Dec 212009

Are we answerable? Angelina asks.


Who is Angelina*? She used those actual words in her question. We hadn’t heard of her before, and now it seems almost too late, but even if we had known her sooner, would it have made a difference? Would it have effected (be effecting now) our departure?


* age 13, and who had written a message asking the world for an answer, and came, she said, from a provincial city in Mexico about two hour’s drive from the capital. Apparently. Or was it another money-begging hoax from Russia, but then I thought how else does an Angelina, a little angel, send messages these days, and Mexico might explain the other Spanish phrases creeping into these texts, busca sangre (sudden blood), and all the rest.


And her question, are we answerable.


About the Extinction Plan -


Being the coincidence of her message, and that of the Sudanese chairman of the G-77 (group of 130 ‘Poorer Nations’) last weekend at the end of the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen…

‘The plan asks Africa to sign a suicide, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries,’ said Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-ping. ‘It is a solution based on values, the very same values in our opinion that funnelled six million people into furnaces.’


…And our departure into violence – busca sangre – and silence. Sudden blood, long regrets.

- And Answerability


Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-ping’s message was broadcast only once on the BBC, about 8.15am on Saturday December 19th. Since then it appears to have been airbrushed out of existence, unlike the words of the President of the United States of America.


It is not fiction, the President said at the start of his reported speech before leaving Copenhagen, It is science.


More value judgements concerning our departure: a disgusting comparison according to Ed Milliband, Britain’s climate minister. Different words might have been grotesque, abject, alternate monologism or perhaps carnivalesque ambivalence.


Is there a value to answerability? Is Angelina answerable? Are we?

Sudden Blood

 Posted by at 8:32 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Dec 172009

Departing from the platform, watching from the relative safety of the platform with its superior view, listening to the words as though they are harmless, but then something jars, something or other causes a change, an opening, a movement, a drop off the platform, finding I'm in the mud, gelatinous and grasping. Why is she using those words? Don't use those words, you're changing the world and I don't want you to do that and surely that's not right, you shouldn't do that. What about bony fists and muscles and blood. And then you'll be sorry and I don't know what I'm doing because the words have fled my throat, only a gasping for oxygen rich air to give more fuel more fuel to muscles. You'll be sorry. You're way out of order. Don't make me do this.


Too late, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, why did you . . .


The departure into violence . . . was Tony Blair sleep walking, locked into hastily made agreements with a gung-ho a US administration (Cheney?). We don't need to think about this. Locked into fantasies of assertion, of showing them (we'll show 'em) what's what, who's in charge, I'll give you a clip round the ear . . .


How many dead? Is it hundreds of thousands? Is anybody counting? Can anybody know? Who got shown what? What's the lesson to be learnt?


Sudden blood, long regrets.


We'll make the world a better, safer place?

El Puñal [1.]

 Posted by at 6:49 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Dec 142009

Slit us up, like books, into two halves.


You ought to know it was a pointed steel instrument which did the cutting in half at the dead of night, not a doctor’s scalpel at all. Do you know that poem by Borges, which begins: En un cajón hay un puñal (a dagger rests in a drawer)?


Es más que una estructura hecha de metalles… the poem continues further on, like Posada’s stylus for his woodcuts – el metal que presiente en cada contacto al homicida para quien lo crearon los hombres.


Only, you don’t need a translation to know how, in the hand, the sharp instrument comes to life, or what the rest of its history has been – quiere matar, quiere derramar brusca sangre – alive…


… So that afterwards we hop, one eyed, one legged and all the rest, and pose in front of mirrors to wonder which is our better half, and which our worse.

Brusca Sangre [2.]

 Posted by at 6:43 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Dec 142009

POSADA Don Quijote 
José-Guadalupe Posada, 1852-1913. Engraving, relief printed, and letterpress, composition: 22 1/16 x 13 7/16" (56 x 34.2 cm); sheet: 23 9/16 x 16" (59.8 x 40.7 cm). Publisher and printer: Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, Mexico City. Edition: Unlimited (not signed).

Esta es de Don Quijote la primera, la sin par le gigante calavera (This Is about Don Quixote the First, the Unequalled Giant Skull) – begins another of Posada’s famous engravings …scattering all before him…


…And every now and then, catching one or other calavera full in the mouth with his metal tipped lance, so that, for an instant – brusca sangre (sudden blood) - it is as if the skull is announcing himself or herself through the steel, and able thereby to give voice to the whole unfolding tableau.

Beckett, Bakhtin, Balaño . . .

 Posted by at 12:57 pm  IN Conversation  Comments Off
Dec 102009

Having just finished 2666 – jaw dropped, stunned, amazed – how did he do that? is it all done with mirrors? – I am obliged to question your surgical violence (Being Cut in Half). Do the nearly 900 pages amount to a big book? Yes, I guess . . . but, of course, it's not about the number of pages, rather, like Dr Who's Tardis, it's about what's inside. And in this case, all of us poor, lost humanity streams through those pages.


You use the word pornography, but that's not the right word. There's tremendous fluidity and a graphic force (a comic book!!?) but without the limitation of a specific image. A world broken by our violence, by our loss, mediated through a vast range of characters, and the nature and practice of writing; a world that is opened through the work of literary criticism, looked at, examined through the lenses of Europe and Mexico. Opens up the proverbial can of worms: violence, male violence to women, sexuality, war and our heroic attempts to make a life, to make it real, to make something of ourselves, to make understanding. The dynamic of borders and depth: deep inside Mexico, yet right by the US border; the trampling of borders as the Wehrmacht marches east and west, expanding and then contracting in retreat and defeat. There's the mysterious writer von Archimboldi – lost, invisible, a giant striding the world, dragged from the sea into terror and violence.


And talking of giants, who is this gaunt, paunchy figure striding, no, more of a stumbling, dragging his skinny nag behind him? Could it be Don Quixote? No, I do believe it's Squire Maxie up to his tricks. It seems we have an arrangement to meet in the tiltyard . . . I shall have to knock my armour into shape, look for a few weapons, or perhaps I can hurl some bricks from behind this wall.

Being Cut in Half

 Posted by at 12:54 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Dec 072009

… Or le dialogue in the original 1957 version.


I deeply don’t know if Beckett could have had access to those four essays by Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, which form the collection of his work now given the title The Dialogic Imagination (…tr. Caryl Emerson, Michael Holquist, (1981) University of Texas Press), or what connection, if any, le dialogue has to Bakhtin’s discussion of ‘double-voicedness’ , mnogoyazychie (‘polyglossia’), or raznorechia (‘heteroglossia’), and the more recent phenomenon known as the “Bakhtin Industry”…


… But with as much of the call of the Franco-Americano (Latino) as the Anglophone versions in translation, and a very big book by Roberto Bolano, which we kept mistakenly talking about as 2066 (2666), at night time I took my knife and sliced through the cover (at page 444), the last big book I did this to being Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (at page 426), East and West…


… The two halves fell apart, exposing a world inhabited by drug addicts, pornographic incidents of casual sex, criminal activity by the worst kind of liars and thugs, and the many voices of the poor.

In other words, it was not a conversation in the ordinary sense of the word.

Mirroring the Real

 Posted by at 10:46 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Dec 072009

Alfredo Zalce- Posada and calveras[Lowry1] 
  Alfredo Zalco, José Guadalupe Posada and Calaveras. 1948, Woodcut 

Not a conversation in the ordinary sense of the word, but mirroring the real (the exhibition, Revolution on Paper, Mexican Prints 1910-1960 continues in Room 94 of the British Museum into 2010), a transparency that is not the real thing, for instance, look how Posada is holding his engraving tool in his left hand, reflecting the orginal 'right handed' cutting of the lithograph woodcut by the artist.

Or listen to Malcolm Lowry's six lines of dialogue in his novel Under the Volcano ([1947] Penguin Classics; 300), which have been fitted into the empty space at the top right of the lithograph woodcut image, and reflect upon who is speaking, how many voices real / imagined, including our own.