately casts no less than the question of what revolutions really are. If Benjamin is right with his suspicion, then the act of violence ‘revolution’ is obviously no means of liberation. But what remains then?

At this point Benjamin turned to the “proletarian general strike” and pointed to Sorel, who was the leading theoretician of revolutionary syndicalism at the beginning of the twentieth century (before his turn to fascism). In defense of the direct action of the working class, Sorel distinguishes between two forms of the general strike: the political strike seeks the enforcement of a new order in which “the state loses nothing of its power, the power of privileged to privileged as the mass of the producers Men change “. The “proletarian”, on the other hand, does not aspire to a new legal order, but – according to Benjamin – “means without purpose”.

At this point, the essay finally goes to theological terrain. Benjamin distinguishes between the “mythical” violence of the Greek gods’ world and the “just violence” of the Judaic god. This distinction may at first have a very strong effect, but, in fact, different ideas of human existence are hidden behind the divine images. In Greek mythology, the power of the gods has the function of demonstrating their power and thus setting right, ie, their rule. Thus, Odysseus crosses the Mediterranean for 10 years because Poseidon is angry with him. And even Oedipus does not escape his oracles. People are the ball of the ruling order. The Judaic God, on the other hand, is, at least in parts of the Torah, also a god of changeability. The Jews flee from bondage in Egypt and found a community of free and equal in Sinai.

Benjamin now asserts that the bourgeois legal order follows the Greek-mythical principle that justice, on the other hand, is assigned to the Judaic: “Judgment is an act, and in this respect an act of direct manifestation of violence. Justice is the principle of all divine purpose, power the principle of all mythical regulation. ” (57)

Benjamin also distances himself from pacifism with this theological volte. It is not only that the means of violence contaminates the targets, as pacifists would probably maintain. In Benjamin the context is rather the reverse: the violence is contaminated by the purpose . An action becomes an act of power and violence only when it is supposed to make a difference. The “divine force”, on the other hand, is one which does not serve any interests, does not want to establish any legal order.

As a political thesis this is admittedly doubtful, because – as already mentioned – how do we define justice? And: How is it to prevent interested groups from establishing new power orders?

But Benjamin’s essay is not a political strategy; He puts forward a problem: he shows how liberal law is bound up with the arbitrary rule of violence, and suggests that even revolutionary violence can only produce mythical forms of law. The social revolution as liberation, as a “tigers under the free sky of history” – also a Benjamin quotation – would have to be based on something else: on the understanding of people, on new, radical forms of democracy. Hannah Arendt, one of the few people who knew Benjamin’s essay before the re-release in the mid-1960s, took up this idea when she defended the American Revolution (with her council-like structures) against French Jacobinism in On Revolution. Constitutive process instead of Grande Terreur. In its book, Arendt idealizes the USA by eliminating the systematic extinction of native americans , racism, slavery, and bourgeois rule as part of the founding of the state. But she remains faithful to Benjamin’s objection in one respect: It is necessary to interrupt the closed circle of violence, regulation and upheaval.

Subversive, political violence may be legitimate, in some cases unavoidable: without the partisans of Southern and Eastern Europe national socialism would not have been defeated. And if the German workers’ parties had taken up the armed struggle in 1933, the forces of Nazi Germany would probably have been no longer sufficient for Auschwitz and the occupation of Europe. It would be idiotic to deny that political violence can be an indispensable form of resistance. But as a means of establishing justice, it obviously is not. If there has been social emancipation in armed uprisings, it is not because of, but in spite of, violence.

Benjamin’s essay thus leads to the unresolved question of the constituent process: How does an alternative, radically democratic power emerge under prevailing conditions, which allows us to leap from the continuum of the history of the world?

The masks of Frantz Fanon

Écrits sur l'aliénation et la liberté by Frantz Fanon, edited by Robert Young and Jean Khalfa La Découverte, 688pp, £22.00, October 2015, ...
Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté by Frantz Fanon, edited by Robert Young and Jean Khalfa La Découverte, 688pp, £22.00, October 2015, …

As a psychiatrist and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon took part in the fight against French colonialism in the fifties. Today numerous publications are devoted to him. Is Fanon more relevant today?

At the end of 1956, Frantz Fanon joined the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) in the Algerian liberation struggle. The distance between the present world order and the vision of the future, which Fanon combined with the process of decolonization, is enormous. Fanon is considered one of the founders of the Third World ideology (tiers-mondisme).

Revolutionaries in Africa, Ché Guevara, the Black Panthers, and the tricolor movement of solidarity among the capitalist metropolises, which were still in their infancy, appealed to him in the sixties, in particular to his book Les Damnés de la Terre of 1961 (The Damned Earth, 1966). On the other side, Fanon was a nationalist and irrationalist, a black racist and a violinist. Hannah Arendt attributed to him a thought in “organic-biological categories” in On Violence (1969). Orthodox party Communists saw in Fanon a spontaneity and populist who had glorified the colonized country population and the urban rag-proletariat. The current discussions about his writings, especially in Britain and the USA, have little to do with such attributions and falsifications.

Fanon in postmoderne

Stuart Hall and Homi K. Bhabha, most prominent representatives of Postcolonial Studies, a subdivision of Cultural Studies, which have existed for decades, have provided a new justification for their rediscovery of Fanon. They emphasize the postmodern ambivalence of his argument, in particular as regards the tension between the “free subject” and “foreign determinism” in his subject theory. Yes, they emphasize the ambivalent identity of the author himself and thus slip into a strange biography that gives Fanon a life history of hybrid identity formation. The book, Fanon, Peau noire, Masques blancs (black skin, white masks, 1980), published in the Paris publishing house Editions du Seuil in 1952, make it a predecessor. Fanon’s life, Fanon’s texts – a terra incognita of Postmodernism and Postcolonialism?

The shift in the interest of The Damned Earth back to black skin, white masks is, however, remarkable, especially since the talking titles of a twist seem to be countered by modern social critics with their rhetoric from oppression and liberation to a postmodern ironic pastiche of socially assigned identity patterns. Anyone who reads Black Skin, White Masks today, will be astonished to find out how subtly Fanon was able to analyze and criticize racist mystifications as early as 1952. From everyday occurrences and linguistic forms of communication to literary texts to psychological diagnoses, he shows how the blacks under the “white gaze” become the stigma of one’s own existence. With his first book, Fanon is at the beginning of a critical theory of racism, in which the “race” is not assumed to be an “actual entity” (Arendt), but as a construct of a particular social situation.

A phenomenology of racism

The basic experience for Fanon is that his own “body scheme” collapses and places an “epidermal racial schema”. What is meant is a situation in which the perception of the immediate environment is solved by the experience of stigma due to one’s own physical condition. Fanon explains it with the simple example of a railroad journey, on which a child says to his mother the triggering sentence: “Mama, look, the negro there, I’m afraid.” The second perceptual scheme undergoes its expansions by convicting them to the symbolic order , Which dominates the “collective unconscious”. “In Europe,” writes Fanon, “evil is portrayed by the black.” When Bhabha pointed out in 1986, in his preface to the English new edition of “Black Skin, White Masks,” the urgency of a resumption of Fanon’s theses, and something like that Founder of the “Postcolonial Studies,” he simply turned his argument. A further reading of Fanon was urgent, because the groups “gathering themselves under the banner” blackness “lacked a” public image of the identity of the other. ” Fanon is intended to help mark the “decisive engagement between mask and identity, between image and identification,” from which Bhabha derives its own freedom and self as the socially different one. Bhabha designs a new identity of “people of color,” whereas Fanon is a phenomenology of racism.

This is followed by the phenomenology of anti-Semitism by Jean-Paul Sartre. In his remarks on the Jewish question of 1945, Fanon continually approaches comparisons, notes parallels and differences in discrimination. It is about visible and invisible, physical and cultural stigmata, also about power or impotence, about differences and hierarchies, which organize perceptions and phantasmagoria under the “white gaze”. To be sure, Fanon also shares Sartre’s inadequacy. Since Sartre has obviously shied away from the analysis of the logic of discrimination to the “logic of terror” in order to take up a formulation by Leo Löwenthal, the dimensions of the NS exterminating practice remain largely unaffected. From the point of view of terror, Fanon is mistaken when he thinks that anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jews in their spiritual and civilizing, not primarily as racism and “negrophobia” on immediate physical existence.

However, Fanon’s approach does not appear in the analogy to Sartre’s phenomenology. David Macey, author of an extensive biography (Frantz Fanon, A Life, 2000), characterized black skin, white masks following Claude Lévi-Strauss as “bricolage”. Fanon took individual aspects of Hegelianism, Marxism, the philosophy of existence from Soren Kierkegaard to Karl Jaspers, the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the existentialist humanism of Sartre, as well as the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud himself and Alfred Adler and Jacques Lacan And put them together as an instrument for explaining and analyzing the “own situation and experience”. If, however, this is a true description, the number of different interpretations that may be confused by readers of the recent literature on Fanon is easily found. His text invites to form a Fanon mask, a Lacanian, as Bhabha does, or like a Hegelian, an Existentialist, a Humanist, a Marxist.

The problem of recognition

After the Second World War, French intellectual circles were central to Hegel’s Herr-Knecht dialectic, the problem of the recognition of the other, which precedes a struggle for life and death. “In Hegel, everything has begun to happen in philosophy for a century,” wrote Merleau-Ponty in 1946 in Les Temps modern. The influence of the body phenomenologist on Fanon is still largely underestimated. In black skin, white masks, Fanon then responds mainly to this Hegel reception, pointing to the asymmetry of the social power between colonizers and colonized. Even if the “slave” is released into freedom, this does not mean its recognition as a different self-consciousness. “At Hegel it is about reciprocity,” says Fanon, “here the Lord whistles to the slave’s consciousness. He does not want his recognition, but his work. “The work can therefore not be the abolition of the struggle for recognition.” At Hegel, the slave turns away from the Lord and toward the object. Here, the slave turns to the Lord and reveals the object. “Fanon wants to show how the elaboration of a phenomenology of racism, the Eurocentrism in modern,
Also leftist theory and philosophy. Hence his attacks on the surrealist André Breton and the existentialist Sartre, when they claim the literature of “négritude”, for example, the texts of Aimé Cesaire or Léopold Sédar Senghor for their “Weltanschauung”. On the other hand, he cites the ethnographers Michel Leiris in a consistent manner. For Leiris as for Fanon, the “négritude” is a temporary attitude which allows the black poets to assert the “integrity of their own person” against the “arrogance of the white colonizers” (Leiris). But Fanon was not far off to become his advocate. In his eyes, “négritude” is a mystifying replica of racist mystification. In the context of postcolonial studies, on the other hand, it reverts, as Hall expresses it, an “extremely powerful and creative force for the evolving forms of representation of marginalized peoples today.” Fanon pushed beyond such forms of representation because he suspected a fixation to the stigmatized body. He wanted recognition as a thinking man, as an intelligent body: “O my body, make sure I am always a man who asks!” This is the end of the book of 1952.Fanon today It was Fanon’s hope that the opponents would be in the anticolonial liberation struggle Finally recognize that it is in their interest “to end this struggle and recognize the sovereignty of the colonized people.” He thought that this could only be achieved by the state natio in the liberation struggle. His paradoxical formulations of “national consciousness, which is not nationalism” and “international consciousness” developed and aroused, show early on the tension between the real dangers of nationalization and its vision of international emancipation. And so he comes back to the problem of recognition when he ascertains in The Damned of this Earth in view of national culture: “Self-consciousness is not a self-confrontation against communication.” Whoever wants to read Fanon’s theory of classes and violence in this perspective, Will hardly look for finished answers.

In his book Frantz Fanon, published this year in the Hamburg edition of Nautilus in German, Cherice Cherki has carefully given a hint under the heading of Fanon. Fanon, he says, had carried out a “semiotic infiltration of language” to counter French colonialism. After decolonization, the question arises again about a language that is capable of grasping power and rule in the present world order and allows a new communication between the south and the north. Perhaps even today an infiltration of the language of neoliberal globalization could begin. For the time being, the “real inventions and discoveries”, which Fanon regarded as essential in the overcoming of Eurocentric politics, would be brought up again.

Nabokov’s legacy


Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov almost destroyed a masterpiece. He had already carried the manuscript for his novel “Lolita” to the shadows cast by the oblique incinerator on the innocent lawn. ” Probably it is thanks to his wife Vera, that the text, which was to be founded shortly after Nabokov’s literary world fame, did not set in fire. It was a happy decision of a writer who was troubled by doubts, at the height of his creative power, before the great glory. Postum is now Nabokov’s son Dmitri the most important actor in a similarly following publication drama, this time, however, with a completely different backdrop and with an outlet, which can be disputed excellent.

At the end of 1975, Nabokov, 76 years old and already health-conscious, began to work steadily on the writing of his last novel. If one believes the author, he composed “The model for Laura” – like each of his 18 novels – completely in his thoughts, then to fix it on card types. This last inscription from the memory became a race with the death, which Nabokov had to end up defeating. He simply lacked the powers to transfer his intellectual design to paper.

In the delirium of several hospital stays, he read his finished composition imaginarily “a small trampublikum in a walled garden. Among my listeners were peacocks, pigeons, my long dead parents, two cypresses, some young nurses who were crouching on the ground, and a house doctor so old that he remained almost invisible. ” The world remained a novel fragment of 138 card types, no more than 34 potential book pages, which should be destroyed according to the will of Nabokov.

More than 30 years later, after the nervousness of the literary public and the speculative speculation about the form and content of the card designs still slipping in a Swiss bank card, Dmitri Nabokov, disregarding the paternal edict, has over 30 years later , The fragment now published. As facsimile of the manuscript with German translation. And this fragment is not much more than a shadow of the planned novel. A text construction site full of loose fragments, alternative designs, notes and keywords, with a huge gap in the middle part revealing the plot.

To a perfectionist like Nabokov, who was nothing more hated than the imperfect, this sparsely edited insight into the embryonic stage of his last novel textur would seem almost as nightmarish as a magician’s imagination that his audience would look behind the scenes without having to look through his tricks. After all, Nabokov was a writer with almost limitless perfection. He read from television interviews of pages, which he hid behind bookstacks. Whether it be a novel, an interview, or a letter, he turned and turned every word on the paper several times, and at the time of his request for work, he pointedly pointed out that a fetus should not be operated “out of sheer curiosity” Ambitious zeros and fresh and cheerful mediocrity “.

Now it is in the world, his legacy named “Laura”, an enigmatic rough diamond with an angular plot which only Nabokov himself could have grinded. Flora, the beautiful and promiscuous wife of the world-renowned neurologist Philip Wild, is the model for a key novel, “My Laura”, with which the author, her disappointed lover, following the ending in Oscar Wilde’s “Dorian Gray” Destroy by portraying them. Meanwhile, the obese, life-loving creature works in secret on an obscure scientific text, which traces his ecstatic attempts to extinguish himself by his own mind.

The fragment of this twisted constellation of two related books in the book itself only reveals what a wonderfully intimate Romangewebe Nabokov had in mind. Yet his last great literary triumph is the fact that he is still artistically elevated above the death of his own death. In the passages about Wild’s self-experiments with death, Nabokov’s ingenious geniality flashes again, which gave the readers of his melodious text-labyrinths so long a time of shudder. And Nabokov would not be Nabokov if he had not given his work a tinge of tragic and rogue irony, as the subtitle of the novel mirrors: “Dying is fun.”

Nevertheless, even for hard-fisted Nabokovian “The model for Laura” a single puzzle. How does the mysterious “I” explain itself, which, like an eerie monolith, stands out of the narrative of the third person? How does Flora react to the reading of her portrait? How do the death experiments of the desperate neurologist end? The scanty edition is at a loss. It has only vague speculation. It is left to the reader to assemble the fragments of this angular mirror cabinet itself. And that is unfortunately an unsolvable task. The only comfort for the mature reader remains the power of imagination. This insight also speaks of this fragment, similar to the last lines of Nabokov’s last great novel in Russian, “The gift”: “From the waking spirit, my text, which has thus ended, does not force this point to be the end of existence Deceptive forms blow blue-blushing over the black leaf like morning clouds without haste, and never a line ends. “Literature: NABOKOV, VLADIMIR: The model for Laura. Roman fragment on 138 card types. Edited by Dmitri Nabokov. Rowohlt publishing house, Reinbek 2009. 318 p., 19,90 €.

The other side of the bridge (Julio Cortazar translation)

“Mahal ko, ayaw ko  na maging akin ka, o para maging tayo para sa isa’t isa, hindi kita minahal dahil sa lukso ng dugo na nagsabing mahalin kita, mahal kita dahil hindi ka akin, dahil nasa kabilang dulo ka, kung saan niyaya mo akong tumalon pero hindi ko kinayang humakbang, dahil sa dulo nitong lahat alam kong hindi ka akin, hindi kita maaabot, hindi ko madidikitan ang katawan mo, o maririnig ang tawa mo, may mga oras na binagabag ako ng sinabi mong kailangan kong mahalin ang sarili ko (napakahilig mong sabihin ang salitang magmahal, na walang muwang mong pinababagsak sa mga plato, sa mga kumot at sa bus), naliligalig ako sa pag-ibig mong sinasabing hindi ito maaring maging tulay sa pagitan natin dahil walang tulay na iisa lamang ang tuntungan.”

“Amor mío, no te quiero por vos ni por mí ni por los dos juntos, no te quiero porque la sangre me llame a quererte, te quiero porque no sos mía, porque estás del otro lado, ahí donde me invitás a saltar y no puedo dar el salto, porque en lo más profundo de la posesión no estás en mí, no te alcanzo, no paso de tu cuerpo, de tu risa, hay horas en que me atormenta que me ames (cómo te gusta usar el verbo amar, con qué cursilería lo vas dejando caer sobre los platos y las sábanas y los autobuses), me atormenta tu amor que no me sirve de puente porque un puente no se sostiene de un solo lado.”

“My love, I do not want you only for me or for the two of us to be together, I do not love you because my blood calls me to love you, I love you because you are not mine, because you are on the other side, where you invite me to jump but not I cannot make the leap, because at the end of it all, you are not my possession, you are not in me, I do not reach you, I do not feel your body, your laughter, there are times when you torment me to love myself (how you like to use the verb to love, With what naivete you let it fall on plates and sheets and buses), your love torments me because it does not serve as a bridge because a bridge does not support only one side.”

The Future by Julio Cortazar


And I know full well you won’t be there.
You won’t be in the street, in the hum that buzzes
from the arc lamps at night, nor in the gesture
of selecting from the menu, nor in the smile
that lightens people packed into the subway,
nor in the borrowed books, nor in the see-you-tomorrow.You won’t be in my dreams,
in my words’ first destination,
nor will you be in a telephone number
or in the color of a pair of gloves or a blouse.
I’ll get angry, love, without it being on account of you,
and I’ll buy chocolates but not for you,
I’ll stop at the corner you’ll never come to,
and I’ll say the words that are said
and I’ll eat the things that are eaten
and I’ll dream the dreams that are dreamed
and I know full well you won’t be there,
nor here inside, in the prison where I still hold you,
nor there outside, in this river of streets and bridges.
You won’t be there at all, you won’t even be a memory,
and when I think of you I’ll be thinking a thought
that’s obscurely trying to recall you.

El Futuro

Y sé muy bien que no estarás.
No estarás en la calle, en el murmullo que brota de noche
de los postes de alumbrado, ni en el gesto
de elegir el menú, ni en la sonrisa
que alivia los completos en los subtes,
ni en los libros prestados ni en el hasta mañana.
No estarás en mis sueños,
en el destino original de mis palabras,
ni en una cifra telefónica estarás
o en el color de un par de guantes o una blusa.
Me enojaré, amor mío, sin que sea por ti,
y compraré bombones pero no para ti,
me pararé en la esquina a la que no vendrás,
y diré las palabras que se dicen
y comeré las cosas que se comen
y soñaré los sueños que se sueñan
y sé muy bien que no estarás,
ni aquí adentro, la cárcel donde aún te retengo,
ni allí fuera, este río de calles y de puentes.
No estarás para nada, no serás ni recuerdo,
y cuando piense en ti pensaré un pensamiento
que oscuramente trata de acordarse de ti.

Sa Hinaharap
At sigurado namang wala ka doon
Wala ka sa kalye, ni sa alingawngaw na huni
sa mga arko ng ilaw tuwing gabi, ni sa mga gawi
kapag pumipili sa menu, ni sa mga ngiti
na nagpapagaan sa siksikan sa tren,
wala rin sa mga libro, wala sa mga magkita-na-lang-ulit-bukas.
Hindi ka magpapakita sa panaginip ko,
sa orihinal na destinasyon ng mga salita ko,
o sa unang numero ng teleponong pipindutin
o sa kulay ng pares ng guantes o blusa.
Mababaliw ako, mahal ko, pero hindi dahil sa ‘yo,
Bibili ako ng tsokolate, pero hindi para sa ‘yo,
Hihinto ako sa mga kanto na hindi mo mapupuntahan,
at sasabihin ko ang mga salitang sinasabi
at kakainin ko ang mga bagay na kinakain
at mananaginip ako ng mga panaginip
at alam kong wala ka rin doon,
o dito sa loob, sa kulungan kung saan hawak pa kita,
O sa labas, sa ilog ng mga kalye at tulay.
Hindi kita matatagpuan doon, ni hindi ka magiging ala-ala,
at kapag naiisip kita, maiisip ko na iniisip lamang kita
at bihira lang kitang susubukan alalahanin.

Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) is one of the most important Argentine novelists and short story writers of the twentieth century. Most of his literary production occurred while he was living in exile in Paris. His poetry was not as well known and remains largely untranslated.

This poem originally appeared in the text Último Round, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1969.

Translation of “Tablets” by Dunya Mikhail

Iraqi American poet Dunya Mikhail was born in Baghdad and earned a BA at the University of Baghdad. She worked as a translator and journalist for the Baghdad Observer before being placed on Saddam Hussein’s enemies list. She immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s and earned an MA at Wayne State University. Mikhail is the author of several collections of poetry published in Arabic. Her first book published in English, The War Works Hard (2005), translated by Elizabeth Winslow, won the PEN Translation Award, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and was selected as one of the 25 Best Books of 2005 by the New York Public Library. Elena Chiti translated The War Works Hard into Italian in 2011. Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea (2009), co-translated with Elizabeth Winslow, won the Arab American Book Award.

With irony and subversive simplicity, Mikhail addresses themes of war, exile, and loss, using forms such as reportage, fable, and lyric. Though her poetry records the traumas of war and exile, she has also spoken to the effects of censorship on her work. In an interview with Cathy Linh Che for the New Directions blog, Mikhail observed, “In Iraq, there was a department of censorship with actual employees whose job was to watch ‘public morals’ and decide what you should read and write. Every writer needed approval first before publishing. That’s why I used a lot of metaphors and layers of meanings. This was probably good for my poetry but, still, you do not want to use such figures of speech just to hide meanings. Here, in America, a word does not usually cost a poet her life. However, speech is sometimes limited to what is acceptable according to public norms. So, in Iraq, text precedes censorship. In America, censorship precedes the text.”

Mikhail’s honors include the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. She lives in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and has taught at Michigan State University. – Poetry Foundation

Mga Tablet ni Dunya Mikhail

Idinikit niya ang tainga sa kabibi:
Gusto niyang marinig lahat
ng hindi niya sinabi sa kanya.
Isang pulgada
ang naghihiwalay sa kanilang katawan
kaharap ang isa’t isa
sa retrato:
Naka-kuwadrong ngiti
Na nakabaon sa durog na semento.
Sa tuwinang naghahagis ka ng bato
sa dagat
nakakarating ang munting alon sa akin.
Sadyang maliit ang aking puso:
kaya mabilis tuloy mapuno.
Hindi kailangan ng tubig ng gera
upang humalo sa tubig
at punan ang mga puwang.
Hindi nagtatanong ang puno kung bakit ‘di siya lumilipat
sa ibang kagubatan
o anumang walang katuturang tanong.
Nanonood siya ng TV
habang hawak niya naman ang nobela.
Sa pabalat ng nobela
may isang lalaking nanonood ng TV
at isang babaeng may hawak na nobela.
Sa unang araw
ng bagong taon
titingala tayong lahat
sa iisang araw.
Sinandal niya ang ulo sa kanyang dibdib.
Wala siyang imik:
wala na siyang buhay.
Ang taong tiningnan ako nang napakatagal,
at kanyang tingin na ginantihan ko rin nang napakatagal

Ang lalaking hindi ako yinakap,
ay hindi ko rin yinakap…
Sinira ng ulan ang kulay sa kanyang paligid
sa lumang lonang iyon.
Wala siya sa mga asawa
na-lost and found;
hindi siya dumating kasama ang mga bilanggo ng gera,
o kasama ng saranggolang tumangay sa kanya,
sa kanyang panaginip,
sa malayong lugar,
habang nakatayo siya sa harap ng camera
upang ang kanyang ngiti
ay maidikit sa kanyang pasaporte.
Nag-umpukan ang mga Dates
sa gilid ng kalye:
Kung paano
mo ako halikan.
Ang buhok ni Rapunzel
na gumagapang
Mula sa bintana
Tungo sa lupa
kung paano tayo maghintayan.
Ang aninong iniwan
ng mga bilanggo
sa pader
pinaligiran ang bantay
at tinapunan ng liwanag
ang kanyang kalungkutan.
Lupang sinilangan, hindi ako ang iyong ina,
Kaya bakit ka umiiyak sa aking kandungan nang ganito
lagi na lang
kapag may nananakit sa iyo?
Huwag mong intindihin ang ibong ito:
araw-araw namang napapadaan
at tumitigil sa dulo ng isang sanga
upang umawit ng isa o
dalawang oras.
‘Yun lang naman:
wala nang magpapasaya sa kanya.
Ang susi ng bahay
identity card,
isang kupas na larawan sa mga kalansay…
lahat ito ay nagkalat
sa isang mass grave.
Ang wika ng mga Arabo,
Mahilig sa mahahabang pangugusap
at sa mahahabang digmaan.
Hiyang sa mga walang katapusang awit
at mga malalim na gabi
at pagluha sa mga guho.
Nahumaling sa pagsisikap para
sa isang mahabang buhay
at mahabang kamatayan.
Malayo sa kanyang bahay —
yun na ang lahat na nagbago sa atin.
Naiwan ni Cinderella ang kanyang tsinelas sa Iraq
kasama na ang amoy ng cardamom
na umaalingasaw mula sa tsarera
at ang malaking bulaklak,
nakabuka ang bibig parang kamatayan.
Sa Instant Messages
sumiklab ang rebolusyon.
Sumiklab ang mga bagong buhay
naghihintay ng bansang maaring ma-download,
at lupang higit
pa sa isang kamao ng alikabok
kapag naharap sa mg salitang:
“Walang mga resulta na tumutugma sa iyong paghahanap.”
Ang galak ng aso
habang binabalik niya sa kanyang tao ang isang patpat
siya rin ang galak na mabuksan ang isang sulat.
Na marahang tumawid ng mga hangganan
tulad ng mga ulad.
Walang tumatangay sa atin,
pero habang naglalakbay
hatid natin ang ulan,
at ang punto,
at ang ala-ala
ng ibang pook
Anong kilig na lumitaw ako sa kanyang mata.
Hindi niya maintindihan ang kanyang sinasabi:
abala siyang nginunguya ang kanyang boses.
Tiningnan niya ang bibig na hindi niya mahahalikan,
at ang balikan na hindi niya maiiyakan,
at ang kamay na hindi niya mahahawakan,
at sa lupa kung saan ang kanilang mga anino’y

Tablets – Poem by Dunya Mikhail

She pressed her ear against the shell:
she wanted to hear everything
he never told her.
A single inch
separates their two bodies
facing one another
in the picture:
a framed smile
buried beneath the rubble.
Whenever you throw stones
into the sea
it sends ripples through me.
My heart’s quite small:
that’s why it fills so quickly.
Water needs no wars
to mix with water
and fill up spaces.
The tree doesn’t ask why it’s not moving
to some other forest
nor any other pointless questions.
He watches tv
while she holds a novel.
On the novel’s cover
there’s a man watching tv
and a woman holding a novel.
On the first morning
of the new year
all of us will look up
at the same sun.
She raised his head to her chest.
He did not respond:
he was dead.
The person who gazed at me for so long,
and whose gaze I returned for just as long . . .
That man who never once embraced me,
and whom I never once embraced  . . .
The rain wrecked the colors around him
on that old canvas.
He was not with the husbands
who were lost and then found;
he did not come with the prisoners of war,
nor with the kite that took her,
in her dream,
to some other place,
while she stood before the camera
to have her smile
glued into the passport.
Dates piled high
beside the road:
your way
of  kissing me.
Rapunzel’s hair
reaching down
from the window
to the earth
is how we wait.
The shadows
the prisoners left
on the wall
surrounded the jailer
and cast light
on his loneliness.
Homeland, I am not your mother,
so why do you weep in my lap like this
every time
something hurts you?
Never mind this bird:
it comes every day
and stops at the branch’s edge
to sing for an hour
or two.
That’s all it does:
nothing makes it happier.
House keys,
identity cards,
faded pictures among the bones . . .
All of these are scattered
in a single mass grave.
The Arabic language
loves long sentences
and long wars.
It loves never-ending songs
and late nights
and weeping over ruins.
It loves working
for a long life
and a long death.
Far away from home —
that’s all that changed in us.
Cinderella left her slipper in Iraq
along with the smell of cardamom
wafting from the teapot,
and that huge flower,
its mouth gaping like death.
Instant messages
ignite revolutions.
They spark new lives
waiting for a country to download,
a land that’s little more
than a handful of dust
when faced with these words:
“There are no results that match your search.”
The dog’s excitement
as she brings the stick to her owner
is the moment of opening the letter.
We cross borders lightly
like clouds.
Nothing carries us,
but as we move on
we carry rain,
and an accent,
and a memory
of another place.
How thrilling to appear in his eyes.
She can’t understand what he’s saying:
she’s too busy chewing his voice.
She looks at the mouth she’ll never kiss,
at the shoulder she’ll never cry on,
at the hand she’ll never hold,
and at the ground where their shadows meet.

Vikram Seth “Two Lives” A Portrait of Love”

6014463In 1969, Vikram Seth moved from India to London to study. He finds accommodation with his uncle Shanti and his German wife Henny, a Jewish woman. Both got to know each other during Shanti’s studies in Berlin in the 1930s. The relationship of his Uncle and Aunt, which was at first rather distant, gradually deviates into an intimate connection.

When Henny dies in the 80s, Vikram Seth stays with Shanti and through this encounter he decides to write a moving account of the great lives of these two ordinary people in a biography.

His approach involved detailed interviews with his uncle, investigation of other witnesses and his review of the letters and personal documents. He describes the life of Shantis and his family in India and how he ended up in London. He shows the difficulties the Jewish woman Henny dealt with under to Nazi Germany. She managed to flee to the United Kingdom six weeks before the start of the war.

Closely connected with the life of Shanti and Henny, the author skillfully digests and narrates the historical facts. Thus the biography created an impressive 20th-century landscape. Seth, however, did not confine himself to the listing of historical events alone, he analyzed and drew extremely interesting conclusions that enriched his book. The basis for this can only be drawn from an extremely meticulous research.

It was not always easy to find a way out in the wide circle of friends of Shanti and Henny, or to look into Indian family conditions immediately, because I sometimes saw the thread blur in the detailed stories of Vikram Seth.

With this biography he places the two on a pedestal. I was very impressed by this book, I have access to the lives of two completely strange people. While reading them, they became as familiar as friends. “Two Lives” is the most impressive biography I have read so far, perhaps because the life of famous artists or politicians was not described, but the focus was on “normal” fellow human beings.

I found the only copy of this book at Popular Bookstore along Tomas Morato and have read this book time and again. The author’s view of Germany’s role in the course of the last century is always worth revisiting. His thoughts continue to pull me into contemplation about the kind of world we live in today. Vikram Seth has written a heartrending true story of a friendship, a marriage, and a century. Weaving together the strands of two extraordinary lives,– Two Lives is both a history of a violent era seen through the eyes of two survivors and an intimate, unforgettable portrait of a complex, enduring love.

Two Lives, by Vikram Seth, Harper-Perennial 975 Php (Popular Bookstore), 544 pages

Realistic poetry against reality

Inspired by William Carlos Williams, Jim Jarmusch looks for the poetic in everyday life in Paterson

The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.

Adam Driver plays an unpublished bus driver and poet in “Paterson”

There are those who have seen in “Paterson” (2016, Jim Jarmusch) a wonderful fable about “everyday poetry” and who have been disappointed by the poor quality of the poems written by their protagonist (Adam Driver). Let us now say that each and every one is right even if everyone falls short. The first ones demonstrate to have understood the context where the film is developed but they resort to the most repeated cliché in the social networks or the press to define it, and the second ones – because they do not read enough – bring up the western canon but ignore that Poetry is above anything an attitude before language (and by extension before reality), not so much a question of good or bad, better or worse. If we forget that poetry (written or visual) emanates from our most mundane essence, let’s get ready; And if we turn poetry exclusively into an Olympic Games with gold, silver and bronze medals, we will also be ready.

So let’s work a bit so we do not stereotype the exceptional. Let poetry remain a triumph and a failure at the same time, the triumph of language when we use it to overcome reality and its failure when we realize that the mental music that generates it never unfolds completely in the writing of a poem.

Images and verses

Paterson does things of poetry: he establishes rhymes between repeated images (establishing a parallelism between everyday and rhythm, without sometimes realizing the importance of these reiterations, as if we do not hear his music), and produces Images between the images (in a way similar to certain verses, capable of introducing the reader into the composition, culminating it with the words that are missing, suggested through multiple rhetorical figures with which language is generated without having to write it).

In addition, the film dwells on some of the principles on which poetry is based: the contemplation of movement in nature (through water falling through a waterfall) and the fusion of words and images (implying that poetry Does not translate other languages, but merges with them, something that is often given in Asian art and which Jarmusch explores by turning some of Paterson’s plans into canvases on which he writes the verses that his protagonist composes.

“Paterson” owes much to Jarmusch’s early dedication to poetry, after studying it at university. In an exercise of multiplication, “Paterson” in the film is the name of the protagonist and the name of the city in the state of New Jersey where he has Place history; And is also the name of a poetic cycle composed by William Carlos Williams, who lived there many years. Circles expanding in space and time, establishing a sort of overlapping despite the caesuras. And the poetry arises between the images, without the images themselves abandon their narrative side, while they follow a bus driver who in his spare time writes poems without any eagerness to publish them someday although his wife (Golshifteh Farahani) insists on doing it .
In this way, the poetic does not arise from the encounter with the extraordinary but rather from the attitude of surprise before the ordinary: a girl who reads some verses composed by her (written in reality by Jarmusch), a man who raps (the singer Method Man reciting one of his compositions) inside a laundry room, or a Japanese tourist (Masatoshi Nagase) -added to the poetry- that visits the city of Paterson only because that was where William Carlos Williams lived, one of the first poets who Made a literary use of the colloquial speech and freed the Anglo-Saxon lyrical of its pleitesias towards the metric and even the rhyme.

Jim Jarmusch thought of using four poems by Ron Padgett throughout the film, naming him “poetic supervisor” but without asking him to compose original poems, because writing poetry by commission – and under the pressure of time – must be one of the things More difficult and ungrateful. However, the openness of the script and the receptivity of the team to the unpredictable facilitated that Padgett was able to compose the seven poems finally used, thanks to the interconnection that he felt with the dialogues first and later with the images that he was seeing to measure That advanced the taxiing. I suppose in the background «

Paterson “is the sum of Jarmusch’s early dedication to poetry after studying at Columbia University (New York), and Padgett’s work (which in the 1960s, the year after the death of William Carlos Williams, went to the city where the latter worked as a doctor and in his spare time composed a long epic poem about their buildings, parks, streets and citizens). I do not know who said that poetry was something like the opposite Of the money, the important thing is that for me he is right and I think he also has it for Jim Jarmusch, who in Paterson deploys a subtle fabric of references to money, job insecurity and trouble to afford the least luxury if you are A worker in the United States today, with the possibility of isolating you from the world when you can not even realize small dreams (like painting your house of another color, baking muffins to sell in the local market or learn Give up playing the guitar) and give up poetry, which can discover the rhythm of your life and the rhyme of seemingly repeated days, in addition to connecting with those who have similar experiences and do not know how to express them. In American society (according to David Foster Wallace, full of impossible expectations, ruthless judgments and endless psychic shit), Paterson’s protagonist tells us – with verses by Chantal Maillard – that: “I write / so that poisoned water / Can drink.”