We all work to one effect, some willingly, and with a rational
apprehension of what we do: others without any such knowledge.
As I think Heraclitus in a place speaketh of them that sleep,
that even they do work in their kind, and do confer to the general
operations of the world. One man therefore doth co-operate after
one sort, and another after another sort; but even he that doth murmur,
and to his power doth resist and hinder; even he as much as any
doth co-operate. – Marcus Aurelius
LI was going to directly plow into our Barthes quote – in the post before the last post – to suss out this “immanence” and the strangely intimate world of the news as it is sliced, diced, produced, and repeated on the tv news broadcast that forms the basis for your average American householder’s feel for the world outside of the perimeter. And also the world at the urban center, the fear of the black planet world. Our idea is that the ‘idiocy’ at play in the defense of the Iraq war as something that could best be described in terms of American crime – and not any old American crime, but the crime associated with black metropoles – is a kiss away from the forms and figures of the newscast, from the mentality shaped by those news casts.
But then we said to ourselves: what’s with the fuckin’ directness, LI? Don’t you always say, by indirection I will find direction out? Or something like that, you mumbly old prick? LI likes to diversify meetings of the editorial board with a little insult, to break up the monotony of there being only one editor. I’m cracking myself up here, folks. I’ll be in Omaha on the 5th, and then a two week engagement at the Bismark, North Dakota Holiday Inn with the Dakota Polka Nation. …
Instead, I’m going to cut from Barthes to Mallarme. There’s a cut for ya. Mallarme was fascinated by the fait divers, which was blooming in the late and degenerate last decade of the farce Napoleon. The ‘interrupted side show’, as I am going to translate the following piece of prose, figures in his final collection, Divagations, subsumed under the title of Grands faits divers. Translating Mallarme is a classic mug’s game. It can’t be done, it destroys the destruction wrought on the French language in the French – for like any good modernist prose, Mallarme’s works by wrecking. How, for instance, to reproduce Mallarme’ habitual inversion of the order of anaphora, so that the “this” referred to comes after its anaphoric marking. Like I am supposed to know what this would sound like in English! I’m a babbler here meself. But I found this piece to have, a, on odd match with the line from Marcus Aurelius, and b., something to do with the notion of the brief, intense episode that catches fire with its own elements and burns itself out.
An interrupted side show act.
How far is civilization from procuring the joys attributable to that estate! One has to be astonished, for example, that there does not exist an association between dreamers sojourning in every great city to support a newspaper which would take note of events in the proper light of the dream. Reality is an artifice, made for sticking the middle intellect between the mirages of a fact; but it reposes for that very reason on some universal entente: let’s see if it is not, in the ideal, a necessary aspect, evident, simple, which serves the type. I wish, for myself alone, to write as it struck my poet’s gaze, an anecdote in the state it was in before reporters divulged it to the crowds prepared to assign to each thing its common character.
The little theater of PRODIGALITES adds to the exhibition of a living cousin of Atta Troll or of Martin its classic fairy pantomime the Beast and the Genie; I have, in order to recognize the invitation of a double ticket some ending up yesterday at my place, posed my hat in the vacant auditorium in the seat next to me, an absence of friends testifying to the general taste for avoiding this naïve spectacle. What happens before my eyes? Nothing, save that: from amidst the evasive palenesses of muslin finding shelter on twenty pedestals in architecture imitative of Baghdad there jumps out a smile and open arms to the sad weight of a bear: while the hero, a clown, evoker of these sylphids and their guardian, in his high silver nudity, rallied the animal with our superiority. What a break, to enjoy like the crowd the myth, all banality added, and without anyone sitting nearby to whom to pour out these reflections; to see the ordinary and splendid eve of the act discovered on the ramp by my research saturated with fantasies or symbols. A stranger to the many reminiscences of evenings like this, the brand newest of accidents! suscitated my attention: one of the numerous salves of applause distributed according to the enthusiasm for the illustration before us of the authentic privilege of man, having just, broken by what? ceased all at once, with a fixed fracas of glory at its peak, unable to expand itself. All ears, when what was needed was all eyes. At the puppet’s gesture, a bent palm in the air opening five fingers, I understood that he had brilliantly captured all sympathies by the air of trapping on the wing something, the figure (and that is all) of the facility which one is taken by an idea; and that moved by the light breeze caused by the gesture, the bear rhythmically and gently rose up, questioned that exploit, one claw posed on the ribbons of the human shoulder. No one breathed, so much did this situation pose some grave consequences for the honor of the race: what was going to happen? The other paw fell, supple, against an arm extended along the silver suit; and one sees, a couple united in some secret understanding, how an inferior man, beefy, good natured, standing on two hairy, slightly apart legs, squeezes to learn here the practices of genius, and his black muzzled cranium only gets halfway there, the butt of his brilliant and supernatural brother: but who, himself! lifting up, the mad mouth of a vagueness, a terrible head moving by a visible string a golden paper fly in the horror of true denials. An act of a clarity transcending the vast sawdust strewn stage, with this gift, proper to art, of lasting for a long time: in order to make it complete in its entirety I let tacitly stream out of the rejection from the Polar regions a forbidden discourse, without letting myself be put off by the probably fatal attitude taken by the mime, repository of our pride. “Be good enough (this was the sense) to not lack the charity to explain to me the virtue of this atmosphere of splendor, of dust and voices, where you have taught me to move. My request, my pressing request, is simply that you don’t seem, in an anguish that is not only faked, to be able to respond to it; o subtle older brother, throw yourself on the regions of wisdom, to me, still dressed for an informal stay in the caves where I replunge, in the night of humble epochs, my latent force, in order for me to free you. Let us authenticate, by this narrow hug, before the multitude sitting here to this end, the pact of our reconciliation.” The absence of any breath united to space, in what an absolute spot I lived through one of those dramas of astral history electing, in order to produce itself, this modest theater! the crowd was effaced, all, in the emblem of its spiritual situation magnifying the scene: modern dispenser of ecstasy, only, with the impartiality of an elementary thing, the gas, up in the ceiling of the auditorium, continuing a luminous expectant sound.
The charm was broken: this is when a piece of meat, nude, brutal, traversed my vision directed from the wings, in advance by some moments on the recompense, the mysteriousness of the ordinary after these scenes. A substitute rag bleeding by the bear who, instincts that were anterior to a higher curiosity with which the stage lights had endowed him now rediscovered, fell on his four paws and, as though the silence has carried one away, went to sniff it in the stuffed animal march of his kind, in order to sink his teeth into it, this prey. A sigh, almost exempt of deception, soothed incomprehensibly the assembly: of which the lorgnettes, by rows, searched, glinting with their refined lenses, the game of that splendid imbecile evaporated in his fear; but they see an abject meal preferred perhaps by the animal to the same thing that he had needed to do at first to our image, in order to taste it. The curtain, hesitating up to now in the worry of increasing the danger or the emotion, suddenly let fall its daily round of prices and common places. I got up like everybody else, in order to breath outside, astonished not to have felt, again, the same genre of impression as my fellows, but serene: for my way of seeing, after all, had been superior, and even true.”