Monday, September 19, 2011

Prostrate Before Saint Genet

I spent the day focused on work and research, and yet this day has felt like debauched decadence: I began this morning reading a chapter in the Irigaray text, and then I spent the rest of day reading various essays by Jean Genet from the collection Fragments of the Artwork, a text that for some reason has become even more difficult to access since I began looking for it a few weeks ago. It is no longer listed on the web site for the publisher or at Yet I know it exists: I have a copy of it on my desk; although I did have to order it through interlibrary loan.

Here are some highlights of what I read:

§ 11 Interview with Hubert Fichte
[In criticism of Brechtian distantiation, which Genet sees as the gesture of a bourgeois capitalist.] If I smoke a cigar as a cigar smoker, if I can be defined as a cigar smoker, if I listen to Mozart's Requiem and this gesture of smoking a cigar takes precedence over that of listening to the Requiem, then it's not simply a question of distancing, but of a lack of sensibility. It's a question of lacking an ear, which means I would prefer my cigarillo to the Requiem. [Instead, in contemplation of the artwork:] I lose more and more the sense of being "myself," the sense of the "I," and become nothing but the perception of the artwork. Confronted with subversive events, my "ego" or my "self," my "social self," is on the contrary more and more filled, it is more and more inflated, and I am less and less capable, when confronted with subversive phenomena, I am less and less free for ... precisely for that sort of contemplation. [When the interviewer Hubert Fichte asks, "Contemplation absorbs your "self" to the point of destruction?" Genet responds:] Not to the point of destruction, not to the point of losing the "self" completely, because a certain moment, you notice that your leg is asleep, you come back to "yourself," but you tend toward a loss of "self" (118-9).

[T]he flag, as a sign of recognition, as an emblem around which a group is formed, has become a castrating and deadly piece of theatricality... (127).

[On his aversion to revolution.] The current situation, the current regime allows me to revolt, but a revolution would probably not allow me to revolt, that is, to revolt individually. But this regime allows me to revolt individually. I can be against it. But if there were a real revolution, I might not be able to be against it. There would be adherence, and I am not that kind of man; I am not a man of adherence, but a man of revolt. My point of view is very egotistic. I would like for the world--now pay close attention to the way I say this--I would like for the world not to change so that I can be against the world (129).

[On death sentences and something more progressive, of reducing the sovereignty of Louis XVI to nothing by, instead of beheading him, transforming him into a locksmith.] It's as beautiful because it means not exalting death, in the case of Louis XVI, but rendering derisory the idea of one man's sovereignty over others (132).

[On truth of dialog, on truth of confession.] JG: I can't say anything to anybody. To others, I can't say anything but lies. If I'm alone, I speak a bit of the truth, perhaps. If I'm with someone else, I lie. I'm somewhere else, off to the side. HF: But lies have a double truth. JG: Yes! Try to discover the truth they contain. Try to discover what I wanted to hide by saying certain things to you (151).
§ 12 Chartres Cathedral, A "Bird's-Eye" View
A country is not a fatherland [patrie] (153).

The fatherland is not a nation (155).
§ 13 "The Brothers Karamazov"
It seems to me, after this reading, that every novel or poem or painting or piece of music is an imposture if it does not destroy itself, I mean does not construct itself as a carnival duck shoot, where it is one of the heads we aim at (162).
All this--and The Thief's Journal as well as Querelle of Brest--in an effort to finally pick up (later this year perhaps) Jacques Derrida's Glas, to be able to read (only) one column--the right one--of Derrida's text. Thankfully, I still find pre-reading exhilarating.