Inhabitation: Roland Barthes: “they are quotations without inverted commas” — Joel Katelnikoff

The dream: to know an alien language and yet to not understand it. I can neither read nor write what you produce, but I receive it, like a fire, a drug, an enigmatic disorganization. I hallucinate what I desire. You cannot speak “on” such a text, you can only speak “in” it, in its fashion, enter into a desperate plagiarism.

In a word, haven’t you ever happened to read while looking up from your book? Each poetic word is thus an unexpected object, a Pandora’s box from which fly out all the personalities of language.

The tutor text will ceaselessly be everything on the spot, freewheeling in language whose origin is lost. A total collapse into something unexpected.

Literature itself is in no way an instrument for communication. Communication demands a pure authority of the signified. Each sign appears to be generating language. Language self-evidently functions like a reality. Reality, however, is a sentimental throwback, a broken, poetic language, a humiliated repetition, an avant-garde corpse.

Reality is superfluous yet essential; that is its fatality.

 

“a man who is down is exaggeratedly so”

Major events in his life: a beginning of reading; language; ideological schema; a blurring of autumns. It enthrals him that the text is not a line of words releasing a cold and euphemistic charm. This man, who produced an encyclopaedia including the forces of its own destruction, struggles in a kind of lunatic sport, exhausted.

We can imagine a madman of writing. But can we understand why he suffers all the time and in all situations? Can we imagine a madman text? He believed himself threatened by every enormous network which would be the structure of his whole life. This absolutely plural text was possessed, pulled, dragged along, forced to the logical conclusion. An intelligible cause would not be understood.

 

“I shall get up early and work while it is still dark outside, like a monk”

He writes constantly. A rhythm is experienced, both as dream and as menace.

This is how I have my best ideas, how I smoke the day’s first cigar. I make myself some black coffee, invent what is necessary to my work:

Begin by setting out boxes; give the text a corruptible and mortal substance; produce an encyclopaedia of inverted commas; liberate what might be called a self-devouring momentum; extend as far as the eye can reach.

But the straight path actually marks out the perpetually suspended disorder. The work closes in on him. He is launched toward a single theological meaning, yet this frenzied labour is a mixture of vertigo and nausea. He becomes clouded.

Which leads him to collapse into an intellectual or emotional density which is nothing but smoking and drinking. Which leads him to forsake his work and become disentangled.

 

“beauty (unlike ugliness) cannot really be explained”

Writers are on holiday but suffer from it. One can bet on an exaggerated sagging of consciousness in a railroad station. On the train, skilful practitioners fill with absence. The movement of travel is merely a multi-dimensional pattern of ordinary language.

The holiday in question: only an extension of the word.

On the train, landscape is slowly, arduously, cut up into a series of fragments, a devouring process which swallows the vacation. The landscape presses in, toward a meaning that is ever-deferred. No occasion to mention the weather.

During the holiday in question, icy indifference keeps the vacationer from enjoying the garden. During the holiday in question, writers walk along the back of the garden to see how many nectarines have underlying significance. Writers walk along the streets of glass. Writers take a seat alone at a café. Writers gain access to it by several entrances.

 

“the other is in a state of perpetual departure”

Sometimes I have a craving to be essentially someone unstable: to be separated from the one I love, and to think of someone manhandling the text, interrupting it. This is how I have my best ideas, how my secrets are parasitical upon the most arbitrary powers.

The desolation of the morning. I take a seat alone at a café. Waiting for a rendezvous, smooth and enclosed like a beautiful story constructed before the eyes. The notion of suicide occurs to me. I nap from one-thirty to two-thirty.

I seek at all costs to give you poetry. I want to be generating language with infinite freedom and with emphasis and conviction. Poetry can never be untrue. But the true, the probable, or even the possible makes poetic speech terrible. Poetry is victims being whipped.

The most repugnant bastard came back to the hotel alone. The reader of the text came back to the hotel alone. The notion of suicide occurs to me. I go to bed at ten and read. My whole life has several meanings, but in fact we live only discontinuously.

 

“I hallucinate what I desire”

The reader of the text may be compared with the one I love; someone unstable, who transgresses the formal continuity of attitudes. I seek to naturalize the subsequent paradoxical behaviour, each time in a perpetually suspended state.

It is each moment which is decisive, not the human body. Meaning is not ‘at the end’ of the flesh. Nakedness is marked like a muck of language: anonymous, untraceable, and yet prepared to radiate. It is full of lights, filled with absences, like the total existence of writing, like the enveloping desolation of the morning.

What is evident is violent. The whole of speech is epitomized in a flow of empty signs. I improvise a triumphant, heroic, muscular, dissection as if I were romantically scattering my ultimate structure; this cutting up, admittedly, will be whom you have vanquished.

 

“to reverse it, to blacken it, to read it inside out”

A flood of wounding arguments descends upon me. I scrape, catch, and drag my opponents in combat. It goes on, if not forever, at least for a long time. The decisive blow triumphs with a ceaselessly unforeseen originality, as the exhausted being is about to die. A vivid reality has just appeared.

A faint black intoxication, a fight, itself a plurality of other texts, of codes. A multi-dimensional figure which drives human misery back into a moving crest of words, about a hundred times accordingly. There emanates the edge of violence.

I seek at all costs to give you the conditions of suffering. Hence stylistic overtones jump on you, each one in his turn. I seek at all costs to give you one last freedom: dignity and horror. A fever of language overcomes me; good itself is evil to me; the poet is swallowing and regurgitating my wound.

 

“no vital respect is due to the text: it can be broken”

Speech is found only when running out of the hasty grave. We shall therefore enter into a self-devouring momentum, the corruption of bodies that ruins the ideological habits of our society. The most impenetrable readers enter into a desperate plagiarism, or else prod the fine relations of the writer, reader, and observer into separate pieces.

Natural fissures in the substance will emerge from it. In modern poetry, nothing is more lacerating than a plurality of neutral, anatomic texts. The abrasions which I impose upon the surface may be compared to a slaughtered, embalmed, varnished body. Drive in a nail and see if it penetrates the emotional density which is nothing but smoking and drinking.

A nail has a meaning only at the moment I do not know how to reverse it. Each poetic word is thus an unexpected vulnerability, a mythical combat, my rival perforating a vanquished body of discourse.

You hammer a nail into a piece of wood, into a body which signifies nothing. This would transgress the unwritten rules. Language is an avant-garde corpus, a corruption of bodies torn between two languages. The avant-garde corpse enters into his own death.

 

“everything has a meaning, or nothing has”

The world is an object in disguise. Of all objects in the world, why choose a ruined street in a bombed-out apartment? The whole world as text liberates what might be called a self-devouring momentum which keeps it truly revolutionary. The world is fact.

The work closes in on fragments of the world. I want to be able to hurl myself upon them. Nature becomes a fragmented space. Nature seems to move away in a mist.

I hallucinate what I desire: to write the external, mythical narrative. Writing is a hardened language which yellows, fades, and will someday be thrown out. It follows that only writing can disappear at will. There is no longer any place for me anywhere; the tutor signifier will be cut up in bundles of sentences without renouncing the form.

Each person seems at once exhausted by a broken, poetic language. In fact we live only discontinuously, always in a galaxy of signifiers. I look for signs, but of what? First of all, the noise of time, the wind and sun drawn from the night, the other’s body, the unruly pattern of veins, a mark made by an instrument, the streets of glass, the ripe fruit of meaning, the gaze of amorphous baseness, hard and shiny material, a site of bliss, a corporeal gesture, a network with a thousand entrances, blemishes and excesses, a tooth broken slightly aslant, the personalities of language, neither fluid nor formed. Structurally, there is no obligation for it to stop.


Joel Katelnikoff is an instructor at the Global Center for Advanced Studies and the University of Alberta. Inhabitations: A Recombinant Theory Project uses techniques associated with plagiarism and copyright violation to produce a collaborative model of scholarship. This essay on Roland Barthes refuses “to furnish [his writing] with a final signified,” but instead submits it to “an explosion, a dissemination” of signification, via techniques of cut-up / remix / montage, allowing the essay to: 1) extend Barthes’ concepts; 2) speak through Barthes’ own language and syntax; and 3) produce a metanarrative of reading, writing, and recombination. Inhabitations is an ongoing project. Excerpts from the project’s daily output are tweeted at @inhabitations.

Image: Borderline Biennial 10 octobre 2009 – P1010782, Thierry Ehrmann, Creative Commons