Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Letter Against the Language

God has chosen precisely what does not exist in order to reduce to nothing what does exist – St Paul

The criminals of the Vision are a totally different matter – Pasolini

So I moved to a new country, a new city, and I have to admit I like it very much. The effect is not dissimilar to tearing your name off your face, to finally stumbling onto the secrets of archaic techniques of invisibility. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’ve been awake for several days. Invisibility being, in its simplest meaning, visibility amplified to the max. Anyway, when I first arrived I walked everywhere, at absolute random, sometimes with eyes closed, sometimes open. When you feel that alive, meaning not alive at all in any sense that you’ve become used to, meaning absolutely and utterly lost, well, the distinctions between dreams and sight, between whatever it is that waking and vision are supposed to be, become pretty much meaningless. For a long time I was simply scrambling around in the more popular parts of town. Not really sure, to be honest – I mean, they’re popular for a reason and its not necessarily one I’m particularly sympathetic with. So I started venturing further out to the strange external circles with the weird unpronounceable names – and by that I don’t mean unpronounceable simply to a person who doesn’t speak the language, but even to the people who live there. There are some strange red doors out there. Some pretty strange landscapes. For some reason I started thinking about Pasolini. To be specific, the scene at the end of Theorem, where the father – having given his factory away to the workforce, and then having tried and failed to pick up a boy at a railway station, takes off his clothes and wanders off into some strange volcanic or desert landscape and, as he enters that landscape, he screams. I was ranting on to a friend a few days ago that I take that scream to contain all that is meaningful in the word ‘communism’ – or rather, what it is that people like us mean when we use that word which is, as we both know all too well, somewhat different to whatever it is the dictionary of the visible world likes to pretend it means. You know what I’m saying. A kind of high metallic screech. Unpronounceable. Inaudible. I’m obsessed with Pasolini. I stuck a naked picture of him on my office wall earlier on today – it helps, it helps when I’m trying to think about that scream, about toxicity and audibility, about the weird silence I live inside right in the middle of the deafening din of this city I’ve convinced myself I might have come to love. Some academic once wrote of Pasolini that we “should turn down the volume on his political sermons and listen to what he whispered in his work”, which is obviously pretty stupid because the politics are precisely within those whispers or, rather, those barely audible screeches. I guess you must be familiar with his unfinished St Paul screenplay – the bit where he quotes Corinthians on “hearing inexpressible things, things we are not able to tell”. I got really obsessed with that for a while. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to disappear into some kind of cut-rate Cloud of Unknowing, or worse, some comfortably opaque experimental poetry. I mean, fuck that shit. In the last essay he wrote, Pasolini made it pretty damn clear what might be implied by “inexpressible things”, things “we are not able to tell”. It is names. “I know the names”, he wrote, in that essay published in 1974. The names of those who sit on the various committees. The “names of those responsible for the massacres”. The names of power. The forbidden syllables. The names of those whose names it is impossible to pronounce in certain combinations and continue simply to live. And obviously, this has very little to do with what certain idiots still call “magic”, which means it has everything to do with it. But anyway, I was thinking about all of this and all the while I kept walking further and further out of town, in wider and wider circles, until my own interior dialogue, if I can even be accused of having such a thing, seemed to come at me in a language I could no longer commit to, or comprehend, or even hear. Perhaps I could smell it. The limitations of the olfactory spectrum don’t get nearly enough attention in all the chatter we endure about the “theoretical senses”, logically deranged or not. But anyway. Things we are not able to tell. Inexpressible things. Accountability. Transparancy. Blah blah blah. Hölderlin called it the nefas. You know? Mystery cults and so forth. Revealing the secrets etc. The saliva of judges. Chewing on gristle and bone. And we could, if we wanted, I thought to myself, spinning round and round in 920 degree circles, we could translate that whole thing into geography, so those spittle-flecked unpronouncable syllables would become the sheer disks of unliveable landscape. The death-cell. The plague-pit. The city of the sun. Utopia. All of the dreams of all of those dry fuckers who neither believe nor remember their dreams. “For that is the tragic with us”, wrote Hölderlin, sometime before he wandered off into the mountains and had his head split apart by god knows what infernal statistic, “to go away into the kingdom of the living in total silence packed up in some kind of container, not to pay for the flames we have been unable to control by being consumed in fire”. Quite a metaphor, yeh? And one whose implications go further than anything Hölderlin would have been able to recognise. I mean, right now. “The kingdom of the living”. “Packed up in some kind of container”. “In total silence”. As the borders are going up. As the teeth are being sharpened. And as I walked I wondered whose “the kingdom of the living” was, and whose was that “total silence”, and if the inexpressible names that Pasolini had almost uttered were of that silence or not, and if those who had, or possessed those names, were of the living, or not. Because sometimes in Pasolini’s work, in the late work, it seems as if utopia itself is the necropole, a ring of slums, a circle around the city, a “force from the past”, tearing up the present, a fever-desert, coming from the future, at inexpressible distance, inconsolable. And that screaming factory owner, in the last scene of Theroem, was he screaming because he was entering the “kingdom of the living”, or because he was leaving it. I don’t know. It isn’t even a scream, not really. More a dead thing, a powder-rasp. And as I was thinking this I suddenly realised I was no longer walking, because there was nothing to walk on, or through, or anything. Vague impression of a ring of houses or bones. Vague sense I could enter into any one of them. That no-one would stop me. That I would be as invisible as any living person, as any corpse. That’s right. Rimbaud. Anyway. Like the bourgeois I am I went looking for a bus-stop. But I couldn’t find one, so like the person I used to be I lay down in the filth of the road and did my best to ignore whatever conformist signals the stars were trying to throw my way. As in, none whatsoever. Like a rough and aged bedlam sheet. The wage relation. The pennies on my eyes. And the sun coming up. Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe someone had smashed it. Like the blinded eyesight of the living has been smashed. Like the ‘total silence’ of Hölderlin, ecstatic and packed with noises, has been smashed. But whatever. It seemed I was sitting on a bench somewhere, with some old guy, sharing a beer with him, all thin and vacant bone, and the language we were using wasn’t English or German or whatever the fuck language a person is supposed to use in this the kingdom of the living or this the kingdom of the dead and, well, I was ranting on to him about Pasolini, about how in the last interview Pasolini gave, just hours before he died, he did admit to a belief in magic and how that magic was not simply in knowing how to pronounce the so-called unpronounceable names but, more to the point, in knowing how to translate those names into sheer anger, which means the knowledge of how to inhabit the word “no”, its landscape and its geography. Not of course the pinched “no” of border-guards and the rest. But “no” as in the opposite of the sun. And I don’t know if I was even using words at all, or just some kind of structure of barely audible screeches, but I was still going on about Pasolini, about his poem “Victory”, where he has the bodies of the Partisans crawling out from their graves and marching, with all the silence of that simple word “no”, into the cities below. Horrified by what they find there, by the residue of what they thought they died for, they turn around, clamber back into their holes in the earth. And though its a poem of great bitterness and defeat it still carries within it a sense of how to continue, of how not to capitulate, in the face of whatever it is that is breaking our names apart, our names, shattering them, until their meanings change into something terminal and alien, alien as the pitiful groan I mumbled as I stood up and staggered back to my temporary flat in one of the more fashionable areas of this hopelessly gentrified and haunted city. I did a shit-load of speed, stared into space for a while, then wrote you this. Hope you don’t mind that I haven’t been in touch for so long. We are not completely defenceless. We have not yet been consumed in fire.

No comments: