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Witnessing beyond

the Human
SERIES EDITORS

David E. Johnson (Comparative Literature, SUNY Buffalo)


Scott Michaelsen (English, Michigan State University)

SERIES ADVISORY BOARD

Nahum D. Chandler (African American Studies, University of California, Irvine)


Rebecca Comay (Philosophy and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto)
Marc Crépon (Philosophy, École Normale Supérieure, Paris)
Jonathan Culler (Comparative Literature, Cornell)
Johanna Drucker (Design Media Arts and Information Studies, UCLA)
Christopher Fynsk (Modern Thought, Aberdeen University)
Rodolphe Gasché (Comparative Literature, SUNY Buffalo)
Martin Hägglund (Comparative Literature, Yale)
Carol Jacobs (Comparative Literature & German, Yale University)
Peggy Kamuf (French and Comparative Literature, University of Southern California)
David Marriott (History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz)
Steven Miller (English, University at Buffalo)
Alberto Moreiras (Hispanic Studies, Texas A&M University)
Patrick O’Donnell (English, Michigan State University)
Pablo Oyarzún (Teoría del Arte, Universidad de Chile)
Scott Cutler Shershow (English, University of California, Davis)
Henry Sussman (German and Comparative Literature, Yale University)
Samuel Weber (Comparative Literature, Northwestern)
Ewa Ziarek (Comparative Literature, SUNY Buffalo)
Witnessing beyond
the Human
Addressing the Alterity of the Other
in Post-coup Chile and Argentina

Kate Jenckes
Published by State University of New York Press, Albany

© 2017 State University of New York

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever


without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval
system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, elec-
trostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise
without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NY


www.sunypress.edu

Production, Jenn Bennett


Marketing, Fran Keneston

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Jenckes, Kate- author.


Title: Witnessing beyond the human : addressing the alterity of the other in
post-coup Chile and Argentina / by Kate Jenckes.
Other titles: Alterity of the other in post-coup Chile and Argentina
Description: Albany, NY : State University of New York Press, 2017. | Series:
Suny series, literature . . . in theory | Includes bibliographical
references and index.
,GHQWLˋHUV/&&1 SULQW _/&&1 HERRN _,6%1
 KDUGFRYHUDONSDSHU _,6%1 HERRN
Subjects: LCSH: Spanish American literature--20th century--History and
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DUW_*HOPDQ-XDQ&ULWLFLVPDQGLQWHUSUHWDWLRQ_&KHMIHF
Sergio--Criticism and interpretation. | Bolaño, Roberto,
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and interpretation.
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Contents

List of Illustrations vii


Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi

Chapter 1 1
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism:
Apostrophe and Survival in Juan Gelman’s Poetry

Chapter 2 37
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities of
Community in Sergio Chejfec’s Los planetas and Boca de lobo

Chapter 3 63
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity:
Roberto Bolaño and the Alter-immunological
Potential of Literature

Chapter 4 105
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human:
Eugenio Dittborn’s Photocollages

Conclusion 157
Notes 161
Works Cited & Bibliography 201
Index 217

v
List of Illustrations

)LJXUH, (XJHQLR'LWWERUQPietá [LL


)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQThe 6th History of the Human  
Face (Black and Red Camino), Airmail Painting
No. 70
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQEl Cadáver, el Tesoro, Airmail  
Painting No. 90 'HWDLO 
)LJXUH &RYHUIURPWKH&DWDORJRIFinal de Pista 
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQPor última vez,  
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQVeaIURPWKH&DWDORJRI 
Final de Pista
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQ8QWH[WRSDUDˋQDOGHSLVWD 
from the Catalog of Final de Pista
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQLa sagrada familiaIURPWKH 
Catalog of Final de Pista 'HWDLO 
)LJXUH -RV«*XDGDOXSH3RVDGDEl ahorcado— 
Revolucionario ahorcado por los hacendados
The Hanged Man—Revolutionary Hanged by the
Landowners IURP3RUWIROLR36 Grabados:
José Guadalupe Posada
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQIf Left to Its Own Devices, 
Airmail Painting No. 75ȟ
)LJXUH (XJHQLR'LWWERUQThe 6th History of the  
Human Face (Black and Red Camino), Airmail
Painting No. 70 'HWDLO 
)LJXUH& (XJHQLR'LWWERUQThe Gloom in the Valley,  
Airmail Painting No. 74
)LJXUH& (XJHQLR'LWWERUQEl Crusoe, Airmail Painting  
No. 127 'HWDLO ȟ

vii
Acknowledgments

I began writing this book in the short interval between the death
of my brother and the birth of my children. My fascination with
the nature of survival, a sense of life that exceeds the distinction
EHWZHHQOLIHDQGGHDWKLQWHQVLˋHGGXULQJWKLVSHULRGDQGHQDEOHG
me to write this version of the project.
The book was conceived much earlier, while I lived in Chile and
traveled regularly to Argentina, and was impelled to consider the nature
of survival in relation to the ongoing effects of the various golpes
associated with the dictatorships. It was shaped by the exhilarating
intellectual environment I was exposed to while in Chile, and which
I have followed to the best of my ability through readings and an
occasional exchange.
I am deeply grateful to all those who inspired and supported the
project and my intellectual development more generally, including
friends, colleagues, and students from all of my numerous homes
over the past several decades, including my current department at
the University of Michigan, which is one of the most intelligent and
VXSSRUWLYHGHSDUWPHQWVLQP\ˋHOG,ZRXOGOLNHWRDFNQRZOHGJHWKH
following individuals in particular, although there are countless others
who contributed in their own ways. From Chile: Willy Thayer, Pablo
2\DU]¼Q1HOO\5LFKDUG)HGHULFR*DOHQGH(OL]DEHWK&ROOLQJZRRG6HOE\
Oscar Cabezas, Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott, and special appreciation
WR(XJHQLR'LWWERUQIRUWKHXVHRIKLVLPDJHVIURP0LFKLJDQ*DUHWK
Williams, Cristina Moreiras-Menor, Jaime Rodríguez-Matos, Irving
Leon, Ross Chambers, and—why not?—Sergio again, since I am so
happy he has joined our department. From various other places: Alberto
0RUHLUDV%UHWW/HYLQVRQ3DWULFN'RYHDQG(ULQ*UDII=LYLQ VSHFLDO

ix
x Acknowledgments

WKDQNVWRWKHVHODVWWZRIRUNHHSLQJPHLQWKHJDPHWKHLUIULHQGVKLS
and encouragement have played no small part in the completion of this
ERRN ,DPLPPHQVHO\DSSUHFLDWLYHRIWKHVXSSRUW,UHFHLYHGIURPWKH
editors at SUNY press, including David Johnson and Scott Michaelson,
Beth Bouloukos, Jenn Bennett, Fran Keneston, and all the others, whose
names I don’t know, who helped turn my words and ideas into a book.
My mom provided invaluable assistance at the very end. Finally, my
greatest gratitude goes to Thom, Claire, and Peter, for providing my life
with sparkle, warmth, and—crucial for the writing of this book—basic,
patient support.
Portions of Chapters 1 and 2 appeared in The New Centennial Review
and the Revista de estudios hispánicos. It is with their permission that
they are reprinted here.
6XSSRUWIURPWKH0LFKLJDQ+XPDQLWLHV$ZDUG  FRPELQHGZLWK
P\VDEEDWLFDOJDYHPHDSUHFLRXV\HDULQZKLFKWRˋQLVKWKHˋUVWGUDIW
of this book.
Introduction

$FROODJHIURPE\WKH&KLOHDQDUWLVW(XJHQLR'LWWERUQIHDWXUHVDQ
image of a black boxer knocked against the ropes and a man in white
leaning over him in a gesture of concern.1 Behind the boxer appear
WKHLQGLVWLQFWVKDSHVRI PRVWO\ZKLWH VSHFWDWRUVDQGWKHSLFWXUHLV
framed by the unmistakable curvature of an early television screen,
suggesting innumerable others. The piece is pointedly titled Pietá,
which refers to the iconic scene of Mary bent in grief over Jesus’s
GHDGDQGEDWWHUHGERG\EHIRUHKLVDVFHQVLRQDQGZKLFKˋQGVDYLVXDO
HFKRLQWKHZD\WKHˋJXUHVDUHSRVLWLRQHGLQWKHER[LQJULQJ$IDLQW
inscription written beneath the image reads, “Humanidad: del latín
humandoVHSXOWDUȥ,QWHQVLRQZLWKWKH%LEOLFDOVFHQHRIODPHQWDWLRQ
the image of the prostrate boxer seems to pose the question of how
the notion of humanity both resembles and differs from the Christian
VWUXFWXUHRIUHGHPSWLRQ'RWKHVHFXODUJD]HVRIWKHER[LQJRIˋFLDOV
and spectators seek to bury the fallen boxer, containing and covering
RYHUPRUWDOVXIIHULQJDQGˋQLWXGHȠHYRNLQJWKHGLVWDQWHW\PRORJLFDO
link between humus HDUWK  DQG humanus? Or do they constitute a
IRUPRIUHGHPSWLRQWKHLUFRPSDVVLRQ pietá DQWLFLSDWLQJRUUHSODFLQJ
the Biblical moment of divine ascension? Or perhaps these are two
versions of the same thing, human suffering serving as the ground
from which redemption—whether Judeo-Christian, secular humanist,
or as part of the culture of sport—springs. The piece can be seen as
posing the question of what it might mean to respond to the suffering
of another in the absence of a redemptive, prosopopoeic structure. In
other words, it can be considered to address the question of testimony
beyond the salvation or sepulture of the human.

xi
xii Introduction

Figure I.1: (XJHQLR'LWWERUQPietá3KRWRVLONVFUHHQDFU\OLFDQGEXUQW


OXEULFDQWRQQRQZRYHQIDEULF[LQ,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ

Dittborn’s piece addresses questions that have been at the forefront


of art, literature, and critical thought throughout the West for at least
the past half-century. This book explores some of the innovative and
probing ways such questions were addressed in Chilean and Argentine
FXOWXUDOSURGXFWLRQLQWKHZDNHRIWKHFRXSVGȢHWDWLQWKHVIRFXVLQJ
on the literary works of Juan Gelman, Sergio Chejfec, and Roberto
%ROD³RDVZHOODV'LWWERUQȢVYLVXDODUW6SDQQLQJIURPWKHVWRWKH
2000s, these texts do not exclusively concern the dictatorships or post-
dictatorship period, but can be seen as working after them in the sense
RIIROORZLQJRUVHHNLQJRXWLVVXHVLQWHQVLˋHGE\WKHHQGXULQJHIIHFWVRI
the dictatorships.2 These issues include questions of the nature of the
Introduction xiii

self, both individual and collective, the nature of relation, including the
work of mourning and witnessing, and the nature of history, including a
relation to the past as well as to the radically historical nature of present
life, which is inevitably exposed to that which comes and is always
coming, from both past and future. In different but complementary
ways, Gelman, Chejfec, Bolaño, and Dittborn radicalize the relation
WRWKHRWKHUEH\RQGWKHˋJXUHRIWKHKXPDQDQGDOOWKDWLWUHSUHVHQWV
rethinking the structures of self, other, humanity, community, and
history, and opening them to an otherness that exceeds certainty
and representation. Although their texts are not generally considered
testimonial in any conventional sense, I propose that they correspond to
-DFTXHV'HUULGDȢVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRIWHVWLPRQ\DVWKDWZKLFKWHVWLˋHVWR
a radical alterity—in the sense both of uncertain address and tentative
WHVWDPHQWRUDIˋUPDWLRQWKDWWKHRWKHUH[LVWVȠEH\RQGVWUXFWXUHVRI
knowledge and familiarity, including, most broadly, a sense that the
other is like me, human.

Q    Q    Q

7KHWHUPVȤKXPDQȥȤKXPDQLW\ȥDQGȤKXPDQLVPȥKDYHDOOPHDQW
significantly different things at different times, and to different
thinkers. Dittborn’s neologistic humando or humanar seems to indicate
a general sense of humanizing that is presumed by all three terms,
a sense of the human as ground for understanding ourselves and
RWKHUV7KLVLGHDRIWKHKXPDQUHˌHFWVDQDZDUHQHVVRIWKHFULWLTXHV
RIWKHKXPDQLVWOHJDF\E\(XURSHDQWKLQNHUVVXFKDV0LFKHO)RXFDXOW
and Jacques Derrida, among others, an awareness made explicit in
the philosophical writings of Dittborn’s compatriot and contem-
SRUDU\ 3DWULFLR 0DUFKDQW ZKR VWXGLHG ZLWK 'HUULGD LQ WKH V
and ’70s. ,QDQHVVD\IURP WZR\HDUVDIWHU'LWWERUQȢVPietá 
0DUFKDQWGHˋQHVKXPDQLVPDVDVWUXFWXUHRIWKRXJKWWKDW seeks to
provide a name, frame, meaning, place, and teleology for historical
existence, which adds up to the sense that humans are in control
RYHUUHSUHVHQWDWLRQDQGWUXWKZKLFKLVDOZD\VLQˋUVWSODFHWKHWUXWK
RIWKHPVHOYHVEHJLQQLQJZLWKWKHLURZQERGLHV Ȥ$PRUGHODIRWRȥ
ȟ 7KLVGHˋQLWLRQEULGJHVZKDW)RXFDXOWLGHQWLˋHVDVDFULWLFDO
tension between two elements of the legacy of humanism: namely,
WKH ZD\V LQ ZKLFK WKH (QOLJKWHQPHQW LGHDOV RI UDWLRQDO DXWRQRP\
and the process of critique are incompatible with the anthropological
universalisms of humanism, which formalized the concept of man as
xiv Introduction

both subject and object of the power/knowledge dyad, constituting


what he came to call biopower.7KHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKHˋQLWXGH
of human knowledge and anthropological universalism is described
E\'HUULGDLQȤ7KH(QGVRI0DQȥ  LQWHUPVRIDQHQGXULQJ+HJH-
OLDQLVPWKDWEHJLQVZLWKDȤVHQVXRXVFHUWLWXGHȥWKDWLVWKHQVXEODWHG
WUDQVFHQGHGDQGSUHVHUYHG LQWRDQWKURSRORJLFDONQRZOHGJHXQGHU-
VWRRGDVWKHȤLQˋQLWHUHODWLRQVKLSWRVHOIȥWKDWLVȤWKHˋQLWHDVWKH
VXUSDVVLQJRIWKHVHOIȥDQGȤWKHXQLW\RIWKHˋQLWHDQGWKHLQˋQLWHȥ
Ȥ7KH(QGVRI0DQȥ ,QRWKHUZRUGVWKHQRWLRQVRIWKHKXPDQ
humanity, and humanism—not only abstract universalism, but also
embodied and located forms of human knowledge, what Jacques
/H]UDFDOOVȤZHDNGRFWULQHVRIWKHȡHPERGLHGLGHDȢ RIWKHKXPDQ ȥ
Ȥ8QUHODWHG3DVVLRQVȥ ȠQDPHWKHKXPDQDVWKHJURXQGRUHQGRI
NQRZOHGJHLQERWKFDVHVSHUIRUPLQJDNLQGRIVHSXOWXUHRIˋQLWXGH
which is to say, foreclosing the possibility of being exposed to some-
thing not accounted for by pre-established structures of knowledge.
Such humanistic principles informed both extremes of the political
spectrum in Chile and Argentina during and after the dictatorships. The
nexus of knowledge and power was used in starkly repressive ways by the
military regimes to dominate society, including the torture and murder
of tens of thousands of citizens.6XFKUHSUHVVLRQZDVMXVWLˋHGDVDPHDQV
RISURWHFWLQJDVSHFLˋFVHQVHRIKXPDQLW\IURPWKHSXWDWLYHO\LQKXPDQ
threat of Communism. For instance, Augusto Pinochet described the
Chilean military coup d’etat—one of the hot fronts of the Cold War—as
DGHIHQVHRIȤKXPDQGLJQLW\ȥEDVHGRQDFRQFHSWRI0DQDVDȤUDWLRQDO
DQGIUHHEHLQJȥDQGLQRSSRVLWLRQWRȤWKH0DU[LVWFRQFHSWLRQRIPDQȥ
characterized by antagonism.
Much of the political opposition was based on humanist principles
as well, in spite of the markedly different objectives and methods.
One element of this was the discourse of human rights, based on a
universalist ideal of the human as free and autonomous that many
FDPHWRVHHDVDQH[WHQVLRQRIWKH$QJOR$PHULFDQȟOHGQHROLEHUDO
understanding of democracy that emerged after the fall of the Soviet
Union.7 Another important element, one that is both opposed to the
universalist dimension of human rights discourse and structurally
similar, is the strong sense of national popular identity and historical
subjectivity that served as the basis of traditional Leftist ideology.
Nelly Richard has observed how such a sense of identity persisted
among Chilean Leftists throughout and subsequent to the period of
Introduction xv

dictatorship, and with it an enduring commitment to its recuperation,


often in conjunction with the disciplines of the social sciences. 
The commitment to the restoration of a national popular identity
marginalized and repressed by hegemonic forces can be seen as
culminating in two related genres: on the one hand, the truth
commissions charged with documenting human rights abuses during
WKH GLFWDWRUVKLSV DQG P\ULDG IRUPV RI SHUVRQDO WHVWLPRQ\ ZKLFK
became prevalent during this time and constituted an individual,
ȤKXPDQȥVLGHRIKXPDQULJKWVGLVFRXUVH7KHVHJHQUHVSOD\HGȠDQG
indeed continue to play—an undeniably important role in raising
awareness of the effects of violence and social exclusion. Nevertheless
their generally uncritical reliance on conventional notions of
subjectivity, truth, and communication means that they remain
within the legacy of humanism, seeking to redeem and recuperate
loss while at the same time foreclosing any relationship to the
historical alterity of what was lost. This results in what Dittborn’s
piece provocatively calls a form of burial, which reaches an extreme
point when, as in the case of political disappearance, the other cannot
technically be buried.
A number of critics, including Richard, have stressed how alternative
approaches to life, history, representation, and community emerged
during this time, including alternate forms of testimony that privilege
discontinuity, encounter, and the unknown over historical and
subjective continuity, recuperation, and revelation. The present book
seeks to develop these ideas with a particular emphasis on aesthetic
SUDFWLFHVWKDWDGGUHVVDVHQVHRIWKHRWKHUEH\RQGWKHˋJXUHRIKXPDQ
subjectivity. My approach is deeply informed by Derrida’s commitment
to ȤUHWKLQNLQJWKHFRQFHSWRIPDQ>DQG@WKHˋJXUHRIKXPDQLW\LQ
JHQHUDOȥDQGWKHUHE\WKHYHU\QRWLRQRIOLIHZKLFKIRUKLPFRQVWLWXWHV
QRWKLQJOHVVWKDQȤWKHHQLJPDRIWKHSROLWLFDOȥ Ȥ7KH)XWXUHRIWKH
3URIHVVLRQȥRogues: Two Essays on Reason 

Q    Q    Q

Increasingly toward the end of his career Derrida described the relation
to the other in terms of two primary models of thinking about life, which
LQFOXGHVEXWLVQRWOLPLWHGWRWKHˋJXUHRIWKHKXPDQ10 On one extreme
is what he calls the immunological, which is structured defensively,
protecting itself against foreign antigens or anything perceived as
DWKUHDWWRLWVLQWHJULW\DQG KXPDQ VHOISUHVHQFHLQFOXGLQJ ERWK
xvi Introduction

external and internal elements such as other beings, time, death, the
unconscious, or our own animality. He describes how the biological
VHQVHRILPPXQLW\LQWHUVHFWVZLWKDȤXQLYHUVDOVWUXFWXUHRIUHOLJLRVLW\ȥ
that is fundamentally concerned with salvation and preservation—a
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.QRZOHGJHȥQ +HUHIHUVWR‹PLOH%HQYHQLVWHȢVFRQVLGHUDWLRQ
RIWKHHW\PRORJLFDOURRWVRIWKHWHUPȤUHOLJLRQȥDVQDPLQJDNLQGRI
relation: on the one hand, a bond or re-ligio, which Derrida associates
with the structure of immunity, implying at once an economic sense of
protection from debt to others and a biological protection from disease.
Such a relation of the same to itself pervades both religious and secular
contexts, and, indeed, the secular construct of humanism may serve as
LWVJUHDWHVWWHPSOH7KHˋJXUHRIWKHKXPDQIXQFWLRQVDVWKHFRPPRQ
denominator of the immunological: the human understood as anthropo-
theological, redeemed by virtue of a relationship and resemblance to
*RGWKDWWUDQVFHQGVPRUWDOOLPLWDWLRQVDQGE\WKHSUDFWLFHRIVDFULˋFH
a symbolic practice of dominating threats to immunological safety,
generally performed through acts of ingestion or internalization,
including forms of representation that bring their objects into the
economy of the same.11
On the other extreme is what Derrida describes as “the incalculability
RIZKDWLVOLYLQJLQOLIHȥEDVHGRQȤWKHLQWLPDWHUHODWLRQRIWKHOLYLQJ
SUHVHQWWRLWVRXWVLGHWKHRSHQLQJWRH[WHULRULW\LQJHQHUDOȥ Rogues 
He describes this sense of incalculable exteriority that is also interior
through what he names autoimmunity, which is basically another term
for différance, installed at the heart of the biological metaphor. For
this reason I propose to call it alter-immunity, to stress the sense of
differential excess that exceeds and disturbs the immunological, a
ȤGHVWUXFWXULQJVWUXFWXUDWLRQȥLQWULQVLFWRHYHU\VWUXFWXUHDȤSULQFLSOH
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RIWKHVHOIDQGWKHVWUXFWXUHRIVDFULˋFHLWVHOI Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOORUWKH
&DOFXODWLRQRIWKH6XEMHFWȥȤ)DLWKȥ 12 It corresponds to another
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DȤPRUHWKDQOLIHȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥ WKDW

carries life beyond present life or its actual being-there, its empirical or
ontological actuality: not toward death but toward a living-on [sur-vie],
namely, a trace of which life and death would themselves be but traces and
Introduction xvii

traces of traces, a survival whose possibility in advance comes to disjoin


RUGLVDGMXVWWKHLGHQWLW\WRLWVHOIRIWKHOLYLQJSUHVHQW Specters of
Marx[[ 

Survival complicates the opposition between life and death, and


human and inhuman, indicating a vulnerability of the living to all
WKDWGRHVQRWˋWLQWRDVDFULˋFLDOVWUXFWXUHRIVDQFWLW\LQFOXGLQJWKH
spectral living-on of the dead, the iterability of the typographic, and
the ongoing alterity of time, which is always coming and to come.
This understanding of life beyond self-presence, that is, beyond
anthropocentric certainty and centrality, means that what Derrida
FDOOVȤWKHHQLJPDRIWKHSROLWLFDOȥLQYROYHVQRWRQO\ȤWKHZKROHZRUOG
RIKXPDQVDVVXPHGWREHOLNHPHP\FRPSHHUV mes semblables ȥEXW
also “all nonhuman living beings, or again, even beyond that, . . . all
the nonliving, . . . their memory, spectral or otherwise, . . . their
to-come or their indifference with regard to what we think we can
identify, in an always precipitous, dogmatic, and obscure way, as the
OLIHRUWKHOLYLQJSUHVHQWRIWKHOLYLQJLQJHQHUDOȥ Rogues 
7KURXJKRXWKLVZRUN'HUULGDXVHVWKHWHUPȤUHVSRQVLELOLW\ȥWRQDPH
an unconditional responsiveness to the other, to the other’s call or
address, necessarily exceeding self-presence. In a related vein, he
LQYRNHVWKHWHUPȤWHVWLPRQ\ȥWRGHVLJQDWHWKHDGGUHVVRIWKHRWKHU
,QȤ3RHWLFVDQG3ROLWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥDQGȤ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥKH
VXJJHVWVWKDWLQDFHUWDLQVHQVHȤDQ\DGGUHVVWRDQRWKHUȥDQGLQGHHG
any utterance or gesture at all, constitutes a form of testimony, to the
H[WHQWWKDWLWWHVWLˋHVWRWKHRWKHUȢVH[LVWHQFHWRWKHIDFWRIWKHRWKHU
Ȥ3RHWLFVȥȤ)DLWKȟ ,WLVLPSRUWDQWWRXQGHUVWDQGWKDW
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SUHVXSSRVHDQDXWRQRPRXVȤKXPDQȥVXEMHFWUHVSRQGLQJWRDGLVFUHWH
RULGHQWLˋDEOHRWKHU2QWKHFRQWUDU\WKH\RSHUDWHȤZLWKRXWDXWRQRP\ȥ
RUE\RSHQLQJȤDXWRQRP\WRLWVHOIȥLQDFFRUGDQFHZLWKZKDWKHFDOOVWKH
law of iterability, in which the self is always divided by alterity, even
ZKHQZHGRQRWUHDOL]HLW Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ 17 He illustrates this idea
with a refashioning of the Cartesian cogito: “Before I am, I carry. Before
being me, I carry the otherȥ Ȥ5DPV8QLQWHUUXSWHG'LDORJXHȠ%HWZHHQ
7ZR,QˋQLWLHVWKH3RHPȥHPSKDVLVLQRULJLQDO 6XVSHQGHGEHWZHHQ
a structural law and an imperative—although always in excess of the
.DQWLDQLPSHUDWLYH Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ ȠWKHODZRILWHUDELOLW\PHDQV
xviii Introduction

that every sense of self is always both pervious and indebted to an


DOWHULW\WKDWLVDWRQFHLQWHUQDODQGH[WHUQDOVLQJXODUDQGLQˋQLWHO\
plural, and in spite of the fact that it can receive different names, it
remains essentially “nonreappropriable, nonsubjectivable, and in a
FHUWDLQZD\QRQLGHQWLˋDEOHVRDVWRUHPDLQRWKHUDVLQJXODUFDOOWR
UHVSRQVHRUWRUHVSRQVLELOLW\ȥ Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ ,WLVLQWKLVVHQVHWKDW
WKHRWKHULVIXQGDPHQWDOO\WRFRPH avenir ȠQRWDVDGLVWDQWIXWXUHRU
possibility, but as that which maintains its alterity with regard to the
self and to presence.
,QȤ3RHWLFVDQG3ROLWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥ'HUULGDFRQVLGHUVVXFK D
practice of testimony in relation to the ambivalent etymology of the
WHUPV ȤZLWQHVVLQJȥ DQG ȤWHVWLPRQ\ȥ WUDFHG E\ %HQYHQLVWH ZKLFK
teeters between superstes, coming from survival, and testis, related to
ȤWKLUGȥ ȟ 7KLVGRXEOHJHQHDORJ\FRQFHUQVWZRUHODWLRQVWRWUXWK
on the one hand that of subjective experience—superstes indicating,
presumably, that the witness tells a truth based on an experience that
KDVEHHQOLYHGWKURXJKDQGRQWKHRWKHUREMHFWLYLW\Ƞtestis relates
to the presence of a third party who can neutrally verify the accounts
of two others in a legal procedure. This dual etymology complements
WKDWRI(QJOLVKLQZKLFKZLWQHVVLQJSULYLOHJHVYLVXDOFRQˋUPDWLRQ
as évidence and eidos. Turning toward Paul Celan’s poetic staging
of the act of witnessing, Derrida considers the German term Zeugen,
which simultaneously means witnessing and engendering, a duality
that he suggests, especially in Celan’s works, tips the scales toward
DȤYHUWLJLQRXVȥVHQVHRIZKDWLWPHDQVWREHDȤVXUYLYLQJWKLUGȥRU
ȤWHVWDPHQWDU\KHLUȥQRWDUHOLDEOHDWWHVWDWLRQWRDSUHH[LVWLQJWUXWKEXW
a probing openness and responsibility to the ongoing sur-vie of “other
WKLQJVȥ Ȥ3RHWLFVȥ 
Derrida stresses that Celan’s poetry demonstrates how witnessing
LVQHYHUFRQVWDWLYHQHYHUDȤVLPSOHWUDQVPLVVLRQRINQRZOHGJHȥIURP
one subject to another, presuming the stability of truth, language,
and subjectivity, but rather constitutes an act of address with
no guarantee, either that a truth is transmitted or that it will be
UHFHLYHG(YHU\WHVWLPRQ\LVQHFHVVDULO\PXOWLSOHWHVWLI\LQJto the
H[LVWHQFH RI WKH RWKHU WKH ȤQRQUHDSSURSULDEOH QRQVXEMHFWLYDEOHȥ
other, and conveying this testimony to another, what Celan called “an
DGGUHVVDEOH\RXȥ &HODQ/HYLQHThe Belated Witness: Literature,
Testimony, and the Question of Holocaust Survival ,QERWKFDVHV
the other is not, or not only, a single, identifiable other, but always
Introduction xix

LQFOXGHVȤRWKHURWKHUVȥWKHVWURSKLFHOHPHQWRIDSRVWURSKHDOZD\V
WXUQLQJȤIURPRQHWRZDUGWKHRWKHUDZD\IURPRQHWRZDUGRWKHUVȥ
DQGXOWLPDWHO\WRZDUGWKHZRUOG Ȥ3RHWLFVȥ  Such testifying
is conditioned by what Derrida calls faith, as opposed to knowledge,
naming an openness to something that cannot be internalized by
subjective experience or anthropo-theological ideality—including, for
LQVWDQFH*RG Ȥ3RHWLFVȥIIȤ)DLWKȥȟ 7KHZLWQHVVFDQQRWEH
sure of the other’s existence, although she or he feels compelled to
address it, and to convey the fact of this address to others, responding
to a faith that there is another, even though it cannot be confirmed
in any full sense, since the other maintains an ineradicable alterity to
any attempt to articulate it. One aspect of this alterity is finitude, the
fact that the other, like the self, is vulnerable to death and forgetting,
and in this sense witnessing is virtually synonymous with mourning,
which also acknowledges the fact that life is never immune from death
and the traces of an ongoing sur-vie that exceeds the distinctions
between life and death. The testimony itself is not an intact vehicle
of communication, but is inf licted by the same uncertainty and
vulnerability that informs the testimonial relation. It is marked by an
internal limit to what can be said, a radical and inexhaustible secret,
what Maurice Blanchot describes as a “word still to be spoken beyond
WKHOLYLQJDQGWKHGHDGDWWHVWLQJIRUWKHDEVHQFHRIDWWHVWDWLRQȥ TWG
LQȤ3RHWLFVȥ ,QWKLVVHQVH'HUULGDDIILUPVZLWQHVVLQJLVDOZD\V
LQVRPHVHQVHSRHWLFDȤVHOIXQVHDOLQJWH[WȥWKDWLQGLFDWHVLWVRZQ
folds and hiatuses, and gestures beyond them to the “differently finite
DQGLQILQLWHȥRWKHU Ȥ3RHWLFVȥȤ5DPVȥ +HGHVFULEHVWKH
poem-testimony as a wound that is also a mouth, “whose lips will
QHYHU FORVH ZLOO QHYHU GUDZ WRJHWKHUȥ DQG ZKLFK ȤDSSHDOV WR WKH
RWKHUZLWKRXWFRQGLWLRQȥ Ȥ5DPVȥ 
Derrida’s description of witnessing bears a strong similarity to other
LQˌXHQWLDOWH[WVRQWKHVXEMHFWPRVWQRWDEO\-HDQ)UDQ©RLV/\RWDUGȢV
work The Differend: Phrases in Dispute and Giorgio Agamben’s Remnants
of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. In The Differend, which
'HUULGDPHQWLRQVLQȤ3RHWLFVDQG3ROLWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥ  /\RWDUG
presents a notion of witnessing that comes quite close to Derrida’s.
'HSDUWLQJIURPWKHTXHVWLRQRI+RORFDXVWGHQLHUVZKRDIˋ[HGWRWKHLU
own version of events, lack faith in witnesses, Lyotard turns to consider
a basic distinction between what he calls a genre, a discursive structure
WKDWSURWHFWVDQGUHLQIRUFHV RUFRPPDQGVȠKHDOVRFDOOVLWDȤSKUDVH
xx Introduction

UHJLPHQȥ DVHQVHRIWKHIDPLOLDUDQGZKDWLVH[FOXGHGE\WKDWVWUXFWXUH
ZKLFKKHFDOOVWKHȤGLIIHUHQGȥ

The differend is the unstable state and instant of language wherein


something which must be put into phrases cannot yet be . . . In the
GLIIHUHQGVRPHWKLQJȤDVNVȥWREHSXWLQWRSKUDVHVDQGVXIIHUVIURP
the wrong of not being able to be put into phrases instantaneously.
This is when human beings who thought they could use language as an
instrument of communication learn through the feeling of pain . . . that
they are summoned by language, not to augment to their profit the
quantity of information communicable through ordinary idioms, but
to recognize that what remains to be phrased exceeds what they can
presently phrase, and that they must permit idioms to be instituted that
GRQRW\HWH[LVW The Differend 20

Witnessing can be understood as naming the attempt to develop new


idioms through which to respond to the differend. Ross Chambers
argues in his exceptional book on witnessing and AIDS writing that
witnessing writing in fact constitutes such a new idiom, one that
relates not to the category of the aesthetic sublime that Lyotard
develops in his book The Inhuman: Ref lections on Time, but to the
REVFHQHWKDWZKLFKLVNQRZQEXWKDVQRFXOWXUDOLQVFULSWLRQ &KDPEHUV
 :LWKRXWGLVFRXQWLQJ&KDPEHUVȢVFRPSHOOLQJUHDGLQJRIWKH
ȤJHQHULFFDWDFKUHVLVȥRIWKHREVFHQHLQ$,'6WHVWLPRQLDOV,ZRXOG
argue that witnessing does not actually institute new idioms, if such
a thing were possible, but rather indicates the catachrestic nature of
existing genres, and gestures to what they do not include. One such
JHQUHRQHPLJKWVD\LVQRWKLQJOHVVWKDQȤWKHKXPDQȥLWVHOIZLWK
its accompanying metaphysics of subjectivity, truth, communication,
and teleology, among other things. Although Lyotard does not extend
the question of witnessing per se to his later discussions of the
human in The Inhuman, his understanding of genre lends itself nicely
to an exploration of a witnessing beyond the human, and I appeal
to it a number of times in the chapters that follow. Nonetheless, as
&KDPEHUVSRLQWVRXW/\RWDUGXOWLPDWHO\ˋQGVDQDOWHUQDWHLGLRPLQ
the aesthetic sublime, due to what he understands as its capacity
WRWUDQVFHQGˋQLWXGHDQGSHUIRUPRUHYHQbeȤWKHRFFXUUHQFHȥ The
Inhuman DQLGHDWKDWLVDWRGGVZLWK'HUULGDȢVWKRXJKWDQGWKH
works I discuss in this book.
Introduction xxi

Agamben’s description of witnessing in Remnants of Auschwitz


appears to resemble Derrida’s discussion even more, which it preceded
LQSXEOLFDWLRQE\D\HDU DQGLWVKRXOGEHDGGHGH[FHHGHGJUHDWO\LQ
FLUFXODWLRQ 1HYHUWKHOHVVWKHUHDUHVLJQLˋFDQWGLIIHUHQFHVEHWZHHQWKH
two approaches, which is consistent with the two thinkers’ generally tacit
repudiation of the other.21 Agamben begins his discussion of testimony
with a discussion of the same etymology provided by Benveniste, arguing
that the legal connotations of witnessing limit its effects, since law is a
VHOIUHˌH[LYHVWUXFWXUHZKRVHKRUL]RQLVHQGRJDPRXVPHUHMXGJPHQW
UDWKHUWKDQMXVWLFH Remnants 1HYHUWKHOHVVKHDFNQRZOHGJHVZKDWKH
calls a lacuna at the heart of every testimony, a gap that indicates its own
LPSRVVLELOLW\+HDVVRFLDWHVWKLVJDSZLWK&HODQȢVSRHWU\DQGDIˋUPV
that it indicates an intrinsically poetic dimension to testimony, as well
as an intrinsically testimonial dimension not only to all poetry, but also
WRDOO SURIDQH ODQJXDJH ȟ 8SWRWKLVSRLQW$JDPEHQȢVSRVLWLRQ
seems to coincide with Derrida’s almost to the letter. Nevertheless,
on closer inspection, Agamben is saying something quite different.
$OWKRXJKKHLGHQWLˋHVDQLPSRVVLELOLW\DWWKHKHDUWRIWHVWLPRQ\DQ
encounter between saying and what cannot be said, and consequently
between the human and the inhuman, he also describes a resolution of
this opposition, as a kind of immanent or quasi-secular transcendence.22
He writes,

To bear witness, it is therefore not enough to bring language to its own


nonsense, to the pure undecidability of letters. . . . It is necessary that this
senseless sound be, in turn, the voice of something or someone that, for
entirely other reasons, cannot bear witness. It is thus necessary that the
LPSRVVLELOLW\RIEHDULQJZLWQHVVWKHȤODFXQDȥWKDWFRQVWLWXWHVKXPDQ
language, collapses, giving way to a different impossibility of bearing
witness—that which does not have language . . . The speech of language
is born . . . where language falls away from it simply to bear witness: “It
ZDVQRWOLJKWEXWZDVVHQWWREHDUZLWQHVVWRWKHOLJKWȥ

As Jeffrey Librett notes in his incisive analysis of the metaphysical


nature of Agamben’s thought, this passage indicates how Agamben
positions testimony, “despite a number of gestures of disavowal, as the
voice RIDQLPSRVVLELOLW\RIZLWQHVVEH\RQGDOOODZDQGOHWWHUȥ /LEUHWW
HPSKDVLVPLQH  In distinction to how his theory of testimony is
frequently read, Agamben is not saying that testimony is marked by
xxii Introduction

WKHGLIˋFXOW\RUHYHQLPSRVVLELOLW\RIIXOO\WUDQVPLWWLQJDWUDXPDWLF
experience or absence. 2QWKHFRQWUDU\KHDIˋUPVWKDWWHVWLPRQ\
is a site in which such impossibility is delivered, impossibility
DQG SRVVLELOLW\ EURXJKW WRJHWKHU LQ DUHGHPSWLYH ȤSRWHQWLDOLW\ȥ RU
immanent force, simultaneously in and beyond language. In this
metaphysical resolution, both referential language and its lacunae
IDOODZD\WRUHYHDOWKHȤ:RUGEHFRPHˌHVKȥLQWKHIRUPRIWHVWLPRQ\
as the reference to the Gospel of John suggests: witnessing is named
as a form of bearing a heliocentric truth, like the divine Word and the
Johnian gospel. Referential language and its poetic silences constitute
the remnants of life and death, the human and inhuman, the sayable
and the unsayable, as synechdocally experienced in Auschwitz, and
WKHVHUHPQDQWVDUHUHGHHPHGLQWKHˋJXUHRIWHVWLPRQ\XQGHUVWRRG
as the “act of an auctor, as the difference and completion of an
impossibility and possibility of speaking of the inhuman and the
KXPDQȥ Remnants   $JDPEHQ FRQFOXGHV KLV ERRN ZLWK VXFK
fragments, supplementing or supplanting his critical analysis with
the greater authority of remnants of testimony from concentration
FDPS VXUYLYRUV SUHYLRXV 0XVVHOP¦QQHU DW RQFH WKH ȤGURZQHGȥ
DQGWKHȤVDYHGȥLQ3ULPR/HYLȢVSDUODQFH WKDWSXUSRUWHGO\ȤVSHDNȥ
the possibility and impossibility of saying. He calls such testimonial
remnants messianic: “not what redeems time in the direction of the
IXWXUH RU HYHQ WKH SDVWȥ EXW DV ȤZKDW UHPDLQV DV ZKDW DFWXDOO\
VXUYLYHVȥDQGȤIXOILOOVWLPHLQWKHH[FHVVRIDPHGLXPȥ Remnants
   $JDPEHQ FRQVLGHUV WKLV PHVVLDQLF PHGLDOLW\ȠDQ HQG LQ
WKHPHDQVWRUHSKUDVHWKHWLWOHRIRQHRIKLVERRNVȠWR LPPDQHQWO\ 
WUDQVFHQGQRWRQO\KLVWRULFDOWLPHEXWDOVRˋQLWHLQVWDQFHVRIODZDQG
judgment, in favor of what he calls in State of Exception a messianic
IRUPRIODZEH\RQGFDOFXODWLRQDQGGLIIHUHQFHȤDSXUHPHDQVȥ  
The differences between Agamben’s metaphysical interpretation of
testimony and Derrida’s should be quite evident. As opposed to revelation
DQGIXOˋOOPHQWLQWKHPHVVLDQLFLPPHGLDF\RIWHVWLPRQLDOODQJXDJH
simultaneously marking and redeeming the inhuman effects of the
ȤDQWKURSRORJLFDOPDFKLQHȥWKDWFXOPLQDWHGLQWKH1D]LFRQFHQWUDWLRQ
FDPSV $JDPEHQThe Open: Man and Animal  'HUULGDFRQVLGHUV
testimony to be the inherently uncertain address of another that is
LUUHGXFLEO\KHWHURJHQHRXVWRDQ\ȤXQLW\RIWKHˋQLWHDQGWKHLQˋQLWHȥ
'HUULGDȤ7KH(QGVRI0DQȥ 6XFKDQDGGUHVVLVOLNHDPLVVLYHZLWK
QRJXDUDQWHHRIDUULYDORUUHVROXWLRQLWVGLVWDQFHVDQGGLIIHUHQFHVDUH
Introduction xxiii

not gaps to be overcome or sealed by a fuller form of representation,


EXWPDUNVRIZRXQGVȤVWLOOSRVVLEOHLQWKHLUUHPDLQLQJȥZRUGVȤVWLOO
WREHVSRNHQEH\RQGWKHOLYLQJDQGWKHGHDGȥZKRVHDUWLFXODWLRQVDUH
DOZD\VDWRQFHVXUYLYLQJDQGWRFRPH Ȥ5DPVȥ%ODQFKRWTWG
LQ'HUULGDȤ3RHWLFVȥ )RU'HUULGDSRHWLFWH[WVVXFKDV&HODQȢV
SHUIRUPDVWHVWLPRQ\WKHSHUVLVWHQFHRIVXFKJDSVWKDWGLVUXSWDQ\ˋQDO
determinations of meaning or comprehension, rather than an illegibility
to be testimonially illumined. This disruption is not an indication of
IDLOXUHRULPSRVVLELOLW\EXWDQDIˋUPDWLRQRIWKHXQUHOHQWLQJDOWHULW\
of the other, an alterity that is intrinsically temporal, in the sense both
of the possibility of different times and time’s own difference, in which
a totalizable present contrasts with the radical heterogeneity of time,
including the returns of the past and the inevitable coming of the future.
Furthermore, Derrida stresses that alter-immunological disruption
is a critical component of all action and relation, what might be
thought of as the two building blocks of the political. In distinction
to an immunological sense of collectivity based on commonality and
H[FOXVLRQ'HUULGDDIˋUPVWKDWDOWHULW\LVLQKHUHQWWRHYHU\DVVRFLDWLRQ
and sociality, whether or not it is recognized: “A certain interruptive
unraveling is the condition of the ‘social bond,’ the very respiration of
DOOFRPPXQLW\ȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥ 6XFKDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDOGLVUXSWLRQDWWKH
heart of community is analogous to the fundamental uncertainty that
underlies and exceeds every decision or decisive action, an uncertainty
that lies in excess of all calculation, knowledge, judgment, decision,
and therefore legal determinations of justice.  Nevertheless, just as
difference and disruption do not contravene the possibility of forming
relations, so uncertainty and undecidability do not block the possibility
of judgment and decision. On the contrary, they demand it, since
abstaining from judgment or decision would constitute its own form of
decision, a disavowal of the very uncertainty it aims to preserve, as well
as the urgency that undergirds all appeals to justice. Just as difference
inhabits every relational bond with another, so radical undecidability
UHPDLQVȤFDXJKWORGJHGDVDJKRVWȥLQHYHU\GHFLVLRQDQGLWVHIIHFWV
Ȥ)RUFHRI/DZȥ 'HUULGDFRQVLGHUVZLWQHVVLQJWREHDQDORJRXVWR
this undecidability: as an uncertain address driven by a fundamental
responsibility to the other, it is inextricably linked to a demand for
unconditional justice, beyond the immunological discourse of rights
and the closed economy of institutional law. Unlike Agamben’s sense
RIPHWDSK\VLFDOIXOˋOOPHQWZLWQHVVLQJLVQHYHUDQHQGLQLWVHOIEXWDQ
xxiv Introduction

act that allows the incalculability of the other and the unconditionality
of justice to unsettle the calculations of judgment, representation, and
law.27
Although not in explicit relation to the nature of testimony, Alberto
Moreiras has articulated similar ideas regarding the limitations of
humanist subjectivism for a thinking of politics. Rejecting the tendency
to associate politics with subjectivity, he writes, “subjectivism in politics
is always based on exclusion, it is always particularist, even when
the subject is assumed to be a communitarian subject, and also when
WKHVXEMHFWDVVXPHVLWVHOIDVDUHSUHVHQWDWLYHRIWKHXQLYHUVDOȥ Línea
de sombra: El no sujeto de lo político  /LNH'HUULGD0RUHLUDVFDOOV
WKHH[FOXVLRQWKDWXQGHUOLHVWKHˋJXUHRIWKHVXEMHFWVDFULˋFLDODQG
DUJXHVWKDWWKHDEDQGRQPHQWRIVXFKVDFULˋFLDOVWUXFWXUHLVDQHFHVVDU\
FRQGLWLRQIRUSROLWLFDOWKRXJKWRUZKDWKHFDOOVȤLQIUDSROLWLFVȥZKLFK
he understands as “the deconstruction of the ethical instance by the
SROLWLFDOLQVWDQFHDQGYLFHYHUVDȥ Línea de sombraȤ(WKLFVDQG3ROLWLFV
LQ+«FWRU$JXLODU&DP¯QȢVMorir en el golfo and La guerra de Galioȥ 
Rather than relying on a subjectivist ground, infrapolitics responds to
DȤQRQVXEMHFWȥ no sujeto GHVFULEHGDVȤDVXVFHSWLEOHLQVWDQFHȥWKDW
permeates and exceeds agency, discernability, activity and passivity, and
persists as an inhuman remainder of both particularist and universalist
FRQVWUXFWLRQV Línea de sombra 0RUHLUDVH[SODLQVWKDWKHSUHIHUV
WKHWHUPȤQRQVXEMHFWȥWRȤRWKHUQHVVȥZKLFKKHFRQVLGHUVȤLPSULVRQHG
E\JUDPPDWLFDOLGHRORJLHVȥRIVHOIDQGRWKHUIULHQGDQGHQHP\ Línea de
sombra $OWKRXJK,ZLOOFRQWLQXHWRXVHWKHDGPLWWHGO\ˌDZHGWHUP
ȤRWKHUȥ,FRQVLGHUWKLVSURMHFWWRRSHUDWHLQWKHYHLQRIWKHLQIUDSROLWLFDO

Q    Q    Q

The nature of justice beyond calculations of exchange, history as


something other than an extension of the status quo, and life, both
individual and collective, beyond subjectivist or immunological
VDIHNHHSLQJDQGVDFULˋFHDUHTXHVWLRQVWKDWDFTXLUHDFXWHXUJHQF\LQ
the wake of the injustices wrought by the dictatorships in Chile and
Argentina, and in face of the continuing injustices pervasive to late
FDSLWDOLVPDQGLQWHQVLˋHGLQJOREDOSHULSKHULHVVXFKDV/DWLQ$PHULFD
The works of Gelman, Chejfec, Bolaño, and Dittborn respond to this
urgency, testifying to a multifarious alterity that disrupts familiar
cartographies of subjectivity, relationality, and history, including
those associated with programs of political and social change.
Introduction xxv

To take an important instance, their works are closer in some ways to


Celan’s poetry than other texts labeled testimonial, especially in Latin
America, where the subgenre of testimonio is generally characterized by
strategies of revelation and denunciation, and grounded in a sense of
agency recovered from repressive conditions. By claiming a testimonial
dimension for these texts, I do not intend to discount more direct
forms of testimony, which have been effective in raising awareness of
forms of exclusion and violence and in enabling new modes of political
organization. Rather, like subaltern testimonies attempted to do
vis-à-vis orthodox Leftist politics and the elitist tradition of letters,
these texts question conventional structures and open them up to what
they exclude or forget.
In a very different way, the works considered in this book also unsettle
conventional thoughts about art and literature in Latin America. In the
ˋUVWSODFHWKLVLQFOXGHVWKHVZD\WKDWWKHVHQVHRIDQDWLRQDOWUDGLWLRQ
still holds over aesthetic production, as well as its correlate, the notion
of national allegory, that is, the idea that the personal extends to the
collective—for instance, taking Gelman’s experience of exile to represent
that of his compatriots. As I will show in the succeeding chapters, the
works of Gelman, Chejfec, Bolaño, and Dittborn radically undermine
any sense of located historical totality associated with the nation. The
RWKHUSULPDU\DHVWKHWLFSRLQWRIUHIHUHQFHLVWKHˋJXUHRIWKHDYDQW
garde, which concerns the relationship between aesthetics and politics
in ways that go beyond the periodization of the historical avant-garde or
LWVUHVXUJHQFH RUUHFRGLˋFDWLRQ LQ&KLOHLQWKHVDQGȢV:KHUHDV
the gesture of rupture formalized by the tradition of the avant-garde
paradoxically established the New as a new immunological ground,
these works aesthetically interrogate immunological structures, opening
WKHPWRZKDW'HUULGDSURYRFDWLYHO\FDOOVȤLQYHQWLRQVRIWKHRWKHUȥWKH
UDGLFDORWKHUXQGHUVWRRGDVVRPHWKLQJWKDWERWKȤLQYHQWVXVȥDQGȤLV
DOZD\VDQRWKHURULJLQRIWKHZRUOGȥ Psyche: Inventions of the Other 
Gelman, Chejfec, Bolaño, and Dittborn come to such anti-humanist,
SRVWQDWLRQDOLVWȤLQYHQWLRQȥIURPGLIIHUHQWKLVWRULFDODQGSROLWLFDO
H[SHULHQFHV7KHUHDUHFHUWDLQV\PPHWULHVDPRQJWKHPWZR *HOPDQ
DQG&KHMIHF DUHIURP$UJHQWLQDDQGWZR %ROD³RDQG'LWWERUQ DUH
IURP&KLOH3HUKDSVPRUHVLJQLˋFDQWO\WZRDUHROGHUDQGSURGXFHGZRUN
WKURXJKWKHGLFWDWRUVKLSV *HOPDQDQG'LWWERUQ DQGWZRFDPHRIDJH
during the dictatorships and began their writing careers in their wake
&KHMIHFDQG%ROD³R *HOPDQLVWKHRQO\RQHZKRZDVGHHSO\LQYROYHG
xxvi Introduction

LQUHYROXWLRQDU\SROLWLFVDQGKLVSRHWU\UHˌHFWVWKLVLQYROYHPHQWDWWKH
same time that it interrogates some of the principal categories on which
/HIWLVWSROLWLFV DVZHOODVWKRVHRIWKH5LJKW DUHEDVHG'LWWERUQZDV
not politically active, at least not in the same way as Gelman, but he
participated in intellectual and cultural movements loosely associated
with the political opposition under the Pinochet regime, which informed
his questioning of the epistemological complexities underlying both
political and aesthetic action, and the traditional Left as well as the
Right. He continued to explore such complexities long after the dispersal
of critical and cultural movements and the return of democracy in
Chile. Chejfec and Bolaño belong to a subsequent generation, and their
work reflects their respective experiences of distance vis-à-vis the
dictatorships, as well as an awareness of how the structure of political
RSSRVLWLRQWKDWGHˋQHGWKDWHUDGLVVROYHGLQWRDKD]LHUDQGLQVRPH
ways more insidious, state. Whereas the work of Gelman and Dittborn,
each in its own way, uses aesthetic form to interrogate the grounds of
the traditional Left, resisting any straightforward sense of political
commitment, Chejfec and Bolaño not only deepen their suspicions of
such commitment, but come to ask whether there is not a prevailing
complicity between culture, politics, and barbarism, while paradoxically
feeling compelled to respond to such a complicity through literature.
Although such generational and political considerations inform my
discussion of their work, they do not determine its structure, which
attends to different modes of anti-humanist attestation, characterized
by an alter-immunological sense of life, address, and histor y in
Gelman, a myopic form of witnessing in Chejfec, a tension between the
immunological and the alter-immunological in Bolaño, and a disruption
of humanist sepulture in Dittborn.
0\ˋUVWFKDSWHUZDVLQVSLUHGIURPDORQJVWDQGLQJLQWHUHVWLQWKHZD\V
Gelman’s poetry appears—and is often understood—to diverge from his
participation in revolutionary politics, his subsequent civic activism,
and his journalistic career. This tension was exacerbated in the past
decade when Oscar del Barco, a philosopher and former fellow member
of the armed revolutionary group Montoneros, publicly renounced his
RZQSDUWLFLSDWLRQLQWKHFRQˌLFWVRIWKHVDQGVLQJOHGRXW*HOPDQ
DVDKLJKSURˋOHSXEOLFˋJXUHZKRVKRXOGGRWKHVDPHUDWKHUWKDQDV
he saw it, seeking redemption through poetry and civic activism. Del
Barco’s public renunciation set off a wave of recriminations concerning
the so-called turn from revolutionary militancy to an ethical concern for
Introduction xxvii

the other inspired by Levinas, and, although Gelman himself refrained


from comment, other former fellow militants argued passionately that
he remained committed to revolutionary politics, and would never
follow del Barco’s turn to ethics. However, as I discuss in Chapter 1,
Gelman, who was condemned to death for treason by the Montoneros,
XQˌLQFKLQJO\FULWLFL]HGWKHJURXSDUJXLQJWKDWWKHLULQFUHDVLQJHPEUDFH
RI DQ DQWKURSRWKHRORJLFDO  LGHDO RI UHYROXWLRQ EDVHG RQ VDFULILFH
XQGHUPLQHGWKHLUUHYROXWLRQDU\REMHFWLYHV(UDVLQJDQ\QHDWGLVWLQFWLRQ
between ethics and politics, his poetry serves as a space of exploration
for the premonitions and consequences of this estrangement, stressing
the importance of an alter-immunological sense of life and relation to
the other for a rethinking of history and collective as well as individual
survival. His poems perform what I call an apo-strophic, or radically
XQFHUWDLQDGGUHVVRIWKHRWKHULQFOXGLQJLQWLPDWHRWKHUV PRVWQRWDEO\
KLVGHDGVRQNLOOHGLQKLVVWHDGE\WKHPLOLWDU\GLFWDWRUVKLS DVZHOODV
the unnamed and unknowable others that surround us and constitute the
basis for any experience of collectivity. The exposure to the alterity of
WKHRWKHULVˋJXUHGWKURXJKPRWLIVLQFOXGLQJDQLPDOLW\WH[WXDOLW\DQG
non-interiorizing forms of mourning, paternity, and love. Resonating
with Derrida’s discussion of a line from Celan, “The world is gone, I must
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and an epistolary form of sending that has as its ultimate destination
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sense of world and an other-time of justice, which lies in “the future and
WKHUHIRUHDOVRWKHSUHVHQWȥ *HOPDQȤ,QWHQWRGDUH[LVWHQFLDDOIXWXUR
\SRUORWDQWRWDPEL«QDOSUHVHQWHȥ 
In my chapter on Chejfec, I examine what I call a myopic form of
witnessing in two of his novels, Los planetas and Boca de lobo. The
QRWLRQRIWKHP\RSLFZLWQHVVFRPHVIURPDVWRU\E\-XDQ-RV«6DHU
WKDWLVVWUXFWXUHGDVDOHWWHUVHQWIURPDP\RSLFZULWHUWRDȤVHHUȥ
invoking Arthur Rimbaud’s renowned letters to Georges Izambard and
3DXO'HPHQ\LQZKLFKKHGHVFULEHVKLPVHOIDVDVHHU voyant 8QOLNH
Rimbaud’s fevered ideal, Saer’s narrator describes himself incapable of
poetic illumination of the unknown, condemned instead to groping his
way through a world of intermittent shadows. I contend that Chejfec’s
novels perform a similar form of myopic engagement with a temporal,
spatial, and social materiality that can never be fully grasped, but which
represents the possibility of relation beyond immunological structures of
QDWLRQPHPRU\DQGWKHVDFULˋFLDOVWUXFWXUHRIFDSLWDOLVP%RWKQRYHOV
xxviii Introduction

GHVFULEHQLJKWPDULVKYLVLRQVRIȤJHRJUDSKLHVȥWKDWEHFRPHVDWXUDWHG
or fully self-present, and thereby impervious to change. Although
acknowledging such saturation as a real danger, especially in structures
VXFKDVPHPRU\ ERWKSXEOLFDQGSULYDWH DQGVRFLDORUJDQL]DWLRQWKH
novels demonstrate how life is inevitably characterized by a kind of
intermittence that disrupts any sense of self-presence, and constitutes
the condition of possibility of alter-immunological relationality,
and, ultimately, social change. This intermittence is described as a
WHPSRUDOVSDWLDO HIIHFW WKDW H[FHHGV DQG LQWHUQDOO\ GLVUXSWV  DQ\
sense of subjective autonomy. It affects everyone and everything,
but is particularly powerful in cases of disappearance, including the
disappearances and other forms of absence related to the Dirty War,
and the related disappearance or non-appearance of labor power, and
therefore social relations in general, in consumer-driven late capitalism.
Los planetas focuses on the former kind of disappearance, Boca de lobo
RQWKHVHFRQGDQGERWKSHUIRUPDP\RSLFIRUPRIZLWQHVVLQJRIWKH
effects of intermittence on personal and social relations, memory and
representation, and literature itself.
My chapter on Bolaño departs from the question of whether his
fictions present a dystopian view of millennial modernity, or whether
they indicate possibilities, however tenuous, for disruption and
change. Critics have pointed to his depictions of writers and artists
as either aimless and self-indulgent, or complicit with authoritarian
regimes, to support the idea that he had a fairly hopeless view on the
possibilities of literature and art. The epigraph of his final novel,
2666, seems to support this reading: “An oasis of horror in a desert of
ERUHGRPȥ7KLVSKUDVHLVWDNHQIURP&KDUOHV%DXGHODLUHȢVSRHP
Ȥ7KH9R\DJHȥZKLFKGHSLFWVWKHDPELWLRQVRIPRGHUQOLWHUDWXUHWR
FUHDWHRUGLVFRYHUWKH1HZ DQDORJRXVWR5LPEDXGȢVVHOIGHVFULSWLRQ
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with the poet contemplating his own mortality. In his discussion
RIWKLVSRHPLQDQHVVD\WLWOHGȤ/LWHUDWXUH6LFNQHVV 6LFNQHVVȥ
Bolaño describes this epic structure of modernity as a kind of zombie-
like monotony, punctuated by states of exception that function as
ȤRDVHVȥRIKRUURU,UHODWHWKLVIDOVHDOWHUQDWLYHWR'HUULGDȢVGLVFXVVLRQ
of the structure of immunity and what he calls “indemnificatory or
DXWRLPPXQHUHDFWLYLW\ȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥ ,QWKHIRUPHUDV,H[SODLQDERYH
there is an assertion of an ideal identity that implies an interiorization
Introduction xxix

RU H[FOXVLRQ RI WKH RWKHU LQ WKH ODWWHU WKH VHOI DORQJ ZLWK DQ\
apparent contamination of the self, is destroyed in the name of self-
restoration. However, Bolaño also indicates a third alternative, which
corresponds to what I am calling the alter-immunological, in which
the self is intrinsically exposed to an inappropriable alterity, including
WKH DE\VV RI LWV RZQ PRUWDOLW\ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH  6LFNQHVV  6LFNQHVVȥ
Through readings of a selection of his fictions, culminating with
2666, I consider how his work testifies to the violence of modernity’s
immunological appropriations and exclusions and to the possibilities
of alter-immunological disruption.
,QP\ˋQDOFKDSWHU,UHWXUQWRFRQVLGHU'LWWERUQȢVSKRWRFROODJHVDVD
mode of witnessing beyond the sepulture of the human—or, as Derrida
says of photography, a mode that “bears witness by interrogating us:
:KDWLVDQDFWRIZLWQHVVLQJ"ȥ TWGLQ5LFKWHUȤ%HWZHHQ7UDQVODWLRQ
DQG,QYHQWLRQ7KH3KRWRJUDSKLQ'HFRQVWUXFWLRQȥ[[LY ,EHJLQE\
considering the question of photography’s indexical nature, a recurrent
topic of debate in photographic theory and of particular interest
regarding the aesthetic use of photography in Chilean art to address
the effects of political disappearance. I relate this to the extended debate
among Nelly Richard, Pablo Oyarzún, and Willy Thayer concerning
WKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQSROLWLFVDQGDHVWKHWLFVDQGVSHFLˋFDOO\WKH
GLVUXSWLYHRULQWHUURJDWLYHSRWHQWLDORIDUWZLWKVSHFLˋFUHIHUHQFHWR
artistic production during the Chilean dictatorship, including Dittborn’s
work. I then turn to Dittborn’s photocollages, which are primarily
FRQVWUXFWHGRXWRIIRXQGSRUWUDLWVRIȤWKHKXPDQIDFHȥIURPGLIIHUHQW
time periods, as implied by the title of his lengthy series from the
VHistoria del rostro humano. Since he established himself as an
artist in the early years of the dictatorship, his use of found images
has frequently been read as a subversive way of indicating censored
acts of violence, including political disappearance and extrajudicial
assassination. However, his work consistently challenges the ideal of
representation as a making visible of what cannot be seen, partly due
to the fact that, as Thayer observes, in an era in which news constitutes
a consumable good, and in which historical representation is used to
EROVWHUKHJHPRQLFSRZHUUHYHODWLRQEHFRPHVLWVRZQIRUPRIEXULDO Ȥ(O
[HQRWDˋRGHOX]ȥ ,QGHHGDV,VXJJHVWLQP\HDUOLHUFRQVLGHUDWLRQ
of his Pietá, much of Dittborn’s work consists of exploring the ways in
which representation constitutes a kind of humanist sepulture. From
xxx Introduction

his early work during the dictatorship to his later Pinturas Aeropostales,
he dismantles figures of the human that correspond to anthropo-
WKHRORJLFDOIRUPVRIVDFULˋFHDQGUHGHPSWLRQDQGVHQGVWKHPWRZDUG
other possibilities of relation and world.
As Derrida says of photography, the works of Gelman, Chejfec,
Bolaño, and Dittborn can be seen as bearing witness by interrogating
the categories through which we tend to understand ourselves and
others. They testify to the limits of the immunological structure of the
human, and to what exceeds and disrupts it, what Derrida describes as
an alterity that must remain “nonreappropriable, nonsubjectivable, and
LQDFHUWDLQZD\QRQLGHQWLˋDEOHVRDVWRUHPDLQRWKHUDVLQJXODUFDOO
WRUHVSRQVHRUWRUHVSRQVLELOLW\ȥ Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ 3URGXFHGGXULQJ
a period when the nature of the human was hotly contested, as the raw
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KXPDQLVWIRUPVRIWHVWLPRQ\UHWKLQNOLIHȤWKHHQLJPDRIWKHSROLWLFDOȥ
DVDFRQGLWLRQRISRVVLELOLW\IRUWKLQNLQJSROLWLFVGLIIHUHQWO\ Rogues 
Q 1 Q
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism
Apostrophe and Survival in Juan Gelman’s Poetry

Following Gelman’s death in Mexico at the age of eighty-three in


-DQXDU\FRPPHPRUDWLRQVRIKLVOLIHDQGZRUNZHUHSURGLJLRXV
Though Gelman had not resided in Argentina since before the military
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flown at half-mast for three days in Gelman’s honor following his
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Gelman as a writer who “conjugated prose with the vocation of
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WKH$UJHQWLQH&HQWUR&XOWXUDOGHOD0HPRULD+DUROGR&RQWLDIˋUPHG
WKDWȤLWLVSRVVLEOHWRVHHLQ*HOPDQȢVZRUNWKHKLVWRU\RIWKH SDVW 
FHQWXU\ȥ$QGWKHUHQRZQHG6SDQLVKMXGJH%DOWDVDU*DU]µQGHFODUHG
that Gelman “did more for justice than millions of judges . . . [He] is
a point of reference for all Latin Americans, for the Spanish people,
DQGIRUDOOGHIHQGHUVRIKXPDQULJKWVLQWKHZRUOGȥ*HOPDQȢVGHDWK
also reactivated controversy related to his participation in armed
UHYROXWLRQDU\ JURXSV LQ WKH V DQG ȢV 7KLV FRQWURYHUV\ ZDV
instigated by critics on both sides of the political spectrum, and
concerned the question of whether Gelman was guilty of hypocrisy
due to his lifelong agitation for recognition and redress for the
victims of state-sponsored terrorism during the dictatorship, without
acknowledging that his involvement in armed insurgency also
produced victims and perhaps constituted a certain injustice.
The different perspectives articulated in the wake of Gelman’s death
reiterated a problem that recurred throughout his life: how to understand
WKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQKLVFRPPLWPHQWWRSROLWLFDODFWLRQ LQFOXGLQJ
DUPHGLQVXUJHQF\FLYLFDFWLYLVPDQGMRXUQDOLVP DQGKLVSRHWU\$VLV

1
2 Witnessing beyond the Human

evident from some of the comments above in observation of his death,


his writing is often viewed as continuing his politics, the quintessential
embodiment of politically committed literature—so much so that one
commemorative statement issued by a Peronist group suggested that
it was unnecessary to read Gelman’s poetry in order to appreciate his
greatness. 2 Conversely, his poetry has also been regarded as a space
apart from his political engagements, a sphere dedicated to personal
experience. In addition to biographically motivated interpretations
of his experiences of exile, Judaism, or love, for instance, this latter
perspective is also shared by the critics who accused him of avoiding
the ethical implications of his armed past. The philosopher and poet
2VFDU GHO %DUFR IRU LQVWDQFH FDOOV KLP D ȤSRHWPDUW\Uȥ LPSO\LQJ
that his poetry serves as a space of redemption from his active role
LQWKH'LUW\:DUVSHFLˋFDOO\GXHWRKLVGHSLFWLRQVRIWKHH[SHULHQFH
of personal loss, including, notably, his son and pregnant daughter-
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Reato, a conservative journalist with a history of antagonizing the
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.LUFKQHUDQG&ULVWLQD)HUQ£QGH] UHLWHUDWHGGHO%DUFRȢVFULWLTXHDIWHU
Gelman’s death, arguing that Gelman used his poetry as a neutral space
of refuge in which to hide from the obligation to re-examine the past,
DQGWKHUHIRUHWKHYHU\VWUXFWXUHRI3HURQLVP 5HDWRQS 
Gelman’s poetry is neither continuous with his political involvements
nor is it a space fully disengaged from them. Most of his complex and
challenging poems do not conform to the conventions of political or
committed literature, which is why it is perhaps tempting to simply fold
them into his political activities without reading them. And although
much of his poetry addresses issues that appear to be about personal
experience, such as love and mourning, these poems do not privilege
personal experience over political engagement, but rather function as
spaces in which to rethink the basic notions of subjectivity, relation, and
history that structure both politics and intimacy. This poetic rethinking
constitutes an implicit challenge to some of the basic elements of
existing forms of political practice, including those fundamental to the
ideology and organization of the Montoneros. Far from constituting a
space of refuge for personal redemption, as del Barco and Reato suggest,
his poetry interrogates the immunological notion of salvation in all
its forms, and explores the possibility of a different thinking of life,
community, and history, and therefore a different possibility for politics.
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 3

,QKLVUHˌHFWLRQVRQWKH0RQWRQHURVLQKLVOHWWHURIUHVLJQDWLRQIURP
the group and in the interviews with Roberto Mero collected in the
YROXPHContraderrota: Montoneros y la revolución perdida, Gelman
indicates some of the key elements for such a rethinking. In these
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WKDQPDWHULDOLVW DQG0HVVLDQLF+HGHVFULEHVKRZWKHRUJDQL]DWLRQ
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populist base, including differences of perspective and the uncertainties
of popular struggle, in favor of a vertical-militaristic and ultimately
elitist structure. This top-down approach culminated when the group
ZHQWFODQGHVWLQHLQHIIHFWLYHO\UHQRXQFLQJWKHSRWHQWLDORISRSXODU
organization in favor of militaristic command, and leaving its populist
supporters vulnerable to the death squads in what amounted to “political
VXLFLGHȥ Contraderrota   6XFK SROLWLFDO VXLFLGH ZDV UHSHDWHG
internally in the organization with the controversial distribution of
cyanide pills and the order to take them following capture, to avoid the
danger of breaking under torture.
Gelman interprets this relation to suicide as part of a theological
dimension of the Montonero philosophy, which he and Mero specify as
associated with the Thomistic tradition in Christianity. Gelman explains
that Thomas of Aquinas distinguished the Old and New Testaments as
SHUWDLQLQJWRWKHȤUHLJQRIQDWXUHȥDQGWKHȤUHLJQRIVSLULWȥUHVSHFWLYHO\
He then extends this distinction to the nature of human life, considering
that the physical body corresponds to that which is obsolete and can
be superseded, and the human spirit to what will be redeemed. Mero
DQG*HOPDQVXJJHVWWKDWWKHQRWLRQRIWKHVXSHUˌXLW\RIWKHSK\VLFDO
LQIRUPHGWKHȤP\VWLFLVPȥRIPXFKUHYROXWLRQDU\WKRXJKWLQFOXGLQJWKDW
of the Montoneros, which perhaps more than any other organization
believed in the spirit of revolution, and its redemptive resolution at
WKHVDFULˋFLDOH[SHQVHRILWVPDWHULDOEHDUHUV*HOPDQGHFULHVKRZWKH
Montonero leadership sought to instill not only a Thomistic promise
of the endurance of spirit over matter, but also one based on a notion
RIȤLQGLYLGXDOVDOYDWLRQȥDOEHLWLQWKHQDPHRIFROOHFWLYHFKDQJH+H
gives the example of a military leader saying such things as, “If you
die it doesn’t matter, because tomorrow, when we achieve victory,
WKHUHZLOOEHDVFKRROQDPHGDIWHU\RXȥ Contraderrota *HOPDQ
contrasts this ideal of individual martyrdom with the objective of
collective action, as well as other ways of relating to life, including
alternate mystical approaches that do not appeal to a sense of spiritual
4 Witnessing beyond the Human

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SK\VLFDO ȟ 
In keeping with his critique of the immunological and teleological
tenets of Montonero ideology, Gelman’s poetry insists on the alter-
immunological vulnerability and interrelatedness of life, death, self,
RWKHUDQGSDVWSUHVHQWDQGIXWXUH+LVDSSURDFKWRWKHVHˋJXUHVLV
FOHDUO\LQˌXHQFHGE\WKHJHQHUDOL]HGH[SHULHQFHRIORVVDIWHUWKHFRXS
GȢHWDWLQZKLFKLQFOXGHGWKHORVVRIFRXQWU\ GXHERWKWRWKH
repression and restructuring of Argentina, and his own experience of
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UHVLGHQFHLQ$UJHQWLQD WKHSURMHFWRIUHYROXWLRQDQGWKHGLVDSSHDUDQFH
and death of his son, pregnant daughter-in-law, and numerous friends
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(XURSHGXULQJWKLVWLPHKHZURWHDJUHDWGHDORISRHWU\PXFKRIZKLFK
UHˌHFWVWKHH[SHULHQFHRIPRXUQLQJDWWLPHVPRUHH[SOLFLWO\WKDQRWKHUV
Critics have tended to view these poems as forms of elegiac lamentation,
a kind of poetic burial of what cannot strictly be buried.  At a different
extreme, Ben Bollig, building on del Barco’s critique, suggests that they
provide a melancholic means of keeping the past alive, resisting the
passage of time and the need for historical re-evaluation.
Nevertheless Gelman’s poetry articulates a considerably different
approach to the experience of loss:

Narrative is a form of delaying death. Poetry is freer: it starts from


consciousness of death and goes backward and forward in spite of it. It
OLYHVZLWK convive con GHDWKZLWKRXWUHMHFWLQJLWLWWHOOVLWWKDWLWȢVRND\
that it exists—death exists and that is an oxymoron—but it allows life full
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7KHFRQVFLRXVQHVVRIGHDWKPDNHVXVKXPDQDQGLQKXPDQ humanos y
deshumanos  *HOPDQȤ1RWDVDOSLHȥTWGLQ)DEU\Las formas del
vacío: La escritura del duelo en la poesía de Juan Gelman  

Gelman attributes to narrative an attempt to ward off death, and


to poetry a mode of accepting our inevitable exposure to it. He
suggests that poetry represents our relationship to limits through the
silences and gaps that are paradoxically intrinsic to language. He also
considers that its relationship to death and rupture grants it a special
freedom with regard to time, in which it is not restricted to linearity
or a homogenous present that excludes other times. In this way it
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 5

corresponds to life, our own life as humans, but also life—or survival,
what he later terms másvida—as something that exceeds and disrupts
any sense whereby human life is understood to be fully present to
LWVHOI,WWKHUHIRUHȤGHKXPDQL]HVȥXVRUVKRZVRXUKXPDQLW\LQWKH
process of being undone, confronted by limits that are nevertheless
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Derrida considers the relation between the human fig ure or
anthropomorphism and death in his discussion of mourning in Memoires
for Paul de Man, where he suggests that mourning is a fundamental
element of life that concerns not only our memories of the dead, but
also our relationships with the living, who, like us, are fundamentally
PRUWDO Ȥ0QHPRV\QHȥȟ +HGHVFULEHVWZRGLIIHUHQWWHQGHQFLHVRI
mourning, one of which could be called prosopopoeic, coming from de
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self and others within knowledge and representation. Prosopopoeia
FRPHVIURPWKH*UHHN prosopon poiein PHDQLQJWRJLYHRUPDNHD
face, and is a process whereby the other “is made as intelligible and
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Ȥ$XWRELRJUDSK\DV'HIDFHPHQWȥ 3URVRSRSRHLFPRXUQLQJVHHNV
to confer a knowable, determinate self to the other, threatened by
dissolution and death.
Derrida describes this kind of mourning as a form of interiorization:
we bring the other into ourselves and our memory for safekeeping.
He characterizes such interiorization as something both violent and
tender: both as a kind of devouring of the other, and a carrying of the
RWKHUDVLILWZHUHDQXQERUQFKLOG Ȥ0QHPRV\QHȥȟ +HFRQFHGHV
that it can be tempting to hold a loved one near even though he is gone
forever—to keep him in one’s heart, to preserve his memory through
images of his face and imagined conversations based on what he might
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LVDZHOONQRZQSDURG\RIWKLVWHQGHQF\ 1HYHUWKHOHVV'HUULGDVWUHVVHV
in keeping with de Man, that such attempts at preservation ultimately
serve to mask the other’s loss, and, perhaps even more importantly,
the fact that the other is another, and can never be fully interiorized.
The other’s death obliges us to confront the fact, perhaps more obvious
during life, that the other “is greater than . . . what . . . we can bear,
FDUU\RUFRPSUHKHQGȥ Ȥ0QHPRV\QHȥ 
This leads Derrida to seek a different form of mourning, one that
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6 Witnessing beyond the Human

Ȥ0QHPRV\QHȥ 7KDWLVKHVHHNVDPRXUQLQJWKDWZRXOGLQFOXGH
“respect for the other as other, a sort of tender rejection, a movement
of renunciation which leaves the other alone, outside, over there,
LQ KLV GHDWK RXWVLGH RI XVȥ 5DWKHU WKDQ D IRUP RI SURVRSRSRHLD
this mourning would constitute a kind of apostrophe in the sense
invoked by Ross Chambers, as informed by the Greek roots apo and
strophe LQGLFDWLQJ D WXUQLQJDZD\ Untimely Inter ventions: AIDS
Writing, Testimonial, and the Rhetoric of Haunting   This other
kind of mourning involves a turning-to that is also a turning-away,
a turning that recognizes the other’s turning—taken to an extreme
in the form of death, even though it occurs in life as well. This sense
of apostrophe testifies to the other as inappropriable and ultimately
unknowable, responding to the law of iterability mentioned in the
LQWURGXFWLRQLWLQYROYHVDȤVKRXOGȥDUHVSRQVLELOLW\WRWKHRWKHUDQG
yet it is also ultimately inevitable.
This turning has two especially important effects on the survivor
and survival itself, including the survivor’s relationship to time and
the world. Mourning presupposes a connection to something past,
and the prosopopoeic form of mourning tries to bring that past
into the present, whereby the lost other continues to live in the
mind of the survivor—often in a timeless fashion, since the other’s
persona consists of memories that are for the most part unchanging.
Apostrophic memory and mourning address the past and the past life
of another, but they do not try to contain them in the present. On
the contrary, they open the present to the temporality of the other,
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temporalities, including the future.
Related to this opening to the temporality of the other is Derrida’s
description of mourning in relation to an alternate notion of pregnancy:
not as the carriage of an integral other within an integral self, as in
prosopopoeic mourning, but as an experience that disrupts self-presence
and shows us that “we are never ourselvesȥ Ȥ0QHPRV\QHȥ 7 The
aporia of mourning involves a kind of taking-in of something that
cannot be taken in, and which leads to an engendering of possibility
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“can only take . . . form through the trace of the other in us, the other’s
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WKHWUDFHRIWKHRWKHUWKHˋQLWXGHRIPHPRU\DQGWKXVWKHDSSURDFKRU
UHPHPEUDQFHRIWKHIXWXUHȥ Ȥ0QHPRV\QHȥ 
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 7

Derrida develops the analogy of pregnancy and mourning further in


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reads Celan’s verse as appealing to an experience of mourning that
does not seek to “include, to comprehend within the self, but rather
to carry oneself or bear oneself toward [se porter vers] the infinite
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aporetic carriage to Celan’s abstruse poetics, and by extension to
the very nature of poetry. Like the survivor who carries the other in
mourning, or the mother who carries an unborn child, so the poem
does not bear within it a single, integral meaning. Rather, it “appeals
to the other without condition, in the language of a hospitality that
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ERWKLQWHQWLRQDQGLQWHUSUHWDWLRQ Ȥ5DPVȥ ,QWKLVVHQVHLWLVDOVR
like translation, which transports an inscription from one language to
DQRWKHUFDUU\LQJZLWKLWLWVYHU\XQWUDQVODWDELOLW\ Ȥ5DPVȥ 
In Celan’s poem, the injunction to carry the other coincides with the
world’s departure or obliteration: Die Welt ist fort, ich muß dich tragen.
7KLVYHUVHDSSHDUVDWWKHHQGRIWKHSRHPDVLIȤVHQGLQJRIIȥRUJLYLQJ
DIDUHZHOO salut WRWKHZRUOG Ȥ5DPVȥ ,WPDUNVDOHDYHWDNLQJ
of the world understood as foundation, presence, framework, totality:
Ȥ'HDWKPDUNVHDFKWLPHHDFKWLPHLQGHˋDQFHRIDULWKPHWLFWKHDEVROXWH
end of the one and only world . . . the end of the totality of what is or
FDQEHȥ1HYHUWKHOHVV'HUULGDREVHUYHVWKDWWKHVXUYLYRUDORQJZLWK
the poem, the translation, and the mother, “alone in the distancing
RIWKHZRUOGȥJDWKHUWKHRWKHUWRWKHPVHOYHVDVDZD\XOWLPDWHO\RI
GHOLYHULQJLWLQWRWKHZRUOG Ȥ5DPVȥ 7KHWUDQVSRUWDWLRQRIWKH
other is a missive that cannot detach itself from the world, but is rather
VHQWWRZDUGLWȤ,EHDUP\VHOIWRZDUGWKHLQˋQLWHLQDSSURSULDELOLW\RIWKH
RWKHUȥZKLFKLVLQWXUQEHDULQJLWVHOIWRZDUGWKHLQˋQLWHRUȤGLIIHUHQWO\
ˋQLWHDQGLQˋQLWHȥLQDSSURSULDELOLW\RIWKHZRUOG Ȥ5DPVȥ 
This sending is also necessarily a sending toward the future, toward
IXWXUHOLIHRUVXUYLYDO(YHQLQPRPHQWVRIGHHSJULHIWKHZRUOGLVDOZD\V
ȤEH\RQG>DQG@EHIRUHȥXVWHPSRUDOO\DVZHOODVVSDWLDOO\ Ȥ5DPVȥ 
In a way that resonates strongly with Derrida’s description of Celan,
Gelman’s poetry performs an insistent apostrophe of life and death
beyond prosopopoeia, in which the singularity of address opens onto
a radical sense of history and world. In his poems, the address of the
other touches on the limits of the alter-immunological, limits that hover
8 Witnessing beyond the Human

between life and survival, the frontal and the frontier, the singular and
the multiple, and past, present, and future. The encounter with the
other is never immediate and present, but extends out into search and
passage. A sense of exposure to the unknown occurs whether the other
is familiar or a stranger, dead or alive, or an individual or a collective.
It also inevitably occurs in time, in which the traces of the past and
the future expose the present to multiple, unknowable possibilities—
radically distinct from the structural narrative of redemption that he
associates with Montonero philosophy, in which past and future are
foregone conclusions, and the materiality of life or másvidaLVVDFULˋFHG
LQIDYRURIDQLGHDOHQG(VFKHZLQJVXFKDOLQHDUWHOHRORJ\*HOPDQȢV
work appeals to an alternate form of Messianism, analogous to what
Derrida calls messianicity, in which an openness to the alterity of time
and the temporality of the other forms the condition of possibility of
real change, including a radical sense of justice. 
Gelman’s idiosyncratic style is central to his apostrophic poetics,
which engages the materiality of language to disrupt familiarity and
coherence. The most characteristic of these techniques is his excessive
use of the virgule, normally used to indicate poetic line breaks in
prose quotations, but which is used throughout much of his work as
an indication of rupture and discontinuity. In addition to his peculiar
punctuation, Gelman makes minor innovations in his use of language,
using feminine articles for masculine nouns and vice versa, making
verbs out of nouns, and other similar shifts. These strategies introduce
elements of strangeness into the familiar space of language, requiring
us to question the reliability of linguistic convention, and stressing the
fact that meaning is not something to be taken for granted. Together
with a frequent use of diminutives, these alterations also suggest the
idea that language is unfamiliar to the poet, as well, as if he were a
FKLOGOHDUQLQJWRXVHODQJXDJH WKLVLVLPSOLHGHVSHFLDOO\ZLWKȤHUURUVȥ
such as using escribidos for escritos ,QGHHGSRHWU\PD\EHRQHIRUPRI
communicating how much we need to learn in and of language. Such
learning is also always an unlearning, in that it does not result in a wiser,
more complete poetic subject, analogous to his remark about how the
awareness of death makes us human and inhuman.10 He indicates this
through a recurrence of pseudonyms, pseudo-translation, quotation, and
intertextuality, among other techniques. This emphasis on mediation
disrupts any sense of self-possession through language, and performs
the inevitable disruption and incompleteness of humanist autonomy. His
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 9

unconventional use of language and reference can be seen as responding


to what Lyotard describes as the differend, “the unstable state and
instant of language wherein something which must be put into phrases
FDQQRW\HWEHȥ Differend 3XVKLQJODQJXDJHWRZDUGWKLVXQVWDEOH
state, his poetry constitutes an apostrophic address of an inappropriable
alterity that conditions any thinking of the political.

The Errancy of Life, Language, and Lamentation:


The Poems of Sidney West

Gelman’s apostrophic poetics can be traced back to his earliest


SXEOLFDWLRQVEXWWKHLUˋUVWSUHGRPLQDQWDSSHDUDQFHLVLQThe Poems
of Sidney West: Translations III, 1968–1969 (Los poemas de Sidney
West: Traducciones III). 11 This volume is the first in which Gelman
plays with translation and pseudonyms, a theme that he returns to
repeatedly over the next several decades. It also anticipates the theme
of mourning that would occupy his poetry in the years following
the coup. Although I want to avoid any deterministic reading of the
relation between his poetry and political involvement, it is hard to
RYHUORRNWKHIDFWWKDWWKHVHSRHPVZHUHZULWWHQGXULQJWKHˋUVW\HDUV
RI KLV DFWLYH SDUWLFLSDWLRQ LQ UHYROXWLRQDU\ SROLWLFV KH MRLQHG WKH
)XHU]DV$UPDGDV5HYROXFLRQDULDVRU)$5LQWKH)$5PHUJHG
ZLWK0RQWRQHURVLQDQG*HOPDQPDLQWDLQHGKLVLQYROYHPHQW
ZLWKWKHPXQWLOKLVUXSWXUHZLWKWKHJURXSLQ 7KHSRHPVDUHIDU
from indicating political action or even the ideals of radical social and
political change in any direct sense. However, their appeal to linguistic
permutability, and a permeability between individuals and others, life
and death, human and not-human, suggests an intrinsic relationship
between a non-humanist, alter-immunological understanding of life
DQGDQRSHQHQGHGLQTXLU\LQWRȤWKHHQLJPDRIWKHSROLWLFDOȥ 'HUULGD
Rogues 
Los poemas de Sidney West: Traducciones III is structured as a series
of eulogies for a collection of dead characters and miscellaneous
elements that made up their lives and worlds. The characters, ostensibly
inhabitants of a North American town, are presented not strictly as
individuals, but as swarming worlds populated and traversed by any
number of different objects and forces. In this sense, they cannot be
eulogized or witnessed in any straightforward sense, since the limits
of their lives and deaths are difficult to pin down. This challenge
10 Witnessing beyond the Human

is intimately linked to the fictional attribution of these poems as


translations. Like translation, epitaphic commemoration implies a
FDUU\LQJDFURVV trans-latio RIOLIHLQWRUHSUHVHQWDWLRQZKHUHE\WKH
remembered person becomes prosopopoeically commemorated in
language or memory. The pseudo-translated eulogies of Sidney West
disturb this sense of transfer, calling into question the opposition
between origin and derivation. Rather than transferring an original
meaning to a second language or the entirety of a life into language, the
poems appear to respond to something outside of themselves, something
for which they cannot fully account. The book’s epigraph—“Translation,
LVLWWUHDVRQ"3RHWU\LVLWWUDQVODWLRQ"ȥ La traducción, ¿es traición? // La
poesía, ¿es traducción? ȠOLQNVWUDQVODWLRQWRWUHDVRQVWUHVVLQJWKHZD\
the notion of translation understood as a seamless transfer of meaning
is always also betrayed or interrupted, and implies that poetry consists
of such an incomplete transfer.12
7KHˋQDOSRHPȤIHGHHUUDWDVȥ *HOPDQLos poemas de Sidney West:
Traducciones IIIȟ VHUYHVDVDNLQGRIars poetica. Rather than a
setting straight of errors, which is the customary meaning of the title’s
term, the poem suggests a faith in errors and the wandering nature
RIODQJXDJH7KLVIDLWKLQSRHWLFHUUDQF\LVHYLGHQWLQWKHˋUVWVWDQ]D
ȤZKHUHLWVD\VȡKHOHIWKLPVHOIDVLIIURPDSULVRQFHOOȢ SDJH[YHUVH[ 
one could say ‘the little tree grew and grew’ or any other equivocation
// as long as it has rhythm // is certain or true // that’s what sidney west
ZURWHȥ donde dice ‘salió de sí como de un calabozo’ [página tal verso cual]
// podría decir ‘el arbolito creció creció’ o alguna otra equivocación // a
condición de tener ritmo // ser cierta o verdadera // así escribió sidney west 
Far from turning the translation back to a more faithful transcription of
WKHRULJLQDOȤIHGHHUUDWDVȥLQWURGXFHVPRUHSRVVLELOLWLHVZKLFKVHHP
to have little to do with one another. Like the idea of a translation that
EHWUD\VLWVˋGHOLW\WRWKHRULJLQWKLVfe unsettles any sense of stable and
unequivocal meaning and opens the very notions of truth and certainty
to the equivocations and errata of language: “or any other equivocation
DVORQJDVLWKDVUK\WKPLVFHUWDLQRUWUXHȥ
The sense of truth as shifting possibilities underscores the instability
of fig ures that are generally understood to impose unequivocal
GLVWLQFWLRQVȤIHGHHUUDWDVȥDGGUHVVHVVHYHUDOVXFKˋJXUHVLQFOXGLQJ
the human, self, and life. In this poem and throughout the book, these
ˋJXUHVDUHHUUDQWDQGHTXLYRFDODQGGRQRWH[FOXGHWKHLURSSRVLWHV
That is, the distinctions between human and inhuman, self and other,
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 11

life and death, history and the present are not mutually exclusive,
but are permeable and interdependent. Sidney West himself is said
to be both human and animal, alive and dead, and—in a particularly
intriguing image—he is described as split and turning around himself
OLNH D ZDWHUZKHHO GRQNH\ sidney . . . // giró con west como burro de
noria  Like the equivocal truths that structure the poem, he, or his
DSRFU\SKDO DXWKRULDOQDPHLVQRWXQLˋHGDQGGLVWLQJXLVKHGIURP
what he is not, but is internally divided and rotating. Such a rotation
suggests an errancy intrinsic to both subjectivity and writing, and, as
the poems attributed to West attest, is also related to the way we relate
to ourselves and others.
7KHˋUVWSRHPRIWKHERRNȤODPHQWIRUWKHGHDWKRISDUVLIDOKRROLJȥ
ȟ LQWURGXFHVWKHUHODWLRQVDPRQJSRHWLFHUUDQF\PRUWDOLW\DQG
community. The poem describes a man who was found dead during a
WLPHRIXQVSHFLˋHGQDWLRQDOFULVLVDQGZKRVHOLIHDQGGHDWKJRDOPRVW
entirely unnoticed, even by forces that view themselves as revolutionary.
In the midst of the national upheaval, parsifal’s dead body is found in
GLIIHUHQWWLPHVDQGSODFHV lo encontraron muerto varias veces VXJJHVWLQJ
a recurrent encounter with the nearly invisible lives and deaths of the
underclass. His death receives no formal notice—there is no obituary,
and his body is unceremoniously picked up by a trash collector—but
nevertheless a trace remains that years of rain cannot erase: “that rain
rained for years and years on the pavement of Hereby Street // without
HUDVLQJWKHOHDVWWUDFHRIZKDWKDSSHQHGȥ ¡esa lluvia llovió años y años
sobre el pavimento de Hereby Street // sin borrar la más minima huella de lo
acontecido! :LWKPRFNFHUWLWXGHWKHSRHPXUJHVWKHUHDGHUWRDFFHSW
this as truth—“know that this is exactly what happened // that nothing
HOVHKDSSHQHGEXWWKLVEHQHDWKWKLVEOXHVN\RUYDXOWȥ sepa que esto
es exactamente lo que pasó // que ninguna otra cosa pasó sino esto // bajo
este cielo o bóveda celeste +RZHYHUWKHVRXQGRIȤRȥDVERWKLQWHUMHFWLRQ
DQGWKHVHQVHRIȤRUȥUHVRXQGVWKURXJKRXWWKHˋQDOOLQHVGLVUXSWLQJ
VXFKDVHQVHRIFORVXUHDQGFHUWDLQW\7KHˋQDOLPDJHRIWKHVN\DV
metaphor for clarity and truth, is divided and rendered equivocal by
WKHFRPSDUDWLYHȤRȥZKLFKUHLQIRUFHVWKHGXDOVHQVHRIbóveda, shared
E\WKH(QJOLVKȤYDXOWȥDVERWKWKHFXUYHGH[SDQVHRIVN\DQGEXULDO
chamber, stressing an indeterminate relation between revelation and
concealment, knowledge and not-knowing, regarding parsifal’s death.
7KHSRHPȤODPHQWIRUWKHXWHUXV uteró RIPHFKDYDXJKDPȥȤ ȟ 
extends this sense of indeterminacy to the nature of life. The poem
12 Witnessing beyond the Human

describes a woman who lived most of her life in her uterus, far from
WKHQRLVHVRIWKHRXWHUZRUOG7KHZRUGȤXWHUXVȥLVZULWWHQDVLILWZHUH
a preterit verb, suggesting that her reproductive potential has ended.
Nevertheless, things grow and thrive inside her—she has, in effect, an
HQWLUHZRUOGLQVLGHDZRUOGXQIDPLOLDUWRKHU ȤVKHFDPHWRNQRZVWUDQJH
ODQGVFDSHVIXOORIQHUYRXVELUGVȥ>conoció paisajes raros llenos de pájaros
nerviosos@ 6KHUHDOL]HVWKDWVKHFDQQRWPRYHDVIUHHO\DVWKHFUHDWXUHV
inside her, but their movement inspires her to ask why this is:

ȤZKDWLVWKLVWKDWPDNHVPHVWLFNWRWKHˌRRU"
IHHWWKDWIHHWLQVWHDGRIˌ\LQJRUKRZ
would the world the ox that which childs be /
if we didn’t devour ourselves /
LIZHORYHGDORWȥVDLGPHFKDYDXJKDP

“if we were or were / like human faces /


starting from two /
FRPSOHWHLQWKHUHVWȥVDLGPHFKDYDXJKDPFROODSVLQJ
ˋQDOO\RQWKHJURXQG

“¿qué es esto que me pega al piso? . . .


pies que piesan en vez de alar o cómo /
sería el mundo el buey lo que se hija /
si no nos devoráramos /
si amorésemos mucho” decía mecha vaugham

“si fuéremos o fuésemos / como rostros humanos /


empezando de a dos /
completos en el resto” decía mecha derrumbándose
ˋQDOPHQWHHQHOVXHOR

In these stanzas we find that mecha’s isolation and her discovery


of an internal world are not unrelated to the state of the external
world. Immobility is associated with alienation and hostility, and
mobility with a freedom and capacity for love. With her feet weighted
GRZQXQDEOHWRˌ\ alarDQHRORJLVPWKDWVXJJHVWVˌLJKWDVZHOODV
movement toward something—a la VKHLVOHIWRQO\WRWKLQN LPSOLHG
by the neologism piesan, which seems to combine pies, piensa, and
pesa  RI KRZ WKH ZRUOG PLJKW EH XQGHU EHWWHU FLUFXPVWDQFHV 7KH
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 13

DV\QGHWRQ ȤWKH ZRUOG WKH R[ WKDW ZKLFK FKLOGVȥ VHHPV WR LQGLFDWH
that the three elements share a common condition, and may even be
considered different aspects of the same thing, that is, the experience
RI EHLQJ LQ WKH ZRUOG 7KH LQFOXVLRQ RI ȤR[ȥ DIWHU ȤZRUOGȥ LPSOLHV
that a kind of animality is central to the world. Gelman’s animal
PRWLIVHVSHFLDOO\WKHR[ DFDVWUDWHGEXOO WHQGWRLQGLFDWHDVHQVH
of life that can be repressed or domesticated, and even castrated, but
QHYHUIXOO\WKHˋQDOVRXQGRIȤ\ȥLQbuey suggesting the possibility
of something else emerging from it, as mecha’s poem indicates
ZLWKWKHRGGH[SUHVVLRQȤWKDWZKLFKFKLOGVȥ Mecha asks how this
self-differential, procreative world would be “if we didn’t devour
ourselves / if we loved a lot . . . // if we were or were / like human
IDFHV ȥ 'HYRXULQJ LV WKH RSSRVLWH RI JLYLQJ ELUWK LW LV D YLROHQW
form of ingestion, a subsumption of the other into the self, and
amorar D QHRORJLVP WKDW FRQWDLQV WKH ZRUGV IRU ORYH amor  DQG
GZHOOLQJ morar  DSSHDUV WR FRQWUDVW ZLWK VXFK LQWHUQDOL]DWLRQ17
7KH IRUPXODWLRQ ȤKXPDQ IDFHVȥ DVVRFLDWHV VXFK OLYLQJ WKURXJK
and with others as a specifically human attribute. At first glance it
might appear that such humanness is characterized by a completion
WKURXJKGRPHVWLFFRXSOLQJ amorar, de a dos, completos +RZHYHUWKH
resonance between rostros and resto VXJJHVWVWKDWWKHˋJXUHRIWKH
KXPDQVXEMHFWWRWURSLFHUUDQF\ DVVLPLOH HTXLYRFDWLRQ DQRWKHU
conjunctive o  DQG VWULFWO\ K\SRWKHWLFDO si fuéremos o fuésemos 
GRHVQRWFRQVWLWXWHDWHOHRORJLFDOˋJXUHRIWRWDOLW\EXWUDWKHUH[LVWV
as supplement of something that can never be complete, el resto,
understood as both indeterminate others and that which remains.
7KHˋQDOODPHQWRIWKHERRNȤODPHQWIRUWKHOLWWOHVSRRQRIVDPP\
PFFR\ȥ ȟ GHVFULEHVWKHSHUPHDEOHDQGVKLIWLQJOLPLWVRIOLIH
and death. The figure of the spoon evokes two texts that similarly
FRQFHUQOLIHEH\RQGOLIH(GJDU/HH0DVWHUVȢVSpoon River Anthology
DQG&«VDU9DOOHMRȢVȤ3HGUR5RMDVȥ In both cases, death represents
QRWˋQDOLW\EXWDFRQWLQXDWLRQRIOLIHDQGUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ,Q0DVWHUVȢV
book—undoubtedly a source of inspiration for Los poemas de Sidney
WestȠGHDGFKDUDFWHUVSUHVHQWHSLWDSKVRIWKHLUIHOORZWRZQVSHRSOH
ZKLOHLQ9DOOHMRȢVSRHPDVSRRQGHVFULEHGDVȤGHDGDOLYHȥ muerta viva 
is found on the dead body of Pedro Rojas before he rises to continue
ZULWLQJLQWKHDLUKLVDIILUPDWLRQRIOLIHDQGFROOHFWLYLW\ Viban los
compañeros ,QȤODPHQWIRUWKHOLWWOHVSRRQRIVDPP\PFFR\ȥWKHOLWWOH
VSRRQ cucharita DXWHQVLOWKDWV\PEROLFDOO\UHSODFHVWKHPDWHUQDO
14 Witnessing beyond the Human

breast as a source of nourishment and comfort, is mentioned only as


something that is lost in an abusive world. In the midst of his suffering,
something, possibly another spoon, emerges from sammy that is likened
WRFKLOGUHQȤWKXVIURPKLVFKHVWRQHHPHUJHGOLNHWZRFKLOGUHQȥ
así // del pecho le fue una saliendo . . . como dos niños 7KHVHFKLOGOLNH
ˋJXUHVFRPHWRIXQFWLRQDVDSHFXOLDUIRUPRIVXVWHQDQFHRUVXSSRUW
linking the child he was to a child that might be, a sense of loss to a
sense of possibility: “sammy mccoy standing on his two children // the
RQHWKDWZDVWKHRQHWKDWZRXOGEHȥ sammy mccoy parado en sus dos
niños // el que fue el que sería 
This engendering of past and future leads sammy to contemplate the
nature of death, whereby he formulates a question that he repeats like
DUHIUDLQWKURXJKRXWWKHSRHPȤZKDWGRHVWKHJDPHRIOLIHFRQVLVWRIȥ
en qué consiste el juego de la muerte 7KHZRUGjuego in this context is
not intended to make light of death, but rather to suggest the idea that
death is not one solid thing, but like a game it has pieces and parts.20
This is underscored when sammy dies:

when sammy mccoy died


his two children detatched from him
the one that was rotted and the one that was going to be also
and in that way they went together

that which the rain the sun or the great planet or the system of
life separates
death brings back together
but sammy mccoy still spoke
ȤZKDWGRHVWKHJDPHRIOLIHFRQVLVWRIȥKHDVNHG

cuando murió sammy mccoy


los dos niños se le despegaron
el que fue se le pudrió y el que iba a ser también
y de ese modo fueron juntos

lo que la lluvia el sol o el gran planeta o la sistema de vivir separan


la muerte lo junta otra vez
pero sammy mccoy habló todavía
“en qué consiste el juego de la muerte” preguntó
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 15

7KH V\VWHP RU juego  RI OLIH LV VDLG WR VHSDUDWH WKLQJV LPSO\LQJ D
perpetuation of difference and movement, while death is said to bring
things together, subsuming difference into the same. The mention
of rain and sun may be a gesture to temporal difference, reinforced
by the fact that the word for weather in Spanish is the same as the
ZRUGIRUWLPH el tiempo VDPP\ȢVTXHVWLRQUHSHDWHGHYHQDIWHUKLV
death, resists the idea that death is an atemporal and unified state.
+LVȤFKLOGUHQȥ ZKRVH WHPSRUDO GLIIHUHQFHV DUH RVWHQVLEO\ EURXJKW
WRJHWKHULQGHDWK fueron juntos PRFNDVKDGRZWKDWWULHVWRXQLWH
them, shouting güeya güeyaZKLFKFDQPHDQVRPHWKLQJOLNHȤIRROȥ
but is also homophonic with the word huella, meaning track or trace.
Both repetition and traces involve time and difference even after
GHDWK7KHˋQDOOLQHRIWKHSRHPUHLQIRUFHVWKLVLGHDZLWKDSOD\RQ
words: “sammy the one who walks // sammy mccoy stepped on the
VXQDQGGHSDUWHGȥ VDPP\HOTXHFDPLQDVDPP\PFFR\SLVµHOVRO\
SDUWLµ 21 sammy’s death is described not as a cessation of movement
DQGGLIIHUHQFHEXWDVDȤGHSDUWXUHȥDVFDWWHULQJLQWRSDUWVWKDWZLOO
continue to move and change in time, even as his traces—like those of
parsifal hoolig—persist beneath the elements.

The Open Address of Mourning: Open Letter (Carta abierta)

Carta abierta ZDVZULWWHQLQIRXU\HDUVDIWHUWKHPLOLWDU\FRXSLQ


$UJHQWLQDDQGWKHȤGLVDSSHDUDQFHȥȠLOOLFLWLPSULVRQPHQWDQGRIWHQ
torture and murder—of tens of thousands of people.22 It is poignantly
GHGLFDWHGWRKLVVRQ a mi hijo ZKRWRJHWKHUZLWKKLVSUHJQDQWZLIH
ZDVGLVDSSHDUHGLQWKHˋUVWPRQWKVRIWKHGLFWDWRUVKLS7KHFRXSOH
active members of Montoneros, like Gelman himself at that time,
were taken from his house. At the time of the coup, Gelman was
LQ (XURSH RQ D ȤSXEOLF UHODWLRQVȥ DVVLJQPHQW IRU WKH 0RQWRQHURV
denouncing state terrorism. He returned briefly to Argentina, but
otherwise remained in exile, continuing his involvement in the
Montonero leadership for several years, until he publicly broke with
WKHJURXSLQIRUZKLFKLWFRQGHPQHGKLPWRGHDWKIRUWUHDVRQ
The volume is an intensely personal representation of mourning,
a mourning that is necessarily incomplete due to the nature of
disappearance, in which the circumstances and even the fact of death
are not fully known. Yet in spite of its personal nature and direct address
16 Witnessing beyond the Human

ȤWRP\VRQȥLWLVDOVRGHVFULEHGDVDQRSHQOHWWHUDQGSXEOLVKHGDVD
book. The openness of this poetic letter functions on several different
levels. In the most explicit sense it is a public declaration of his intimate
grief for his son coupled with a demand for justice. On another level
the book’s title invokes an apostrophic address of the lost son, which,
like Derrida’s reading of Celan’s association of world and loss, opens
toward—engendering and sending itself toward—a different sense of
world. Appealing to alter-immunological notions of life and singularity,
justice and world, this sense of openness contrasts starkly with the
GLFWDWRUVKLSȢVˌDJUDQWGLVUHJDUGIRUOLIHDQGLQVWUXPHQWDOL]DWLRQRI
disappearance and death. Coming on the heels of Gelman’s break with
the Montoneros and subsequent death sentence, it can also be seen as
DFULWLTXHRIWKHLUVDFULˋFLDOLGHRORJ\LQZKLFKGHDWKVVXFKDVWKLVZHUH
HDVLO\MXVWLˋHGE\WKHLGHDORIUHYROXWLRQ Ȥ,I\RXGLHLWGRHVQȢWPDWWHU
because tomorrow, when we achieve victory, there will be a school
QDPHGDIWHU\RXȥContraderrota ,WLVDOVRIXQGDPHQWDOO\GLVWLQFW
from the prosopopoeic nature of most memory politics, including what
Bollig, following Christian Gundermann, calls a melancholic embrace
of the past.
Carta abierta FRQVLVWVRIWZHQW\ˋYHSRHPVIROORZHGE\DQDIWHUZRUG
that explains the circumstances of his son’s loss:

RQ$XJXVW
my son marcelo ariel and
his pregnant wife claudia
were kidnapped in
buenos aires by a
military commando. their child
was born [and died] in
the concentration camp.
as in tens of thousands
of other cases, the military
GLFWDWRUVKLSQHYHURIˋFLDOO\
recognized these
ȤGLVDSSHDUHGȥLWVSRNHRI
ȤWKRVHDEVHQWIRUHYHUȥ
until i see their bodies
or their killers, i’ll never
JLYHWKHPXSIRUGHDWK Carta abierta  
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 17

el 24 de agosto de 1976
mi hijo marcelo ariel y
su mujer claudia, encinta,
fueron secuestrados en
buenos aires por un
comando militar. el hijo
de ambos nació [y murió] en
el campo de concentración.
como en decenas de miles
de otros casos, la dictadura
militar nunca reconoció
RˋFLDOPHQWHDHVWRV
‘desaparecidos.’ habló de
‘los ausentes para siempre.’
hasta que no vea sus cadáveres
o a sus asesinos, nunca los
daré por muertos.

Bollig regards this afterword as evidence of a militant melancholy


that resists new approaches to progressive politics that emerged in the
decades following the end of the dictatorship, including the question
RIHWKLFVVROLFLWHGE\GHO%DUFR %ROOLJModern Argentine Poetry +H
LQWHUSUHWVWKHOLQHȤWKRVHDEVHQWIRUHYHUȥDVLQGLFDWLQJDSHUVLVWHQFH
SUHVHQFHRIGLVDSSHDUDQFH  DQGOLQNVWKLVGHVFULSWLRQWR*HOPDQ
V
UHIXVDOWROHWJRRIHLWKHUKLVVRQRUWKH0RQWRQHURV ȟ 
However Bollig’s interpretation ignores the context of the phrase
ȤWKRVHDEVHQWIRUHYHUȥDQGWKHWHQVLRQEHWZHHQLWDQGWKHSRHWȢVYRZ
WKDWKHZLOOQHYHUJLYHWKHPXSIRUGHDG nunca los/daré por muertos 7KLV
vow announces not a refusal to accept the son’s death, but a commitment
to resist the totalizing discourse of the dictatorship, which claimed to be
DEOHWRHUDVHLWVVXEMHFWVGHˋQLWLYHO\GHFODULQJWKHPDVȤausentes para
siempreȥ7KHSRHWȢVSOHGJHQHYHUWRJLYHWKHPXSIRUGHDGLQGLFDWHV
a search for recognition that opposes the dictatorship’s claim of total
DEVHQFHȤWKHPLOLWDU\GLFWDWRUVKLSQHYHURIˋFLDOO\UHFRJQL]HGWKHVH
ȡGLVDSSHDUHGȢȥ7KHIRUFHRIWKHSRHWȢVnunca echoes the popular protest
UHIUDLQVȤ1XQFDP£VȥDQGȤ$SDULFLµQFRQYLGDȥ ȤQHYHUDJDLQȥDQGȤVDIH
UHWXUQȥDVVRFLDWHGSULPDULO\ZLWKWKH0DGUHVGHOD3OD]DGH0D\R DQG
SXVKHVWKLVUHFRJQLWLRQEH\RQGWKHˋQLWHREMHFWLYHVWRȤVHHWKHLUERGLHV
18 Witnessing beyond the Human

RUWKHLUNLOOHUVȥWRDNLQGRIDSSDULWLRQDOKDXQWLQJRIWKLVZRUOGDQG
especially the capacities of state power. The epilogue is conditioned
E\WKLVˋQDOSURPLVHZKLFKEUHDNVIURPWKHFRQVWDWLYHODQJXDJHRI
WKHˋUVWVHFWLRQDQGVHQGVWKHERRNRIIWRZDUGWKHZRUOGZLWKDQRSHQ
commitment to memory and justice.
The poems themselves are hard to read, in more ways than one.
The terrible topic of the son’s death is approached in a fragmented
and halting way, marked by numerous virg ules and convoluted
syntax. The book opens with the urgent and unresolvable question of
address, that is, what kind of relationship the poet can have with his
absent son: “speak or unspeak to you/ my pain/ // way of having you/
XQKDYLQJ\RXȥ hablarte o deshablarte/ dolor mío/ //manera de tenerte/
destenerte/  ,QLWLDOO\ WKH WZR SDLUV RI YHUEV DSSHDU WR EH SRVLWLYH
and negative terms, corresponding roughly to having or unhaving,
speaking or unspeaking. +RZHYHUWKHSUHˋ[des-, which echoes the
VRQȢV VWDWXV RI GLVDSSHDUHG desaparecido  LQGLFDWHV QRW VR PXFK D
VWULFWQHJDWLYHDVWKHQHHGWRˋQGDQRWKHUZD\RIPRXUQLQJEH\RQG
the prosopopoeic presence implied by the verbs speaking and having.
Any memory or address to the son must acknowledge the fact that
he cannot be held, either in life or in memory. The poems repeatedly
observe how there is no integral sense of self to sustain his memory.
One poem describes the son’s disappearance as a stroke that pushes
WKHSRHWRXWRIKLPVHOI toque sacándome de mí DQGZKLFKUHQGHUV
XVHOHVVDQGRGLRXVVWDWLFFDWHJRULHVRIPHPRU\ ȤWKHZDVWKHOHWȢV
UHPHPEHUȥ>el sido/ el recordemos@3RHP;,,, 5DWKHUWKDQKROGLQJ
integral memories and images of his son, the poet is left to gather
fragments that will never add up to be a whole: “what am I going to do
ZLWKPHP\SLHFH"ZKDWOLWWOHSLHFHVFDQ,FROOHFWQRZ"ȥ ¿qué voy
a hacer con mí/ pedazo mío? // ¿qué pedacitos puedo ya juntar?/ Poem
,,, 1RWRQO\LVWKHUHQRWDZKROHLPDJHRUPHPRU\RIKLVVRQWRKDYH
or speak to, but any address of the son is also an address of himself.
This is the sense of the accent in mí, which introduces an ambiguity
EHWZHHQSRVVHVVLYHDGMHFWLYH ȤZKDWDP,JRLQJWRGRZLWKP\SLHFH"ȥ 
DQGUHˌH[LYHREMHFWDQGHSLWKHW ȤZKDWDP,JRLQJWRGRZLWKP\VHOI
P\ SLHFH"ȥ  7KLV ȤHTXLYRFDWLRQȥ LV DOVR HYLGHQW LQ WKH ˋUVW OLQH RI
SRHP,LQZKLFKWKHIRUPXODWLRQȤGRORUP¯RȥLVERWKDWHQGHUHSLWKHW
applied to the son and a reference to the poet’s own pain.
To unhave and unspeak—returning to the first poem’s opening
questions—appears to correspond to an apostrophic form of mourning
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 19

that turns toward the other and also recognizes the distance and
disaggregation of both self and other. Following the questions of how
to speak and hold the other, the poem describes a dynamic that moves
beyond having and holding: “passion that worlds its punishment like //
VRQWKDWˌLHVWKURXJKTXLHWQHVVWKURXJKUDSWXUHVȥ pasión que munda
su castigo como // hijo que vuela por quietudes por // arrobamientos/ 7KLV
form of passion is impersonal, belonging not to the poet, but moving
through him like the memories of his son move through different
states and spaces. The association of passion and movement invokes
the etymological link between passion and passage, that is, between
suffering and movement. 27 The emphasis on movement recalls the
LGHDSUHVHQWHGLQȤODPHQWRSRUVDPP\PFFR\ȥWKDWGHDWKLVDVWDWH
of completion and sameness, whereas life involves movement and
difference. The poet cannot have his son or hold on to him in memory,
but he can continue to follow the movements of his absence, both in
himself and in the world.
This passionate movement—even of disappearance and death—in
some sense constitutes the world, indicated by the neologism mundar.
The sense of world and worlding is mentioned at other points in the book
DQGWKURXJKRXW*HOPDQȢVZRUN DQRWDEOHLQVWDQFHLVKLVERRNRI
poems, Mundar ,QCarta abierta, it appears together with the neologism
terrar HDUWKLQJ DVDQRSHQLQJWRWKHPRYHPHQWVRIOLIHLQWKHVHQVHRI
a survival that includes the past as well as the future. This is indicated
in the rest of poem I, where the poet’s grief pushes out of the imagined
HPEUDFHZLWKWKHVRQWRDVHULHVRIGLVFRQWLQXRXVLPDJHVWKDWȤKDXQWȥ
penar WKHSRHWȢVSUHVHQWDQGHQGVZLWKWKHRSHQVN\RIWKHIXWXUH
7KHUHVWOHVVQHVVRIKLVSDLQDQGWKHQRWTXLWHGHDGQHVVRIWKHVRQ WZR
kinds of pena OHDGWKHSRHWWRVD\WKDWKHZRXOGQHYHUȤWLUHRIXQZDLWLQJ
>XQKRSLQJGHVSDLULQJ@\RXȥ cansaría de desesperarte/), invoking a
peculiar kind of hope and waiting. This unhoping for the disappeared is
not a theological anticipation of the resurrection of his spirit, nor only
a literal waiting for the return of his body, but an apostrophic openness
to his spectral traces and a commitment to what may come—including,
but not limited to, the return of his son’s remains. The poet describes
KLVVRQDVȤIDFHRUQLJKWZKHUH\RXVKLQHPRVWVWDUULO\RI\RXȥ rostro
o noche // donde brillás astrísimo de vos VXJJHVWLQJWKDWLQVSLWHRIWKH
SRHWȢVSURIHVVHGVHQVHRIEOLQGQHVV ciegüísimo KHSHUFHLYHVJOLPPHUV
of light through the dark sky, like the light of distant and possibly dead
stars that continues to shine through time and space.
20 Witnessing beyond the Human

In an echo of the previous orVȠȤKDEODUWHRGHVKDEODUWHȥȤWHQHUWHR


GHVWHQHUWHȥȤURVWURRQRFKHȥȠWKHSRHPFRQFOXGHVZLWKDILQDOor that
similarly indicates an alternative between prosopopoeic proximity
and an openness that exceeds knowledge but is connected to hope:
“kissing with kisses of the mouth/ or // sky that you open childing
\RXUGHDWKGZHOOLQJȥ besar con besos de la boca/ o // cielo que abrís
hijando tu morida   Just as the poet understandably yearns to hold
and speak to his son, and see his face, he also longs to kiss his mouth,
but the poem interrupts that longing, in part by performing the
interruption of disappearance—the o dangles at the end of the line,
as if pursed to kiss but finding only air—but also by turning from
the imagined closeness of prosopopoeia to a space of des-esperanza
and possibility. The son’s disappearance stretches open the already
yawning darkness of the unknown, but it is in that open expanse that
the poet is able to imagine his son creating a sense of dwelling in
GHDWK WKHQHRORJLVP morida appears to invoke morada and morir 7KH
neologism hijando suggests that this sense of dwelling is an ongoing
process with a spectral legacy that extends indefinitely into the open
sky of the future, that is, to the open horizons of the world.
The word hijar FKLOGLQJ  DV ZHOO DV WKH IRUP deshijar, appears
WKURXJKRXWWKHSRHPV$VLQȤODPHQWIRUPHFKDYDXJKDPȥLWDSSHDUV
to indicate not a form of biological filiation, but as the opposite of
a devouring internalization, an opening-up of self to others and a
mode of dwelling in the world. It thus also resonates with the analogy
between mourning and pregnancy evoked by Derrida and Celan, in
which a non-prosopopoeic form of mourning is performed by allowing
the singular worlds of others to interrupt any sense of self-presence. 
In Carta abierta, hijar seems to present an alternative to traditional
terms of kinship such as father and child, as well as their political
counterpart in the figure of the homeland or patria, both traditionally
linked to a hierarchical structure and a shared sense of identity.
Throughout the poems the term padre IDWKHU DSSHDUVDOWHUQDWLYHO\
on its own, linked to impotence and loss, and in association with
país FRXQWU\ OLQNHGWRWKHLQIOLFWLRQRISDLQ2QHSRHPGHVFULEHV
father and country as if they were torturer and torture chamber:
“country so somber where you shout // against the father hurter of
VRPXFK"ȥ(¿país gravísimo donde gritás // contra la padre doledor de
tanto?3RHP,,,   They are described as suffering parts of the son’s
WRUWXUHGERG\ȠȤIDWKHUWKDWKXUW\RXȥȤZKDWFRXQWU\GR\RXEOHHGȥ
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 21

padre que te dolía, qué país sangrás, 3RHPV ,,, 9,, ȠDQG VHHP WR
disappear, at least in their known forms, into “suffering or suffered
ODQJXDJHȥ padecimiento o lengua padecida3RHP,,, ,QWKHVXIIHULQJ
ODQJXDJHRIWKHVHSRHPV ZKLFKDJDLQHYRNHVWKHILJXUHRIWKHIDWKHU
as padre and decir WKHSRHWVWUXJJOHVWRhijar new forms of relation
that respond both to his son’s disappearance and the continued
coming of the world.
7KHˋQDOWZRSRHPVSUHVHQWGLIIHUHQWFRQFHSWLRQVRIZKDWWKHHQG
of mourning will be like and what it will mean for a sense of the world.
Poem XXIV imagines a kind of resurrection of the son:

I unwork you from death as


I can/ poor you the soul walks
inside itself/ and hopefully stones
i polish with your breath will shine

childest that worlds/ or sads or how


will the works be that bring you/ you/

te destrabajo de la muerte como


puedo/ pobre de vos la alma camina
dentro de sí/ y ojalá resplandezcan
piedras que pulo con tu respirar

niñísimo que munda/ o trista o cómo


serán las obras que te traigan/ vos/

7KHZRUGȤXQZRUNȥ destrabajo GHVFULEHVDQDFWRIXQIDVWHQLQJRU


detaching the son from death, freeing his soul to walk and allowing
his breath—etymologically evoked by the word almaȠWRˌRZ  The
appearance in the second stanza of the word obras suggests that
the use of the word trabajar is not incidental, but gestures to the
TXHVWLRQ RI ZKDW LW ZLOO PHDQ IRU WKH SRHW WR ZRUN RU ȤXQZRUNȥ LQ
the wake and in the name of his son’s disappearance. What kind of
stones will the poet be able to polish with the immaterial remains
RIWKHGLVDSSHDUHGVRQWKHUHWXUQVRIKLVVSLULW re-spirar DQGZKDW
kind of works will they inspire in others, as a possible consequence
of this open letter? This double meaning of unwork extends to the
SRHPLQJHQHUDOLQGLFDWLQJWZRZD\VLQZKLFKWKHVRQPD\ȤZRUOGȥ
22 Witnessing beyond the Human

or have an effect on the world. One version concerns a mortal attempt


to improve the state of the world by working to end suffering and
KXPLOLDWLRQ DOWKRXJK WKH HPSKDVLV RQ ZRUN HVSHFLDOO\ WKH WHUP
obras UHVRQDWHVZLWKD&KULVWLDQHWKLFRIZRUNWRZDUGUHGHPSWLRQ 
The other version is explicitly religious, expounding on the image of
the martyred son, who like Christ will rise like the sun to shine on
HDUWKO\EHLQJVȤFRPSDQLRQRIWKHEHOLHYHGRQHVRIWKHDIˌLFWHGIRU
your pooring rise suns that // illuminated suffering/ faces// so that no
RQHZLOOEHKXPLOLDWHGȥ FRPSD³HURGHORVFUH¯GRVGHORVDˌLJLGRV
por tu pobrear se alzan los soles que // iluminaban rostros/ sufrideras //
para que nadie se humillara 
The end of the poem breaks off from this redemptive narrative: “it
ZRXOGEHWHQGHUQHVVLI\RXZHUHDOLYH\RXDUHȥ fuera // ternura que
estuvieras/ vivo/ sos 7KHˋQDOOLQHDFNQRZOHGJHVWKHVRQȢVDEVHQFHDQG
SUREDEOHGHDWKDQGZKLOHLWDIˋUPVDFRQWLQXHGH[LVWHQFH sos LWGRHV
not transcend life, but hovers in uneasy relation to it. The virgules
around the word vivo stress the unstable limit between wishing and
fact, between the son and the father, and between life and death. As an
adjective, vivo VLJQLˋHVWKHIDFWWKDWWKHVRQLVQRWDOLYHHYHQWKRXJKLW
ZRXOGEHȤWHQGHUQHVVȥLIKHZHUH6LQFHWKHˋUVWFODXVHLVJUDPPDWLFDOO\
complete without the adjective, vivo can also function as a verb in the
first person, indicating the fact that the poet is alive, on the other
side of a rupture from the son’s peculiar state of being. In this second
LQWHUSUHWDWLRQWKHGHFODUDWLRQȤ,OLYHȥLVGHOLFDWHO\SRLVHGEHWZHHQWKH
subjunctive of estar and the indicative of ser, that is, between the fact
of the son’s not-being and the fact of his survival, a living-on that will
continue to haunt and disturb life.
7KHERRNȢVˋQDOSRHPGLIIHUVLQWRQHIURPWKHSUHYLRXVSRHP,W
consists entirely of questions, agitated and unresolved:

face is yours?/ that we don’t see?/ close?/


dying?/ undying?/ forever?/
so much for never?/ will you unface your say?/
will you rewalk your buts? will your little unsaying

rain?/ heavy raising


of your vein broken from exploding?/
did you gather in you what you carry/ enfolded?
against the dogness of living?/
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 23

do you soul?/ most beautiful? do you rest


from unloving?/ do you love?/ soul that earths/
open to the sun of justice?/ do you child?/
tireless from pure unsuffering?

¿rostro es el tuyo?/ ¿que no vemos?/ ¿cerca?/


¿muriendo?/¿desmuriendo?/¿para siempre?/
¿tan para nunca?/¿desrostrás tu diga?/
¿recaminás tus peros?/¿lloverá

tu poco desdecir?/ ¿levantadura


de tu venita rota de estallar?/
¿juntaste en vos lo que llevás/ envuelto?
¿contra la perradura del vivir?/

¿almás?/¿bellísimo? ¿te descansás


del desamor?/amás?/¿alma que tierra/
abierta al sol de la justicia?/¿hijás?/
incansable del puro desufrir?

The virgules and the question marks disrupt any sense of narra-
tive continuity or certainty. The first questions indicate a sense of
searching in the dark for the son, at once familiar and strange, distant
and close. The juxtaposition of the gerund forms of muriendo and desmu-
riendo suggests that there is no resolution in sight. The dying and not
dying of disappearance may well affect the present “para siempreȥ
7KLVVHQVHRILQˋQLW\KRZHYHULVQRWZLWKRXWFKDQJHVLQFHWKHVRQȢV
language begins to move. The father wonders if he will deface his diga,
the command to speak, possibly invoking the presumed interrogations
before his death, or perhaps even a wishful father who wants his son’s
absence to say something to him. Speech thus freed from the demand
for prosopopoeic knowledge of the other, the son’s peros or protesta-
tions, and his desdecir—possibly also a form of speaking against, but
DOVRSRVVLEO\ZKDWKLVGLVDSSHDUDQFHȤVD\VȥWKHVSHFWUDOVLOHQFHRIKLV
DEVHQFHȠFDQHQWHULQWRPRWLRQERWKDVDVSHFWUDOZDQGHULQJ recam-
inar DQGDQH[SORVLYHVFDWWHULQJ llover, estallar 7KHGLYHUJHQFHDQG
GLVVHPLQDWLRQSDUDGR[LFDOO\FRH[LVWZLWKDWXUQLQJLQZDUG envuelto 
RUWKHFDUULDJHRIVRPHWKLQJJDWKHUHGDQGHQIROGHG7KHˋUVWZRUGRI
WKHˋQDOVWDQ]DVXJJHVWVWKDWZKDWLVFDUULHGPD\EHFRQVLGHUHGWREH
24 Witnessing beyond the Human

WKHVRQȢVȤVRXOȥEXWQRWLQWKHFRQYHQWLRQDO&KULVWLDQVHQVHRIDVSLULW
GHVWLQHGIRUUHGHPSWLRQȤ$OP£VȥDQGLWVHFKRȤDP£VȥVXJJHVWWKDWWKH
LQZDUGWXUQRIWKHVRXODOVRLQYROYHVDQRXWZDUGWXUQWRRWKHUV amar 
DQGWRDQXQNQRZQIXWXUH a más 7KHRXWZDUGWHPSRUDODQGVSDWLDO
turn is reiterated in the next clause, in which the soul is said to terrar, a
neologism that seems to signify the same material movement as mundar,
while also evoking and exceeding its cognates enterrar and desterrar
EXU\ DQG H[LOH  7KH PRYHPHQWV RI WKLV UHVWOHVV VRXOȠWKDW LVWKH
enduring memory of his disappearance—will inexorably haunt our world,
RSHQLQJLWWRWKHSRVVLELOLW\RIMXVWLFHDSRVVLELOLW\ˋJXUHGDVDȤVXQȥD
not-so-distant star to which the earth is unavoidably exposed. Justice
appears not as a predetermined outcome—for instance, the punishment
of his son’s assassins—but as a name that invokes an unknown possi-
bility, including the possibility that something called justice may come
to be. This resonates with Derrida’s understanding of the term, which
KHGHVFULEHVDVDUDGLFDOH[SRVXUHWRWKHȤODZȥRIWKHRWKHU Rogues
 ȠZKDW,GHVFULEHLQP\LQWURGXFWLRQDVVLPXOWDQHRXVO\DQXQHQGLQJ
responsibility to others and the unavoidable fact that otherness exists.
This exposure to the other is the essence of ¿hijás?, a word that reminds
us how fragile possibility is.

Spectral Messianicity in Commentaries and Quotations

Commentaries Comentarios  DQG Quotations Citas were written


around the same time as Carta abiertaLQDQGUHVSHFWLYHO\
WKH\ ZHUH SXEOLVKHG WRJHWKHU LQ  7KH\ FRPELQH HOHPHQWV RI
both The Poems of Sidney West and Open Letter. Through their appeal
to the structure of quotations and commentary, they continue the
sense of textual errancy and its relation to an alter-immunological
notion of life begun in The Poems of Sidney West. Like translation and
epitaphs, quotations and commentary indicate a relation between
original and derivation, which Gelman’s poetry detaches from any
VHQVHRIKLHUDUFK\RUˋ[LW\/LNH:DOWHU%HQMDPLQȢVQRWLRQRIDIWHUOLIH
Ȥ7KH 7DVN RI WKH 7UDQVODWRUȥ   RU 'HUULGDȢV XQGHUVWDQGLQJ RI
survival, Gelman’s approach suggests that life and texts cannot be
understood discretely or in purely patrilineal form, but rather through
an ongoing sense of afterlife, encounter and re-encounter. Such a
living-on of texts indicates not only the potential for a recurring
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 25

relation to the past, but also an opening-up to the unknown nature


of the future, or what Derrida describes as a non-teleological,
QRQ0HVVLDQLFȤPHVVLDQLFLW\ȥ Ȥ0DU[ 6RQVȥ 6XFKPHVVLDQLFLW\
LV WKHPDWLFDOO\ UHODWHG WR *HOPDQ
V VHOHFWLRQ RI VRXUFHV SULPDULO\
texts by the Spanish Christian mystics San Juan and Santa Teresa,
which are paired with the spectral invocations of some twentieth-
century tango lyrics. The appeal to futurity or what may come in
UHODWLRQWRZKDWZDVRUZKDWȤ&RPHQWDULR/; KRPHURPDQ]L ȥWHUPV
WKHȤKDUGP\VWHULHVRIJRRGE\HWKDWHYHU\FUHDWXUHVRZVȥ duros
misterios del adiós// que siembra cada criatura/ OHDGVPHWRFDOOWKLVD
form of spectral messianicity, related to the ongoing nature of life, or
ZKDWȤ&RPHQWDULR9,,, VDQWDWHUHVD ȥFDOOVPRUHOLIHRUmásvida.
Although the distinction between such a spectral messianicity and the
VDFULˋFLDODQGWHOHRORJLFDO0HVVLDQLVPWKDW*HOPDQDQG0HURDVVRFLDWH
with the Montoneros should be evident, it might seem surprising that
Gelman, a non-observant Jew, would write nearly one hundred poems
in relation to Christian mysticism. Gelman underscores the exilic
and mortal conditions that his texts share with their sources, their
ȤFRLQFLGHQFHZLWKDQH[LOLFYLVLRQȥ coincidencias con una visión exiliar,
TWGLQ6LOODWR $V&KULVWLDQP\VWLFVGHVFHQGHGIURP-HZLVKFRQYHUWV
San Juan and Santa Teresa share Gelman’s sense of not fully belonging:
in the case of the mystics, to a single tradition, and in Gelman’s case, to
a country or collectivity. San Juan and Santa Teresa’s mysticism engages
with a kind of exilic search for God, whom they describe as a kind of
DEVHQWSUHVHQFH1HYHUWKHOHVVWKH\EHOLHYHWKDWVXFKH[LOHLVˋQLWHDQG
WKDWWKH\ZLOOEHIXOO\UHXQLWHGZLWKGLYLQHSUHVHQFHDXQLˋHGSUHVHQFH
that will include not only them, but which will ultimately subsume the
entirety of the temporal world.
In distinction to other critics who affirm a continuity between
Gelman’s sources and his poetic rewritings,  Geneviève Fabry astutely
observes how Gelman’s turn to San Juan and Santa Teresa apostrophically
turns away from the Christian belief in a capacity for plenitude that is
temporarily in hiding. Fabry notes Gelman’s interest in the Cabbalistic
VFKRRORI6DIHGFRQWHPSRUDU\WRWKH6SDQLVK&KULVWLDQP\VWLFV EXW
EDQLVKHGIURP6SDLQ ZKLFKXQGHUVWRRGWKDW*RGKLPVHOIZDVLQH[LOH
ZLWKGUDZLQJIURPKLVRZQEHLQJ Las formas del vacio ȟ   She
VXJJHVWVWKDWWKLVH[LOHGLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRI*RGLQˌXHQFHG*HOPDQȢV
interest in the Spanish mystics, introducing a subtle but undeniable
26 Witnessing beyond the Human

difference in his citations of them, which tilts their Messianism toward


what I am calling spectral messianicity relating to the ongoing nature
of survival.
The citational turn to other texts is structurally echoed through the
recurrent use of apostrophe, which recalls the intimate tone and address
of Open Letter. However in Commentaries and Quotations the other is
QRWQDPHGEXWDSSHDUVRQO\DVDQXQLGHQWLˋHGȤ\RXȥ vos  The tone
of apostrophe is extremely intimate, suggesting that the poems are
addressed to a lover or friend, but the fact that both books are dedicated
ȤWRP\FRXQWU\ȥ a mi país LPSOLHVWKDWLWLVMXVWDVSRVVLEOHWKDWWKH
apostrophe is directed at the poet’s country, or what is spectrally left
of it as well as its ongoing, endlessly incomplete potential. Gelman
KDVFRQˋUPHGLQLQWHUYLHZVWKDWWKHvosLVQRWGHWHUPLQDWH )DEU\Las
formas del vacio VXSSRUWLQJWKHLGHDWKDWLWDGGUHVVHVERWKLQWLPDWH
and collective relations, either interchangeably or simultaneously.
The act of address is once again not a direct act of communication,
but an apostrophic turn toward another who may be singular and plural,
near and distant, alive and dead. Gelman’s poems perform a coming to
terms with absence and dispersion and what it means to live in their
ZDNHVWUXJJOLQJWRUHGHˋQHDVHQVHRIOLIHDPLGVWGHDWKDVHQVHRI
life that does not exclude the losses that have irrevocably marked the
OLYLQJȤOLYLQJGHDWKWKDWDFFRPSDQLHV\RXEHLQJȥ viva muerte // que
te acompaña ser/, Cita ,,,  The poems address a singular vos, but the
singularity of encounter always intersects and is intersected by plurality
ȤPLOOLRQVRIOLYHVLQZKLFK\RXDUHȥ>millón de vidas en que sos], Cita
;, 7KHVLQJXODUSOXUDOHQFRXQWHUVDQGGLVHQFRXQWHUVRImásvida are
DOZD\VLQˌX[ZLWKRXWUHVROXWLRQȤG\LQJOLIHWKDWSDVVHGE\XQGRLQJ
LWVHOIˋQGLQJLWVHOIXQˋQGLQJLWVHOILQ\RXȥ muerevida // que pasó
deshaciéndose/ encontrándose // desencontrándose en vos, Cita ;;9,, 
Nevertheless it is this flux—the very movement of life—that makes
encounter possible.
Such an experience requires a rethinking of collective experience,
evident throughout the poems, and occasionally bearing the name
patria FRXQWU\RUIDWKHUODQG ,QRQHSRHPIRULQVWDQFHWKHSRHWDVNV
about his different sedes VHDWVVLWHVRUWKLUVWV IRUWKHDGGUHVVHH
ȤP\WKLUVWVVHDWVIRU\RX"ZRPDQ"RWKHUFRXQWU\"ȥ ¿mis sedes de
vos?/ ¿mujer? ¿patria // otra? &LWD;;;,, 7KHVWDQ]DEUHDNEHWZHHQ
patria and otra stresses the sense of radical dislocation and otherness
that affects the very notion of patria. Another poem describes the
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 27

patria as something that can be sought but never fully found, whether
externally, as an autonomous object, or internally, as an ideal:
“country of grace // . . . you work hidden in me // and the more I seek
\RX RXWVLGH  WKH PRUH KLGGHQ \RX DUH IURP \RXUVHOIȥ patria de
gracia // . . . trabajás escondida en mí // y cuánto más te busco fuera //
más escondida sos/ de vos/ Comentario ;;;, ,WVXQDWWDLQDELOLW\LVQRW
temporary, but part of its very nature, a result of the alterity inherent
to every collective relation. The search for how to live with others
without the comforting structure of propriety or place—traditional
attributes of patria—runs throughout the poems. Patria is only one
QDPHIRUWKLVVHDUFKJHQHUDOO\LWLVQRWQDPHGDWDOORQO\DGGUHVVHG
through the relationship of the poet and the unnamed vos, and
implied through the book’s dedications. At times, however, it receives
WKHQDPHȤZRUOGȥLQNHHSLQJZLWK*HOPDQȢVUHFXUUHQWWXUQWRWKLV
term as the fundamentally open space of life. The poems endeavor
WRNHHSWKLVVSDFHRSHQXVLQJȤRSHQZRUGVȥ palabrabiertas) to resist
ȤWKHHQFORVXUHRIWKHZRUOGȥ el encerramiento de la mundo Citas XLV,
;;,9 7KLVRSHQQHVVGHVFULEHVQRWMXVWDQRSHQQHVVWRZDUGRWKHUV
but also—as at the end of Carta abierta—the ultimate consequence of
DUDGLFDORSHQQHVVWRRWKHUVWKHSRVVLELOLW\RIMXVWLFH ȤERG\WRWKH
VXQRIMXVWLFH"ȥ>¿cuerpo al sol de la justicia?/] &LWDV;;;,,,;/,,, 
Contrary to this emphasis on openness, María del Carmen Sillato
GHVFULEHVWKHSRHPVDVDVHDUFKIRUXQLRQZLWKWKHRWKHUˋJXUHGDVD
kind of entrance into interiority. This sense of interiority operates at
VHYHUDOOHYHOVLQFOXGLQJWKHLQWHULRULW\RILQWLPDF\EHWZHHQORYHUV ȤD
GLDORJXHLQZKLFKWKHRXWVLGHLVH[FOXGHGȥJuan Gelman, Las estrategias
de la otredad  DQGWKDWRILQFOXVLRQLQDFROOHFWLYLW\ ȤLQRUGHUWR
LQFOXGHKLPVHOILQDFROOHFWLYHZLWKZKLFKKHLGHQWLˋHVȥJuan Gelman, Las
estrategias de la otredad :KHQWKHSRHPLQGLFDWHVWKDWWKHGHVLUHG
entrance into interiority is not possible, she claims that the entrance is
achieved internally, by means of spiritualism and writing: “The union-
reencounter with his lover . . . is possible in the most interior site of his
soul within the frame of a mystical experience that the poet recuperates
WKDQNVWRKLVZULWLQJȥ Juan Gelman, Las estrategias de la otredad 
She considers the structure of interiority especially pronounced in the
ˋUVWSRHPVRIComentarios, which she links to Santa Teresa’s treatise
Interior Castles, or The Mansions Castillo interior, o Moradas DWH[W
that describes the path to God as an entrance into an interior castle.
Although the poems undoubtedly use imagery from this source, they
28 Witnessing beyond the Human

GHPRQVWUDWHDGLVWLQFWO\GLIIHUHQWUHODWLRQVKLSWRWKHˋJXUHRILQWHULRULW\
than that proposed by Sillato.
Ȥ&RPHQWDULR,,, VDQWDWHUHVD ȥLVSHUKDSVWKHPRVWHYLGHQWH[DPSOH
of a spatialized relationship between the poet and the vos. The vos
is described as an enclosed space, protected from disturbance or
memory: “mud/ glass/ stone/ everything // must be ordered or silent
RUHQFORVHGDQGQRWKLQJVKRXOGOHDYHDGLVWXUEDQFHRUPHPRU\ȥ
EDUURYLGULRSLHGUDWRGRVHRUGHQHRFDOOHRWDSLH\QDGDGHMH
HVWRUER R PHPRULDȥ  7KH GHVFULSWLRQ RI RUGHU VLOHQFH HQFORVXUH
and resistance to memory and other forms of disturbance suggests a
country under military rule. In spite of its fortification, the enclosed
structure nevertheless has a point of vulnerability, a door where “love
FDQHQWHUȥ7KLVGRHVQRWKRZHYHUPHDQWKDWWKHSRHWFDQHQWHULWV
interior or that any union can be consummated. Love is described as
ZDUPWKOLJKWQLJKWDQGȤGHVLUHGGHVLUHȥ ȤOLNHKHDWRUFODULW\RU
like shelter/ . . . or light // if they extinguished the day/ or like // desire
WKDWLVGHVLUHGȥ>como calor o claridad/ . . . o como amparo/ . . . o luz
// si apagaron el día/ o como // deseo que es deseado@ DOOHSKLPHUDO
things that can filter through the protective shield but not necessarily
remain interiorized. Other things, including the poet himself, are
barred entrance: “even if //nothing else enters/ not even // I enter and
UHPDLQDURXQGOLNHPHHNZRUNOLNHVXFFXOHQWVRUURZRYHU\RXȥ
aunque // nada otra cosa entre/ ni siquiera // yo entre y quede alrededor
// como manso trabajo/ como pena // sabrosa sobre vos ,QVSLWHRIKLV
LQDELOLW\WRHQWHUWKHVSDFHRIWKHRWKHUKHȤUHPDLQVDURXQGȥLW7KLV
ȤUHPDLQLQJDURXQGȥLVGHVFULEHGDVDNLQGRIFDOPZRUNWKDWLVLWLVD
form not of passive inactivity, but a task that returns him repeatedly
to the impossibility of entrance to the other. It is also described as a
form of pena, a word that signifies pain or grief but also, as we saw in
Open Letter, a form of haunting—a form of limbo or return from which
one cannot move on. The fact that pena also means a pen or writing
LQVWUXPHQW IURPWKH/DWLQpennaIHDWKHU VXJJHVWVWKDWWKLVIRUP
of remaining around is related to writing, performed by the versical
turns of the poems themselves. 
,Q Ȥ&RPHQWDULR , VDQWD WHUHVD ȥ WKH SRHWȢV UHODWLRQVKLS WR WKH
other is shown to be more complex than a simple spatial metaphor of
LQVLGHDQGRXWVLGH/LNHȤ&RPHQWDULR,,,ȥWKHSRHPLVDGGUHVVHGWR
an unnamed vos that can be understood to be both an intimate lover
and the poet’s country. In this poem, perhaps more than the other, it
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 29

seems that this is less of an ambivalence that an indication that the


two—the relationship between one and many—are intertwined. The
poem begins with a departure: “dear love that departs like a bird //
LQFOLQHGRYHUWKHKRUL]RQVȥ querido amor que partís como un pájaro
// acostado sobre los horizontes 7KHvos is described as a bird that is
flying away, perhaps from the poet or from a place it had established
as home. Its horizontal or sideways flight over the horizons suggests
a spatially bounded figure, the limits of which the departing bird
can now see beyond. This act of departure provokes a question that
links departure to being part of something: “will it be okay to give
ourselves to the all/ without // being part of anything/ not even the
IOLJKWWKDWFDUULHV\RX"ȥ ¿estará bien darnos todos al todo/ sin // ser
parte de nada/ ni siquiera del vuelo que // te lleva? 7KLVTXHVWLRQFDQ
be read as asking what collectivity can mean once a geographical
JURXQG IRU FROOHFWLYH LGHQWLW\ LV ORVW RQFH ȤWKH DOOȥȠZKLFK LV QRW
really total, since it can receive things that do not form part of it—is
not spatially inhabited by its constituents. The word parte resonates
with the second meaning of partir, suggesting that the bird-like vos
does not only depart, but, in its departure, also splits the space from
which it departs. This de-parture changes the very notion of collective
identification: participating in a collective is no longer defined in
terms of being part of something, of belonging to a place or even the
path of exile, but as a form of giving oneself that is itself a kind of
partida.
The second stanza elaborates on this belonging that is also a depar-
ture: “do you think brothers and sisters // that one can arrive encircling/
or // that departing and staying at the same time one arrives // at the
VRXJKWDIWHUXQLW\WKDWLVOLNHFHOHVWLDOGHOLFDF\"ȥ ¿piensan hermanas y
hermanos // que rodeando se puede llegar/ o // partiendo y quedándose a la
vez se llega // a la unidad buscada como manjar celeste? $WˋUVWJODQFH
the question appears to be asking how one can arrive at unity, but it
is just as clearly asking whether it is possible to arrive at all, whether
rodeando RUȤSDUWLHQGR\TXHG£QGRVHDODYH]ȥZKLFKPD\QRWEHPXWX-
ally exclusive actions. That these actions do not appear to lead to a
GHˋQLWLYHHQGVXJJHVWVWKDWUDWKHUWKDQDQDUULYDODWWKHWHORVRIXQLW\
they describe a form of collective participation that both departs and
splits in an endless apostrophic turn toward others—toward an unnamed
sister and brotherhood, but also toward an impersonal todo, beyond the
UHVHPEODQFHLPSOLHGE\WKHˋJXUHRIIUDWHUQLW\
30 Witnessing beyond the Human

The final stanza describes another form of search for the singular-
plural vos: “or rather/ life is hard or this // health that I tunnel to
find you like light/ // or word/ little branch where you sit like // your
KDQGRQP\KHDUWȥ o sea/ dura es la vida o esta // salud que cavo para
encontrarte como luz/ // o palabra/ ramita donde te poses como // la
mano tuya sobre mi corazón  7KH LPDJH RI WKH SRHW GLJJLQJ ZLWKLQ
himself to find the other seems to point to the idea proposed by
Sillato, that the poet conjures a mystical and literary union within
himself as a substitute for a reunion with the vos. However, the act of
tunneling or digging in himself, literally in his salud—health, but also
WKDWZKLFKLVXQKDUPHGRUZKROH IURPWKH/DWLQsalvus ȠVXJJHVWVD
self-partition that disrupts any intact, mystical sense of interiority. He
searches within himself not hoping to find the other prosopopoeically
intact, but for an encounter that he compares to a light, a word, or a
twig where the other, as the bird-like love addressed in the first stanza,
might rest momentarily from its flight. The poet does not hope to
LQWHUQDOL]HWKHRWKHUZLWKLQKLPVHOIQRUGRHVKHDLPWRȤFDSWXUHȥWKH
RWKHU WKURXJK ODQJXDJH DV 6LOODWR DIILUPV   /DQJXDJH LV QRW D
space of interiority, but a site of passage, a medium that might retain
traces of the other’s partitions and departures.
,QȤ&RPHQWDULR,ȥDVLQȤ&RPHQWDULR,,,ȥWKHSRHWFDQEHVDLGWRȤUHPDLQ
DURXQGȥWKHRXWVLGHRILPSRVVLEOHLQWHULRULW\,QWLPDF\DQGFROOHFWLYLW\
are not integral and static structures, houses that can be entered and
OHIWHQGVWKDWFDQEHGHˋQLWLYHO\DFKLHYHG7KH\DUHERWKREMHFWVRIDQG
participants in an endless search, an endless dynamic of rodeando and
ȤSDUWLHQGR\TXHG£QGRVHDODYH]ȥUHPDLQLQJSDUWRIVRPHWKLQJIURP
which they always necessarily depart. This is of course exacerbated by
the loss of loved ones, country, and the collective effort to revolutionize
the nation, but it is not exclusively dependent on such losses, nor is it a
temporary condition that can be overcome. The experiences of exile and
PRXUQLQJPD\LQGHHGLQGLFDWHDFRQGLWLRQRILQFRPSOHWLRQDQGˋQLWXGH
that is always there—even though they can also inspire the opposite
UHDFWLRQDWDOLVPDQLFEHOLHILQWKHLQWHJULW\RIWKHKRPHODQG NQRZQ
DVORQJGLVWDQFHQDWLRQDOLVP RUSURVRSRSRHLFPHPRU\:KLOHQRQH
of Gelman’s previous poems espouse redemptive notions of unity and
completion, the poems in Comentarios and Citas are perhaps the most
pointed in emphasizing their impossibility in the individual and collective
relationships that constitute the aporetic notion of patria.
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 31

The notion of encounter as disencounter appears throughout the


SRHPV ȤHQFXHQWURGHOGHVHQFXHQWURȥComentario ;,, (QFRXQWHULQJWKH
other—whether singular or multiple, or both at once—always involves
an encounter with something unknown or even unknowable. One
poem describes encounter as a form of abandonment of what is known
Ȥ\RXZKRPLWLVQHFHVVDU\WRˋQGQRWE\ORRNLQJEXWE\DEDQGRQLQJ
EHLQJNQRZOHGJHȥ>vos/ a quien hay que encontrar no buscando/ sino
abandonando ser/ saber/] Comentario;9 $QRWKHUXUJHVWKHpatria to
“love what you do not understand like // an understanding of you in
\RXȥ ama lo que no entiende como // un entender de vos en vos WKDWLVWR
accept its self-understanding as necessarily incomplete, since it is based
RQLQˋQLWHHQFRXQWHUVZLWKWKHXQNQRZQ Comentario;;;, 
Several poems suggest a playful contrast between taste and knowledge
sabor and saber ZRUGVWKDWVKDUHDQHW\PRORJLFDOURRWLQWKH/DWLQ
word sapientia. The turn from saber to sabor implies a transformation
RINQRZOHGJHDVFRQFHSWXDORUYLVXDOSRVVHVVLRQ ȤVHHLQJ\RXLVQRW
VHHLQJ\RXRUKDYLQJ\RXȥ>verte no es verte o tenerte/], Comentario
;;;, WRDPRUHFRUSRUHDOHURWLFUHODWLRQWRWKHRWKHU,QDFKDLQRI
alliteration, saborLVOLQNHGWRWKHLQYROXQWDU\ˌRZRIERGLO\OLTXLGVVXFK
as saliva and sangre. In Comentario XV, for instance, “saliva or taste of
\RXȥ saliva o sabor de vos LVH[SHULHQFHGDIWHUWKHDEDQGRQPHQWRI
ȤEHLQJNQRZLQJȥ VHUVDEHU ,QRWKHUVWKHvos wanders through the
SRHWȢVVDOLYDDQGEORRG Comentario;9,,,Citas ,;; 7KLVUHFXUUHQW
image of a corporeal experience of the other could be said to illustrate
what is elsewhere called másvida, that is, a way of living with others,
present and absent, that allows them to come into the space we most
think of as our own, displacing any sense of life as self-presence. On the
other hand, it comes dangerously close to erasing the other in an act of
redemptive ingestion into the poet’s own life, dissolving the difference
and unknowability so emphasized in other poems.
Ȥ&RPHQWDULR;;,9 VDQMXDQGHODFUX] ȥEHJLQVDQGHQGVZLWKD
reference to the other’s sabor, which initially seems to represent a desire
for prosopopoeic incorporation, but ends up indicating its impossibility:

from this happy/ taste of you/ I would like


to see us in you/ and for you to be in such a way
that we come to be in your beauty
insideoutside/ or rather that we can be
32 Witnessing beyond the Human

equally beautiful/ and looking at one another


your beauty will be you in your beauty/
and can only see itself in your beauty
turning myself into your beauty/

like a hand that touches for another hand/


or desired desire that desires/
RUˋUHWKDWEXUQVFUDFNOLQJDJDLQVW
waves of sorrow in saliva/

and I will see you in your beauty


and you will see me in your beauty/ and I
will see me in you in your beauty/ and
I will be yours in your beauty/ like

you will be yours I in your beauty/ and be


I you in your beauty/ and you
be you I in your beauty/ because
your beauty is my beauty like

happy/ taste of you/ sweet planet


KHDWWKDWUHYROYHVDURXQGRUˌLJKW
of your beauty in your beauty/ like
your beauty/ me in you/ me you

de esta dicha/ sabor de vos/ quisiera


vernos en vos/ y vos seas de modo
que lleguemos a ser en tu hermosura
afueradentro/ o sea que seamos

igual de hermosos/ y mirandonós


tu hermosura sea vos en tu hermosura/
y sólo pueda verse en tu hermosura
a tu hermosura convirtiendomé/

como mano que toca para mano/


o deseo deseado que desea/
o fuego que arde crepitando contra
oleajes de pena en la saliva/
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 33

y yo te veré a vos en tu hermosura


y me verás en tu hermosura/ y yo
me veré en vos en tu hermosura/ y
seré de vos en tu hermosura/ como

serás de vos yo en tu hermosura/ y sea


yo vos en tu hermosura/ y vos
seas vos yo en tu hermosura/ porque
es tu hermosura mi hermosura como

dicha/ sabor de vos/ planeta dulce/


calor que gira alrededor/ o vuelo
de tu hermosura en tu hermosura/ como
hermosura de vos/ yo en vos/ yo vos

The beginning of the poem describes a longing to move from the sabor
RIWKHRWKHUWRDUULYHDWDYLVLRQRIXQLˋFDWLRQ ȤYHUQRVHQYRVȥ ȠDQ
arrival that some critics have taken at face value.  The subjunctive
mood of the verbs in the first two stanzas serve, however, as a
cautionary reminder that such a transformation remains an unrealized
desire. In stanza two the first word, igual, suggests an achievement
of synchronic sameness that is belied by the subsequent paratactic
inversions between the yo and the vos, which seem better represented
E\WKHˋQDOZRUGLQWKHVWDQ]Dconvirtiéndome, which etymologically
VLJQLˋHVDWXUQLQJ with as much as a turning into. The similes in stanza
three appear to illustrate this process of con-version or turning. The
ˋUVWLPDJHLQYRNHVDWDFWLOHˋJXUHWKDWFRQWUDVWVZLWKWKHˋUVWVWDQ]DȢV
emphasis on visuality, and whose peculiar syntax suggests a continued
separation, in which the poet’s hand reaches out to find the other.
7KHRWKHULPDJHVUHLQIRUFHWKLVVHQVHRILQFRPSOHWLRQRUXQIXOˋOPHQW
ZLWKDGHVLULQJGHVLUHDQGDˋUHWKDWFUDFNOHVDJDLQVWSDLQLQWKHVDOLYD
LQDVSDWLDOO\FRQIXVLQJLPDJHWKDWVHHPVWRVXJJHVWDˋUHZDUGLQJRII
wild animals from a cave, except that the threat comes from within,
DQGVSHFLˋFDOO\IURPWKHYHU\SODFHRIsabor, the mouth.
In stanza four the poem begins a dizzying series of inversions of
the gazes of the yo and the vosȤ\\RWHYHU«DYRVHQWXKHUPRVXUD
\PHYHU£VHQWXKHUPRVXUD\\RPHYHU«HQYRVHQWXKHUPRVXUDȥ
As in stanza two, the structure seems to multiply and confuse the two
rather than fuse them into one. Furthermore, the virgules and the
34 Witnessing beyond the Human

SRO\V\QGHWRQLFFRQMXQFWLRQVOHIWGDQJOLQJDWWKHHQGRIOLQHV Ȥ\\Rȥ
Ȥ\ȥȤ\VHDȥȤ\YRVȥ VXJJHVWGLVUXSWLRQDQGDQH[FHVVLYHUHPDLQGHUWKDW
does not allow the yo and the vos to fold in on themselves. The triple
repetition of the preposition comoDWWKHHQGRIOLQHVLQWKHˋQDOWKUHH
stanzas emphasizes the sense of an incomplete analogy or turn between
the two gazes.
The penultimate comoDWWKHHQGRIVWDQ]DˋYHUHWXUQVWKHORRSLQJ
conversions of yo and vos WR WKH ȤGLFKD VDERU GH YRVȥ ZLWK ZKLFK
the poem began. This repetition stresses a second sense of dicha not
necessarily evident in the first iteration—that is, dicha as the past
participle of decir, as well as the primary meaning of happiness or
good fortune. The sense of repetition, performed by the poem itself,
underscores the fact that the sabor de vos is not a sign of mystical
cannibalism, the incorporation of the vos into the yo, but a linguistic
effect, the reiteration of a memory that has been uttered before.
7KHˋJXUHRIWKHWXUQLQJSODQHW ȤSODQHWDGXOFHFDORUTXHJLUD
DOUHGHGRUȥ HPSKDVL]HVWKHG\QDPLFRIWXUQVDQGUHWXUQVDPRYHPHQW
that keeps the yo and the vos turning around and toward the other. The
SODQHWDU\ZDUPWKWKDWȤJLUDDOUHGHGRUȥVXJJHVWVDQRQJRLQJVHQVHRI
life that keeps turning even after loss and separation, through the turns
DQGUHWXUQVRIPRXUQLQJ7KHˋJXUHRIWKHWXUQLQJZRUOGLVHFKRHGLQ
other poems, as well. In one poem the poet describes his memories as
ȤPRYHPHQWVOLNHZRUOGUHYROYLQJWR\RXȥ movimientos como mundos //
girando a vos/, Comentario;;9,,, DQRWKHUDVNVȤZKDWLVWKLVERG\RI
\RXWKDWUHYROYHVOLNHDIRUHLJQVWDUWRP\HIIRUWVRI\RXȥ qué es este
// cuerpo de vos que gira como astro/ extranjero // a mis esfuerzos de vos/,
Comentario ;,,, 7KHVHRUELWLQJERGLHVWXUQWRZDUGDQGDZD\IURPRQH
another, like the dizzying turns, inversions and con-versions between
the yo and the vos in “Comentario;;,9ȥ$WWKHHQGRIWKLVSRHPWKH
turnings toward and from, indicated by an alternation between the
prepositions en and deDUHSXQFWXDWHGE\WKHDV\QGHWRQLFȤ\RYRVȥ
This does not indicate, as critics have claimed, the achievement of
synthesis between the two.,WLVQRWDQDUULYDODWWKHLGHDOL]HGȤXVȥRI
WKHˋUVWVWDQ]DV Ȥquisiera vernos en vosȥȤque lleguemos a serȥ EXWDQ
amalgamation, a being together that maintains difference rather than
erasing it. It is a comparison, introduced by the preposition como, that,
like the amalgamated másvida, suggests the idea that life is always more
than individual biological life, involving a turning toward and around
WKDWQHYHUHQGVLQDVWDWLFDQGVHDPOHVVˋJXUHRIXQLRQ
Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism 35
Q    Q    Q

In this chapter I have tried to show how Gelman’s poetry addresses


a radical alterity that conditions all relations, both intimate and
collective, personal and political. Far from constituting a space of
personal redemption or an extension of Messianic revolutionary
ideals, his poems interrogate the structure of anthropo-theological
0HVVLDQLVPZKLFKUHOLHVRQVDFULˋFHDQGDLPVDWDQLPPXQRORJLFDO
ideal. His poems portray a notion of life that exceeds and resists
VDFULˋFHDQGWHOHRORJ\ZKLFKLQYROYHVWKHSDVWDVZHOODVWKHIXWXUH
and therefore the possibility of what may come, which is always
exposed to the experience of loss and the discontinuities of history.
Language reinforces this sense of excess and resistance as well as
the possibility of encounter. Gelman’s poems suggest that radical
exposure to others becomes the condition of possibility of a rethinking
of collective experience, including patria and world. His apostrophes
of collectivity evoke the sense in which being part of something is
always also a departure from what is known. The world is a figure
that circulates throughout Gelman’s work as the ultimate name for
the experience of being with others, the potential for relation that
is life or másvida itself. This sense of worldliness resonates with the
idea of a law that comes from the other, a horizon of responsibility to
others that condition our world in the past, present, and future. This
horizon, also called justice, can never be reached absolutely: justice,
like mourning and like life itself, is always incomplete, part of an
ongoing experience of life and world.
Q 2 Q
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent
Possibilities of Community in Sergio Chejfec’s
Los planetas and Boca de lobo

-XDQ-RV«6DHUȢVVKRUWVWRU\Ȥ&DUWDDODYLGHQWHȥLVVWUXFWXUHGDVDQ
HSLVWRODU\SDUDEOHLQZKLFKDP\RSHZULWHVDOHWWHUWRDȤVHHUȥ7KHVWRU\
mimics Rimbaud’s famous letters to Paul Demeny and Georges Izambard,
in which he describes the Poet as a privileged Seer, which in Spanish
DUHNQRZQDVWKHȤFDUWDVGHOYLGHQWHȥ1 The narrator of Saer’s story
describes the act of seeing in traditional metaphysical terms, as a seizure
of meaning from appearance, a vertical feat of illumination that is like
the strike of a lightning bolt: “ver . . . no consiste en contemplar, inerte,
el paso incansable de la apariencia, sino en asir, de esa apariencia, un
VHQWLGR(QXQDSDODEUDHOWUDEDMRYHUWLFDOFRPRHOGHOUD\RGHOLOXPL-
QDGRȥ ȤVHHLQJGRHVQRWFRQVLVWLQLGO\FRQWHPSODWLQJWKHWLUHOHVV
passing of appearance, but in seizing from that appearance a meaning.
In a word, [it is] a vertical labor, like that of a lightning bolt, or of an
LOOXPLQDWHȥLa mayor ȟ +HH[SODLQVWKDWKHKLPVHOILVLQFDSDEOH
of such lightning-strike comprehension, and that he is condemned to
grope his way through the world’s dense materiality, which, like him,
LVLQVHPLGDUNQHVVDQGSUHVHQWVLWVHOIRQO\DVȤPDQFKRQHVIXJDFHV
IXJLWLYRVLQWHUPLWHQWHVFX\RVERUGHVHVW£QFRPLGRVSRUODRVFXULGDGȥ
ȤˌHHWLQJEORWFKHVIXJLWLYHLQWHUPLWWHQWZKRVHHGJHVDUHHDWHQE\
GDUNQHVVȥLa mayor  ,QWKLVWDVNKLVKDQGDFWVDVKLVȤPXVHȥ
Ȥ0LPXVDSRUOODPDUODDV¯HVVLVHTXLHUHPDQXDOȥȤODPDQRHQ
HVDSHQXPEUDVHPXHYHHTX¯YRFDFHUU£QGRVHDEUL«QGRVHPRVWUDQGR
DELHUWDOLVDTXHQRKDDIHUUDGRQDGDȥ Ȥ0\PXVHWRFDOOLWWKXVLVVKDOO
ZHVD\DPDQXDORQHȥȤP\KDQGPRYHVLQWKDWSHQXPEUDXQFHUWDLQ
closing, opening, showing itself open and smooth, that it hasn’t grasped
DQ\WKLQJȥ La mayor  

37
38 Witnessing beyond the Human

The invocation of a manual muse is suggestive of the labor of writing,


which never manages to seize anything vertically, but which is always
JURSLQJLQWKHGDUNQHVVRIODQJXDJHDQGVLJQLˋFDWLRQ7KHEOLQGQHVVRI
writing is contrasted to Rimbaud’s notion of poetic seeing: the writer
LVQRWRQHZKRVHHVRUȤDUULYHVDWWKHXQNQRZQȥDV5LPEDXGVD\V
of the seer, but myopically reaches out into a world that cannot be
JUDVSHGWKURXJKWKHVHQVHVHYHQȤGHUDQJHGȥVHQVHV 2 His tentative
explorations engage in an ongoing encounter with the ephemeral and
intermittent material of the world that reveals no certain or totalizing
truths. The narrator structures this description of his labor as a letter,
but in the end, he explains that he has nothing to send: “No le mando,
SRUORWDQWRQDGD1DGDTXHVRPHWHUDVXYLGHQFLDȥ Ȥ,DPQRWWKHUHIRUH
VHQGLQJ\RXDQ\WKLQJ1RWKLQJWRVXEPLWWR\RXUVHHLQJȥLa mayor
 1HYHUWKHOHVVKHVHQGVWKHVHUHˌHFWLRQVLQDOHWWHU7KLVVHHPLQJ
contradiction suggests that what he sends her is not strictly nothing but
DQDIˋUPDWLRQWKDWZHGRQRWVHHHYHU\WKLQJDQGWKDWWKLVQRWVHHLQJLV
necessary to any understanding of the world, which only presents itself
WRXVLQWHUPLWWHQWO\LQˌHHWLQJELWVDQGSLHFHV
I want to propose that this description of a myopic engagement with
the world constitutes a form of witnessing, albeit one that exceeds and
disrupts the grounds on which a traditional understanding of witnessing
is based. That is, it is a form of witnessing that does not operate on the
basis of a self-knowing subject who sees and seizes an objective truth
from experience, and can communicate that truth directly, submitting
it to another’s vision. Myopic witnessing requires an ongoing encounter
with things that can never fully be known. This not-knowing involves
DYXOQHUDELOLW\DQGDQRSHQQHVVWRRWKHUVDQGWKHZRUOGWKDWLVWKHˋUVW
step toward imagining different forms of community than those based
on a clear distinction between self and other, known and unknown.
Writing, the kind of myopic grasping that Saer’s story describes—which
FDQH[LVWLQOLWHUDWXUHEXWGRHVQRWGHˋQHOLWHUDWXUHSHUVHȠLVFDSDEOHRI
articulating a process of relating to others and otherness that is based
on myopic encounters and possibility, rather than on vertical knowledge
and control.
It is perhaps merely a coincidence that Saer’s story was published in
WKHVDPH\HDUWKDWDPLOLWDU\MXQWDVWDJHGDFRXSDJDLQVW,VDEHO
3HUµQȢVVWUXJJOLQJJRYHUQPHQWLQLWLDWLQJDVHYHQ\HDUSHULRGRIVWDWH
sponsored terror and repression.  Nevertheless, the story can be read
as a description of literature’s tenuous promise, the sending of a feeble
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 39

DQG\HWFXULRXVO\SRZHUIXO KRSHLQWLPHVWKDWZHUHLQGHHGGDUN
9HUWLFDO=HXVOLNHVHL]XUHRIPHDQLQJLVDQLGHDOWKDWLVQRWUHVWULFWHG
to poets and seers such as Rimbaud or the addressee of Saer’s story.
It is a metaphysical ideal that motivates much of Western history,
and which has had nefarious consequences when translated into the
political sphere. Vision has long been associated with control, the ocular
ȤVHL]XUH RI PHDQLQJȥ EHFRPLQJ D PHWDSKRU IRU QXPHURXV NLQGV RI
appropriation and domination. While literature and culture undoubtedly
SDUWLFLSDWHLQVXFKȤ(QOLJKWHQHGȥGLVFLSOLQLQJRIWKHSURSHUWKHNLQGRI
myopic exploration that Saer’s narrator describes points to a different
understanding of literature, one that has the potential to disrupt
any pretensions to totality. Throughout the dictatorship, tentative
explorations of many kinds accompanied more militant challenges to
totalitarianism, producing among other things a vast body of literary
and artistic work, by writers and artists both in and out of exile,
which explored different conceptions of life, death, community, and
MXVWLFHWKDQWKRVHLPSRVHGE\WKHPLOLWDU\JRYHUQPHQW(YHQDIWHUWKH
dictatorship, such explorations remained critical, not only in relation
to the legacy of the dictatorship, which left deep scars on the national
psyche, but also in relation to globalized neoliberal politics and the
social exclusions they continue to produce.
Sergio Chejfec is without question one of the most important
writers to emerge in Argentina since the end of the dictatorship.
Chronologically, he is identified as a writer of the post-dictatorship
SHULRGDOWKRXJKKLVZULWLQJVDUHLQIXVHGZLWKDVHQVHRIEHLQJȤSRVWȥ
other things, as well: his characters wander among ruins of national
myths, half-abandoned industrial landscapes, and memories of both
immigration and exile. His works reveal a strong influence from Saer,
especially at the stylistic level of meandering sentence structure and
dream-like descriptions, but also in their uncertain, myopic grasping
DWȤPDQFKRQHVIXJDFHVIXJLWLYRVLQWHUPLWHQWHVFX\RVERUGHVHVW£Q
FRPLGRVSRUODRVFXULGDGȥȠWKDWLVZKDW6DHURQFHPHPRUDEO\FDOOHG
ȤODVHOYDHVSHVDGHORUHDOȥ ȤWKHGHQVHMXQJOHRIWKHUHDOȥ &KHMIHF
re-situates this myopic exploration at the turn of the millennium,
and draws out some of the ethical and political consequences that
Saer’s fictions alluded to only obliquely. His novels are concerned
with interrupting the smooth surfaces of the present and revealing
things that have no place in it because they have disappeared either
WHPSRUDOO\RUVSDWLDOO\LQFOXGLQJWKH'LUW\:DUȢVȤGLVDSSHDUHGȥDQG
40 Witnessing beyond the Human

other scars from the nation’s past, and also elements that are not seen
or acknowledged in the nation’s present, such as ethnic differences,
the distant provinces, and the poor and working classes. He delves
into the murky depths of time and space—what he calls the “most
H[WHQVLYHRIWKHLQYLVLEOHFRXQWULHVȥ Los planetas ȠWRVHDUFKIRUD
sense of community or temporal and spatial co-existence that differs
from the nation’s strict boundaries and presentist sense of identity.
Chejfec reaches beneath the surfaces of the present, but, like the
myope in Saer’s story, he does not grasp anything among the shadows.
His protagonists do not attempt to bring what is absent into the present,
or what is marginal into the center. For them, it is not a matter of
bringing being and memory out of the shadows into the light, but, in a
NLQGRIȤP\RSLFZLWQHVVLQJȥRIDFNQRZOHGJLQJWKHLUVKDGRZ\QDWXUH
which disturbs the oppositions between light and dark, presence and
absence, center and margin. They repeatedly encounter intermittence, or
temporal-spatial interruptions, in the apparent continuity and coherence
of the narratives in which they are embedded. Such interruptions are
sites where other possible narratives can emerge, the most important of
which concern new formations of community or relationality. Relating
to others is always a tenuous possibility in Chejfec’s novels, and a
sense of community that would be based on such delicate, intermittent
relations, rather than the relatively homogeneous and continuous
relationality presumed by narratives of nationality, is only a distant
hope.  Nevertheless, it is this hope that forms the ethical horizon of
&KHMIHFȢVZULWLQJWRXFKLQJRQWKHˋJXUHVRIPHPRU\KLVWRU\YLROHQFH
and ethnic, cultural, and class differences.
Language is a place where both visual seizure and myopic encounter
with intermittence can occur, as Saer’s parable suggests. In Los planetas
 MRXUQDOLVPLVFLWHGDVDIRUPRIODQJXDJHWKDWLVLQWHQGHGWRJUDVS
a black and white truth out of the shadows of experience. A newspaper
article can inform us of an event, but it does so by cynically enclosing
WLPHDQGWKHUHE\ERUGHUVRQHYLO ȤHOPDOȥ $IWHUDQH[SORVLRQVFDWWHUV
ERG\SDUWVRIGLVDSSHDUHGSULVRQHUVDURXQGDˋHOGLQWKHFRXQWU\VLGHWKH
narrator reads an article describing the occurrence, and considers how

la vida proliferaba en hechos mientras las letras del diario ya eran algo
detenido, que a su vez hablaba de un pasado a primera vista fatal, una
FRVDVREUHODTXHQRFDE¯DDEULJDUHVSHUDQ]DVHWF«WHUD0LHQWUDVODYLGD
DXQDGDFRQHOWLHPSRLEDKDFLDDGHODQWH\VHPXOWLSOLFDEDHQVXVLQˋQLWDV
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 41

UDPLˋFDFLRQHV\SRVLELOLGDGHVODVQRWLFLDVTXHFDQFHODEDQHOSDVDGR\
QRVGHMDEDQVLQHVSHUDQ]DVHUDQFRPRODPXHFDF¯QLFDGHORSRUYHQLU 

life proliferated in acts while the letters in the newspaper were already
VRPHWKLQJIUR]HQZKLFKVSRNHDWRQFHRIDSDVWWKDWZDVDWˋUVWJODQFH
fatal, something for which there was nothing left to hope, etcetera.
:KLOHOLIHFRQQHFWHGWRWLPHZHQWIRUZDUGDQGPXOWLSOLHGLQWRLQˋQLWH
UDPLˋFDWLRQVDQGSRVVLELOLWLHVWKHQHZVWKDWFDQFHOHGWKHSDVWDQGOHIW
us without hope was like a cynical grimace of the future.

+HUHˌHFWVKRZMRXUQDOLVPFORVHVLWVHOIRIIIURPWKHWHPSRUDOLW\RI
OLIH ȤODYLGDDXQDGDFRQHOWLHPSRȥ DQGWKHUHIRUHDOVRIURPKRSH
As such, it aligns itself with evil, which structurally prefers closure:
“como sabemos que el bien puede no terminar nunca, acaso en el
interior del mal . . . se torne imperiosa la necesidad de acabar las
KLVWRULDVȥ ȤVLQFHZHNQRZWKDWWKHJRRGFDQQHYHUHQGSHUKDSVLQWKH
LQWHULRURIHYLOLWEHFRPHVQHFHVVDU\WRFRQFOXGHVWRULHVȥȟ 
7KH ȤJRRGȥ el bien  LV OLNH WHPSRUDO OLIH PXOWLSO\LQJ LQWR LQILQLWH
ramifications and possibilities, even when it concerns a terrible
HYHQWVXFKDVPXUGHURUGLVDSSHDUDQFHȤ(YLOȥ el mal RSSRVHVVXFK
openness, closing off possibility both through policies that privilege
social order and national unity over freedom and justice, and also, on
a smaller scale, through representational schemes that present such
endings as incontrovertible fact.
But while language can be used to seize meaning or order, it can also be
used to explore the murky waters of temporal life. Los planetas concerns
the narrator’s memories of his childhood friend, who was disappeared
by the military regime for no evident reason. Writing plays an important
role in his coming to terms with his friend’s disappearance. He notes that
his friend, to whom he refers with the initial M—which he says could
refer to Miguel, or Mauricio, or even Daniel, since “behind letters there
FDQEHDQ\QDPHȥ  ȠZDVVXSSRVHGWREHDZULWHUUDWKHUWKDQKLP
Although he is deeply troubled by this fact, he acknowledges that it is
precisely the memory of his friend that makes it possible for him to write.
He says that if anything is worth saying in Spanish, it is dictated by M’s
memory: “si hay algo en mi idioma—el idioma particular—algo plausible
GHVHUGLFKR>HVW£HQDOJ¼QPRGRGLFWDGR@SRUODPHPRULDGH08QD
ˋGHOLGDGDVXUHFXHUGRPHOOHYDDHVFULELUȥ ȤLIWKHUHLVVRPHWKLQJLQP\
language—this particular language—something plausible to be said . . .
42 Witnessing beyond the Human

>LWLVLQVRPHZD\GLFWDWHG@E\0ȢVPHPRU\$ˋGHOLW\WRKLVPHPRU\
OHDGVPHWRZULWHȥ +HLQLWLDOO\WKRXJKWWKDWWKLVPHDQWDEDQGRQLQJ
KLPVHOIWRDSODFHRILQGLYLGXDOPHDQLQJȠȤDOJXQDVYHFHVSHQV«TXHFRQ
esta tarea me abandono . . . a un estado impreciso donde se confunden
ORVVHQWLGRVLQGLYLGXDOHV\ODVQRFLRQHVGHULYDGDVGHHOORVȥ Ȥ,WKRXJKW
at times that this task required me to abandon myself to . . . an imprecise
state in which individual meanings and notions derived from them
PLQJOHȥ ȠEXWKHVRRQUHDOL]HGWKDWLQGLYLGXDOLW\LVQHYHUWUXO\GLVFUHWH
or homogeneous. His friendship with M showed him that

KD\SRFDVFRVDVWDQLPSUHFLVDVFRPRODLGHQWLGDG0PHHQVH³µD
UHFRQRFHUHVWDVLQWHUPLWHQFLDVDWUDY«VGHODVFXDOHVQXHVWUDLGHQWLGDG
aparece . . . Con M alcanzamos la solidaridad, un lazo efectivo dentro
del cual nuestra intermitencia lograba desenvolverse . . . con visos de
FRPSHQHWUDFLµQ 

there are few things as imprecise as identity . . . M taught me to


recognize these intermittences through which our identity appears . . . M
and I reached a kind of solidarity, an effective bond within which
our inter mittence managed to develop . . . w it h appearances of
compenetration.

+HDGGVWKDWȤWDPEL«QHVFLHUWRTXHLJQRUDPRVcuándoVRPRVHVWR
lo advierten los otros, quienes nos rodean, en cierto momento al ver
DSDUHFHUQXHVWUDVVH³DOHVȥ ȤLWLVDOVRWUXHWKDWZHGRQȢWNQRZwhen
ZHDUHWKLVLVVRPHWKLQJWKDWRWKHUVSHUFHLYHWKRVHZKRVXUURXQGXV
DWDFHUWDLQPRPHQWZKHQWKH\VHHRXUVLJQVDSSHDUȥ +HFRPSDUHV
LQGLYLGXDOVWRVWDUVZKRVHˌLFNHULQJOLJKWLQGLFDWHVWKHIDFWWKDWWKH\
DUHDOLYH ȤORVODWLGRVGHVXVHUȥ 
Far from being limited to interiority and individual meaning, writing
is a space where we can explore the limits of ourselves and our rela-
tionships with others, which are themselves compared to a kind of
ZULWLQJ'XULQJKLVOLIHWLPH0WDXJKWWKHQDUUDWRUWRȤUHDGȥDVDNLQG
of myopic witnessing, the traces of other beings on our lives, and to
understand the way they interrupt our presumed self-presence, not
MXVWLQWKHVSDWLRWHPSRUDOSUHVHQWEXWIURPRWKHUWHPSRUDOLWLHV DQG
SHUKDSVIURPWLPHȢVLQˋQLWHSRVVLELOLWLHV DVZHOO7KHVHWUDFHVRUVLJQV
señales DSSHDUWHQXRXVO\OLNHVWDUOLJKWWKURXJKVSDFLQJVWKDWKHFDOOV
intermittences, breaks in a uniform and continuous sense of time and
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 43

VSDFH7KHZRUGȤLQWHUPLWWHQFHȥFRPHVIURPWKH/DWLQYHUEmittere, to
send or let go, and in this sense, it seems particularly suited for talking
DERXWWKHˌLFNHULQJOLJKWRIVWDUVZKLFKVHQGWKHLUOLJKWRXWLQWRWKH
darkness, until it is received as intermittent glimmer, millions of miles
DZD\,QWHUPLWWHQFHLVDȤVHQGLQJEHWZHHQȥZKLFKPHDQVWKDWWKH
missive has a potentially interruptive effect, capable of inserting itself
into something—although as the astral metaphor would suggest, it is a
fairly feeble possibility. This metaphor, along with the planetary meta-
phor implied by the novel’s title, imagines individuals as monads, who
PD\RUPD\QRWEHDEOHWRUHFHLYHWKHˌLFNHULQJVLJQVRIRWKHUIRUPVRI
life.7 Part of this reception involves a process of recognizing the traces
RUȤHVWHODVȥWKDWRWKHUVOHDYHRQXV  :HFDQQRWVWULFWO\NQRZWKHVH
others, especially since they can come from other times as well as our
own. Both distant stars and intimate friends leave such traces on us:
even though the narrator and M were close friends and ostensibly knew
much about one another, there is still something not entirely knowable
DERXWKRZ0DIIHFWVWKHQDUUDWRU(ULQ*UDII=LYLQJRHVVRIDUDVWR
suggest that the initial M, which can stand for so many different things,
PD\DOVRVLJQLI\ȤPDUNȥVLQFHWKHIDFWWKDWKHKDVPDUNHGWKHQDUUDWRU
LVWKHSULPDU\WKLQJZHFDQNQRZDERXWKLP Ȥ(OOHQJXDMHVHFXHVWUDGR
HVW«WLFD«WLFD\SRO¯WLFDHQLos planetasȥ 7KHLGHDRI0ȢVWUDFHV
on the narrator is especially poignant, since M was disappeared, and all
that remains of him are the effects he has made on others, but M was
aware of such interstellar marks even when he was alive.
Such a process of blind writing and reading recalls Saer’s myope,
ZKRLVȤVHQGLQJȥDPHVVDJHRIQRWNQRZLQJWRVRPHRQHZKRLVVXUH
of her own powers of perception. But more than the myope’s letter,
which is an intentional missive, such intermittent interrelatedness
resembles language itself, which operates on a level that exceeds will
and control. Language is characterized by a constant inter-sending:
words are always related to other words, and meaning, far from being
capable of being seized intact, is both deferred and interrupted by
linguistic relationality. This is why Chejfec’s narrator can say that
ZULWLQJLVȤHORUGHQTXHPHMRUDVXPHHOHUURUȥLWVȤRUGHUȥDOORZVDQ
LQILQLW\RIUHODWLRQVWRZDQGHUWKURXJKLW Los planetas  :KLOH
some kinds of writing, like journalism, seek to detain this wandering,
other kinds of writing embrace and even intensify it. Chejfec’s
narrator sees in the errancy of writing a way to honor his friend’s
influence on him, as well as the lesson he learned from M that we are
44 Witnessing beyond the Human

affected by others, even if we don’t know they exist. Chejfec’s own


writing can certainly be said to tend toward errancy. He describes his
VW\OHDVEHLQJEDVHGRQGLVFRQWLQXRXVVFHQHV ȤVLWXDFLRQHVHSLVRGLRV
HVFHQDVȥ DQGVHHPVWREHLQIOXHQFHGE\:*6HEDOGȢVQDUUDWLYHVW\OH
DPRQJ RWKHU WKLQJV Ȥ(O HVFHQDULR GH OD PHPRULDȥ QS   Chejfec
GHVFULEHVKRZ6HEDOGȢVZRUNSHUIRUPVDȤODERURIPHPRU\ȥWKDWVLIWVLQ
and among images and anecdotes of history, both personal and public,
and inserts them into the narration of memoires. Chejfec observes
that these images serve both to illustrate the narrative histories in
which they are embedded, and also to interrupt them, indicating
that we will never get a full picture of the past. In a statement that
applies as much to his own writing as to Sebald’s, he remarks, “in
a sense, memory, as a noun that is derived from a verb, seems to
EH DQ LQFRPSOHWH ZRUGȥ 7KLV HPSKDVLV RQ LQWHUUXSWLRQ DQG WKH
incompleteness of memory and representation is a stylistic expression
of the experience of intermittence, through which individuals are
touched by an otherness they can never completely know or control.
Chejfec’s description of his style as being based on episodes and
scenes is borne out in the structure of Los planetas. The narration
is regularly interrupted by anecdotes, memories, scenes, and meta-
QDUUDWLYHUHˌHFWLRQVFURVVLQJRYHUDQGGHYLDWLQJIURPZKDWDSSHDUV
to be the main story, just like the two boys cross and recross the
railroad tracks that traverse the city. What glimmers through these
intermittent stories is a form of being-together that differs radically
from the hegemonic structure of the nation. Just as journalism is a form
of representation that seeks to present a neatly contained account of
events, the nation is an ideal form of collective identity that depends on
clear boundaries and a sense of something possessed in common, such
as history, culture, language, territory and resources, or other elements.
7KHSURˋOHRIVXFKDFRPPRQDOLW\LVRIWHQLQGLVSXWHVRPHWLPHVTXLWH
violently. The fact of M’s disappearance during the Dirty War points to
just one of the ways in which national commonality is preserved, that
is, by eliminating ostensibly subversive threats in such a way that the
presumed subversives—not to mention innocent bystanders such as
M —have no recourse to the laws that presumably protect and order
the national good.
A section that appears toward the end of the novel, and which
foreshadows events that will lead to M’s disappearance, illustrates
the violence and blind faith with which a particular vision of national
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 45

commonality can be pursued. M and the narrator are walking around


the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, as is their custom, when history
starts to percolate around them. Millions of people throng the
VWUHHWVWRZHOFRPH3HUµQȤHOO¯GHUȥEDFNIURPH[LOH7KH\FURZGWKH
LQWHUQDWLRQDO DLUSRUW (]HL]D WR ZHOFRPH KLP EXW VQLSHUV IURP D
ULJKWZLQJSDUDPLOLWDU\JURXSDIILOLDWHGZLWK3HUµQRSHQILUHRQWKH
crowd, causing chaos and leaving countless dead and wounded. Later
that afternoon, the boys encounter a man in the streets who asks
WKHPWKHZD\WR(]HL]DDQGZKRWHOOVWKHPSURXGO\WKDWKHKDVFRPH
RQIRRWIURPKLVSURYLQFLDOWRZQWRUHFHLYH*HQHUDO3HUµQ7KH\WU\WR
H[SODLQWKDWWKHUHLVQRQHHGWRJHWWR(]HL]DWKDW3HUµQKDVDOUHDG\
returned through another airport, and that he would not find what
he was looking for there. The man nevertheless persists in his blind
IDLWKLQ3HUµQȢVDUULYDODIDLWKWKDWLVWKHRSSRVLWHRI6DHUȢVP\RSH
KHNQRZVZLWKRXWKDYLQJWRVHHZKHUHDVWKHP\RSH DQG&KHMIHFȢV
QDUUDWRUDVZHOO KDVWRIHHOKLVZD\DURXQGLQWKHDEVHQFHRIERWK
light and knowledge.10 In this, the Peronist is a lone representative
RI WKH FURZG la multitud  ZKLFK WKH WZR ER\V REVHUYH ZLWK ERWK
V\PSDWK\ DQG LQFUHGXOLW\  WDNLQJ KROG RI WKH FLW\ ȤHVRV PDUHV
vigorosos, cuya misma identidad palpita bajo la forma del tumulto,
porque ofrecían la posibilidad de plegarse a las corrientes y flotar sin
SUHRFXSDFLRQHVSRUODYHUGDGȥ ȤWKRVHYLJRURXVVHDVZKRVHHVVHQFH
palpitates beneath the form of the tumult, because they offered the
possibility of giving in to the currents and floating along without
FRQFHUQ IRU WKH WUXWKȥ   7KH WXPXOWRXV ZDYHV ZHUH DUULYLQJ
from both sides of the political spectrum, each side carrying its own
YHUVLRQRIȤWUXWKȥDQGLWVRZQDPELWLRQVWRPROGWKHQDWLRQWRWKDW
WUXWK7KHVH\HDUVZHUHPDUNHGE\DȤYLROHQWDQGWULYLDOVXEVWLWXWLRQȥ
of one version of truth for another, which left the “so-called sense of
KLVWRU\ȥVRHDJHUO\IRXJKWRYHUȤVDWXUDWHGZLWKGHDGERGLHVȥ11 As
,VDEHO4XLQWDQDUHPDUNVZKDWZDVDWLVVXHZDVWKHDWWHPSWWRȤHUDVH
GLIIHUHQFHVLQRUGHUWRLPSODQWDQHZPRGHORIVRFLHW\ȥ  
Although M brief ly considers the ideal of universal governance
naïvely proposed by Borges as a solution to the increasing violence
JULSSLQJ $UJHQWLQD ȟ  WKH ER\VȢ DZDUHQHVVȠDQG &KHMIHFȢV
novel—go far beyond such literary utopianism. A different sense of
community flickers in the nooks and crannies of the city and nation,
legible through intermittences and señales of the population. A
recurrent image in Chejfec’s novels is a nightmarish idea of space
46 Witnessing beyond the Human

that disregards or even disallows change, contact, or encounter.


M describes a childhood fear of the night as a time in which space
EHFRPHVVDWXUDWHGWRWKHSRLQWWKDWLWGRHVQRWOHDYHDQ\WUDFHV ȤSRU
ODVQRFKHVHOPDOȠHOKRUURUSXURVHJ¼QVXLPDJLQDFLµQȠRFXSDED
GHWDOPRGRHOHVSDFLRTXHORVDWXUDEDQRTXHGDEDQPDUFDVȥ 
The narrator describes the occasional feeling of being “hostages of
JHRJUDSK\ȥ KRVWDJHV WR D VXUIDFH RU ȤFUXVWȥ WKDW UHVLVWHG FKDQJH
ȟ %XWFHUWDLQNLQGVRIHYHQWVKDYHWKHSRWHQWLDOWRGLVUXSWWKH
spatialized surface of the present.
The planetary metaphor is born one day when, after having taken
leave of one another and walked off in opposite directions, M and
the narrator turn the block and run smack into one another, an
event that the narrator describes as disturbing geography itself: “ese
HQFXHQWURPHGHVRULHQWµIXHFDSD]SRUXQLQVWDQWHGHWUDVWRUQDU
ODJHRJUDI¯Dȥ ȤWKDWHQFRXQWHUGLVRULHQWHGPHLWZDVFDSDEOHIRU
DQLQVWDQWRIGLVUXSWLQJJHRJUDSK\ȥ 0H[SODLQVWKLVRFFXUUHQFH
as evidence of a vast interplanetary force field, in which bodies move
EH\RQGLQGLYLGXDOZLOODQGGHVLJQIROORZLQJȤUHFLSURFDOLQIOXHQFHVȥ
whereby individuals respond to the “consequences and signs [señales@ȥ
of others. The narrator remarks that such a description is more like
VWDUVWKDQSODQHWVEXW0GRHVQȢWOLVWHQWRKLP KHQFHWKHWLWOHRIWKLV
QRYHOLVLWVHOIDIOLFNHULQJWUDFHIURPDGLVWDQWVWDU ,WLVQRWRQO\WKH
two friends who mark and are influenced by one another, but others
are involved as well, and the general effect of these intersections
and inf luences ends up changing space, even if such changes are
sometimes hard to detect:

Las constelaciones que M y yo creíamos formar a lo largo del día


FRQHFWDQGR LGHDOPHQWH QXHVWURVLWLQHUDULRVQHFHVLWDEDQSUHFLVDPHQWH
GHOHVSDFLRGHODFLXGDGSDUDVHUFRQFHELGDVFRPRWDOHVFRPRODVµUELWDV
de los planetas, en cuyo dibujo interviene la incidencia relativa de los
HPSXMHVGHODVPDVDVIXHU]DVGHJUDYLWDFLµQ\HVDVFRVDVTXHGHˋQHQ
la amplitud y profundidad de su influencia en virtud de complicadas
equivalencias y equilibrios recíprocos, así ambos parecíamos sostener la
ciudad sobre las líneas transparentes que conectaban a nuestros cuerpos
en movimiento. No importa si parece o no posible que Buenos Aires
WXYLHUDXQDH[LVWHQFLDDXWµQRPDGHQXHVWUDLQˌXHQFLDORHVHQFLDOSDVDED
por nuestros diagramas . . . la convertía en más espacio, en otraVXSHUˋFLH
VLQGHMDUGHVHUHOODPLVPD 
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 47

The constellations that M and I believed we were forming throughout the


GD\FRQQHFWLQJ LGHDOO\ RXULWLQHUDULHVQHHGHGWKHVSDFHRIWKHFLW\LQ
RUGHUWREHFRQFHLYHGDVVXFKDVZLWKWKHRUELWVRISODQHWVLQWRZKRVH
pattern intervenes the relative incidence of thrusts, masses, gravitational
IRUFHVDQGWKRVHWKLQJVWKDWGHˋQHWKHDPSOLWXGHDQGGHSWKRIWKHLU
LQˌXHQFHLQYLUWXHRIFRPSOLFDWHGHTXLYDOHQFHVDQGUHFLSURFDOEDODQFHV
so the two of us seemed to support the city with the transparent lines that
connected our bodies in movement. It doesn’t matter whether or not it
VHHPVSRVVLEOHIRU%XHQRV$LUHVWRH[LVWDXWRQRPRXVO\IURPRXULQˌXHQFH
what was essential passed through our diagrams . . . which turned the
city into more space, into another surface, without it ceasing to be itself.

7KHȤRUELWVȥRIWKHLUIULHQGVKLSDUHLQˌXHQFHGE\RWKHUIRUFHVZKLFK
through a double entendre, carry out the astronomical metaphor and
DOVRORFDWHWKHRUELWVLQWKHVSDFHRIWKHFLW\ZKHUHȤHPSXMHVȥ OLWHUDOO\
ȤSXVKHVȥRUȤVKRYHVȥ DQGȤPDVDVȥDIIHFWWKHLUGDLO\SHUDPEXODWLRQV
bringing them into constant contact with others.12 These planetary
forces affect one another as well as the space through which they
circulate. M ref lects that “Todo lo que se mueve . . . todo aquello
TXHSLHUGHRJDQDFDORUGHMDVXKXHOODLPERUUDEOHȥ Ȥ(YHU\WKLQJWKDW
moves . . . everything that loses or gains heat, leaves its indelible
SULQWȥ   7KH HYHQW WKDW DIIHFWV WKH VXUIDFH WKDW GLVUXSWV WKH
spatialized present, is an event of encounter and being-together that
exceeds any notion of homogeneous commonality, such as those
defended beneath the banners of opposing ideologies or different forms
of nationalism. While such forms of commonality are described as
ˌRDWLQJDORQJRQWKHVXUIDFHRIWKHRFHDQXQHQFXPEHUHGE\REVWDFOHV
ȤIORWDUVLQSUHRFXSDFLRQHVSRUODYHUGDGȥ WKHLQWHUSODQHWDU\
life that M and the narrator perceive in their explorations of Buenos
$LUHV LV HQGOHVVO\ LQWHUUXSWHG HLWKHU E\ RWKHU ȤSODQHWVȥ RU E\ WKH
space through which they move.
6XFKLQWHUFRQQHFWHGRUELWVFRQWUDVWVLJQLˋFDQWO\ZLWKWKHVWDELOLW\
DQGKRPRJHQHLW\SUHVXPHGE\WKHˋJXUHRIWKHQDWLRQ8UEDQVSDFH
creates its own kinds of ever-shifting communities and connections.
Two anecdotes describe similar spaces of orbits and interactions, at two
GLVWLQFWPDUJLQVRI$UJHQWLQHVRFLHW\7KHˋUVWFRQFHUQVWKH-HZLVK
community in Buenos Aires, to which M and the narrator belong, even
if not as active practitioners. The boys ponder the question of whether
2UWKRGR[-HZVDUHPRUHȤJHQXLQHDQGDXWKHQWLFȥWKDQRWKHUVȠZKHWKHU
48 Witnessing beyond the Human

XQOLNHRWKHUIRUPVRILGHQWLW\WKHLUULWXDOVFRQˋUPFRQWLQXLW\EHORQJLQJ
WUXWK ȟ 7KH\FRQFOXGHKRZHYHUWKDWWKLVLVQRWWKHFDVHDQGWKH\
VHHLQ-HZLVKȤLGHQWLW\ȥȠHYHQLQUHOLJLRXVULWXDOȠDFRQˋUPDWLRQRIWKH
idea that “el ser, la identidad, la verdad se muestran y prevalecen con
LQWHUPLWHQFLDMDP£VVRQSHUPDQHQWHVQLFRQVWDQWHVȥ ȤEHLQJLGHQWLW\
truth reveal themselves and prevail through intermittence, they are
QHYHUSHUPDQHQWRUFRQVWDQWȥ 7KH\VHHHYLGHQFHRIWKLVLQWKH
synagogues, where bowing old men perform an “intermittent retreat
EHIRUHWKHP\VWHU\ȥDQGXQULWXDOL]HGVRFLDOL]LQJUHYHDOVQRWRUJDQLF
continuity and absolute belonging, but a shared experience of existing
LQDȤWLPHRIGLVVROXWLRQȥ1HYHUWKHOHVVVRPHWKLQJFRQQHFWVWKHPWR
other Jews, something that the boys understand as a “traza imaginaria
entre sus cuerpos y los nuestros . . . como si todos, ellos y nosotros,
IX«UDPRVˋJXUDVHQWLGDGHVPXWXDPHQWHQHFHVDULDVSDUDGLEXMDUOD
FRQVWHODFLµQȥ ȤLPDJLQDU\WUDFHEHWZHHQWKHLUERGLHVDQGRXUVDV
LIHYHU\RQHWKHPDQGXVZHUHˋJXUHVHQWLWLHVPXWXDOO\QHFHVVDU\WR
GUDZDFRQVWHOODWLRQȥ 
Community as constellation or mutually inscribing planetary orbits
FRQWUDVWVVLJQLˋFDQWO\ZLWKWKHˋJXUHRIWKHQDWLRQDVLWDSSHDUVLQDQ
anecdote that concerns a couple from the northern province of Formosa.
This couple, inspired by travel magazines that present Argentina
as a glistening and exotic place, decides to leave home and explore
their country. Without any particular aim, they head north, and are
disillusioned to see that the landscape and the people stay very much the
same, even as they pass, without noticing, into Paraguay. However, when
they turn around to try another direction, they are stopped at the border
and detained as illegal Paraguayan immigrants. There, at the desert
IULQJHVRIWKHLUZRUOGȤORTXHEDXWL]DEDDOKRUL]RQWHHUDHO(VWDGRȥ
ȤWKH6WDWHLVZKDWEDSWL]HVWKHKRUL]RQȥ (YHU\WKLQJORRNVH[DFWO\
the same, but the State regulates the sameness, distinguishing proper
from improper, that which belongs from that which does not. National
belonging is connected to property, and since the couple are poor and
own nothing in Formosa, they cannot prove their provenance. They
eventually make it back into Argentina, albeit with immigrant papers.
M and the narrator myopically read the traces of one another
and others against the background of historical currents such as
Peronism and anti-Peronism, the endlessly intersecting orbits of life
in Buenos Aires, constellations created by associations such as being
Jewish, and social exclusions that orbit beneath and around their
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 49

own middle-class tracks. Through an awareness of intermittence,


individual identity opens up to a being-with-others that is endlessly
exposed to its own possibilities, and never coheres into a stable
identity, the borders of which could be regulated like the Argentine
frontier for the couple from Formosa. Such a reading of intermittence
is not limited to occupants of the middle class, although ultimately
the lack of material and social comfort can be prohibitive. Once back
in Argentina, the couple from Formosa experiences an encounter
that marks them. Having just been subjected to their own country’s
powers of exclusion, they attempt to imagine from this experience a
QHZFRXQWU\ ȤHOSD¯VGH0DUWDȥ DFRXQWU\WKDWLVDVFRQWLQJHQWDQG
HSKHPHUDODVWKHHQFRXQWHUWKDWLQVSLUHVLW  :KHQWKH\DUULYH
in Buenos Aires, however, they are confronted with the extent of
WKHLUGLVSRVVHVVLRQZKLFKOHDYHVWKHPLQYLVLEOHOLNHDQLPDOV  
DQGWKH\EHFRPHLQFUHDVLQJO\ȤKHUP«WLFRVLPSHUPHDEOHVDOHQWRUQRȥ
ȤKHUPHWLFLPSHQHWUDEOHWRWKHLUVXUURXQGLQJVȥ 7KHLUH[SHULHQFH
of invisibility leads them to turn the source of their last encounter
into a spectacle, which they do by iconizing the image of a girl who
had marked them on their travels, and turning her into a local cult.
M and the narrator enjoy a different kind of privilege, which enables
them to wander around the city like young flâneurs, and remain open
to the marks and traces that traverse them. Nevertheless, in spite
of the protections afforded by their class, M is swallowed up in a
different kind of invisibility when he becomes one of the Dirty War’s
disappeared.
$WWKHHQGRIWKHQRYHOWKHQDUUDWRUUHˌHFWVRQWKHQDWXUHRIWKH
SUHVHQWZKLFKKHDJDLQFDOOVȤWKHPRVWH[WHQVLYHȥRIFRXQWULHV ȤDel
conjunto de países invisibles, el presente es el más extensoȥ +H
remarks that he has gone back and forth as to whether he believes this
description of the present, and what it might mean. In one interpretation,
LWQDPHVDFRQˋQLQJVXUIDFHWKDWWDNHVKROGDIWHU0ȢVGLVDSSHDUDQFH
“un presente plano, disagregado de la realidad . . . Hendimos el aire
VLQ PRYHUQRV URGHDGRV SRU QXHVWUD HQYROWXUDȥ ȤD SUHVHQW SODQH
disconnected from reality . . . We crack the air without moving,
VXUURXQGHGE\RXUHQFDVHPHQWȥ %XWZKDWDSSHDUVWREHDVLQJOH
SODQHLVLQIDFWPXOWLSOH ȤKDELWDPRVGLYHUVRVSD¯VHVDODYH]ȥ DOORZLQJ
IRUDEVHQFHDQGGLIIHUHQWWHPSRUDOLWLHVWRFRH[LVWLQWKLVȤFRXQWU\ȥ
(YHQWKRXJK0DVDGLVDSSHDUHGSHUVRQKDVQRGLUHFWFODLPRQWKH
present, his absence occupies it in its more extensive sense. His absence
50 Witnessing beyond the Human

LQKDELWVWKHQDUUDWRUȢVH\HOLGV  DQGOHDYHVLWVPDUNRQWKHQDUUDWRUȢV


ERG\ȤGHVFXEURODHVWHODGHVXFXHUSRVREUHHOP¯RSURSLRȥ Ȥ,GLVFRYHU
WKHWUDFHRIKLVERG\RQP\RZQȥ 6XFKDQH[SHULHQFHLVQRWRI
course, unique to M’s survivors. The narrator remarks that following the
FRXSȤ%XHQRV$LUHVVHOOHQDEDGHPXHUWRVHOORVWHQ¯DQXQDYLGDSURSLD
VXEVLGLDULDGHODHVWHODGHMDGDSRUVXVFXHUSRVȥ Ȥ%XHQRV$LUHVˋOOHGXS
ZLWKGHDGSHRSOHWKH\KDGDOLIHRIWKHLURZQVXEVLGLDU\WRWKHPDUN
OHIWE\WKHLUERGLHVȥ 
7KHVHPDUNVRUWUDFHV estela literally means wake, in the sense of a
PDUNOHIWLQZDWHURUDLU LQGLFDWHDNLQGRIRQJRLQJOLIHWKDWLQWHUDFWV
with the living present in ways that cannot be entirely understood or
contained. Mere memory is an insufficient response, since memory
simultaneously aims to preserve a part of the past and to close it off
as past, not unlike the kind of journalistic writing that the narrator
describes as an example of el mal in the beginning of the novel. The
marks that the dead leave on us require, as the narrator observes
DWWKH HQG RIWKH SHQXOWLPDWH FKDSWHUD ȤGLIIHUHQW NLQGRI DFWLRQȥ
WKDQ WKDW RI VLPSO\ UHPHPEHULQJ   +H GRHV QRW H[SODLQ ZKDW
this different kind of action would be, but its nature is presumably
implied in the final chapter and perhaps in the novel as a whole. It
involves learning to read or witness the marks of others, and to make
URRPIRUWKHPLQRXUȤFRXQWU\ȥRIWKHSUHVHQWWRUHFRJQL]HWKDWWKH\
inevitably affect us and even constitute who we are. The final chapter
of the book tells of a dream the narrator had of a train ride with M
in which he understood that their friendship and his mourning for M
had in fact created a new identity, a new sense both of himself and
KLVUHODWLRQVKLSVZLWKWKHZRUOG  7KLVQHZLGHQWLW\LVQRWDIL[HG
thing: it is structured as a voyage, and as such it is unpredictable
and never-ending. The dream-train of their friendship arrives at a
destination other than the one they were expecting, and even though
it rolls to a stop in the final lines of the novel, the narrator notes
that it is not really the end of the line, since the stopped train “se
KDFRQYHUWLGRHQODSURPHVDGHOSUµ[LPRYLDMHȥ ȤKDVWXUQHGLQWRWKH
SURPLVHRIWKHQH[WWULSȥ 7KLVQRYHOLVDQDWWHPSWWRH[SORUH
VRPH RI WKH GLPHQVLRQV RI WKH WHPSRUDO ȤFRXQWU \ȥ KH FDOOV WKH
present, including the effects of the marks M has left on him, and by
implication, the effects that the dead and disappeared have left on
Argentina in general. Intent on avoiding the dangers of closure—el
malZKLFKOHDYHVXVZLWKDȤF\QLFDOJULPDFHȥLQSODFHRIWKHIXWXUH
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 51

 ȠWKHQRYHOHQGVZLWKRXWHQGLQJLQGLFDWLQJWKDWLWKDVRQO\EHHQ
one leg in a journey, one attempt to create a space in which to read the
marks of the absent and the invisible on the shifting expanses of the
SUHVHQW$VVXFKLWLVQHFHVVDULO\ȤXQDKLVWRULDTXHQRKDWHUPLQDGRȥ
ȤDKLVWRU\WKDWKDVQRWHQGHGȥ DQGLWPXVWWKHUHIRUHORRNWRWKH
IXWXUHWRȤODYLGDDXQDGDFRQHOWLHPSRȥDQGWKHSURPLVHȠDOEHLWD
mournful one—that such a sense of life implies.

Q    Q    Q

In Los planetas, Chejfec explores things that tend to be left out of


WKHȤRIˋFLDOVWRULHVȥRIWKHQDWLRQDOSUHVHQWVXFKDVGLVDSSHDUDQFH
and marginality, and the challenges they present to witnessing. In
Boca de lobo   KH H[DPLQHV DQRWKHU DEVHQW SUHVHQFH LQ WKH
national psyche, the proletariat. The novel takes place on the ruined
industrial outskirts of an unnamed city. Much of the novel involves
lengthy descriptions of this landscape, including empty lots, ruined
stretches of houses, grimy sub-urban streets, and the austere grounds
of a factory. The novel opens with the question of whether such
JHRJUDSK\ȠRUZKHWKHUȤJHRJUDSK\ȥLQJHQHUDOWKDWLVVSDFHVVXFKDV
the present that congeal as a crust or encasement, as described in Los
planetasȟFDQFKDQJH

Siempre me ha inquietado que la geografía no cambie pese al tiempo, pese


a nuestros cambios y los cambios que se producen en ella. Conservamos
DOJRLQPDWHULDOHTXLYDOHQWHDORTXHFRQVHUYDODJHRJUDI¯DWDPEL«Q
inmaterial. Y sin embargo, aunque no cambie, la geografía es la medida
de los cambios. Tal como ocurre con la temperatura de los cuerpos:
PDQWLHQHQXQUHVWRGHFDORUSUHYLR/RVFXHUSRVVRQ\QRVRQVRQPHQRV
\P£VDODYH]&RQODJHRJUDI¯DVXFHGHDOJRVLPLODUTXLHURGHFLUTXHHV
LQGµFLO 

I have always been troubled by the idea that geography doesn’t change in
spite of time, in spite of our changes and the changes they produce in it.
We retain something immaterial, just like geography, which also retains
something immaterial. Nevertheless, even though it doesn’t change,
geography is the measure of change. It is just like what occurs with body
temperature: bodies maintain a trace of previous heat . . . Bodies are and
WKH\ȢUHQRWWKH\DUHPRUHDQGOHVVDWWKHVDPHWLPH:LWKJHRJUDSK\
something similar happens, I mean, it’s indocile.
52 Witnessing beyond the Human

This enigmatic observation seems to suggest that change is possible,


even when the geographical surface does not ref lect it. Change is
discussed in terms of corporeal warmth: physical contact changes
ERGLHVFUHDWLQJDQȤLQGRFLOLW\ȥWKDWPDNHVWKHPJUHDWHUWKDQWKH\
were on their own, much like the marks and traces that others leave
on us, as described in Los planetas. These traces can also have effects
on the landscapes in which we live, even though they may not be the
RQO\VRXUFHRIȤJHRJUDSKLFDOȥLQGRFLOLW\
Perhaps as an exploration of this potential for change, the narrator
falls in love with a young proletarian woman, and courts her affection
through the barren surfaces of the industrial district. The novel is
structured as a fable, which Chejfec describes thus: “Me parece útil
recuperar el aliento de señal, enmienda y advertencia contenido en
ODVI£EXODVSRUTXHOHMRVGHGHFLUFµPRVRQODVFRVDVGHVFULEHQFµPR
SRGU¯DQVHU\SURSRQHQDV¯XQDFRUUHFFLµQSDUDHOPXQGRȥ Ȥ,WVHHPV
useful to me to recuperate the spirit of sign, amendment and warning
contained in fables, because far from saying how things actually are,
they describe how things could be and thereby propose a correction for
WKHZRUOGȥ  This is not straight didacticism, with a clear-cut moral at
the end, but rather a probing of possibility, an exploration of how things
FRXOGEHRWKHUZLVH7KHUHLVVRPHWKLQJOLYLQJ DQGHYHQLQGRFLOH LQ
this understanding of the fable: its signs and admonitions have their
RZQȤDOLHQWRȥZKLFKPHDQVEUHDWKDVZHOODVVSLULW&KHMIHFȢVXVHRI
the structure of fable is decidedly idiosyncratic, presenting a fairly
straightforward story, a kind of dystopic fairy tale, and yet telling it in
enigmatic and discontinuous terms, impelling us to ask questions that
have no simple answer. In this particular fable, the narrator, described
DVDVWRFNFKDUDFWHURIQRYHOV  FRXUWVDQGIDOOVLQORYHZLWK'HOLD
ZKRVHQDPHLVDQDQDJUDPRIȤLGHDOȥ 17 Their relationship unfolds
over the empty lots and ruined structures of her world, passing by her
friendships and solidarities with other workers, to end grimly with the
narrator raping her and abandoning her and her unborn child to the
ȤZROIȢVPRXWKȥRIREOLYLRQȠWKDWLVWRWKHXQGLIIHUHQWLDWHGWLPHRI
factory life, of self-perpetuating poverty, and of a squalor that not even
human contact can change.
An important element in this sad story is the character of the
narrator, about whom we are told very little. Although the novel is
narrated exclusively in his voice, as internal monologue, we are forced
to rely heavily on conjecture in our understanding of his life and how
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 53

he came to the industrial margins of this city to fall in love with Delia.
He is middle aged and comes from the middle class, which is implied
from his lack of familiarity with the kinds of hardships that Delia and
her peers are forced to endure. He is identified as a reader of novels,
and repeatedly compares his own experiences to books he has read
ȤKHOH¯GRQRYHODVTXHKD\QRYHODVTXHȥ 7KHUHFXUULQJ
JHVWXUHWRILFWLRQUHFDOOVD%RUJHVLDQ DQG&HUYDQWLQH FRPPRQSODFH
whereby a character ventures into an unknown territory, often within
the same city, and imagines that he understands that world, when
what he thinks he sees is shaped and conditioned by the books he has
read. Nevertheless, the narrator of Boca de lobo cites the novels he has
read not as figures of authority but with a sense of contrast between
how those novels manage to present a narrative coherence that he is
unable to perceive in the world around him.
The source of this incoherence is Delia and the proletarian life she
embodies. The fact that she works at a factory fascinates and disturbs
him, and this reaction is exacerbated by her young age. He sees in
her and the other workers evidence of an enormous debt, “la deuda
LQˋQLWDDFXPXODGDSRUODKXPDQLGDGȥ ȤWKHLQˋQLWHGHEWDFFXPXODWHGE\
KXPDQLW\ȥ +HZDVDZDUHRIWKLVGHEWEHIRUHKHPHWKHUDWWHQWLYHWR
WKHQHDUO\LQYLVLEOHPDUNVRIWKLVGHEWLQZKDWKHFDOOVWKHȤSDUDGR[HVȥ
of property: “toda la gente que no es obrera advierte esto, percibe, como
XQDVH³DODQµQLPD\FRPRXQDDGYHUWHQFLDODPDUFDSUROHWDULDHQODV
FRVDVTXHSRVHHRXWLOL]Dȥ ȤHYHU\RQHZKRLVQRWDZRUNHUQRWLFHVWKLV
perceives, like an anonymous sign and like a warning, the proletarian
PDUNRQWKHWKLQJVWKH\SRVVHVVRUXVHȥ 7KHVHPDUNVIRUPDNLQG
RIIDEOH señal, advertencia WKDWXQVHWWOHVWKHQDUUDWRUȢVSULYLOHJHG
life, and he determines to try to understand it and its origins in the
underprivileged world of this industrial district. He discovers the
tyranny of the factory, which he describes as the very heart of power and
DȤZROIȢVPRXWKȥ  WKDWGHYRXUVWKHZRUNHUVLQWRDOLIHRIPHDQLQJOHVV
UHSHWLWLRQDQGVHOIVDFULˋFHȤDOO¯HVWDEDODYHUGDG\QRPHUHˋHURVµORD
'HOLDȥ ȤWKHUHZDVWKHWUXWKDQG,ȢPQRWUHIHUULQJRQO\WR'HOLDȥȟ 
Delia fascinates him because she has not yet been entirely swallowed
XSE\WKLVPRXWK6KHLVDOLPLQDOˋJXUHZKRDSSHDUVWROLYHȤDWUDYHVDQGR
XPEUDOHV(VWULERVGHFROHFWLYRVSRUWRQHVGHI£EULFDVODMDVGHMDUGLQHV
FHUFDVGHWHUUHQRVXPEUDOHVGHFDVDVERUGHVGHFDPLQRVȥ ȤFURVVLQJ
thresholds. Bus steps, factory gates, garden stepping stones, plot fences,
WKUHVKROGVRIKRXVHVHGJHVRIURDGVȥ 6KHOLYHVRQWKHOLPLWVRIWKH
54 Witnessing beyond the Human

city, and treads the limits of inside and out in a number of ways. She
is in between childhood and adulthood, school and factory life, her
parents’ supervision and adult sexual involvements, and still displays a
curiosity and zest for life that is lacking in some of her older friends. She
becomes the narrator’s lover, but she retains a reticence toward him, a
reticence that manifests itself as a spatio-temporal disruption or delay,
not unlike the astral intermittence described in Los planetas: “estaba
DTX¯SRUHMHPSORSHURGDEDODLPSUHVLµQGHGHPRUDUVHPXFKRDQWHV
de terminar de llegar . . . Se situaba en algo previo o posterior, nunca
HQHVHSUHFLVRPRPHQWR Ȥ6KHZDVKHUHIRUH[DPSOHEXWVKHJDYHWKH
impression of slowing down before actually arriving . . . She was situated
LQVRPHWKLQJSUHYLRXVRUSRVWHULRUQHYHULQWKDWVDPHPRPHQWȥȟ 
She is a kind of absent presence to him, and this quality seeps into her
ODQJXDJHDVZHOOKHUVLOHQFHVȤVSHDNȥDQGKHUZRUGVH[KLELWDNLQGRI
GHOD\RUȤȡDSHQDVȢFURQROµJLFRȥ ȤFKURQRORJLFDOȡEDUHO\Ȣȥ 
Delia represents for the narrator the liminal and potentially
transformative situation of the proletariat. She and her peers live
forgotten and invisible lives, oppressed by the power of the factory and
the compulsion to produce for the rest of society. Nevertheless, their
silences speak in the almost imperceptible marks they leave on the
objects they produce, and in the peripheral, ruinous world they inhabit.
These marks, described variously as traces, fossils, gestures, shadows,
RUQHJDWLYHV  LQGLFDWHDQLQWHUPLWWHQWRUVSHFWUDO
presence that criss-crosses our world like so many erratic planets, muted
UHPLQGHUVRIRXUȤLQˋQLWHGHEWȥWRWKHIRUJRWWHQHOHPHQWVRIVRFLHW\
Occupying the margins of modernization, the proletariat lead a liminal
existence, not just in the sense of being displaced from the center of
things, but also in the sense that “al estar sobre el umbral, los hechos
VXHOHQVHULQDFDEDGRVȥ ȤRQDWKUHVKROGWKLQJVWHQGWREHXQˋQLVKHGȥ
 6LQFHWKH\DUHPDUJLQDOL]HGQRWH[FOXGHG DVIRUH[DPSOHWKHFRXSOH
from Formosa in Los planetasLV VRFLHW\GHSHQGVRQWKHPDQGDVORQJ
DVWKLVLVVRWKHVWUXFWXUHRISRZHULVQRWGHˋQLWLYHȠLWLVȤXQˋQLVKHGȥ
Downtrodden though they may seem, they are the indocility of history,
indicating with their very lives a tenuous possibility of change. This is
DWOHDVWSDUWRIZKDWWKHQDUUDWRUVHHPVWRFRXUWWKURXJKWKHˋJXUHRI
Delia: the hope of a proletarian revolution, the possibility—however
distant—of radical social change.
The narrator’s character is not heroic or appealing in any way.
+LV VRPHZKDW SDWKHWLF ILJXUH PLGGOH DJHG ODFNDGDLVLFDO LQ ORYH
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 55

ZLWK D ZRPDQ KH LGHDOL]HV  PLJKW VHHP WR VXJJHVW WKDW WKH KRSH
for a socialist revolution is an outdated, romantic ideal. Indeed, his
character could be read as a rebuke to a particular kind of midcentury
revolutionary attitude, in which the pursuit of social equality was
accompanied by a machismo that mimicked the power it set out to
critique. However, while the narrator’s shortcomings may reflect the
confusion of political legacies and the lack of a ready-made model for
political action in contemporary Latin America, they do not negate
the relevance of a search for social change, which is as pressing today
as it ever was. The narrator’s search involves an awareness of class,
but it does not invoke a classical Marxist call for a class uprising,
which may indeed be a distant ideal in this peripheral post-modernity.
His attention to traces and spatio-temporal interruptions of excluded
and forgotten elements of society is an important response to the
question of whether change can occur: whether we are stuck in the
ȤFRXQWU\RIWKHSUHVHQWȥRUZKHWKHUWKDWȤFRXQWU\ȥLVYXOQHUDEOHWR
the different times and forces that live within it. Such a response bears
resemblance to a number of different theories of change, including
moments in Marx’s own writings. Jacques Rancière’s re-readings of
Marx emphasize the proletariat as a marker of exclusion, rather than
as a hegemonically formed identity group:

The proletariat are neither manual workers nor the labor classes. They are
the class of the uncounted that only exists in the very declaration in which
WKH\DUHFRXQWHGDVWKRVHRIQRDFFRXQW7KHQDPHSUROHWDULDQGHˋQHV
QHLWKHUDVHWRISURSHUWLHV PDQXDOODERULQGXVWULDOODERUGHVWLWXWLRQ
HWF WKDWZRXOGEHVKDUHGHTXDOO\E\DPXOWLWXGHRILQGLYLGXDOVQRUD
FROOHFWLYHERG\,WLVSDUWRIDSURFHVVRIVXEMHFWLˋFDWLRQLGHQWLFDOWRWKH
SURFHVVRIH[SRXQGLQJDZURQJ:KDWLVVXEMHFWLˋHGLVQHLWKHUZRUN
QRUGHVWLWXWLRQEXWWKHVLPSOHFRXQWLQJRIWKHXQFRXQWHG Disagreement:
Politics and Philosophy 

In this understanding, the proletariat is not an individual or collective


LGHQWLW\EXWDV\PSWRPOLNHVLJQWKDWLQGLFDWHVH[FOXVLRQ ȤODGHXGD
LQILQLWHDFXPXODGDSRUODKXPDQLGDGȥ DQGWKHIDFWWKDWWKHUH
are living beings behind that exclusion. Owing to their dispossession,
these beings cannot fully express their own exclusion, but they do
inscribe their absent-presence into the world, potentially interrupting
the consensual commonality that excludes them. This is the very
56 Witnessing beyond the Human

nature of politics, according to Rancière: “Politics exists wherever the


count of parts and parties of society is disturbed by the inscription of
DSDUWRIWKRVHZKRKDYHQRSDUWȥ Disagreement 
In Boca de lobo, the narrator’s emphasis on such symptom-like marks
engages such a notion of politics, focusing on the recognition and
inscription of the living exclusions that inhabit our world. The act of
ȤH[SRXQGLQJDZURQJȥDV5DQFLªUHSXWVLWLVSHUIRUPHGE\ERWKWKRVH
who experience the wrong, and those who notice its inscription, with
which they are inevitably implicated. Both are witnesses of the myopic
VRUWERWKUHVSRQGWRWKHLQWHUPLWWHQFHVWKDWLQWHUUXSWRXUSUHVXPHG
forms of self-knowledge and society’s geometric accounting of parts
and wholes. The narrator describes one such form of interruption as
a battle of inscriptions that can affect dominant narratives, including
HVSHFLDOO\ OLWHUDWXUH

WLHPSRDWU£VKHSHQVDGRTXHSUHFLVDPHQWHODVPDUFDVGHODJHQWHDQµQLPD
sobre el mundo, incluidas las hechas sobre papel, tienen como objeto
enfrentarse a la letra escrita, en primer lugar a las novelas. No es un
FRPEDWHDELHUWRQRHVTXHDOJXQDVQLHJDQDTXHOORTXHODVRWUDVDˋUPDQ
HVXQFRPEDWHVHFUHWR\PXWXDPHQWHLJQRUDGR 

I have thought for some time that the purpose of the marks of anonymous
people on the world, including those made on paper, is precisely to
confront written language, especially novels. It is not an open combat,
DQGLWLVQRWWKDWRQHDIˋUPVZKDWWKHRWKHUGHQLHVLWLVDVHFUHWFRPEDW
and one that is mutually ignored.

+HDGGVWKDWZLWKRXWWKHVHPDUNVȤWKHZRUOGZRXOGEHLQWROHUDEOHȥ
which suggests that his interest in them is not merely literary. He
H[SODLQVWKDWWKLVLQYLVLEOHFRPEDWLVKLGGHQEHKLQGIDEOHV  ZKLFK
as we have seen is a form that for Chejfec names the need to insist on
the possibility of change in the world. The repeated references to
novels throughout this novel are not intended to dismiss literature,
but rather to question its relevance to the world, bringing it more
directly to an encounter with the anonymous inscriptions that mark
our world. Literature that bears these marks of exclusion, that seeks
them out myopically, provides a place for political inscription to occur,
DQGȤSROLWLFVȥȠLQWKHVHQVHRIDGLVUXSWLRQRIQDUUDWLYHȠWREHJLQ
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 57

However, one day the narrator loses faith in such a notion of politics,
and the uncertainty or myopia that it requires. This change of heart
occurs after he watches two young proletarian boys collecting discarded
REMHFWVLQDQHPSW\ORWMXVWDVKHFROOHFWVWUDFHVRIH[FOXVLRQ ȟ 
He realizes that the boys are on the threshold of a life of bitter hardship,
and collecting detritus in the weedy expanses of the city’s margins is
not going to change that fact. He imagines them caught in a spatial and
WHPSRUDOȤERFDGHORERȥLQZKLFKQRWKLQJHYHUFKDQJHVUHIOHFWHGLQ
WKHGHVRODWHODQGVFDSHDQGH[SDQGHGLQˋQLWHO\E\WKHQLJKW7KHLGHD
RFFXUVWRKLPWKDWWKLVȤERFDGHORERȥLVUHSHDWHGLQVLGHRI'HOLD ȤHQHO
LQWHULRUGH'HOLDȥ +HUHHOVDWWKLVWKRXJKWDVLIIDFHGZLWKDGL]]\LQJ
abyss, and yearns for salvation, which he violently seeks by raping her
 +HUOLPLQDOQDWXUHDQGWKHSRVVLELOLW\RIFKDQJHLWVHHPHGWR
SURPLVHVXGGHQO\DSSHDULQVXIˋFLHQWWRKLP+HUHMHFWVKLVSUDFWLFHRI
myopic sifting through traces of exclusion for a vertical lightning-bolt
seizure, to invoke Saer’s story again. The rape represents an annihilating
attempt to conquer Delia and yank the promise she represents into the
SUHVHQWLQWKHIRUPRIDFKLOGȤ1RHUDXQGHVHRGHSRVHVLµQVLQRP£V
que eso: una urgencia por alcanzar la conquista arrollando, destruyendo,
aniquilando. Sentí que Delia tenía algo que ya me pertenecía, y que si no
ORDUUDQFDEDDFRPRGLHUDOXJDUQXQFDORKDEU¯DGHREWHQHUȥ Ȥ,WZDVQȢWD
desire to possess, it was more than that: an urgency to reach a conquest,
crushing, destroying, annihilating. I felt that Delia had something that
already belonged to me, and that if I didn’t start to bring it about, I would
QHYHUJHWLWȥ 7KHQDUUDWRUȢVȤVDOYDWLRQȥUHTXLUHV'HOLDȢVȤVDFULˋFHȥ
as indeed the class system already does: his act simultaneously makes
KHUSURGXFHDQGQHJDWHVKHU  7KHˋQDOWRXFKRIWKLVQHJDWLRQ
is abandonment to the wolf’s mouth of poverty, now compounded by an
unwanted pregnancy. The novel concludes with the hopeless sentence,
Ȥ(OOD\HOKLMRKDE¯DQHQWUDGRHQODERFDGHORERȥ Ȥ6KHDQGKHUFKLOGKDG
HQWHUHGWKHZROIȢVPRXWKȥ 
1HYHUWKHOHVVWKHQRYHOGRHVQRWUHDOO\ˋQLVKZLWKWKLVUHGULGLQJ
hood-esque ending. The narrative is structured as a series of memories,
and several scenes appear in the middle of the novel that clearly post-
date the rape and abandonment, providing different angles on the
fable the novel has endeavored to tell. We see in these scenes that
the narrator did not manage to save himself from grinding repetition
and the perpetuation of class oppression, as he hoped he might. After
58 Witnessing beyond the Human

abandoning Delia and her child to the wolf’s mouth of poverty, he


ˋQGVKLPVHOIVWXFNLQIRUPVRIUHSHWLWLRQDQGIXWLOLW\SHUWDLQLQJWRKLV
own station in life. Whereas Delia and her child are caught between
a process of alienated production and the dehumanized status of
becoming just another mouth to feed, the narrator is reduced to a
caricature of consumption. He is startled one morning when he looks
into the bathroom mirror and sees not his face, as he expected, but “un
HVWµPDJRJUDYH\SRFRH[SUHVLYR(UDPLDEGRPHQDEXOWDGRVHPHMDQWHD
XQEDUULOHVWLUDGRSRUODJRUGXUDFRPSDFWRGHSHORV\SLHOȥ ȤDVWRPDFK
serious and showing little expression. It was my bulging abdomen,
UHVHPEOLQJDEDUUHOVWUHWFKHGE\IDWDFRPSDFWEDOORIKDLUDQGVNLQȥ
 +HUHDOL]HVWKDWWKLVLPDJHLVDUHVXOWRIWKHPLUURUEHLQJDGMXVWHG
too low, but he acknowledges that its position bespeaks a kind of truth.
7KHUHˌHFWLRQRIKLVEHOO\LVLWVHOIOLNHDIDEOHLQWKDWLWLVDZDUQLQJDQ
ȤDGYHUWHQFLDȥRIZKDWKLVOLIHKDVEHFRPH+LVDEDQGRQPHQWRI'HOLDDQG
KHUFKLOGLVWDQWDPRXQWWRDQDEDQGRQPHQWRIWKHIXWXUHLWVHOI ȤVHKDQ
DEDQGRQDGRORVSHQVDPLHQWRVDFHUFDGHOIXWXURȥ 7KHRQO\IXWXUH
that remains to him is one of pure repetition and sameness, which leads
him to imagine his son contemplating his own engorged belly in the
mirror one day, if indeed he manages to escape from the wolf’s mouth to
which he abandoned him. Like the big bad wolf, the narrator has eaten
up everything, even the hope of change, and he is left with nothing to
face but his own imminent death.
In another scene that post-dates his abandonment of Delia, and which
DQWLFLSDWHVWKHFKURQRORJLFDOHQGRIWKHQRYHOWKHQDUUDWRUˋQGVKLPVHOI
in front of another kind of mirror. He describes how one night he is sitting
alone in his pension room when the light from another room catches his
H\HOLNHDVLJQ  $FURVVWKHZD\KHVHHVWKHURRPRIDPDQRQWKH
verge of death. His room bears the marks of a well-worn trail from the
window to the bed: “eran las marcas de los pasos caminados durante la
YLGD(VHFDPLQRLQGLFDEDXQDYLHMDFRVWXPEUH\XQDGLUHFFLµQ¼QLFDȥ
ȤWKH\ZHUHWKHPDUNVRIVWHSVPDGHWKURXJKRXWKLVOLIH7KDWSDWK
UHYHDOHGDQLQJUDLQHGKDELWDQGDRQHZD\GLUHFWLRQȥ +HFRQVLGHUV
that his own room mirrors that of his lonely neighbor, with the difference
WKDWKHKDVPRUHRIDGHOWDDURXQGKLVEHGDQGOHVVRIDVWUDLJKWSDWK  
He contrasts these paths around his room with the walks he used
to take with Delia around the industrial neighborhood at night. He
describes how their relationship unfolded as they gingerly picked
WKHLUZD\WKURXJKȤSR]RVGHRVFXULGDGȥ ȤSLWVRIGDUNQHVVȥ WKDWKH
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 59

calls cosmological bocas de lobo  ȤDPHGLGDTXH'HOLDKDEODED


el camino desaparecía bajo nuestros pies. Sin verlas, las fallas de la
WLHUUDHUDQGLVWLQWDVVHSRQ¯DQGHPDQLˋHVWRSHVHDVHULQYLVLEOHVHQ
RFDVLRQHVWDPEL«QUHVXOWDEDQLPSUHYLVWDVORTXHQRVKDF¯DWURSH]DUȥ
ȤDV'HOLDVSRNHWKHSDWKGLVDSSHDUHGEHQHDWKRXUIHHW(YHQWKRXJK
we couldn’t see them, the bumps and dips in the ground were varied,
WKH\PDQLIHVWHGWKHPVHOYHVHYHQWKRXJKWKH\ZHUHLQYLVLEOHDWWLPHV
WKH\FDPHXSXQH[SHFWHGO\ZKLFKPDGHXVWULSȥ 8QOLNHWKHSDWKV
WKHWZRROGHUPHQKDYHPDGHDURXQGWKHLUSHQVLRQˌRRUVWKHVHZDONV
with Delia are unpredictable. Delia and the narrator are forced to feel
WKHLUZD\ tantear WKURXJKWKHGDUNQHVVUHDFWLQJWRWKHYDULDWLRQVLQ
the earth beneath their feet and confronting the unknown. They agree
that the darkness represents both threat and possibility:

6LKD\XQDEHOOH]DHQHOPXQGRSHQV£EDPRVFRQ'HOLDVLDOJRJROSHDOD
HPRFLµQKDVWDGHMDUQRVVLQDOLHQWRVLDOJRFRQIXQGHORVUHFXHUGRVKDVWD
HOO¯PLWHGHVXSURSLDPHPRULDLPSLGL«QGROHVYROYHUDVHUWDOFRPRHUDQ
HVHDOJRYLYHHQORRVFXUR\PX\GHFXDQGRHQFXDQGRVHPDQLˋHVWD 

If there is a beauty in the world, Delia and I thought, if something strikes


emotion until we’re left breathless, if something confuses memories to the
point of disturbing remembrance itself, preventing them from returning
to how they were, that something lives in darkness and only manifests
itself from time to time.

This observation resonates with the novel’s opening question about


whether or not change is possible. The answer that their nocturnal
walks revealed to them is that change is indeed possible, even in
such an unchanging and unforgiving world as this. It requires a
material engagement with unpredictable terrain, and exposure to the
intermittent forces of life, both within oneself and from others.
In other words, change is made possible through a kind of myopic
ZLWQHVVLQJWHQWDWLYHDQGYXOQHUDEOHLQWHUDFWLRQVZLWKȤˌHHWLQJEORWFKHV
IXJLWLYHLQWHUPLWWHQWZKRVHHGJHVDUHHDWHQE\GDUNQHVVȥ 6DHUȤ&DUWD
DODYLGHQWHȥ %\YLRODWLQJ'HOLDWKHQDUUDWRUDWWHPSWHGWRȤVHL]H
PHDQLQJȥIURPKHUUDWKHUWKDQEHLQJP\RSLFDOO\H[SRVHGWRKHUDQGWKH
world through which they move. However, his grasping yielded nothing
EXWPRUHPLVHU\DQGKHˋQGVKLPVHOIDORQHDQGLQDQHYHQWKLFNHU
darkness than he began. It is only when the light from his neighbor’s
60 Witnessing beyond the Human

URRPVKDNHVKLP ȤORJROSHDȥ RXWRIKLVVHOIUHIHUHQWLDOFLUFOHVWKDWKH


begins to return to a myopic reading of the signs and traces inscribed
in the world around him: traces that yield a glimmer of distant commu-
QLW\ȤUHVWRVGHFDORUȥWKDWPLQXWHO\FKDQJHWKHJHRJUDSK\RIKLVZRUOG
His glimpse of his neighbor’s room awakens a bodily, animal need for
FRPPXQLW\+HGHVFULEHVȤXQPRPHQWRGHWHQVLµQHVSRQW£QHDFXDQGR
ODVROHGDGSURIXQGDGHODQLPDODGYLHUWHTXHQRHV¼QLFDȥ ȤDPRPHQWRI
spontaneous tension when the profound loneliness of the animal notices
WKDWLWLVQRWXQLTXHȥ 7KLVOHDSRIKRSHFRQFHUQVWKHSRVVLELOLW\
of relating to another in the dark, uneven terrain of our internal and
external geographies.
It is with this in mind that the narrator turns out the light and begins
WRZULWHLQWKHGDUNLQZKDWLVLQFKURQRORJLFDOWHUPVWKHˋQDODFWLRQ
of the novel:

$ O VDOLU GH OD YHQWDQD DSDJ X« OD OX] \ PH SXVH D HVFULELU HQ OD
oscuridad . . . Mirando . . . hacia adelante para no ver otra cosa que
matices borrosos y sombras en movimiento, me puse a escribir. Sin la
YLJLODQFLDGHODYLVWDODPDQRSULPHUR\ODOHWUDGHVSX«VSDUHF¯DQ
WHQHUXQDYLGDP£VDXWµQRPDTXHGHFRVWXPEUH/DVIUDVHVDSDUHF¯DQ
\GHVDSDUHF¯DQFRPRHOSDLVDMHDPHGLGDTXHDYDQ]DPRV\JUDFLDV
DHVDSURJUHVLµQDFXPXODWLYDRPHMRUGLFKRDQWLDFXPXODWLYD\RLED
encontrando, en donde menos la esperaba y bajo otra forma, la naturaleza
GHODHVSHUD ȟ

When I left the window, I turned out the light and began to write in
the darkness . . . Looking straight ahead so as not to see anything but
blurry shades and shadows in movement, I began to write. Without the
vigilance of vision, my hand first and then the letters . . . seemed to
have a more autonomous life than usual. The sentences appeared and
GLVDSSHDUHGOLNHWKHODQGVFDSHDVZHSDVVRYHULWDQGWKDQNVWRWKDW
accumulative progression, or better said antiaccumulative progression, I
VWDUWHGˋQGLQJZKHUH,OHDVWH[SHFWHGLWDQGLQDQRWKHUIRUPWKHQDWXUH
of waiting.

As with Saer’s myope and the narrator of Los planetas, writing


constitutes a practice of exposure to what cannot be properly known
or controlled. Suspending the vigilance of vision enables language
and the writing hand to encounter difference without fixing it as
Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities 61

meaning, in an antiaccumulative iteration. Writing is always somehow


ȤLQWKHGDUNȥLQWKHVHQVHWKDWLWUHVSRQGVWRWKHXQHYHQWHUUDLQRI
language, and therefore requires a kind of waiting or openness to what
may come. Such a waiting is not an expectation for something known
WR FRPH EXW LV DQ XQFRQGLWLRQDO H[SRVXUH WR WKH XQNQRZQ ȤXQD
HVSHUDHQHVWDGRSXURKHFKDGHQDGD\VLQSURPHVDDOJXQDȥ 7KH
XQNQRZQFDQFRPHIURPZLWKLQ PHPRU\HPRWLRQ RUZLWKRXW WKH
LQWHUPLWWHQWLQVFULSWLRQVRIRWKHUV EXWLQHLWKHUFDVHLWFRQFHUQVWKH
possibility of relating to others, and by extension, however distant,
the possibility of community.
Q 3 Q
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity
Roberto Bolaño and the Alter-immunological
Potential of Literature

This concept of democracy should include powerful factors of self-defense


WRSUHYHQWWKHZRUOGZLGHFULVLVWKDWKDVLQˌLFWHGWKLVIRUPRIJRYHUQPHQW
which tolerates in its breast those elements that generate its decadence
and destruction.
—Augusto Pinochet1

7KHHSLJUDSKRI5REHUWR%ROD³RȢVLPSRVLQJˋQDOQRYHO2666, reads
ȤDQ RDVLV RI KRUURU LQ D GHVHUW RI ERUHGRPȥ The line comes from
%DXGHODLUHȢV SRHP Ȥ7KH 9R\DJHȥ SXEOLVKHG LQ The Flowers of Evil
  DQG WKH UHIHUHQFH HYRNHV D QXPEHU RI PRWLIV WKDW SHUYDGH
%ROD³RȢVZRUNLQFOXGLQJWKHˋJXUHRIWKHYR\DJHWKHUHFXUUHQFHRI
evil, and the question of the nature of literature. Bolaño dedicated
an entire essay to the discussion of these motifs in relation to
%DXGHODLUHȢVSRHPWLWOHGȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUD
 HQIHUPHGDG  HQIHUPHGDGȥ  7KLV HVVD\ ZDV SXEOLVKHG LQ 
the year before 2666FDPHRXWERWKWH[WVZHUHDSSDUHQWO\ZULWWHQ
MXVW EHIRUH %ROD³RȢV XQWLPHO\ GHDWK LQ  DQG ZHUH SXEOLVKHG
SRVWKXPRXVO\Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥVHUYHVDVDNLQGRIars
poetica in which Bolaño presents—in slightly more explicit fashion
WKDQLQKLVˋFWLRQȠZKDWLVDWVWDNHIRUKLPLQWKHSUDFWLFHRIZULWLQJ
vis-à-vis the horrors of the modern world.
Throughout his work, Bolaño repeatedly stages literature and art as
GHPRQLFUHˌHFWLRQVRIUHSUHVVLYHVWUXFWXUHVRUSDWKHWLFXQGHUWDNLQJV
that lead nowhere. He is particularly disparaging of aesthetic practices
that aspire to be modernist or avant-garde, which, like Baudelaire’s

63
64 Witnessing beyond the Human

voyage, seek to depart from the old in search of the New. He depicts
not only their impotence vis-à-vis the evils of modernity, but also their
complicity with them. In what has become a fairly celebrated debate on
the nature of aesthetic production both in and beyond Chile, Willy Thayer
HFKRHVVXFKDFRQGHPQDWLRQ DOEHLWZLWKQRDFNQRZOHGJPHQWRI%ROD³R 
in his critique of Nelly Richard’s account of the Chilean neo-avant-garde.
Thayer rejects Richard’s assessment that the Chilean neo-avant-garde,
DFWLYHGXULQJWKHˋUVWGHFDGHRIWKH3LQRFKHWGLFWDWRUVKLSSHUIRUPHG
a disruption or insubordination of repressive discourse, since in his
view the military regime executed a rupture that effectively absorbed
RUGHˌHFWHGDQ\RWKHUIRUPRIUXSWXUHKHSURYRFDWLYHO\FDOOVWKHFRXS
the avant-garde event par excellence. 2 He makes this argument in
relation to another primary facet of modernity, as well, characterizing
FRQWHPSRUDU\FDSLWDOLVPDVWKHȤUXSWXUHRIDOOQRUPDOLW\ȥDFRQGLWLRQ
of rupture in which an aesthetics based on disruption is ineffectual or,
worse, becomes absorbed into its logic.
Some critics have suggested that Bolaño not only illustrates the
complicity of the avant-garde with the states of exception that constitute
the political economies of late modernity, but in fact recreates it—not
as an avant-garde, exactly, but through what Brett Levinson has called
his dissociative style, which Gareth Williams links to the “generalized
PHWRQ\PL]DWLRQȥRIXQUHVWUDLQHGFDSLWDOLVP In other words, Levinson
and Williams suggest that Bolaño’s work mirrors the dissociative
GLVUXSWLRQVRIODWHFDSLWDOLVWVRFLHW\VLJQDOLQJDGHˋQLWLYHGLVUXSWLRQ
of the political potential of aesthetic disruption, a state of inescapable
madness. Thayer, Levinson, and Williams do not believe that we are
WUXO\GHIHQVHOHVVDJDLQVWVXFKDVWDWHIXUWKHUPRUHWKH\DOOEHOLHYHLQD
political potencia of art and criticism. The questions they raise concern
what might constitute that potential, and, for Levinson and Williams,
whether Bolaño’s work contributes to it or not.
6XFKFRQVLGHUDWLRQVLQIRUPȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥ7KHHVVD\
alternates between an autobiographical account of Bolaño’s thoughts
on the day he was given a terminal diagnosis of liver disease, and a
consideration of philosophical and literary treatments of the nature of
OLIHDQGLWVOLPLWV7KHWLWOHȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥFDQEHVHHQ
as posing and answering a question, namely whether literature protects
XVIURPRUUHGHHPVˋQLWXGHDQGWKHDQVZHULVDGHˋQLWLYHQR6XVDQD
Draper describes the essay as addressing the aporia that lies at the
SRLQWRIGLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQLPPXQLW\DQGDXWRLPPXQLW\  ,QWKH
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 65

following pages, I will develop this idea, linking Derrida’s understanding


of the immunological and what I am calling the alter-immunological
ZLWK-HDQ/XF1DQF\ȢVQRWLRQRIDQH[SRVXUHWRˋQLWXGHEH\RQGWKH
ontology of the subject. I will show how these ideas inform much of
Bolaño’s work, starting out with the challenges to the integrity of the
VHOIGHVFULEHGLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥDQGWRWKHLQWHJULW\RI
WKHVRFLRSROLWLFDOFROOHFWLYHLQȤ3ROLFH5DWȥ Ȥ(OSROLF¯DGHODVUDWDVȥ 
followed by a brief foray into Distant Star (Estrella distante , and
lengthier considerations of the disruption of immunological structures
RQWKHOLPLWVRI ODWH PRGHUQLW\LQȤ'HQWLVWȥ Ȥ'HQWLVWDȥ DQG2666. I
consider the recurrent staging of what I am calling alter-immunological
disruption in Bolaño’s work as constituting what Sergio Villalobos-
5XPLQRWWFDOOVDȤWHVWLPRQLDODFFRXQWRIWKHLPSRVVLELOLW\RIWHVWLPRQ\ȥ
in which “Bolaño’s works attest to the broken and irreparable relationship
between the mute catastrophe of . . . history and the powerless condition
RIDQ\QDUUDWLYHDWWHPSWWRGHDOZLWKLWVSDLQIXOUHVXOWVȥ A Kind of
Hell: Roberto Bolaño and the Return of World Literature  ZKLOHDOVR
gesturing to the possibility of a different way of relating to life and what
survives amidst the catastrophic deserts of modernity.

Literature and the Nature of Freedom: On the High Seas


of Modernity with Zombies, Rats, and Other Peculiar Sorts

7KHKHDUWRIȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥFRQVLGHUVWKHˋJXUHRIWKH
YR\DJHLQSRHPVE\%DXGHODLUHDQG0DOODUP«QDPHO\%DXGHODLUHȢV
Ȥ7KH9R\DJHȥWKHSRHPIURPZKLFKWKHHSLJUDSKWR2666 is taken, and
0DOODUP«ȢVȤ6HD%UHH]HȥDQGȤ$7KURZRIWKH'LFHȥ%ROD³RVXJJHVWV
that the work of nineteenth-century poets such as Baudelaire and
0DOODUP« KHDOVRQDPHV5LPEDXGDQG/DXWU«DPRQW SUHˋJXUHGȤWKH
PDMRUDQGVWLOOXQUHVROYHGSUREOHPVWKDW(XURSHDQG:HVWHUQFXOWXUH
ZHUHWRIDFHLQWKHWZHQWLHWKFHQWXU\ȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVVȥ 
We should note that for Bolaño we are still very much within a
paradigm of modernity, confronted with the same problems as in the
nineteenth century, albeit in different forms and conditions. What he
understands by modernity is not quite so clear, since he names revolution,
GHDWKERUHGRPDQGˌLJKWDVLWVSULPDU\FRQFHUQV Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVVȥ
 7KLVLVDSHFXOLDUOLVWEXWLWFRUUHVSRQGVTXLWHFORVHO\WR:DOWHU
%HQMDPLQȢVHTXDOO\SHFXOLDUXQGHUVWDQGLQJRIPRGHUQLW\ OLNHO\EHFDXVH
KHWRRZDVDQDYLGUHDGHURI%DXGHODLUH ,QDQXWVKHOO%HQMDPLQȢV
66 Witnessing beyond the Human

XQGHUVWDQGLQJRIPRGHUQLW\LQYROYHVDQDFNQRZOHGJPHQWRIˋQLWXGH
that aims to redeem it through secular means, primarily through a kind
RI SUH FDSLWDOLVWVXEMHFWLYLW\ZKRVHXQGHUVLGHZDVUHˌHFWHGLQDUW
the allegorical death’s head or danse macabre illustrating the limits of
modernity’s masquerades.
%DXGHODLUHȢVȤ7KH9R\DJHȥZKLFK%ROD³RFDOOVȤSHUKDSVWKHPRVW
FOHDUH\HGSRHPRIWKHHQWLUHQLQHWHHQWKFHQWXU\ȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVVȥ
 UHFRXQWVWKHHSLFGHVLUHRI the modern esprit humaine, which
VHHNVWRGHSDUWIURPZKDWLVNQRZQLQRUGHUWRDIˋUPLWVRZQLQˋQLWH
LGHQWLW\DJDLQVWWKHˋQLWXGHRIWKHZRUOG It begins with a childlike
ORQJLQJWRSDVVEH\RQGWKHFRQˋQHVRIWKHIDPLOLDUDQGSURWHFWHGDQG
develops into an imperialist lust for plunder and conquest: rupture with
the old to establish a new or renewed sense of property or propriety
LQFOXGLQJ ERWK WKH LQGLYLGXDO VXEMHFW DQG humanitas DV D ZKROH 
However, such an economic journey of conquest and appropriation
is repeatedly thwarted, in part by the resistances of the world, and in
SDUWE\WKHˋQLWHQDWXUHRIKXPDQH[LVWHQFHHIIHFWVRIWKHLQH[RUDEOH
entanglements of time.77KHHSLFLGHDORIWKHUHDIˋUPDWLRQRI VHOI 
VRYHUHLJQW\WKURXJKDGYHQWXUHLVFRQIURQWHGZLWKWKHȤKRUURUȥRILWV
RZQOLPLWHGQDWXUHWKHLPSRVVLELOLW\RIWUXO\GHSDUWLQJIURPˋQLWH
existence: “the world/ has shown—will always show us—what we are:/
RDVHVRIIHDULQWKHZDVWHODQGRIHQQXLȥ %DXGHODLUHTWGLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH
,OOQHVVȥ   In spite of, or toVSLWHWKLVVHOIUHˌHFWLRQWKH
WUDYHOHUMRXUQH\VRQDVH[RWLFVHOIDIˋUPLQJKRUL]RQVDUHWUDQVIRUPHG
into the abysmal destination of death. The economy of modernity,
VDLOLQJEHQHDWKWKH DHVWKHWLF EDQQHURIWKH1HZ le Nouveau, is depicted
as a shipwreck from its very inception.
Bolaño singles out the verse that describes the adventurer confronted
with the horror of his own image, and remarks that it provides one of the
PRVWOXFLGGHSLFWLRQVRIWKHȤVLFNQHVVȥFRQIURQWLQJPRGHUQLW\ ȤWKHUHLV
QRPRUHOXFLGGLDJQRVLVRIWKHLOOQHVVRIPRGHUQKXPDQLW\ȥ 

To break out of ennui, to escape from boredom, all we have at our


disposal—and it’s not even automatically at our disposal, again we have to
PDNHDQHIIRUWȠLVKRUURULQRWKHUZRUGVHYLO(LWKHUZHOLYHOLNH]RPELHV
OLNH VODYHV IHG RQ VRPD RU ZH EHFRPH VODYH GULYHUV esclavizadores),
malignant individuals, like that guy who, after killing his wife and three
children, said, as the sweat poured off him, that he felt strange, possessed
E\VRPHWKLQJKHȢGQHYHUNQRZQIUHHGRP 
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 67

He describes an apocalyptic alternative between slaves and enslavers.


2Q WKH RQH KDQG WKHUH DUH ]RPELHV WKH OLYLQJ GHDG KXPDQ  OLIH
HQVODYHG WR LWV RZQ ILQLWXGH =RPELHV DUH I OHVK HDWHUV ȤIHG RQ
VRPDȥ7KHLUH[LVWHQFHLVEDVHGRQLQWHUQDOL]DWLRQWKH\LQWHUQDOL]H
everything around them—their identity is nothing but a vacuum of
internalization. There is no voyage possible for them because they are
trapped in a logic of self-identity that leaves no room for anything
but its own self-consuming logic. On the other hand, there are the
ȤPDOLJQDQWLQGLYLGXDOVȥZKRVHHNWRDIILUPDVHQVH RI IUHHGRPE\
SLWWLQJWKHLQˋQLW\RIWKHVHOIDJDLQVWWKHHPERGLPHQWRIˋQLWXGHLQ
others.
In T he Experience of Freedom, Jean-Luc Nanc y describes the
philosophical foundations of such a conception of freedom. Nancy
observes how the notion of freedom in Western thought is based on the
classic structure of subjectivity:

The philosophical thought of freedom has been thoroughly subordinated


to the determination of an ontology of subjectivity. In the ontology of
subjectivity, being is posited as the subjectum of representation, in which,
by this fact the appearing of all things is converted. The essence of being
LVȤWRDSSHDUWRLWVHOIȥ s’apparaître LQVXFKDZD\WKDWQRWKLQJLVXQOHVV
supported in its phenomenality by the subject . . . Freedom has not been
considered as anything other than the fundamental modality of the act
RIDSSHDULQJWRRQHVHOI  

The common sense of freedom as free will is based on a particular


relationship to being, representation, and occurrence that is
dominated by the structure of the subject, understood as that which
most exemplarily appears to itself and orients the self-appearance
of all else. Freedom in this sense is the freedom to sail one’s ship
where one fancies, extending our nautical metaphor, but it also
names a relationship to representation in which the self stands as
the measure of all things, including the ground of representation.
1DQF\ ZULWHV Ȥ)UHHGRP LV WKH DFW RI UH SUHVHQWLQJ RQHVHOI DV WKH
SRWHQWLDOIRU UH SUHVHQWDWLRQ RIRQHVHOIDQGWKHUHIRUHRIWKHZRUOG 
,WLVIUHHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ ZKHUH,DFFHGHVRYHUHLJQO\WRP\VHOI RIIUHH
UHSUHVHQWDWLRQ ZKLFKGHSHQGVRQO\RQP\ZLOO ȥ Experience  7KLV
sense of freedom, in both its experiential and representational forms,
pits the sovereignty of the self over alterity, including the very nature
68 Witnessing beyond the Human

RISRVVLELOLW\ 1DQF\GHVFULEHVWKHVXEMHFWDVȤDOZD\VVLPXOWDQHRXVO\
in actu and in potentia [Experience@ȥOLQNLQJERWKZKDWLVDQGZKDW
PLJKWEHWRWKHSRZHURIWKHVXEMHFWWRUHDOL]HLWVDFWXDOLW\ 
With the terminology of immunity, Derrida adds to the complexity
of this understanding of subjective sovereignty and its corresponding
notion of freedom. As I explain in my Introduction he uses the notion
of the immunological to describe the establishment and protection of a
VHOIDSSHDULQJDQGLQWHJUDOVHOIIUHHRIGLVHDVHRUGHEWWRRWKHUV IURP
the root munusZKLFKUHIHUVWRGXWLHVRUREOLJDWLRQV ,PPXQLW\UHOLHV
RQDQGHYHQGHˋQHVWKHVWUXFWXUHRIRSSRVLWLRQRSSRVLWLRQVEHWZHHQ
self and others, between health and sickness, and, in socio-political
terms, between a collectivity based on the common and others that
do not share in that common, including what Carl Schmitt calls the
fundamental political distinction between friend and enemy. Such a
relation of the same to itself involves a transcendent sense of life, in
which life is understood as that which is “safe and sound, unscathed,
intact, immune, freeȥ 'HUULGDȤ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥP\HPSKDVLV 
This immunological, vital sense of freedom opposes itself to anything
that might disturb the organism’s autonomy, including death or illness,
relations beyond the fraternal or familial, the unknown, memory, the
future, and the very nature of thought and experience. It either eschews
them or appropriates them, through what Derrida unconventionally calls
VDFULˋFHE\ZKLFKKHPHDQVDV\PEROLFSUDFWLFHRIGRPLQDWLQJWKUHDWV
to immunological safety, generally performed through acts of ingestion
or internalization, including forms of representation that bring their
objects into the economy of the semblable.10 When these basic procedures
of resistance or incorporation fail, another operation sometimes kicks
in, which Derrida calls reactive autoimmunity or “indemnificatory
RUDXWRLPPXQLWDU\UHDFWLYLW\ȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥ $XWRLPPXQLW\QDPHV
the failure of an organism to recognize itself as self, resulting in an
immune reaction against its own structure. When this occurs as a
ȤSURFHVVRIFRPSHQVDWLRQDQGUHVWLWXWLRQVRPHWLPHVVDFULˋFLDO
WKDWUHFRQVWLWXWHVSXULW\LQWDFWWKDWUHVWRUHVFOHDQOLQHVV propreté 
DQGSURSHUW\XQLPSDLUHGȥ'HUULGDGHVFULEHVLWDVDQLQGHPQLˋFDWRU\
UHDFWLRQWKDWLVERWKȤLPPXQLWDU\DQGDXWRLPPXQHȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥQ 
Salient examples include suicide bombing motivated by fundamentalism,
WKHVXVSHQVLRQRIGHPRFUDF\LQWKHQDPHRIGHPRFUDF\DQGWKHˋJKW
against terror that employs terrorist tactics.
The grim alternative that Bolaño delineates between enslaved zombies
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 69

ȤIHGRQVRPDȥDQGHYLOesclavizadoresZKRDIˋUPWKHLUVHQVHRIIUHHGRP
based on the obliteration of others complements and extends Nancy’s
and Derrida’s associations among freedom, life, and power.11 The zombies
VWDQGDVDFDXWLRQDU\ˋJXUHRIWKHWUDSRIWKHLGHDOVRILPPXQLW\RUVHOI
UHIHUHQWLDOLW\7KH\DUHWKHOLYLQJGHDGIUHHIURPWKHWKUHDWRIˋQLWXGH
but also free from life itself, condemned to a timeless present of self-
DSSHDUDQFH7KHȤPDOLJQDQWLQGLYLGXDOVȥUHSUHVHQWHGIRU%ROD³RE\
Baudelaire’s traveler seem to embody the ideal of subjectivity, pursuing an
ideal of freedom beyond the un-life of zombies, asserting a sense of vital
DJHQF\DJDLQVWWKHREMHFWLˋFDWLRQRIDOOHOVH7KHˋOLFLGHZKRGHFODUHGD
sense of freedom based on his actions is an extreme and sinister example
of this ideal—one that corresponds, furthermore, to Derrida’s description
RIDXWRLPPXQLWDU\UHDFWLYLW\LQZKLFKWKHGHVWUXFWLRQRIWKHSURSHU WKH
IDPLO\ VHHPVWRGHOLYHUWKHSURSHU WKHVHOI 
'LUHFWO\IROORZLQJKLVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHˋOLFLGH%ROD³RSURYLGHV
another example of auto-immunitary reactivity with the description of
DPDVRFKLVWˋOPPDNHUZKRGHGLFDWHVKLPVHOIWRˋOPLQJVFHQHVRISDLQ
and later his own death.12 This example highlights what Derrida calls
WKHLQGHPQLˋFDWRU\DVSHFWRIDXWRLPPXQLWDU\UHDFWLYLW\QDPHO\WKH
LGHDWKDW VHOI GHVWUXFWLRQZLOOEHFRPSHQVDWHGE\VHOIDIˋUPDWLRQ7KH
VHOIGRFXPHQWLQJPDVRFKLVWUHFDOOVRWKHUˋJXUHVLQ%ROD³RȢVZRUNPRVW
QRWDEO\WKHȤEDUEDULFZULWHUVȥLQDistant Star  DQGWKHDUWLVW
(GZLQ-RKQVLQ2666, who cuts off his own hand and places it at the center
RIDVHOISRUWUDLW  6XFKH[SXOVLRQRIVHOILQWKHQDPHRIVHOI
DIˋUPLQJUHSUHVHQWDWLRQȠZKDW1DQF\FDOOVȤIUHHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ ZKHUH
,DFFHGHVRYHUHLJQO\WRP\VHOI RIIUHHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ ZKLFKGHSHQGV
RQO\RQP\ZLOO ȥ>Experience @ȠWXUQVLQZDUGWKHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQRI
self at the expense of others represented by the likes of Carlos Wieder
in Distant Star and the unknown perpetrators of the serial murders of
working women in 2666ˋJXUHVWKDWFKLOOLQJO\FRQˌDWHPXUGHUDQG
art, using dead bodies as material for “free representation . . . of free
UHSUHVHQWDWLRQȥ 1DQF\Experience $OORIWKHVHH[DPSOHVLOOXVWUDWHD
tendency of the avant-garde, namely, an association between destruction
IRULQVWDQFHRIWUDGLWLRQDFFHSWHGQRUPVHWF DQGH[SLDWLRQRUUHQHZHG
self-sovereignty, and also political modernity, which alternates between
SHULRGVRI]RPELˋHGVWDVLVDQGGHVWUXFWLRQLQWKHQDPHRIIUHHGRP
,QGLVWLQFWLRQWRWKHLGHDORIIUHHGRPWKDWSLWVWKHLQˋQLW\RIWKH
VXEMHFWDJDLQVWWKHˋQLWHQDWXUHRIWKHZRUOGGHVFULEHGE\%DXGHODLUH
DVWKHWUDYHOHUȢVGUHDPRIȤRXULQˋQLWHVHOIDZDVKRQWKHˋQLWHVHDȥ
70 Witnessing beyond the Human

TWGLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVVȥ 1DQF\DQG'HUULGDDIˋUPWKH
possibility of another kind of freedom. Nancy terms this alternative
ȤˋQLWHIUHHGRPȥDQGGHVFULEHVLWDVFRQVLVWLQJRIDQH[SRVXUHWRWKH
RSHQQHVVRIEHLQJWRDOWHULW\DQGSRVVLELOLW\ ExperienceII ,QWKLV
sense the notion of freedom resembles the structure of experience,
XQGHUVWRRGQRWDVDȤOLPLWHGVSDFHRIDFWLRQȥ Experience[[LLL EXW
DVLWVHW\PRORJ\VXJJHVWVDVDȤSHULORXVWUDYHUVLQJ peiro RIWKHOLPLW
peras ȥ Experience[[ 1DQF\ZULWHVȤ$QH[SHULHQFHLVDQDWWHPSW
executed without reserve, given over to the peril of its own lack of
foundation and security in the ‘object’ of which it is not a subject but
LQVWHDGWKHSDVVLRQH[SRVHGOLNHWKHSLUDWH peirates ZKRIUHHO\WULHV
KLVOXFNRQWKHKLJKVHDVȥ Experience  Ȥ([SHULHQFHȥDQGȤSLUDWHȥ
share an etymological root that connotes an attempt or effort that
LQYROYHVDULVN7KHZRUGȤHPSLULFLVPȥDOVRVKDUHVWKLVURRWDQG1DQF\
uses this term unconventionally to designate a praxis of thought of
the experience of freedom, an exposure to “the coming up, without
ground, and the taking over, without possession, which is named in the
word ‘sur-priseȢȥ Experience [[[  As such, it also involves the active
UHVLVWDQFHRIDOODWWHPSWVWRDSSURSULDWHWKHIXQGDPHQWDOˋQLWXGHRI
existence, to incorporate it into the economy of the proper. Perhaps
most importantly, since such experience and epistemological praxis of
freedom resist self-relation, they constitute the condition of possibility
for a relationality or com-pearance of singularities rather than sovereign
VXEMHFWVDFRPPXQLW\EH\RQGFRPPRQDOLW\ Experience ȟ 
,QDVLPLODUIDVKLRQ'HUULGDLQGLFDWHVWKHSRVVLELOLW\RIDˋQLWHIRUPRI
freedom with what he calls, surprisingly, autoimmunity. This other kind
RIDXWRLPPXQLW\LVQRWUHDFWLYHDQGLQGHPQLˋFDWRU\ȠLWGRHVQRWVHUYH
to restore or renew immunity or sovereignty. Rather it names for Derrida
WKHVWUXFWXUDOLPSRVVLELOLW\RIWKHLPPXQRORJLFDODQLQWHUQDOˋQLWXGHRU
ȤGHVWUXFWXULQJVWUXFWXUDWLRQȥLQWULQVLFWRHYHU\VWUXFWXUH Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ
 $V,PHQWLRQLQP\,QWURGXFWLRQ,SURSRVHWRFDOOWKLVPRGHȤDOWHU
LPPXQLW\ȥWRVWUHVVLWVGLIIHUHQFHIURPWKHUHDFWLYHRULQGHPQLˋFDWRU\
kind. In addition to the indication of an alterity intrinsic to every living
organism, Derrida describes it as an exposure to an exterior alterity,
“something other and more than itself: the other, the future, death,
freedomȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥP\HPSKDVLV /LNH1DQF\KHJLYHVWKHQDPH
ȤIUHHGRPȥWRDQRSHQQHVVWRWKDWZKLFKKDVQRIRXQGDWLRQȠWKHUDGLFDO
unknowability that constitutes the nature of the possible, which comes
from the past and the dead as well as from the future and from life. It
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 71

also underlies the structure of every decision and every distinction as


an essential aporia or undecidability—an undecidability that does not
render action impossible, but on the contrary forms the very condition
of a relationship to the possible. Recalling Draper’s characterization
RIȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥWKHDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDOLVQRWVR
much a matter of an aporia between immunity and autoimmunity, but
an encounter with the aporias intrinsic to life itself and the very notion
of the immune.
Although much of Bolaño’s work seems dedicated to illustrating the
IRUPVRIHYLOWKDWKHDVVRFLDWHVZLWK%DXGHODLUHȢVȤ7KH9R\DJHȥWKDWLV
the zombies enslaved within a logic of immunity, and the “malignant
LQGLYLGXDOVȥGHGLFDWHGWREUHDNLQJDZD\IURPLPPXQRORJLFDOVWUXFWXUHV
in order to assert renewed forms of immunity, he too indicates an
DOWHUQDWLYH,QȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥKHPDNHVWKLVH[SOLFLW
$JDLQVWWKHQRWLRQRIIUHHGRPDVDYR\DJHDZD\IURPˋQLWXGHH[HPSOLˋHG
E\%DXGHODLUHȢVSRHP%ROD³RFRXQWHUSRVHV0DOODUP«ȢVȤ6HD%UHH]HȥLQ
ZKLFKWKHO\ULFVXEMHFWGHVLUHVWRWUDYHORUHVFDSH Ȥ2WRHVFDSHȠWRJHW
DZD\ȥTWG HYHQWKRXJKKHNQRZVKHFDQQRWHVFDSHIURP
ILQLWXGH%ROD³RZULWHVȤ,WKLQN0DOODUP«LVWDONLQJDERXWLOOQHVV
about the battle between illness and health: two totalitarian states,
RUSRZHUVLI\RXSUHIHUȥ  %ROD³RODXJKVDWWKHSHUVLVWHQFHRI
the Romantic ideal of travel, ridiculing the circumstance of an urbane
SRHWZKRQHYHUWUDYHOHGSLQLQJRYHUȤWKHEDUHFKHVWHGWUDYHOHUȥEXWKH
also takes it seriously, suggesting that it represents a form of freedom
libertad DQGDQȤDIˋUPDWLRQRIOLIHȥWKDWLVDOVRȤDFRQVWDQWJDPH
ZLWKGHDWKȥ  ,I%DXGHODLUHȢVȤ7KH9R\DJHȥFDQEHUHDGDVD
FDXWLRQDU\WDOHRIWKHHSLFHFRQRP\RIPRGHUQVXEMHFWLYLW\0DOODUP«ȢV
SRHPVFDQEHVHHQDVLQGLFDWLQJDȤSHULORXVWUDYHUVLQJRIWKHOLPLWȥ
1DQF\Experience [[ DQH[SRVXUHWRWKHJURXQGOHVVQHVVRIH[LVWHQFH
ZLWKRXWSURWHFWLRQRUUHWXUQ%ROD³RVWUHVVHVWKDWIRU0DOODUP«VXFK
WUDYHUVDORFFXUVH[HPSODULO\LQODQJXDJHȤWKHLOOQHVVDIˌLFWVQRWRQO\
RXUDFWLRQVEXWDOVRODQJXDJHLWVHOIȥ Literature + Illness  
And while Baudelaire depicts the impossibility of the New, understood
as a redemptive synthesis of the unknown and the known, presenting
LQLWVVWHDGDFRQIURQWDWLRQZLWKRQHȢVRZQPRUWDOLPDJH0DOODUP«
approaches it as something else altogether, which Bolaño describes as
WKDWZKLFKȤFDQRQO\EHIRXQGE\SOXQJLQJGHHSLQWRWKHXQNQRZQ lo
ignoto ȥDQGE\LPSOLFDWLRQȤZHKDYHWRJRRQH[SORULQJVH[ERRNV
and travel, although we know that they lead us to the abyss, which, as it
72 Witnessing beyond the Human

KDSSHQVLVWKHRQO\SODFHZKHUHWKHDQWLGRWHFDQEHIRXQGȥ  
7KH1HZIRU0DOODUP«LVQHLWKHUUHGHPSWLRQQRUFRQGHPQDWLRQQRW
WKHȤWRWDOLWDULDQȥVWDWHVRIKHDOWKRUVLFNQHVVEXWH[SRVXUHWRWKHDE\VV
RUXQJURXQGHGQHVVRIˋQLWHH[LVWHQFHZKLFKLVDOVRWKHFRQGLWLRQRI
possibility of encounter.,XQGHUVWDQGWKHVHQVHRIWKHZRUGȤDQWLGRWHȥ
here to mean not absolute protection against sickness, as a means to
UHFRYHUKHDOWKDQGLQWHJULW\EXWDNLQGRISKDUPDFRORJLFDO pharmakon-
RORJLFDORUDOWHULPPXQH UHDFWLRQWRWKHRSSRVLWLRQEHWZHHQKHDOWK
DQGVLFNQHVVȠDQDIˋUPDWLRQRIOLIHQRWFRPSOHWHO\VHFOXGHGIURPGHDWK
The structure of different forms of freedom—or different modes of
relation to singularity, and thereby to the very nature of relation—is
GHYHORSHGIXUWKHUDQGLQDZD\WKDWKLJKOLJKWVWKHVLJQLˋFDQFHRIDOO
WKLVIRUDWKLQNLQJRIFRPPXQLW\LQȤ3ROLFH5DWȥ7KHVWRU\IHDWXUHVD
rat society in which most of the rats are focused on the basic needs of
survival, that is, the production and reproduction of the species: “We
live in a collective, and what the collective depends on is, above all, the
daily labor, the ceaseless activity of each of its members, working toward
a goal that transcends our individual aspirations but is nevertheless the
RQO\JXDUDQWHHRIRXUH[LVWHQFHDVLQGLYLGXDOVȥ  ,WLVDUDWUHSXEOLF
that aspires to self-protection through the subsumption of the many
to the one, an ideal immunological structure. The protagonist, Pepe,
is the eponymous rat policeman, and the nephew of none other than
Franz Kafka’s character Josephine the Singer. This kinship recalls other
ˋFWLRQVLQZKLFK%ROD³RSRUWUD\VDFRPSOLFLW\DQGFRPSOHPHQWDULW\
between artists and defenders of the social order. In this story, the
relationship between Pepe and his aunt serves to indicate the limits
of law and representation, limits that are uncomfortably witnessed by
Pepe, but ultimately upheld.
Pepe spends his days in solitude patrolling the web of pipes and
WXQQHOVLQKDELWHGE\KLVIHOORZUDWVVSDFHWKDWVHHPVWRIDLWKIXOO\UHˌHFW
DQGIDFLOLWDWHWKHSUHVXPHGWRWDOLW\WKHVHOIDSSHDULQJ s’apparaître RI
the social: “where we are constantly digging tunnels to gain access to
new food sources or provide escape routes or link up with labyrinths
WKDWVHHPDWˋUVWJODQFHWRVHUYHQRSXUSRVHDQG\HWDOOWKRVHE\ZD\V
JRWRPDNHXSWKHQHWZRUNLQZKLFKRXUSHRSOHFLUFXODWHDQGVXUYLYHȥ
 +LVPDLQIXQFWLRQDVSROLFHPDQVHHPVWREHWRVHHNRXWWKUHDWV
WRWKHLUVHFXULW\PDLQO\SUHGDWRUV ELJJHUDQLPDOV DQGSRLVRQ SODFHG
E\KXPDQV +HWHQGVWRˋQGPRVWRIWKHVHWKUHDWVEH\RQGWKHSULPDU\
WXQQHOVLQZKDWKHFDOOVȤGHDGVHZHUVȥȤSODFHVWKDWKDYHEHHQIRUJRWWHQ
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 73

IRURQHUHDVRQRUDQRWKHUȥ  ,WLVLQWKHVHȤLQKRVSLWDEOHVLWHVȥ


 EH\RQGWKHWUDIˋFRIPHDQLQJIXOFROOHFWLYHH[LVWHQFHWKDWKH
encounters most evidence of threats to the immunological structure of
rat society, mostly dead remains of rats that strayed from the pack. He
describes his reaction to such discoveries as disrupting his sense of self,
impeding his self-appearance: “In the early days, when I didn’t have
PXFKH[SHULHQFHWKRVHGLVFRYHULHVWHUULˋHGPH,ZRXOGEHVRGLVWXUEHG
LWZDVDVLI,EHFDPHVRPHRQHHOVHȥ ȤPHDOWHUDEDQKDVWDXQSXQWRHQHO
TXH\RGHMDEDGHSDUHFHUPHDP¯PLVPRȥ 
The role of the rat policemen is not clear. Pepe notes that he is one
RI WKH RQO\ RQHV SDWUROOLQJ WKHVH RXWHU ȤGHDGȥ OLPLWV PRVW RI WKH
policeman and general rat society are content to leave them as forgotten
spaces. When someone digs into one by mistake, he blocks or literally
ȤEOLQGVȥLW ȤFLHJDQHOW¼QHOȥ :KHQRWKHUUDWSROLFHPHQFRPH
across dead bodies, they are not expected to investigate the causes of
death or pursue any attacker. On the contrary, they hurriedly try to
UHWXUQWRDVHQVHRIFHUWDLQW\RIVHOIDQGFROOHFWLYH DERYHDOODVHQVHRI
VHOIDVSDUWRIWKHFROOHFWLYHȠQRWHWKHUHSHDWHGURRWȤSDUWȥLQparticipar
and tomar parte ȤLQVWHDGRIUHWXUQLQJWRWKHVFHQHRIWKHFULPHWKH\
generally make a vain effort to mix with civilians, working alongside
WKHPDQGSDUWLFLSDWLQJLQWKHLUFRQYHUVDWLRQVȥ ȤSURFXUDQYDQDPHQWH
mezclarse con nuestros semejantes, participar en los trabajos, tomar
SDUWHHQODVFRQYHUVDFLRQHVȥ 3HSHKRZHYHULVGLIIHUHQW1RW
only does he explore the dead spaces that both exceed and interstitially
traverse the social totality, but when he comes upon dead bodies, he
does not retreat from the disturbance toward a more secure sense of
self and society, but insists on investigating them, trying to figure
RXWZKDWKDSSHQHGDQGLQIRUPLQJIDPLO\PHPEHUVRIKLVˋQGLQJV+H
acknowledges that such exercises have no real function, and are not
really even expected of him. Lacking any clear purpose, his role seems
OLPLWHGSULPDULO\WRDFNQRZOHGJLQJWKHVHWKUHDWVȠDNLQGRIRIˋFLDO
solitary witness of the limits of the rats’ existence.
Pepe is said to resemble his deceased Aunt Josephine, whose peculiar
singing also lacked a clear purpose, and who stood out as different
from the other rats. Pepe explains that in this society dedicated to the
production and reproduction of the proper, and to the subsumption of
the many into the one, there is little use for or understanding of art of
any sort. Consequently, any rat professing to be an artist or interested
LQDUWLVFRQGHPQHGWRSDVVKHUOLIHLQVROLWXGH  -RVHSKLQHZDV
74 Witnessing beyond the Human

not the only rodent to endure such an existence, but she is held up as
an extreme case:

Josephine . . . was a shadow, a tremulous shadow, followed by some odd


squeaking noises, which constituted, at the time, the entirety of her
UHSHUWRLUH\HWFRXOGLIQRWWUDQVSRUWKHUOLVWHQHUV que conseguían poner
no diré fuera de sí FHUWDLQO\SOXQJHVRPHRIWKRVHLQWKHIURQWURZLQWR
an state of extreme sadness. Those rats and mice, of whom we have no
PHPRU\QRZDUHSHUKDSVWKHRQO\RQHVWRKDYHJOLPSVHG entrevieron 
something in my aunt’s musical art. What? They probably didn’t know
WKHPVHOYHV6RPHWKLQJLQGHˋQLWHDODNHRIHPSWLQHVV Algo, cualquier
cosa, un lago de vacío  

Rather than a faithful representation of the social totality, or


a productive contribution to it, Josephine’s singing or squeaking
had an unsettling effect on its spectators, one that may or may not
KDYH WXUQHG WKHP ȤRXW RI WKHPVHOYHVȥ ȤIXHUD GH V¯ȥ  7KLV HIIHFW
HDUQV KHU WKH SHFXOLDU ODEHO RI W\UDQQLFDO D ODEHO WKDW VKH VKDUHV
HQLJPDWLFDOO\ ZLWK 3HSH  SHUKDSV LQGLFDWLQJ D NLQG RI XVXUSLQJ
force, an exception to the state of rule, a force associated with an
H[WUHPH GHJUHH RI VDGQHVV DQG D VHQVH RI HPSWLQHVV RU DE\VV ȤXQ
ODJR GH YDF¯Rȥ  WKDW UHFDOOV WKH GLIIHUHQWLDO H[FHVV XQGHUO\LQJ WKH
productive self-appearance of individuals that drives the collective.
It is perhaps similar to Pepe’s explorations of the remnants and ruins
of social coherence, including obsolete tunnels that smell of decay
DQGWKHXVHOHVVUHPDLQVRIGHDGUDWV7KHDE\VVRIˋQLWXGHLQYRNHGE\
Josephine’s singing does not only concern death and loss, however, but
also involves other experiences of life beyond or before the production
of totality, experiences that recall the sense of piratical exposure
RXWOLQHGLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥȤ6RPHWKLQJUHVHPEOLQJ
the desire to eat, perhaps, or the need to fuck, or the longing for sleep
that sometimes overtakes us, since those who work without respite
PXVWDWOHDVWVOHHSIURPWLPHWRWLPHȥ  ,QVSLWHRIWKHIDFW
that not many understood or responded to her art, the effects of her
singing cannot be closed off or forgotten, but continue to reverberate
LQWKHPHPRU\RIKHUOLVWHQHUVȤOLNHVNHOHWDOTXHVWLRQPDUNVȥ  
At one point Pepe starts to notice a series of deaths that he cannot
attribute to either poison or predators, and he begins to question
the immunological structure of rat society. When another policeman
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 75

GLDJQRVHVWKHVHGHDWKVDVDFFLGHQWDO3HSHUHˌHFWVWKDWLWLVPRUHOLNH
DȤSHUPDQHQWDFFLGHQWȥ  DVHQVHWKDWLVHFKRHGE\DQHFFHQWULF
passerby who shouts, a propos of nothing in particular, “everything
LVVWUDQJHVWUDQJHLVQRUPDOIHYHULVKHDOWKSRLVRQLVIRRGȥ 
 17 He begins to suspect that another rat is the perpetrator of the
crimes—an autoimmune reaction against the synthetic whole of the
collective—although he is discouraged from this interpretation by his
VXSHULRUVVLQFHWKH\FODLPȤUDWVGRQȢWNLOOUDWVȥ  
:KHQ3HSHWUDFNVGRZQWKHSHUSHWUDWRUD\RXQJUDWQDPHG+«FWRU
he discovers that the murders were committed in the name of freedom
DQGDUW:KHQ3HSHFRQIURQWVKLP+«FWRULQYRNHVEXWGLVWLQJXLVKHV
himself from Josephine, whose singing he describes as an expression
RIIHDUDQGˋQLWXGHȤVKHZDVVFDUHGWRGHDWK7KHPHPEHUVRIKHU
audience were scared to death as well, although they didn’t know it. But
she didn’t die once and for all [3HUR-RVHˋQDHVWDEDP£VTXHPXHUWD]: she
GLHGHYHU\GD\DWWKHFHQWHURIIHDUDQGLQIHDUVKHFDPHEDFNWROLIHȥ
 $OWKRXJK+«FWRUDFNQRZOHGJHVH[SHULHQFLQJIHDUKHIUDPHV
the killings as a kind of poeisisRUˋJXUDWLRQWKDWDLPVWRWUDQVFHQG
RUUHFRQˋJXUHWKDWIHDU$VZLWKWKHˋOLFLGHLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV
,OOQHVVȥVXFKVXEMXJDWLRQLVSHFXOLDUO\ DVVRFLDWHGZLWKDNLQGRI
IUHHGRPKHGHFODUHVȤ,ȢPDIUHHUDWȥ  7KLVDVVHUWLRQRIIUHHGRP
appears to be in distinction to both the general rat society, which could
HDVLO\EHTXDOLˋHGTXDWKHGHVFULSWLRQLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥ
DV]RPELHOLNHDQGˋQLWXGHUHSUHVHQWHGE\-RVHSKLQHȢVVLQJLQJDQGWKH
fragile bodies that served as the material for his “free representation
ZKHUH,DFFHGHVRYHUHLJQO\WRP\VHOI RIIUHHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ ZKLFK
GHSHQGVRQO\RQP\ZLOO ȥ 1DQF\Experience  $VRIˋFLDOGHIHQGHURI
WKHLPPXQRORJLFDOVWUXFWXUHRIUDWVRFLHW\3HSHGHPDQGVWKDW+«FWRU
surrender, and when he refuses, Pepe attacks and kills him.
Unable to understand the difference between such autoimmune
reactivity, which attacks the immunity of rat society in the interest of
establishing an autonomous form of subjectivity, and the alter-immune
function associated with Josephine’s singing—and possibly because of his
RZQRIˋFLDOO\VDQFWLRQHGVWHSIURPSDVVLYHJXDUGLDQVKLSWRWKHYLROHQW
suppression of violence—Pepe falls into despair. He is admonished by
his superiors to cover up the challenge to the ideal of immunity. The
rat queen describes Hector as “a poison that shall not spell the end
RIOLIHIRUXVȥ  DQGWKHSROLFHFRPPLVVDU\SURKLELWVKLPIURP
talking about the murders with anyone: “The case was closed, and the
76 Witnessing beyond the Human

best thing for me to do was to forget about him and get on with my
OLIHDQGZRUNȥ Ȥseguir viviendo y trabajandoȥ   ,QVSLWHRIWKLV
decree of immunological closure, in which threats to the vital integrity
RIWKHFROOHFWLYHDUHGLVDYRZHG3HSHˋQGVWKDWKHFDQQRWVLPSO\FORVH
the case. He comes to the realization that the ideal of social integrity is
LQIDFWFRQVWLWXWLYHO\ˌDZHGQRWRQO\IURPURJXHDVVDVVLQVOLNH+«FWRU
but as a generalized condition, represented for him in a dream of a virus
infecting the entire rat population, and a sense of general condemnation
ȟ +HFRQVLGHUVWKHLGHDORIFROOHFWLYLW\DWKHDWULFDODUWLˋFH
ȤDVHWWLQJDQGEDFNGURSIRURXUGDLO\DFWVRIKHURLVPȥ ȤHVFHQRJUDI¯D\
WHOµQSDUDQXHVWUDVKHURLFLGDGHVFRWLGLDQDVȥ DQGUHWUHDWVIURP
the performance to what could be called the backstage, the dead spaces
ȤDOFDQWDULOODVPXHUWDVȥ WKDWVHHPWRVHUYHDVDPHWRQ\PRIDOOWKDW
does not contribute to the rats’ intact sense of life. He waits in this alter-
VSDFH ȤKLGLQJZDLWLQJȥ DVLIIRUVRPHWKLQJEH\RQGWKHLPPXQHEXW
QRWKLQJKDSSHQHG ȤQRRFXUULµQDGDȥ 
Not perceiving that what he is waiting for is already there, in the
interstices of the social, punctuated furthermore by the skeletal memo-
ries of Josephine’s singing, he returns, disgusted and hopeless, to the
police commissary. A new recruit informs him that a weasel has cornered
a family of rats nearby, and says that it is too late to call for reinforce-
PHQWV3HSHUHˌHFWVȤ,WȢVDOUHDG\WRRODWHIRUHYHU\WKLQJȥ  
and having renounced the untimeliness or other-timeliness represented
by the dead sewers, he cynically seizes the opportunity to act in the
present, performing an act of sham heroism that is its own theatrical
closure or telón. The story ends as he sets off to rescue the family, a
metonym of the organic collective, from external depredation.20
The associations among art, exposure to the limits of the immunological,
DQGSROLFLQJWKDWFRPHWRJHWKHULQWKHFKDUDFWHURI3HSHUHFDOOVWKHˋQDO
chapters of Distant Star. In these chapters a former policeman-turned-
hitman hires the narrator, a somewhat hapless writer, to help him track
GRZQ&DUORV:LHGHUD+«FWRUOLNHFKDUDFWHUZKRKDVPDGHDFDUHHURXW
of fusing cruelty and avant-garde aesthetics. The narrator reluctantly
complies, lured by the promise of a generous compensation, and, after
LGHQWLI\LQJ:LHGHUȢVVW\OHLQDQXPEHURIWH[WVKHLVDVNHGWRFRQˋUP
his identity in person as a prelude to his elimination. When the narrator
ˋUVWVHHV:LHGHUWKHOHWWHUVRQWKHSDJHVRIWKHERRNE\%UXQR6FKXO]
WKDWKHLVSUHWHQGLQJWRUHDGWDNHRQDȤPRQVWURXVFKDUDFWHUȥ Ȥdimensión
monstruosaȥ ZKLUOLQJDURXQGOLNHEHHWOHVDQGWKHQOLNHH\HVRSHQLQJ
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 77

DQGFORVLQJLQDPLON\QLJKWVN\  7KLVGL]]LHGUHDFWLRQUHFDOOV


3HSHȢVGHVFULSWLRQVRIKLVˋUVWH[SHULHQFHVHQFRXQWHULQJGHDGERGLHV
in which his sense of self was deeply disturbed, exposed to an indistinct
otherness, and which is echoed in the description of Josephine’s singing
DVVRPHWKLQJWKDWWKUHDWHQVWRPRYHKHUOLVWHQHUVȤIXHUDGHV¯ȥ,WDOVR
stands in direct distinction to Wieder’s appearance of self-sovereignty:
Ȥ+HVHHPHGVHOISRVVHVVHGȥ ȤGXH³RGHV¯PLVPRȥ 21 When
Wieder leaves, the narrator feels an intense “feeling of freedom, of
KDYLQJˋQDOO\VROYHGDSUREOHPȥ ȤSUREOHPDˋQLTXLWDGRȥ 
7KHGL]]\VHQVHRIEHLQJȤIXHUDGHV¯ȥIROORZHGE\DVHQVHRI HFRQRPLF 
resolution, is repeated shortly thereafter, when the former policeman
FRPHVWRˋQGWKHQDUUDWRUDQGDVWKHODWWHUWULHVWRUDLVHȤHWKLFDODQG
DHVWKHWLFFRQVLGHUDWLRQVȥWKHWZRPHQZDONDURXQGLQFLUFOHV ȤGLPRV
YXHOWDVSRUFDOOHV\FDOOHMRQHVVLHPSUHHQVLOHQFLRȥ 7KLVEOLQG
turning through streets and alleys resembles Pepe’s retreat to the dead
sewage pipes, a space and time of distant hope for a possibility other
WKDQˌLJKWRUWKHVHWWOLQJRIDFFRXQWVWKHQDUUDWRUNQRZVLVLQVWRUH7KH
sight of Wieder’s building cuts short their perambulation, and the former
SROLFHPDQHQWHUVWRˋQLVKKLPRII

Eyes, Mouth, Hands, Feet: Buccal Openings


and the Long History of Pain

,QERWKȤ3ROLFH5DWȥDQGWKHˋQDOFKDSWHUVRIDistant Star, a kind of


alter-immunological exposure is provocatively situated between art
DQGSROLFLQJ,QERWKFDVHVWKLVH[SRVXUHLVRYHUWDNHQE\SROLFHORJLF
undecidability and aporia are abandoned in favor of decisive action
in defense of immunological structures. The following passage from
2666 helps to explain this retreat to the immunological:

,WWXUQHG convertía WKHSDLQRIRWKHUVLQWRRQHȢVRZQPHPRU\,WWXUQHG


pain, which is long and natural and which always triumphs, into personal
memory, which is human and brief and which always escapes. It turned a
EDUEDULFVWRU\ relato RILQMXVWLFHVDQGDEXVHVDQLQFRKHUHQWKRZO ulular 
ZLWKQREHJLQQLQJRUHQGLQWRDQHDWO\VWUXFWXUHGKLVWRU\ historia LQ
ZKLFKVXLFLGHZDVDOZD\VKHOGRXWDVDSRVVLELOLW\,WWXUQHGˌLJKWLQWR
IUHHGRPHYHQLIIUHHGRPPHDQWQRPRUHWKDQWKHSHUSHWXDWLRQRIˌLJKW
It turned chaos into order, even if it was at the cost of what is commonly
NQRZQDVVDQLW\ 
78 Witnessing beyond the Human

,Q Ȥ3ROLFH 5DWȥ DQG Distant Star the figure of the police seems to
indicate an exposure to history, as described by Fredric Jameson’s
PHPRUDEOHSKUDVHȤKLVWRU\LVZKDWKXUWVȥȠVHQVHOHVVWHUULI\LQJDQG
IXOORILQMXVWLFHȠDVZHOODVLWVȤFRQYHUVLRQȥLQWRWKHLPPXQRORJLFDO
LQFOXGLQJQRWRQO\SROLFHORJLF IULHQGHQHP\GLVWLQFWLRQDQGQDUUDWLYH
FORVXUH EXWDOVRDVRYHUHLJQLQGLYLGXDOLVPFDSDEOHRIȤIUHHLQJȥLWVHOI
from that pain, turning its aporias into humanist tales of freedom. 22
Although the stories conclude with this sense of closure and
conversion, I want to propose that in Bolaño’s work such endings are
not conclusive. The case is not closed—we are not left in a blind alley
ZLWKVODYLVK]RPELHVDQGVHOIVDWLVˋHGPXUGHUHUV$VZLWK%ROD³RȢV
discussion of nineteenth-century poetry, there is a tenuous but also
resurgent alternative: an exposure to the alter-immunological that
is the condition of possibility of an ethical relationality not based
on subjugation. Literature for Bolaño is an exemplary space of such
a possibility, perhaps because of its ability to indicate a “perilous
WUDYHUVLQJȥ RI WKH OLPLWV RI WKH LPPXQRORJLFDO 1DQF\ Experience
[[  7KLV WUDYHUVLQJ LV SUHVHQWHG RQ VHYHUDO RFFDVLRQV WKURXJK D
kind of disarticulation and what I will call, following Sara Guyer, a
ȤEXFFDOL]DWLRQȥRIKXPDQLVWVRYHUHLJQW\SXWDWLYHRULJLQDQGHQGRI
the practice of immunological conversion.
One instance of such a disarticulation is indicated by the description
in Distant Star of the blinking eyes that appear in the book by Bruno
Schulz, a blinking that seems to indicate the alter-immunological nature
of witnessing, which resists reduction into immunological distinctions
between self and other, friend and enemy, and even present and past,
WKHOLYLQJSUHVHQWDQGWKHWH[WXDOO\VSHFWUDO %UXQR6FKXO]ZDVD3ROLVK
Jewish writer and artist successively rescued and killed by members of
WKH*HVWDSR 7KLVGHVFULSWLRQUHVHPEOHVWKHSDVVDJHLQZKLFKWKH\HDU
LVH[SODLQHGLQAmulet, a propos the Avenida Guerrero in Mexico
City: “Guerrero, at that time of night, is more like a cemetery than an
DYHQXHDFHPHWHU\LQWKH\HDUDIRUJRWWHQFHPHWHU\XQGHU
the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate
ˌXLGVRIDQH\HWKDWWULHGVRKDUGWRIRUJHWRQHSDUWLFXODUWKLQJWKDW
LWHQGHGXSIRUJHWWLQJHYHU\WKLQJHOVH ȤOD*XHUUHURDHVDKRUD
se parece sobre todas las cosas a un cementerio, . . . un cementario de
XQFHPHQWHULRROYLGDGRGHEDMRGHXQS£USDGRPXHUWRRQRQDWR
las acuosidades desapasionadas de un ojo que por querer olvidar algo
KDWHUPLQDGRSRUROYLGDUWRGRȥAmuletȟ %RWKRFXODULPDJHV
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 79

appear amidst scenes of forgetting, but seem to indicate the potential


for the emergence of memory, not sovereign memory, converted into
UHGHPSWLYHKXPDQLVWLFKLVWRULHVEXWˌLFNHULQJUHPLQGHUVRIWKHORQJ
DQGVHQVHOHVVKLVWRU\RIWKHSDLQRIRWKHUV7KHȤS£USDGRPXHUWRR
QRQDWRȥXQGHUZKLFKLVLQWHUUHGWKHLQWHUPHQWRIWKHIXWXUHFDQEOLQN
as in the description of the blinking eyes in the pages of the book by
Schulz, which seems to suggest the possibility for engagement with the
DSRULDVRIKLVWRU\DQGWKHGHPDQGIRUMXVWLFHEH\RQGSHUVRQDOˌLJKWRU
legalistic resolution.
,QȤ5DW3ROLFHȥWKHDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDODOWHUQDWLYHLVUHSUHVHQWHGE\
-RVHSKLQHȢVVLQJLQJZKLFKRSHQHGXSDȤODJRGHYDF¯RȥLQLWVOLVWHQHUV
and continues to resonate in the rats’ memory like ruinous question
PDUNV +HU VLQJLQJ GHVFULEHG LQ ERWK %ROD³R DQG .DI ND  DV OLWWOH
more than a trembling shadow and animal squeaks, resembles the
metamorphosis of the words in the book by Bruno Schulz into dizzying
EXJVDQGEOLQNLQJH\HVWKDWLVOLWHUDWXUHDQGDUWQRWDVVHOIDIˋUPLQJ
epic, but as creaturely extreme. Kafka wrote “Josephine the Singer, or
7KH0RXVH)RONȥDIWHUKLVWXEHUFXORVLVKDGVSUHDGIURPKLVOXQJVWR
KLVODU\Q[ LWZDVKLVODVWVWRU\EHIRUHKLV\RXQJGHDWKDWIRUW\RQH 
Michael Levine describes Josephine’s singing, and by extension Kafka’s
writing, as a translation or carrying-across of “pain that cannot be
simply silenced or voiced. As though suspended at the very threshold
of speech and silence, this unassimilable excess is left to perseverate
WKHUHVLPXOWDQHRXVO\FDOOLQJIRUDQGUHVLVWLQJWUDQVODWLRQȥ /HYLQHA
Weak Messianic Power %ROD³RȢVVWRU\VHHPVWRVXJJHVWWKDWVXFK
unassimilable excess, invoked by both Josephine’s singing and Pepe’s
DWWHQWLRQWRWKHˋQLWXGHRIWKHFROOHFWLYHFRQWLQXHVWRUHVRQDWHHYHQ
WKRXJK3HSHRSWVLQWKHHQGIRUQDUUDWLYHFORVXUH DFORVXUHWKDWLV
QHYHUWKHOHVVQRWIXOO\VHHQRXW 
Levine’s description of Josephine’s singing corresponds to what
1DQF\FDOOVWKHEXFFDO,QDQHVVD\WLWOHGȤ%XFFDO5HDGLQJȥ6DUD*X\HU
traces the relationship of deconstruction to a thinking of the mouth.
She begins with the notion of an internalizing orality described by
'HUULGDLQȤȡ(DWLQJ:HOOȢRUWKH&DOFXODWLRQRIWKH6XEMHFWȥLQZKLFK
he compares discourses of subjective sovereignty—which he associates,
DV,KDYHREVHUYHGZLWKDVWUXFWXUHRIVDFULˋFHȠWRDNLQGRIHDWLQJ
understood as a process of assimilation, interiorization, idealization,
DQGVXEMHFWLRQWRVRYHUHLJQVHQVHVRIWKHSKRQLFDQGWKHRFXODU 'HUULGD
 ,QGLVWLQFWLRQWRWKLVLQWHULRUL]LQJRUDOLW\'HUULGDSURSRVHVZKDW
80 Witnessing beyond the Human

*X\HUFDOOVDJHQHUDOȤRULˋFDWLRQȥRIWKHVXEMHFWLQZKLFKWKHRULˋFHV
PRVWDVVRFLDWHGZLWKSURVRSRSRHLFVXEMHFWLˋFDWLRQEHFRPHRSHQLQJVWR
WKHRWKHU *X\HU *X\HUFRPSDUHVWKLVVHQVHRIRULˋFDWLRQWR1DQF\ȢV
description of buccality. She explains how Nancy distinguishes orality,
which he calls a metonymy of discourse and the prosopopoeic, from the
buccal, which he describes as “an opening—unstable and mobile—[that]
forms at the instant of speaking. For the instant, one discerns nothing:
HJRGRHVQRWPHDQDQ\WKLQJHJRRQO\RSHQVWKLVFDYLW\(YHU\PRXWKLVD
VKDGRZPRXWK Ego SumTWGLQ*X\HU ,QOn Touching—Jean
Luc Nancy, Derrida calls the buccal the “originary spacing of a mouth
RSHQLQJ LWVHOI ȥ TWGLQ*X\HU 
%ROD³RFRQFOXGHVȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥZLWKDVWULNLQJLPDJH
that I want to suggest is his version of the buccality invoked through
Josephine’s strange singing, reverberating at the aporetic limits of
speech and silence, self and other, life and death. After his consider-
DWLRQRIWKHˋJXUHRIWKHYR\DJHDVHLWKHUDQLPPXQRORJLFDOUHWXUQWR
VHOI %DXGHODLUH RUDQDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDOJHVWXUHEH\RQGWKHȤWRWDOL-
WDULDQȥVWDWHVRIKHDOWKDQGVLFNQHVV 0DOODUP« %ROD³RUHWXUQVWRKLV
experience of the day he was diagnosed with incurable liver disease.
The entire essay seems to be dedicated to countering the image of
OLIHDVOLQHDUDQGK\JLHQLFDVUHSUHVHQWHGE\KLVȤYR\DJHȥLQDODUJH
PRGHUQHOHYDWRUWKDWHIˋFLHQWO\VSHHGVKLPIURPRQHˌRRUWRWKHQH[W
LQWKHKRVSLWDOȠDSODFHWKDWH[HPSODULO\GHˋQHVOLIHDVLPPXQRORJLFDO
in spite of the aporia haunting its name. The elevator delivers him to
DˌRRUZKHUHDGRFWRUH[DPLQHVKLPWRUHJLVWHUKLVSURJUHVVWRZDUG
death. This measurement is performed through a series of tests, one of
which he describes in detail: “It consisted of holding my hands out in
DYHUWLFDOSRVLWLRQIRUDIHZVHFRQGVWKDWLVZLWKWKHˋQJHUVSRLQWLQJ
XSWKHSDOPVIDFLQJKHU>WKHGRFWRU@DQGWKHEDFNVWRPHȥ Ȥ&RQVLVW¯D
en mantener durante unos segundos las manos extendidas de forma
YHUWLFDOYDOHGHFLUFRQORVGHGRVKDFLDDUULEDHQVH³£QGROHDHOODODV
SDOPDV\FRQWHPSODQGR\RHOGRUVRȥ +HDVNVWKHGRFWRUWKH
purpose of this test, and is told that in the late stages of his disease he
ZLOOQRWEHDEOHWRPDLQWDLQKLVˋQJHUVLQWKLVSRVLWLRQ He writes, “In
any case, every day since then, wherever I happen to be, I take that test.
I hold my hands out, palms facing away, and for a few seconds I examine
my knuckles, my nails, the wrinkles that form on every phalange. The
GD\ZKHQP\ˋQJHUVFDQȢWKROGWKHPVHOYHVXSVWUDLJKW,GRQȢWUHDOO\
NQRZZKDW,ȢOOGRȥ  
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 81

The image of the writer contemplating his own hands evokes the scene
in Baudelaire’s poem in which the traveler observes with horror that his
horizon has become his own image. It also calls to mind Heidegger’s
discussion of the hand as a principal point of contact with being, which
for him is always related to the imminence of death. Heidegger regards
the hand as a distinguishing trait of human beings, not, in a strictly
evolutionary-biological sense, because of its ability to grasp objects,
QRULQLWVˋJXUDOVHQVHRIFRPSUHKHQGLQJFRQFHSWV WKH*HUPDQZRUG
for concept, BegriffLPSOLHVDVHQVHRIJUDVSLQJ  Instead, as part of
his longstanding effort to think beyond classical subjectivity and the
physical and conceptual forms of domination that seem to accompany
LWKHQDPHVWKHKDQGDVDVLWHRIJLYLQJDQGE\H[WHQVLRQDˋJXUH
for thinking, which he names “Man’s simplest Hand-werkȥDVZHOO
DVIRUZULWLQJ TWGLQAnimal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of
Species, and Posthumanist Theory:ROIH ,QKLVFULWLTXHRI+HLGHJJHUȢV
DSSURDFKWRWKHKDQG'HUULGDVWUHVVHVWKDW+HLGHJJHULGHQWLˋHVWKHKDQG
QRWRQO\DVWKDWZKLFKJLYHVEXWVSHFLˋFDOO\DVWKDWZKLFKJLYHVLWVHOI
ȤVLHUHFKWVLFKVȢRIIUHȥTWGLQ/DZORU /HRQDUG/DZORUHPSKDVL]HV
how this self-giving is related to a sense of pointing, or indexicality, to
the living self and also to the fact of death. For Heidegger, animals have
no hands not because they lack opposable thumbs, but because they do
not understand life in relation to death. Only humans are capable of
pointing to themselves and the eventuality of death, and therefore of
ȤJLYLQJȥRUUHODWLQJWREHLQJDVWKDWZKLFKȤJLYHVȥ Es gibt ,QVSLWHRIWKH
fact that Heidegger aims to displace the specular structure of the classic
subject, represented by Baudelaire’s poem in which the traveler comes
IDFHWRIDFHZLWKKLVRZQUHˌHFWLRQKHHQGVXSUHLQVWDWLQJDVSHFXODU
return to the proper in his insistence on the privileged distinction of
human beings.27
Unlike Baudelaire’s return to self and Heidegger’s appeal to the hand as
an instrument of self-possessed giving, Bolaño’s description of the hand
test suggests a deep defamiliarization, an encounter with the unfamil-
iarity of something generally considered the epitome of the familiar—a
tentative, probing experience of what life is before death, “given over
WRWKHSHULORILWVRZQODFNRIIRXQGDWLRQDQGVHFXULW\ȥ 1DQF\Experi-
ence )RU%ROD³RWKLVSHULORUOLPLWLVFORVHUDQGPRUHGLVWLQFWWKDQ
for most, given his terminal illness, but not fundamentally different.
His description of his hands implies neither grasping nor giving, nor a
FRQVLGHUDWLRQRIGHDWKȤDVVXFKȥEXWUDWKHUDQH[SRVXUHWRWKHWKUHVKROGV
82 Witnessing beyond the Human

between life and death, self and not-self, and, akin to Josephine’s
singing, writing as a kind of buccal spacing between speech and silence.
A propos of his contemplation of his hands as limit but also opening,
%ROD³RLQYRNHV0DOODUP«DQG.DIND+HUHIHUVWR0DOODUP«ȢVȤ$7KURZ
RIWKH'LFH:LOO1HYHU$EROLVK&KDQFHȥLQZKLFKWKHHSLFFRQVWLWXWLRQRI
VXEMHFWLYLW\LVˋUPO\VKLSZUHFNHGDQGWKHVKDUGVDUHORRVHO\JDWKHUHGLQ
a kind of constellation that holds open the fact of possibility, graphically
UHJLVWHUHGE\DQH[WUHPHXVHRIVSDFLQJ%ROD³RZULWHVȤ0DOODUP«
wrote that a roll of the dice will never abolish chance. And yet every
GD\WKHGLFHKDYHWREHUROOHGMXVWDVWKHYHUWLFDOˋQJHUVWHVWKDVWR
EHWDNHQHYHU\GD\ȥ Ȥ0DOODUP«HVFULELµTXHXQJROSHGHGDGRVMDP£V
DEROLU£HOD]DU6LQHPEDUJRHVQHFHVDULRWLUDUORVGDGRVFDGDG¯DDV¯
FRPRHVQHFHVDULRUHDOL]DUHOWHVWGHORVGHGRVHQKLHVWRVFDGDG¯Dȥ
ȟ :LWKDUDWKHUZHDNȠSHUKDSVLQWHQWLRQDOO\LQˋUPȠSOD\RQ
words between dados and dedos%ROD³RDIˋUPVWKDWGHVSLWHWKHOLPLWHG
QDWXUHRI KLV OLIHRUSHUKDSVHYHQEHFDXVHRILWSRVVLELOLW\H[LVWV7KH
description of his hands suggests how in both writing and life things
can happen, the golpes of chance and of life, and also the strikes of the
pen or keyboard, that is, the potential for surprise or encounter that can
be experienced through writing.
+HH[SDQGVRQWKLVZLWKDFRQVLGHUDWLRQRI(OLDV&DQHWWLȢVREVHUYDWLRQ
DERXW.DINDWKDWȤQRWKLQJVHSDUDWHGKLVZULWLQJIURPWKHˋUVWGD\KH
VSLWXSEORRGȥ  %ROD³RSRQGHUVWKHPHDQLQJRIWKLVUHPDUN
which seems to have been one of the primary sources of inspiration for
this essay on literature and sickness:

To be honest I don’t really know. I guess I mean that Kafka understood


that travel, sex, and books are paths that don’t lead anywhere, and that
nevertheless they are paths one has to follow and lose oneself on, so as
WREHDEOHWRˋQGRQHVHOIDJDLQRUWRˋQGVRPHWKLQJZKDWHYHULWPD\EH
lo que sea DERRNDJHVWXUHDORVWREMHFWWRˋQGDQ\WKLQJ cualquier
cosa PD\EHZLWKDQ\OXFNDPHWKRGWKHnew, that which has been there
DOODORQJ 

The description of paths that lead nowhere and yet must be traversed
HYRNHVWKHWHUPȤDSRULDȥZKLFKHW\PRORJLFDOO\UHIHUVWRDQLPSDVVDELOLW\
or impossibility, and yet which Derrida insists is inextricable from the
nature of the possible.  Like Josephine’s singing, calling across the
DSRUHWLFOLPLWVRIWKHLPPXQRORJLFDO.DINDȢVZULWLQJȠOLNH0DOODUP«ȢV
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 83

and Bolaño’s—suspends and traverses these limits, opening onto the


SRVVLELOLW\RIHQFRXQWHULQFOXGLQJIURPZLWKLQWKHVHOI7KHȤQHZȥLV
not only what has not yet been experienced, but “what has been there
DOODORQJȥLQFOXGLQJWKHLQWULQVLFDOO\ˋQLWHQDWXUHRIH[LVWHQFHDQGWKH
long history of pain, which cannot be translated, but can be addressed
through a kind of buccal spacing.
The relationship between literature and the buccal spacing of the
LPPXQRORJLFDOLVWKHIRFXVRIDVWRU\E\%ROD³RWLWOHGȤ'HQWLVWȥFROOHFWHG
in Last Evenings on Earth Putas asesinas ,QWKLVVWRU\WKHHSRQ\PRXV
dentist is a young man who works several hours a week in a clinic for
the poor. He oversees an operation on a poor indigenous woman with
gum cancer, after which the woman dies. Although it is not clear to what
H[WHQWWKHRSHUDWLRQ ZKLFKZDVSHUIRUPHGE\DVWXGHQW FRQWULEXWHVWR
her demise, the woman’s death haunts the dentist and recurs as a motif
throughout the story.
Framed by this image of an open mouth of pain that recalls Levine’s
GHVFULSWLRQRI-RVHSKLQHȢVVLQJLQJDVDQȤXQDVVLPLODEOHH[FHVVȥWKDW
ȤFDQQRWEHVLPSO\VLOHQFHGRUYRLFHGȥ  ȠZLWKWKHDGGHGHOHPHQWVRI
marginalization due to class and ethnicity, which similarly cannot be
fully silenced or voiced—the story recounts a visit between the narrator
and the dentist, middle-class friends who met in college in Mexico City.
The two friends, who realize they have been drifting away from the
“the ethics and aesthetics we’d professed, the Mexican nation and our
GDPQHGXVHOHVVGUHDPVȥ  UHNLQGOHWKHLUIULHQGVKLSWKURXJK
long discussions about art and life. The dentist tells the story of a violent
encounter with a famous painter from Mexico City who nearly killed him
IRUQRDSSDUHQWUHDVRQ \HWDQRWKHUH[DPSOHRIDQDUWLVWWKDWFRQˌDWHV
GHVWUXFWLRQRIRWKHUVZLWKDHVWKHWLFVHOIDIˋUPDWLRQ ZKLFKOHDGVWKH
friends into a discussion of the nature of art. The narrator tries to suggest
WKDWWKHSDLQWHUȢVDJJUHVVLRQEHORQJVWRSHUVRQDOKLVWRU\ ȤODKLVWRULD
SDUWLFXODUȥ UDWKHUWKDQWRDUWSURSHUO\VSHDNLQJ7KHGHQWLVWUHVSRQGV

$UWLVSDUWRISHUVRQDOKLVWRU\ historia particular ORQJEHIRUHWKHKLVWRU\


of art properly speaking. Art, he said, is personal history. It’s the only
possible personal history. It’s personal history and at the same time
it’s the matrix of personal history. And what is the matrix of personal
history?, I said. In the next moment I thought that he would respond:
art. . . . But my friend said: the matrix of personal history is the secret
KLVWRU\ la historia secreta )RUVHYHUDOVHFRQGVKHORRNHGDWPHZLWK
84 Witnessing beyond the Human

shining eyes. I thought that the death of the Indian woman with gum
FDQFHUKDGDIIHFWHGKLPPRUHWKDQ,EHOLHYHGDWˋUVW$QGP\IULHQGVDLG
you’re asking yourself what is the secret history? Well the secret history
is the one we’ll never know, the one we’re living day to day, thinking that
we’re living, thinking that we have it all under control, thinking that what
we overlook doesn’t matter. But every single damn thing matters! We just
tell ourselves that art runs along this sidewalk and that life, our life, runs
DORQJWKHRWKHURQHDQGZHGRQȢWUHDOL]HWKDWȢVDOLH ȟȟ 

This association between life and art is not equivalent to the


ȤFRQYHUVLRQȥ GHVFULEHG LQ 2666 of the long history of pain into
ȤPHPRULDSDUWLFXODUȥLQGLYLGXDOOLIHKLVWRULHVEXWUDWKHUFRQFHUQV
WKHȤXQDVVLPLODEOHH[FHVV>HV@ȥWKDWXQVHWWOHERWKHPEOHPDWL]HGKHUH
by the interjected memory of the Indian woman’s cancerous mouth. It
anticipates the notion of literature described in “Literature + Illness
,OOQHVVȥDVH[SRVXUHWRWKHDE\VVDOSRVVLELOLWLHVLQȤWKDWZKLFKKDV
EHHQWKHUHDOODORQJȥȠLQRQHȢVRZQILQLWHH[LVWHQFHDQGYLV¢YLV
RWKHUVȢ,WLVUHLWHUDWHGZLWKJUHDWHUIRUFHODWHULQȤ'HQWLVWDȥWKLVWLPH
E\WKHQDUUDWRUZKRUHˌHFWVȤ2QHQHYHUVWRSVUHDGLQJHYHQWKRXJK
the books end, in the same way that one never stops living, even
WKRXJKGHDWKLVFHUWDLQȥ  7KDWLVDUWLVQRWVHSDUDWHIURP
OLIHWKH\ERWKFRQWLQXH VXUYLYH EH\RQGLQGLYLGXDOKLVWRULHVDFWLYH
even if one is not actively aesthetically engaged.
Following his rejection of the common notion of art and literature
as two opposing sidewalks, the dentist asks rhetorically, and seemingly
QRQVHQVLFDOO\Ȥ:KDWOLHVEHWZHHQRQHVLGHZDONDQGDQRWKHU"ȥ  
Just then he is hailed by an acquaintance, a disadvantaged teenager from
the slums whom the dentist met in the low-income clinic, and who turns
out to be the best writer he has ever read, a kind of Mexican Rimbaud,
HYHQWKRXJKWKHˋUVWVHQWHQFHRIWKHVWRU\FDXWLRQVȤ+HZDVQȢW5LPEDXG
KHZDVMXVWDQ,QGLDQER\ȥ  7KHDSSHDUDQFHRIWKLVER\ZKRVH
QDPHWKHQDUUDWRUOHDUQVODWHULV-RV«5DP¯UH]VHHPVERWKWRFRQˋUP
and disrupt the dentist’s assertion that there is no separation between
art and life. The narrator describes the considerable distance between
the paved roads of middle-class life and the dirt paths of the slums:

The headlights swept across a dirt road . . . and then we emerged suddenly
into what seemed to be the country, although it equally could have been
a garbage dump . . . In the distance I could see headlights gliding along
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 85

a highway: another world, and yet I felt those distant moving lights were
VRPHKRZȠKRUULEO\ȠHPEOHPDWLFRIRXUGHVWLQ\ 

Ramírez can live, and he can write, and yet due to the distance
between social classes, which condemns him to the peripheries
surrounding this already peripheral city, his literary perambulations
ZLOOQHYHUILQGLQVFULSWLRQ UHFHSWLRQGLVWULEXWLRQFDQRQL]DWLRQ 
Ramírez will never become Rimbaud.
<HWLQVSLWHRIWKHGLVWDQFHVVHSDUDWLQJȤRQHVLGHZDONDQGDQRWKHUȥ
Ramírez writes. Unable to commit himself to the road of literature and
OLIH OLNH5LPEDXGDQGWKHQXPHURXVZULWHUWUDYHOHUVWKDWSRSXODWH
%ROD³RȢVˋFWLRQV KHPDQDJHVWRˋQGWKLQJVDORQJWKHSDWKVDYDLODEOH
to him, as Bolaño puts it in his description of Kaf ka: “paths that
don’t lead anywhere, and that nevertheless . . . are paths one has to
IROORZDQGORVHRQHVHOIRQVRDVWREHDEOHWRˋQGRQHVHOIDJDLQRU
WRˋQGVRPHWKLQJȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVVȥ 7KLVSRVVLELOLW\
of encounter—including the encounter with the long history of pain
and its open mouths suspended between silence and speech—is what
WKHGHQWLVWFDOOVWKHȤPDWUL[RIWKHVHFUHWKLVWRU\ȥ7KLVPDWULFDO
possibility requires an openness, an opening of enclosed spaces, of which
WKHKRXVHDV'UDSHUUHPLQGVXVLVWKHPHWDSKRUSDUH[FHOOHQFH 'UDSHU
 6XFKDQRSHQLQJLVUHSUHVHQWHGLQDGUHDPWKHQDUUDWRUKDVDIWHU
UHDGLQJ5DP¯UH]ȢVˋFWLRQIRUWKHˋUVWWLPHLQZKLFKWKHERG\RIWKHROG
Indian woman who died of mouth cancer appears in Ramírez’s house: “I
WKLQNKHUZDNHZDVEHLQJKHOGLQ5DP¯UH]ȢVKRXVHȥ Ȥ&UHRTXHODHVWDEDQ
YHODQGRHQODFDVDGH5DP¯UH]ȥ 5DP¯UH]ȢVKRXVHZKLFKVHHPV
WREHDUHFRQˋJXUDWLRQRIKLVˋFWLRQ LWLVGHVFULEHGDVULVLQJXSRXWRI
WKHȤS£UDPRPH[LFDQRȥ>@UHIHUULQJQRWRQO\WRWKHXQGHYHORSHG
nature of his neighborhood, but also to the towering classic of modern
0H[LFDQˋFWLRQPedro Páramo DSSHDUVDVDVSDFHRIERWKFRQFHDOPHQW
and unconcealment—in Spanish velar means both to veil and to watch
RYHUDVLQDZDNH velorio ȠRIWKHXQVSRNHQSDLQRIKLVWRU\UHSUHVHQWHG
by the Indian woman’s mouth. Such an opening of the enclosed space of
WKHGRPHVWLFDQGWKHDSSDUHQWO\ȤLUUHPHGLDEOHȥGLVWDQFHVHSDUDWLQJWKH
middle-class protagonists and Ramírez, is also evoked by the description
RIDGRRULQKLVDFWXDOKRXVH LHQRWLQWKHQDUUDWRUȢVGUHDP ZKLFK
VHHPVWRKDYHEHHQUHFHQWO\KHZQE\DQD[H  7KLVLPDJH
seems to describe Ramírez’s writing not only as a space that houses
SURWHFWVDQGUHYHDOV WKHEXFFDORSHQLQJRIWKHVXEDOWHUQEXWDOVRDVD
86 Witnessing beyond the Human

ODERURIRSHQLQJȠȤD[HEORZVȥ ȤJROSHVGHKDFKDȥ PDGHE\DZRUNZRUQ


KDQGGHVFULEHGDVDȤWHQWDFOHRIDVWRUPȥ  ȠZKLFK
is worlds away and yet not that different from the golpes of dados and
dedos LQYRNHGDWWKHHQGRIȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥWKHH[SRVXUH
to possibilities of encounter in both writing and life.
Although the narrator and the dentist both found Ramírez’s writing
SURIRXQGO\FRPSHOOLQJȠLWVVKDUSHGJHVFUHDWLQJˋVVXUHVWKH\GLGQȢW
know possible, including in the social structure that keeps the sidewalks
they tread far away from the dirt paths of poverty—the story ends with
their sense of desperation over its apparent transience, the idea that it
ZLOOQRWVXUYLYHH[SHULHQFHGDVDGLIˋFXOW\WDONLQJDERXWLWWKHQH[WGD\
Nevertheless, it seems that it does survive, its effects continuing after
WKHSDJHVDUHUHDGDVWKHQDUUDWRUVD\VRIUHDGLQJDQGOLYLQJ Ȥ2QHQHYHU
stops reading, even though the books end, in the same way that one never
VWRSVOLYLQJȥ (DUOLHULQWKHVWRU\WKHQDUUDWRUH[SHULHQFHVDQ
DQ[LHW\DWWDFNZKHQKHWULHVWRˋQGWKHGHQWLVWDWKLVFOLQLFDQGGLVFRYHUV
WKDWWKHEXLOGLQJDSSHDUVWREHHPSW\2QFHWKH\ˋQGHDFKRWKHUWKH
dentist consolingly tells his friend that he used to experience similar
anxiety in buildings that seemed to be empty, and he attributed such
anxiety to the fact that “deep down one knows that there’s no such thing
as an empty building, in every so-called empty building there’s always
someone that hides themselves from our gaze and that doesn’t make any
noise, that’s what it all comes down to [“a eso se reduce todoȥ@WKHIDFW
WKDWZHȢUHQRWDORQHȥ  7KHIULHQGȢVDQ[LHW\ˋWVDGHVFULSWLRQ
RIWKHXQFDQQ\DVHQVHWKDWDVWUXFWXUH H[HPSODULO\WKHKRPHRUD
VHQVHRIEHLQJDWKRPH GRHVQRWIXOO\GLVWLQJXLVKDQGVDIHJXDUGWKLV
distinction between the proper and the improper, the self and other.
Although the dentist admits to having experienced this indistinction as
DWKUHDWKHGHYHORSVLWLQWRDWKHRU\RIOLIHDQGDUWLQZKLFKWKHȤRWKHUȥ
DVZKDWKHFDOOVȤWKHVHFUHWKLVWRU\ȥLVXQGHUVWRRGWRSHUPHDWHWKH
ȤKRXVHVȥRIDUWDQGOLIHDVZKDW'HUULGDFDOOVȤWKUHDWDVFKDQFHȥ Rogues
 5DP¯UH]ȢVEXFFDOZULWLQJVHHPVWRH[HPSOLI\WKLVDQGDOWKRXJKWKH
two friends fear that the openings his writings seemed to unlock have
VODPPHGVKXWWKHQH[WGD\DVWKH\UHWXUQWRWKHLUKRPHWXUIWKHˋQDO
paragraph describes them sitting together in the dental clinic, waiting
for someone to arrive: a stance of expectancy and exposure to the others
that inhabit all buildings, relating to the fact that “there’s no such thing
as an empty building . . . that’s what it all comes down to, the fact that
ZHȢUHQRWDORQHȥ
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 87

Thought, Art, and Literature on the Frontiers of Modernity:


Traversing the Limits of the Immunological in 2666

,QWKHˋUVWWZRWH[WV,H[DPLQHLQWKLVFKDSWHU%ROD³RGRHVQRWIRFXV
RQVSHFLILFJHRKLVWRULFDOFLUFXPVWDQFHV$VLQȤ'HQWLVWȥKRZHYHU
many of his works are geographically and historically situated,
generally in relation to Mexico or Chile, or to the uneasy continuities
EHWZHHQ(XURSHDQKLVWRU\DQG/DWLQ$PHULFD,QWKHVSUDZOLQJSDJHV
of 2666, the question of modernity, posed on the first page by the
Baudelairean epigraph, is carried through the rise and subsequent
UXLQRILPSHULDOSRZHUVLQPLGFHQWXU\(XURSH 1D]LDQG6RYLHW WR
the simultaneous rise and ruin of late global capital as represented
E\WKH8QLWHG6WDWHVȟ0H[LFRERUGHUDWWKHWXUQRIWKHWZHQW\ILUVW
century. This setting seems on the one hand to illustrate the sense
RIȤDGHVHUWRIERUHGRPȥEURNHQRQO\E\RDVHVRIKRUURUVLQFHWKH
ˋFWLRQDOWRZQDWWKHFHQWHURIWKHQRYHO6DQWD7HUHVDȠDˋFWLRQDOL]HG
YHUVLRQRI&LXGDG-X£UH]ȠLVORFDWHGLQWKHGHVHUWDQGLVSODJXHGE\
a seemingly unstoppable series of murders. But more than simply
presenting a modernized depiction of Baudelaire’s phrase, 2666
brings the question of modernity to an extreme limit, represented
by this frontier setting, as if to ask whether we are still crossing the
same desert as before, and whether our tools for surviving it—alter-
immunologically—still function.
As Patrick Dove eloquently explains in his recent book Literature
and “Interregnum”: Globalization, War, and the Crisis of Sovereignty in
Latin AmericaWKH8QLWHG6WDWHVȟ0H[LFRERUGHUUHSUHVHQWVDKLVWRULFDO
IURQWLHUDVZHOODVDSROLWLFDORQH   ,WLVDVLWHRIˌLJKWDQGˌRZVRI
ERWKKXPDQDQGFDSLWDOEH\RQGWKHOLPLWVRIWUDGLWLRQDOFRQˋJXUDWLRQV
LQFOXGLQJSULPDULO\WKHQDWLRQVWDWH7KLVSRVWQDWLRQDOˌRZFRQVWLWXWHV
DVLJQLˋFDQWO\GLIIHUHQWNLQGRIPRYHPHQWWKDQWKHPHWDSKRURIWKH
voyage explored earlier, although perhaps the predominant difference—
aside from the conditions of the travelers f leeing from poverty,
threatened by violence at every step, subjected to unjust working
conditions in enormous frontier factories or as migrant farmworkers in
WKH8QLWHG6WDWHVDQGWKHVLPXOWDQHRXVMRXUQH\VRIGUXJVPRQH\DQG
arms, often on the backs of similarly destitute and ostensibly disposable
LQGLYLGXDOVȠLVWKDWLWLVDˌRZZLWKRXWUHWXUQRUZLWKDSXUHO\FDSLWDOLVW
return, which falls directly into the pockets of multinational companies
and drug traffickers. The peculiar inside-outside space of such
88 Witnessing beyond the Human

WUDQVQDWLRQDOˌRZLVUHSUHVHQWHGHPEOHPDWLFDOO\E\WKHPDTXLODGRUDV
multinationally owned factories located inside free-trade zones along the
border, which are exempt from duties and taxes as well as labor laws and
other nationally imposed limits on capitalist accumulation. The series
RIPXUGHUVWKDWWDNHVSODFHLQ6DQWD7HUHVDUHˌHFWLQJDFWXDOHYHQWV
LQ&LXGDG-X£UH]FODLPPRVWRIWKHLUYLFWLPVIURPDPRQJWKHIHPDOH
maquiladora workers, or take place close to their hulking structures, as
if making visible a violence that lies beneath the new world order. The
PXUGHUHUVȠOLNHO\GUXJWUDIˋFNHUVWKHRWKHUDJHQWVˋJKWLQJIRUFRQWURO
over this extra or transnational territory—turn women’s bodies into a
PHGLXPWRDIˋUPWKHLU FODQGHVWLQHDQGVRPHZKDWSUHFDULRXV FDSLWDOLVW
sovereignty, a more explicitly violent version of the way multinational
FRUSRUDWLRQVFRQYHUWWKHLUODERULQWRGXW\IUHHSURˋW
Dove joins a number of other critics who have interpreted this
symbolically charged setting of 2666 as an indication of the end of the
paradigm of modernity. Jean Franco denounces Bolaño’s novel, and
his writing in general, for depicting the apparent futility of modern
structures of resistance and subversion, including the constitution of
political subjectivities and historical knowledge, which she believes
are vital to political action. At an opposite extreme, critics such as
Levinson and Williams—who do not share Franco’s belief in the relations
among politics, subjectivity, and representation—describe the narrative
landscape of 2666 as one slashed by madness: not madness as crisis or
possibility, as Derrida reads in Foucault’s work, but pure dissociation,
ZKLFKWKH\VHHDVDUHˌHFWLRQRIDODWHFDSLWDOLVP  In “Case Closed:
Madness and Dissociation in 2666ȥ/HYLQVRQFRQVLGHUVWKDWFKDSWHU
Ȥ7KH3DUW$ERXWWKH&ULPHVȥSHUIRUPVWKLVGLVVRFLDWLRQLQLWVUHOHQWOHVV
recounting of the details of the serial murders, part journalism and part
police log. This chapter in many ways seems to epitomize the futility not
only of forms of telling, namely narrative as based on continuity, but
also the traditional structure of knowledge based on revelation. Dove
VWUHVVHVWKLVSRLQWZKHQKHGHVFULEHVWKHGHVHUWODQGVFDSHDVDˋJXUHIRU
an era in which everything is out in the open, overexposed, and “the old
epistemological pairings of revelation and concealment, masking and
unmasking, appearance and truth, prove ineffective for understanding
RXUFXUUHQWVLWXDWLRQȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUHDQGWKH6HFUHWRIWKH:RUOGȥ 
Although literature and art over the past century have sought to
disrupt and question such epistemological binaries, Dove emphasizes
that in 2666 Bolaño depicts their role on the geo-historical frontiers
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 89

of late modernity as having been exhausted inasmuch as they seek


to redeem or compensate for the world’s ills or provide a critical
perspective. Nevertheless, he also considers that from amidst the ruined
deserts and oases of modernity, the novel indicates a tenuous potential
for literature and other forms of aesthetic action to gesture toward
historical possibility and an alternate conception of world Literature
and “InterregnumȥȤ/LWHUDWXUHDQGWKH6HFUHWRIWKH:RUOGȥ 
Although I generally concur with Dove’s reading, my emphasis
is less on the contemporary exhaustion of the paradigm of modernity
than on the alter-immunological condition common to all times. The
novel extends Bolaño’s longstanding interest in the relations between
PLGFHQWXU\(XURSHHVSHFLDOO\:RUOG:DU,,DQGLWVDIWHUPDWKDQG
late-century Latin America. Although there are many differences
between these two historical eras and geographical areas, I interpret
Bolaño’s insistent return to their association as an attempt to show
KRZPRGHUQLW\ȠZKLFKKHVXJJHVWVLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥ
UHDFKHGLWVDSRJHHLQQLQHWHHQWKFHQWXU\(XURSHȠPD\KDYHDOZD\VLQ
some way occupied a limit, existing on the verge of its own impossibility.
The concurrence in this novel of different experiences of catastrophe—
ZKDW9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWDSWO\FDOOVWKHȤPXWHFDWDVWURSKHRIKLVWRU\ȥ
and “history as PXWHFDWDVWURSKHȥ Ȥ$.LQGRI+HOO5REHUWR%ROD³R
DQGWKH5HWXUQRI:RUOG/LWHUDWXUHȥ ȠLVQRWLQWHQGHGWRGHQ\WKH
differences between them, but rather to show how the basic structure
of the immunological persists through different historical conditions,
as do its limits. Although Bolaño resolutely portrays modernity as
empty and intermittently horrifying—“an oasis of horror in a desert of
ERUHGRPȥȠDQGLWVVWUXFWXUHVDVEDVHGRQDFRQYHUVLRQRIDOWHULW\LQWR
immunological sovereignty—“[turning] the pain of others into one’s own
PHPRU\ȥȠKHDOVRUHSHDWHGO\UHWXUQVWRVLWHVRIDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDO
disruption. Most of these sites appear in relation to literature, art, and
philosophical thought, not as privileged or redemptive forms, but rather
as spaces that are capable of indicating the aporetic impossibilities and
impassibilities that constitute the condition of possibility for an alter-
immunological relationship to life and history.
7KHPDQLIROGVLJQLˋFDQFHRIWKHIURQWLHUVHWWLQJLVSULPDULO\UHFRXQWHG
WKURXJKWKHFKDUDFWHURI$PDOˋWDQRZKRUHFHQWO\PRYHGWRJHWKHUZLWK
his teenage daughter Rosa, to Santa Teresa from Barcelona, where he
had resided for decades after leaving his native Chile during Pinochet’s
GLFDWRUVKLS DWKLQO\YHLOHGUHYHUVDORI%ROD³RȢVRZQLWLQHUDU\ZKLFK
90 Witnessing beyond the Human

WRRNKLPIURP&KLOHWR0H[LFRWRDWRZQRXWVLGH%DUFHORQD $OWKRXJK
the ostensible reason for his move is a job in a philosophy department at
WKHORFDOXQLYHUVLW\KHVHHPVWRKDYHQRLGHDZK\KHLVWKHUHLWVHHPV
to be just one more place in a life constituted by displacement. In one
sense, the move seems to have been conceived as the attempt to take
control of such displacement, representing a personal-historical effort
to disengage with the past associated by the previous place, including
the memory of his Catalan wife, who lost her sanity and abandoned
her family when Rosa was a toddler. Her recent return and subsequent
GHSDUWXUHVHHPWRKDYHEHHQWKHFDWDO\VWIRU$PDOˋWDQRȢVGHFLVLRQWR
OHDYH6SDLQUHSUHVHQWLQJDˌLJKWIURPDFUD]\DQGDEDQGRQLQJZLIH
DQGPRWKHUHFKRLQJKLVHDUOLHUDWWHPSWWRˌHHDFUD]\DQGDEDQGRQLQJ
PRWKHUODQG1RWVXUSULVLQJO\WKLVDWWHPSWWRHVFDSHWKHSDVWEDFNˋUHV
DQGLQVWHDGRIDUULYLQJVDQHO\LQDVHFXUHDQGQXUWXULQJODQGKHˋQGV
himself in a desert border town characterized by violent abandonment,
traumatized by a series of inexplicably brutal murders of young women
of roughly the same age as his daughter, in which any semblance of
state-provided welfare or protection, any sense of the nation as home, is
ODFNLQJ(YHQWKHKDSOHVVSROLFHEHDUWKHQDPHVRIDEDQGRQHGFKLOGUHQ
-XDQGH'LRV2OHJDULR&XUD([SµVLWR  )RU$PDOˋWDQRWKLVVFHQHRI
exposure is experienced as a personal and psychic frontier as well as
one with historical and political implications. Against this background,
KLVMREDVSKLORVRSK\SURIHVVRUVHHPVHVSHFLDOO\VLJQLˋFDQWSRVLQJWKH
question to what extent he—and modernity in general—has arrived at
an epistemological limit.
7KHˋUVWGHVFULSWLRQVRI$PDOˋWDQRȢVQHZOLIHLQ0H[LFRVHHPWR
suggest that the setting of Santa Teresa represents if not an exhaustion,
then an extreme limit of knowledge, as represented by the academic
structure of the university. The university where he has arrived to work
is described as a ruin that does not acknowledge its ruined condition:
“The University of Santa Teresa was like a cemetery that suddenly
EHJLQVWRWKLQNLQYDLQȥ  2ULJLQDOO\XQLYHUVLWLHVZHUH
conceived as institutions dedicated to synthesizing diverse forms of
knowledge about the universe, with man as their solar center, both
subject and ultimate object of its versical investigations. (XURSHZDV
the geographical site of these establishments, and the humanities, and
SKLORVRSK\PRUHVSHFLˋFDOO\FRQVWLWXWHGWKHLULQVWLWXWLRQDOIRXQGDWLRQV
In Santa Teresa, on the peripheries of modernity, such universalist
structures seem out of place and on the verge of futility.
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 91

7KLVLPSUHVVLRQLVFRQˋUPHGZKHQ$PDOˋWDQRPHHWVWKHGHDQRI
SKLORVRSK\DQGOLWHUDWXUHZKROLNHVRPDQ\XQLYHUVLW\RIˋFLDOVWRGD\
YLHZVSKLORVRSK\ȠQRORQJHUH[FOXVLYHO\DQH[HUFLVHDIˋUPLQJPDQȢV
capacity for knowledge, but also naming different modes of inquiry
into the limits of such knowledge—as a particularly outmoded exercise
YLV¢YLVWKHTXDQWLˋDEOHDGYDQFHVRIVFLHQFHDQGWHFKQRORJ\+HFDOOV
philosophy “a discipline frankly on the decline in the face of the current
DQGIXWXUHPDUYHOVWKDWVFLHQFHKDVWRRIIHUȥ  +HFRQWUDVWVLW
however with an idiosyncratic understanding of the continued relevance
of literature and history: “literature does have a future, believe it or not,
and so does history . . . take biographies, there used to be almost no
supply or demand and today all anybody does is read them. Careful, I’m
talking about biographies, not autobiographies. People have a thirst to
OHDUQDERXWRWKHUOLYHVȥ  7KHKXPDQLWLHVLQLWLDOO\GHGLFDWHG
to determining humans’ place in the world as a means of understanding
the world,  are fundamentally surpassed by science and technology,
ZKRVHDFKLHYHPHQWVDUHPRUHHDVLO\WUDQVODWHGLQWRXWLOLW\DQGSURˋW
Philosophy, as a discipline oriented to considering the question of
NQRZOHGJHLWVHOI LQFOXLQJLWVSRVWXODWHVDJHQF\DFWLRQDQGWKHOLNH 
is caricatured as the nadir of such translation, whereas literature and
history are defended, somewhat feebly, as modes of production of
knowledge about human lives, packaged as consumable goods that
ˌRZDORQJVLGHVFLHQWLˋFDGYDQFHVDVSDUWRIWKHFDSLWDOLVWV\VWHP7KLV
assessment of the humanities as a factory for packaging up life and
history recalls the description, quoted previously, of the conversion of
the alterity of history into human-semblanced parcels: “It turned the
pain of others into one’s own memory. It turned pain, which is long
and natural and which always triumphs, into personal memory, which
is human and brief and which always escapes. It turned a barbaric story
of injustices and abuses, an incoherent howl with no beginning or end,
LQWRDQHDWO\VWUXFWXUHGKLVWRU\ȥ  
Later in the novel such a sense of conversion is associated with
aesthetic tropology, described in the context of the writer Archimboldi’s
post-war selection of his pseudonym. He chooses this name in relation
to the description of the Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe
Arcimboldo in the journal of a revolutionary Jewish-Russian refugee
named Boris Ansky. Ansky describes thoughts of Arcimboldo’s work
as providing mental relief from the escalating conditions of war. The
SDLQWHUȢVVW\OHLVEDVHGRQKXPDQˋJXUHVFRPSULVHGRIVWLOOOLIHREMHFWV
92 Witnessing beyond the Human

essentially producing a clever interiorization of the multiple, what


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VRPHRI$UFLPEROGRȢVSDLQWLQJVWREHKRUULˋFLQFOXGLQJRQHWLWOHGȤ7KH
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which upside down reveals a grimacing soldier, with startling—maybe
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LWVVPLOHDVLIKHNQHZWKLQJVDERXW\RXȥ %XWLQJHQHUDOKHUHJDUGV
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LQZKLFKSHUVRQLˋFDWLRQRYHUFRPHVWKHGLIIHUHQFHEHWZHHQDSSHDUDQFH
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ideal of human sovereignty that originated, in its modern state, in the
humanist undertakings of the Renaissance, including the consolidation
of knowledge in the university and of power in the nation state. Ansky
names Arcimboldo’s paintings of the four seasons as the epitome of
VXFKSHUVRQLˋFDWLRQVXJJHVWLQJWKDWWLPHLVRQHRIWKHPRUHLPSRUWDQW
things consumed by the trope of the human.
However, in spite of Ansky’s interpretation of Arcimboldo’s portraits
as a redemptive conversion of historical heterogeneity into a totalizing,
KXPDQLVWLFˋJXUHWKH\FDQDOVREHVDLGWRUHYHDOWKHOLPLWVDQGH[FHVVRI
VXFKˋJXUDWLRQH[HPSOLI\LQJ5HL7HUDGDȢVJORVVRQGH0DQȢVGHVFULSWLRQ
of prosopopoeia as ultimately catachrestic and hallucinatory: “We
cannot make sense, de Man suggests, without over-loading sense and
UHFUHDWLQJFKDRVȥ 7HUDGDGH0DQThe Resistance to Theory
 6XFKFKDRWLFRYHUORDGLQIRUPV$QVN\ȢVLQVFULSWLRQRIWKHSDLQWHUȢV
name as “Giuseppe or Joseph or Josepho or Josephus Arcimboldo or
$UFLPEROGLRU$UFLPEROGXVȥ  WKHPXOWLSOHYHUVLRQVLQGLFDWLQJ
the differential excess that underlies the arche indicated by his name.
Archimboldi’s adoption of yet another version of the painter’s name
as his literary pseudonym seems to acknowledge the tension between
VHQVHDQGFKDRVˋJXUHDQGGLVˋJXUDWLRQDVDQHOHPHQWLQWULQVLFWRKLV
taking up of writing.  Indeed his character is described as engaging
with the opposite of redemptive prosopopoeia even as an infant, in a
remarkable scene in which his parents—each of whom bears a kind of
ȤGLVˋJXUDWLRQȥKLVIDWKHUODFNLQJDOHJDQGKLVPRWKHUODFNLQJDQH\HȠ
ZDWFKKLPLQDNLQGRISULPDOVFHQHRIDEDQGRQPHQWˌRXQGHUKHOSOHVVO\
LQKLVEDWKZDWHU7KHVXEPHUJHGLQIDQWVWDUHVˋUVWDWKLVPRWKHUȢVVLQJOH
eye, and then turns over and “contemplated, very quietly, the fragments
of his body drift away in all directions, like space probes launched at
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 93

random across the universe. When he ran out of breath he stopped


watching the tiny particles as they got lost [que se perdían] and he began
WRIROORZWKHPȥ  
7KLVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHVXEDTXHRXVDQGLQIDQWLOH in-fansRUSUHYHUEDO 
contemplation of the dissolution of human figuration and familial
protection presents not only a striking contrast with Ansky’s description
of Arcimboldo’s portraits as personified plenitude, “everything in
HYHU\WKLQJȥ  EXWLWDOVRˋQGVDQHFKRLQWKHGHVFULSWLRQVRI
the literature he comes to write as an adult, as consisting of stories of
abandonment, monstrosity, and spectrality that are thrown together in
a boiling pot before disappearing completely, truncated narratives that
ȤGLGQȢWOHDGDQ\ZKHUHȥ ȤQROOHYDED>Q@DQLQJXQDSDUWHȥ 
Archimboldi’s writing, which begins amidst the ruins of the Second
World War, when any illusion of organic wholeness and domestic safety
KDGEHHQVKDWWHUHGE\WKHȤPXWHFDWDVWURSKHRIKLVWRU\ȥ 9LOODORERV
5XPLQRWWȤ$.LQGRI+HOOȥ DSSHDUVWRUHIOHFWRQWKHUHVXOWLQJ
fragments and discontinuities in a way similar to how he observed the
refraction of his own body as a baby. In both cases, life is presented not
DVDˋJXUHRISURVRSRSRHLFSUHVHUYDWLRQEXWDVDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDO
H[SRVXUHDQGH[SORUDWLRQDȤSHULORXVWUDYHUVLQJRIWKHOLPLWȥ 1DQF\
Experience [[ 
It does not require much imagination to see in this second-order
description of Archimboldi’s writing an oblique characterization of
Bolaño’s own style, especially in 2666. His writing is not unlike the
submerged infant, suspended between life and death, following the
UHIUDFWRU\IUDJPHQWVRIYDULRXVȤPXWHFDWDVWURSKH>V@ȥDVWKH\EOLQGO\
hurtle through the expanding repetitions of universal history. The
description of Archimboldi’s writing recalls, furthermore, Bolaño’s
reference to Kafka’s understanding of the relationship between writing
DQGVXUYLYDODWWKHHQGRIȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥDVȤSDWKV
that don’t lead anywhere, and that nevertheless . . . are paths one has
WRIROORZDQGORVHRQHVHOIRQVRDVWREHDEOHWRˋQGRQHVHOIDJDLQRU
WRILQGVRPHWKLQJȥ  $OWKRXJKVXFKDQDSSURDFKHVFKHZV
any redemptive or pragmatic resolution—maddeningly so, for some of
Bolaño’s readers—it performs the aporetic nature of possibility and the
potential for encounter beyond immunological enclosure.
5HWXUQLQJWR%ROD³RȢVRWKHUDOWHUHJR$PDOˋWDQR we see a similar
WHQVLRQEHWZHHQLPPXQRORJLFDOˋJXUDWLRQDQGLWVGLVUXSWLRQLQUHODWLRQ
to the nature of knowledge and the philosophical tradition, situated in
94 Witnessing beyond the Human

the border-town of Santa Teresa and all that it represents. Among the
SKLORVRSKHUVPHQWLRQHGLQȤ7KH3DUW$ERXW$PDOˋWDQRȥWKHGULYHWR
totalizing conversion is perhaps most peculiarly but paradigmatically
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the Middle Ages. Llull can be seen as one of the founding fathers of
the modern ideal of conversion, spanning both political-religious
SUDFWLFH KHSXUFKDVHGD0XVOLPVODYHWRWHDFKKLP$UDELFVRKHFRXOG
convert Muslims to Christianity, and he is considered a forerunner
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consisted of a combinatory graphic, known as a logic machine, which
combines different elements to show “all possible truth about a subject
RILQTXLU\ȥ$PDOˋWDQRUHFDOOV/OXOOLQUHODWLRQWRDVHULHVRIJUDSKLFV
that he draws subconsciously as he begins to lose his grip on reason
2666 +LVJUDSKLFVXQOLNH/OXOOȢVIDLOWR\LHOGDQ\XQLW\RIVHQVH
combining the names of philosophers with no apparent logic other
than subconscious association, once again recalling Bolaño’s reference
to paths that lead nowhere but provide the possibility of encounter,
suggesting an intrinsic difference between philosophy’s tendency toward
systematization and thought that perilously traverses the limits of the
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elements in such a way that stresses the tension between the creation
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VHQVHRIJURXQG arche ,QGHHGDVLIWRVWUHVVWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQ
philosophical calculation and prosopopoeic figuration, just before
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DIDFHDQGHUDVHGLWDQGWKHQLPPHUVHGKLPVHOI se ensimismó LQWKH
memory of the obliterated face [aquel rostro despedazado@ȥ ȟ
 /LNH$UFKLPEROGLKHFRQWHPSODWHVWKHIORDWLQJIUDJPHQWV RI
his philosophical heritage, as part of a broader attempt to come to
terms with the nature of life—as alter-immunological survival—on this
catastrophic limit of late modernity.
2QHRIWKHVHˌRDWLQJIUDJPHQWVUHLQFRUSRUDWHVLWVHOIVRWRVSHDN
and comes back to Amalfitano in the form of a disembodied voice.
Alongside the fact that the voice seems to be another symptom of a
developing psychosis, it reveals an internal dilemma over the nature
DQGVWDWHRINQRZOHGJHVSHFLˋFDOO\ZKHWKHURQWKLVJHRKLVWRULFDODQG
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 95

psychic frontier it is possible to know anything. The voice invokes the


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as a metaphor of conceptual understanding. In fact, both voice and
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human, hence although they are parts, they function as synecdoches
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$PDOˋWDQRȢVJUDQGIDWKHUZKLFKKHVXEVHTXHQWO\UHYLVHVWREHWKDWRI
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that invokes the patrilineal tradition of philosophy and questions
$PDOˋWDQRȢVJUDVSRIKLVGLVFLSOLQH
7KHYRLFHDVNV$PDOˋWDQR

You teach philosophy? . . . You teach Wittgenstein? . . . And have you


asked yourself whether your hand is a hand? . . . I’ve asked myself, said
$PDOˋWDQR%XWQRZ\RXKDYHPRUHLPSRUWDQWWKLQJVWRDVN\RXUVHOIDP
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nursery and buy seeds and plants and maybe even a little tree to plant in
the middle of your backyard? said the voice . . . And you’ve also thought
about your daughter, said the voice, and about the murders committed
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you haven’t thought seriously about whether your hand is really a hand.
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had thought about it, said the voice, you’d be dancing to a different tune
[otro pájaro te cantaría@ ȟ

The reference here is to Wittgenstein’s posthumously published book


On Certainty ZULWWHQRQKLVGHDWKEHG ZKLFKHQJDJHVZLWKWKHZRUN
RI%ULWLVKSKLORVRSKHU*(0RRUH:ULWLQJLQ0RRUHGHIHQGHG
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he argues that since he can see and feel his hands, and therefore
knows they exist, he knows that the world exists. His approach, which
he names commonsensical, assumes an organic unity between the
mind and sense perception, and concludes that knowledge is based on
ZKDWKHFDQVHHDQGIHHO %DOGZLQ:LWWJHQVWHLQQ 
Moore directed his theory against the tradition of philosophical
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limits of rationalism with the skeptical inquiry, “How can I deny that
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experiments with skepticism in an essay titled “How Can I Deny That
96 Witnessing beyond the Human

7KHVH+DQGVDQG7KLV%RG\$UH0LQH"ȥ$VVXJJHVWHGE\WKLVTXHVWLRQ
Descartes challenges himself to imagine that his sensory organs are
mere illusion, in part to repudiate through reason such an irrational
doubt, but also, as Butler reminds us, because “it is Descartes’s ultimate
project to understand himself as a soul, as a res cogitans and not as a
body . . . Thus, his effort to establish radical self-certainty as a rational
EHLQJOHDGVZLWKLQWKHWH[WWRDQLGHQWLˋFDWLRQZLWKWKHLUUDWLRQDOȥ
 'HVFDUWHVȢVH[SHULPHQWDWLRQLQWKLVIRXQGDWLRQDOWH[WRIPRGHUQ
WKRXJKWLVDFOHDUH[DPSOHRIZKDW'HUULGDFDOOVȤLQGHPQLˋFDWRU\RU
DXWRLPPXQLWDU\UHDFWLYLW\ȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥ EHFRPLQJLUUDWLRQDOLQRUGHU
WRFRQˋUPKLVUDWLRQDOLW\ Furthermore, although he questions whether
his body is synonymous with his sense of self, he takes its functions for
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generally associated with the hands, as concepts or words capable of
grasping or giving meaning, which are subordinated nonetheless to the
ostensible immediacy and corporeal centrality of the voice.
With the question of whether Amalfitano teaches Wittgenstein and
whether he has asked himself if his hand is a hand, the voice—which
lacks the figural integrity invoked by Moore—appears to confuse
Wittgenstein’s questioning of Moore’s immunological certainty with
a Cartesian sense of indemnificatory reactivity. The voice directs
Amalfitano to calm down, since “calm is the one thing that is
LQFDSDEOHRIEHWUD\LQJXVȥ  &ODULI\LQJZKDWKHPHDQVE\
calmness, the paternalistic voice urges Amalfitano to ignore what
lies outside of his control, including both the aural intrusion and the
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specifically, to wash the dishes and then “check that all the doors
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UHLWHUDWHVWKH&DQGLGHOLNHUHIHUHQFHWRJDUGHQLQJ ȤZK\QRWJRWR
a nursery and buy seeds and plants and maybe even a little tree to
SODQWLQWKHPLGGOHRI\RXUEDFN\DUG"ȥ EXWZLWKDVWURQJHU
emphasis on the immunological space of the house and the role of
pater familias. Although the admonition to do something useful
implies the use of hands, such use is fully subordinate to paternalistic
authority and a restricted domestic economy. However, the voice
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else, including physical materiality and presumptive vehicles of
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and capable of betrayal.
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 97

$PDOILWDQRDVNVGXELRXVO\ȤHYHU\WKLQJ"ȥDQGWKHYRLFHDVVHQWV
$PDOˋWDQRLQVLVWVȤ(WKLFVEHWUD\VXV"7KHVHQVHRIGXW\EHWUD\VXV"
&XULRVLW\EHWUD\VXV"/RYHEHWUD\VXV"9DOXHYDORU valor EHWUD\VXV"
Art betrays us? Well yes, said the voice, everything, everything betrays
XVȥ  ,WFRQWLQXHVȤ7KHUHLVQRIULHQGVKLSWKHUHLV
no love, there is no epic, there is no lyric poetry that isn’t a gurgle or
chuckle of egoists, murmur of cheats, babble of traitors, burble of social
FOLPEHUVZDUEOHRIIDJJRWVȥ Ȥ1RKD\DPLVWDGQRKD\DPRUQRKD\
«SLFDQRKD\SRHV¯DO¯ULFDTXHQRVHDXQJRUJRWHRRXQJRUMHRGHHJR¯VWDV
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$PDOˋWDQRȢVFHUWDLQW\DERXWKLVKDQGWKLVOLWDQ\RIDVVHUWLRQVLPSOLHV
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well as epistemological, is unreliable, elusive and illusive, and ultimately
nothing but noise, an inhuman, inarticulate noise like the chirping of a
bird, or the gurgling of a throat on the verge of death.
$PDOˋWDQRUHMHFWVWKHYRLFHȢVDOOHJDWLRQVXWWHULQJDVKDUSȤ1Rȥ 
 $OWKRXJKKHGRHVQRWHODERUDWHDWOHDVWDWWKLVSRLQW it is possible
to interpret the force of his negation as a telegraphic protest that he
has in fact read Wittgenstein—whom Bolaño elsewhere calls “greatest
SKLORVRSKHURIWKHWZHQWLHWKFHQWXU\ȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVVȥ Ƞ
and that he has understood him as saying something very different
from what the voice implies. In On Certainty, Wittgenstein rejects the
Moorean certainty of the hand syllogism, in which showing and saying
are presumed to join together in the same structure of commonsense
or knowledge, but, contrary to the voice’s implications, he does so not
WRVXJJHVWWKDWQRNQRZOHGJHLVSRVVLEOHQRUWRDIˋUPWKHVXSHULRULW\
of the questioner who questions everything except the authority of the
question. Rather, he does so, as he does throughout his work, in order
to consider the relationship between knowing, showing, and saying.
Beginning with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, he focuses on the
limit between what can be said and what can be shown, what Pablo
2\DU]¼QJORVVHVDVWKHLGHDȤWKDWWKHWUXWKRIWKHUHDOLVXQVD\DEOHȥ
and therefore resists metaphysical doctrine, understood as the idea that
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work, Wittgenstein examines this limit not in relation to a transcendent
notion of language, but in relation to how things are said and how this
VD\LQJSHUIRUPVLWVRZQˋQLWXGHLQZKDWKHIDPRXVO\FDOOHGODQJXDJH
98 Witnessing beyond the Human

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RIOLIHȥ -HDQ)UDQ©RLV/\RWDUGVWUHVVHVWKHVHULRXVQHVVRIWKHVHȤJDPHVȥ
“You don’t play around with language. And in this sense, there are no
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Differend: Phrases in Dispute 7KHZD\ZHVD\WKLQJVWKHJHQUHVWKDW
structure discourse, vary endlessly, but they are generally oriented to
saying what they can say, rather than acknowledging their limits—what
Lyotard designates with the term differend, the sense that there is an
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Although Wittgenstein does not have a corresponding term for what
lies outside of language games or generic phrasings, the fact of such
a remainder is a constant concern of his thought. In On Certainty,
he grapples with propositions that assert a correspondence between
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H[LVWVȥ H[DPLQLQJERWKWKHGLIIHUHQWIDFHWVRIWKHSKUDVLQJRINQRZOHGJH
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hands, are they really mine, does my intuition of the object correspond
to knowledge, that is, is the real really sayable? Does my intuition
FRQVWLWXWHDȤSURSHUJURXQGȥIRUNQRZOHGJH">:LWWJHQVWHLQSDUD@ 
This method of investigation is distinct from skepticism in that it does
not cast doubt on the relationship between knowing and being, but rather
teases out its multiple disjunctions, illustrated by the metaphor of a river
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 2\DU]¼QSXVKLQJDWWKHFKDUDFWHUL]DWLRQRI:LWWJHQVHWLQȢVZRUN
as logical empiricism, calls this method a radical form of empiricism,
which recalls Nancy’s description of a perilous traversing, an exposure
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2\DU]¼QȤ7HRU¯D\HMHPSORȥ1DQF\ Experience[[ 
Amalfitano’s staccato rejection of the voice’s assertions can be
seen as stemming from his familiarity with this radical dimension of
Wittgenstein’s work. The voice’s question about his hand concerns a
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certain, except that very fact, and in that not-knowing we are either
FUHDWXUHO\OLPLWHGWRXWWHUDQFHZLWKRXWPHDQLQJ gorgoteo, gorjeo,
gorgorito RUZHFDQF\QLFDOO\GHGLFDWHRXUVHOYHVWRRUGHULQJRXUKRXVH
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 99

taking care of what is ours, and leaving all the rest to its own senseless
VSXWWHULQJ$PDOˋWDQRUHMHFWVWKLVLGHD DOWKRXJKLWDOVRDSSHDUVWRFRPH
from within, from an impulse toward self-interest, as well as from the
SDWULOLQHDOWUDGLWLRQLQZKLFKKHLVWUDLQHG DFNQRZOHGJLQJWKDWZKLOH
the question of what it means to know anything, especially on this
psychic and historico-political frontier, is very much in question, such
questioning does not absolve us of trying to understand, of traversing
WKHOLPLWVRIXQGHUVWDQGLQJHYHQDWRXURZQSHULO(YHQZKHQZHUHWUHDW
into defensive structures such as a domestic economy, or the analogous
Candide-like cultivation of academic knowledge, we are structurally
exposed to what knowledge cannot domesticate. In this sense, the
ȤJHQUHVȥWKDWWKHYRLFHGLVSDUDJHVLQFOXGLQJDUWSRHWU\DQGHYHQORYH
and ethical obligation, can be seen not only as hands that cannot grasp
WKHLUREMHFWVEXWDVEXFFDORSHQLQJV gorgoteoHWF to what they cannot
ȤSUHVHQWO\SKUDVHȥ /\RWDUGDifferend  
Contrary to such buccality, and against the backdrop of the brutal
effects of the economies of late modernity, two other scenes in the novel
IHDWXUHWKHˋJXUHRIWKHKDQGLQUHODWLRQWRWKHVWUXFWXUHRIFDSLWDOLVP,Q
one, we are presented again with the familiar strawman of avant-garde
DHVWKHWLFVLQWKHˋJXUHRI(GZLQ-RKQVDQDUWLVWNQRZQSULPDULO\IRUD
SLHFHWKDWLVWRXWHGDVȤWKHPRVWUDGLFDOVHOISRUWUDLWRIRXUWLPHȥ 2666,
 7KHSLHFHFRQVLVWVRIȤDQHOOLSVLVRIVHOISRUWUDLWVVRPHWLPHV
a spiral of self portraits . . . in the center of which hung the painter’s
PXPPLˋHGULJKWKDQGȥ  6XFKDSLHFHUHSUHVHQWVDQRSSRVLWH
H[WUHPHIURPERWKSKLORVRSKLFDOGHWHUPLQDWLRQVRIWKHKDQGDVDWRRO IRU
HLWKHUFRQFHSWXDOXQGHUVWDQGLQJRULQGHPQLˋFDWRU\SUDJPDWLVP DQGWKH
totalizing aesthetic represented by Ansky’s idealization of Arcimboldo’s
SRUWUDLWV5DWKHUWKDQSUHKHQVLOLW\RUȤHYHU\WKLQJLQHYHU\WKLQJȥ 
 ZHKDYHDVHYHUHGKDQGDWWKHFHQWHURIDQXQVWDEOHYRUWH[RIVHOI
representation. Nevertheless, the ellipses seem to suture or frame the
relationship between the part and the whole more than indicate their
incommensurability. Recalling the explanation in “Literature + Illness =
,OOQHVVȥ-RKQVȢVVHOISRUWUDLWVHHPVWRGHSLFWDQLGHQWLW\PRUHLQOLQHZLWK
Baudelaire—self as the unshakable frame of the turbulent voyage—than
0DOODUP«ȠYR\DJHDVH[SRVXUHWRWKHDE\VVRISRVVLELOLW\
The relationship between the ellipses and the hand echoes the
relationship between the self-portrait and the other paintings in
Johns’s exhibition. The others are renderings of an area of London
100 Witnessing beyond the Human

characterized by emptiness, having undergone a process of conversion


similar but inverse to the conversions described above: “The pain,
or the memory of the pain, that here was literally sucked away by
VRPHWKLQJQDPHOHVVXQWLOLWWXUQHGWKURXJKWKDWSURFHVVLQWRDYRLGȥ
Ȥ(OGRORURHOUHFXHUGRGHOGRORUTXHHQHVHEDUULRHUDOLWHUDOPHQWH
chupado por algo sin nombre y que se convertía, tras este proceso,
HQYDF¯Rȥ 7KHVHSDLQWLQJVRIYDFXLW\UHFHLYHOLWWOHFULWLFDO
attention, while the self-portrait launches Johns into instant celebrity:
a piece that might be seen as suggesting a similar emptying out of the
self is transformed into artistic presence and renown. Once again we
see the avant-garde gesture of rupture of the whole associated with a
recuperation of sovereignty and an economics of compensation. Such
a conversion of nothingness into something is not only a formal effect
of his art, but reportedly constitutes Johns’s primary motivation, as
explained in a whisper to a curious critic who asks him why he cut off
KLVKDQGȤ)RUPRQH\%HFDXVHKHEHOLHYHGLQLQYHVWPHQWVWKHˌRZ
RIFDSLWDOQRLQYHVWPHQWQRJDLQWKDWNLQGRIWKLQJȥ  7KHˋQDO
PHQWLRQRI-RKQVVHHPVWRFRQˋUPWKHVXFFHVVRIWKLVLQYHVWPHQWQRW
RQO\KLVHVWDEOLVKHGUHSXWDWLRQDQGZHDOWK KLVSDLQWLQJVDUHVDLGWR
KDYHH[RUELWDQWSULFHV EXWDOVRLQWKHGHVFULSWLRQRIDFRPPHPRUDWLYH
poster after his death as an Arcimboldo-like conversion. In this poster,
the severed hand, like the meat in The Roast, is turned neatly into an
LQWHJUDOˋJXUHDFRPSOHWHGUHSUHVHQWDWLRQRIOLIHWKDWZRXOGVDWLVI\
the university dean’s zeal for biographies. Standing before celebratory
trays of champagne and wine is “the poster for the show . . . a poster
that showed the painting with the severed hand, Johns’s masterpiece,
DQGLQZKLWHQXPHUDOVJDYHKLVGDWHVRIELUWKDQGGHDWKȥ  
In the passages dedicated to Johns and the disembodied voice
WKH ILJXUH RI WKH KDQG LV ERWK GHVWUR\HG RU UDGLFDOO\ LPSXJQHG 
and preserved, a process that results in the acquisition of capital,
understood as bot h head and logos, in addition to t he more
common sense of financial wealth. This process, which evokes the
devastation of manual labor in the pursuit of profit exemplified by
the border town of Santa Teresa, is also the subject of a delirious
dream Amalfitano has at the end of his chapter. In the dream, Boris
Yeltsin, the president that oversaw Russia’s transition from a socialist
to a capitalist economy, waxes poetic in an apocalyptic landscape. He
addresses Amalfitano chummily and explains:
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 101

what the third leg of the human table is . . . Life is demand and supply,
or supply and demand, that’s what it all boils down to, but you can’t live
with just that. A third leg is needed to keep the table from collapsing into
the garbage pit of history, which in turn is permanently collapsing into
WKHJDUEDJHSLWRIWKHYRLG los basurales del vacío 6RWDNHQRWH7KLVLV
WKHHTXDWLRQVXSSO\GHPDQGPDJLF 

He then shows Amalfitano his hand that lacks several fingers and
downs a shot of vodka. The dream includes a number of overlapping
allusions to body parts and the economy. The reference to the legs of
the human table evokes Marx’s description of the dancing table, in
which he suggests that commodities are imbued with a kind of life
that is not only analogous to but may even surpass that of humans
0DU[ ,WDOVREULQJVWRPLQGWKH6SKLQ[ȢVULGGOHUHJDUGLQJWKH
ages of Man, in which humans walk successively on four, two, and
three legs, with the third leg being a prosthesis that compensates
IRUKXPDQLQˋUPLW\ 6RSKRFOHVQ )LQDOO\LWDSSHDUVWRUHIHUWRD
short essay by Virgilio Piñera on the Marquis de Sade in which he
describes the dark impulses challenging humanistic normativity as
RQHRIWKHOHJVRIWKHȤKXPDQWDEOHȥ 3L³HUD  The assertion that
KXPDQOLIHFRQVLVWVRIȤVXSSO\GHPDQGPDJLFȥHYRNHVIXUWKHUPRUH
$GDP 6PLWKȢV ILJXUH RI DQ LQYLVLEOH KDQG WKDW PDJLFDOO\  FUHDWHV
VRFLDOEHQHILWRXWRIFDSLWDOLVWLFVHOILQWHUHVW 6PLWK 7RJHWKHU
with the other allusions, the association between Smith’s metaphor
DQG<HOWVLQȢVDPSXWDWHGˋQJHUVVXJJHVWVQRWRQO\WKDWFDSLWDOLVPLV
more ferocious than Smith ever imagined, but also that it involves a
certain autoimmune reactivity that destroys components of human
life in order to preserve and promote an epic economy that takes on a
life of its own even while leaving death and devastation in its wake,
H[HPSOLˋHGLQWKLVERRNE\WKHPXWLODWHGERGLHVRIZRPHQGLVFDUGHG
in the basurales of the free-trade zone of Santa Teresa.
The passages involving the figure of the hand, including that of
the disembodied voice, Johns’s self-portrait, and Amalfitano’s dream
about Yeltsin, all concern related forms of grasping, in which the
acquisition of wealth and immunological protection are purchased at
WKHH[SHQVHRIWKHȤWKHSDLQRIRWKHUVȥand the alterity that inflicts
HYHU\LPPXQRORJLFDOVWUXFWXUH ȤSDLQZKLFKLVORQJDQGQDWXUDODQG
ZKLFKDOZD\VWULXPSKVȥ2666,  $OWKRXJK$PDOILWDQRGRHV
102 Witnessing beyond the Human

not elaborate his resistance to the voice’s patriarchal authority, and


is constrained to an oneiric passivity in his dream, elsewhere in the
chapter he performs an action that contrasts with such grasping.
The description of conversion that I have quoted numerous times in
the preceding pages—conversion of the pain of others into personal,
human memory, of chaos into order, of “a barbaric story of injustices
and abuses, an incoherent howl with no beginning or end, into a
QHDWO\VWUXFWXUHGKLVWRU\ȥ 2666,  ȠDSSHDUVLQDVHHPLQJO\
inconsequential context a propos of what Amalfitano calls “make-
EHOLHYHLGHDVȥ ideas-juego LQZKLFKKHSOD\VZLWKWKHWKRXJKWWKDW
different time zones do not exist simultaneously, that they come to
life when one arrives and go into a kind of suspension when one leaves.
Although the context is merely an idle contemplation of the oddness of
space and time vis-à-vis the experience of travel, the striking nature of
the description suggests that its importance far exceeds its ludic source,
and concerns the crucial relationship between alterity and the grasping
conversions of sovereign subjectivity—a relationship, as “Literature +
,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥVXJJHVWVWKDWFDQEHLQWHQVLˋHGWKURXJKGLIIHUHQW
forms of travel.
$PDOˋWDQRȢVPRYHWR6DQWD7HUHVDLVRQHVXFKLQVWDQFHZKLFKWDNHV
KLPWRDQH[WUHPHOLPLWZKHUHDQȤLQFRKHUHQWKRZOȥȠHPLWWLQJIURP
both the personal and the socio-historical realms—resists subjective
conversion. This resistance acquires a certain legibility while he is
unpacking the books he had shipped from Barcelona and discovers a
book he does not remember having seen before. The discovery unsettles
him, as if it were a hrönir-like symptom of the necessarily incomplete
process of conversion, an extra appendage that disturbs his prehensile
sense of self.
The book is titled Testamento geométrico and was written by Rafael
Dieste, a Galician poet, dramatist, and mathematician. It compares
(XFOLGHDQJHRPHWU\WRQRQ(XFOLGHDQJHRPHWU\HVSHFLDOO\WKHZRUN
of Nicolai Lobachevsky and Bernhard Riemann, who are perhaps
EHVWNQRZQIRUFRQWHVWLQJ(XFOLGȢVILIWKSRVWXODWHZKLFKVWDWHVWKDW
“for any given line and point not on the line, there is one parallel
OLQH WKURXJK WKH SRLQW QRW LQWHUVHFWLQJ WKH OLQHȥ Lobachevsky
DQG 5LHPDQQ GLYHUJH IURP (XFOLGLDQ JHRPHWU \ȢV OLPLWDWLRQ WR D
two-dimensional plane by considering space as cur ved, either
K\SHUEROLFDOO\ RU RXWZDUG /REDFKHYVN\  RU HOOLSWLFDOO\ RU LQZDUG
5LHPDQQ  5DWKHU WKDQ WKH VLQJOH SRVVLEOH SDUDOOHO GHVFULEHG E\
Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity 103

(XFOLGLQK\SHUEROLFJHRPHWU\WKHUHLVDQLQILQLWHQXPEHURISDUDOOHOV
possible for any given point, and in elliptical geometry there are no
parallels possible, since every line intersects every other line.
7KHUHIHUHQFHWRQRQ(XFOLGHDQJHRPHWU\UHFDOOV:DOWHU%HQMDPLQȢV
invocation of Riemann in his discussion of Brecht. Samuel Weber
brings this to our attention in Benjamin’s –abilities, in which he glosses
Benjamin’s interpretation of the key function of Brecht’s epic theater as
a citational form of gesture that indicates the convergence of actuality
DQGYLUWXDOLW\&RPSDULQJWUDGLWLRQDOWKHDWHUWR(XFOLGHDQJHRPHWU\
LQZKLFKWKH$ULVWRWHOLDQLGHDOVRIXQLˋHGDFWLRQDQGDFDWKDUWLFHQG
WDNHSODFHLQDVSDFHWKDWLVXQGHUVWRRGWREHȤKRPRJHQHRXVȥDQG
ȤHPSW\ȥ%UHFKWȢVGUDPDVDUHFKDUDFWHUL]HGE\DȤFXUYHG5LHPDQQLDQ
VSDFHGHˋQHGDQGSXQFWXDWHGE\WKRVHLQWHUUXSWLRQVRIFRQWLQXLW\WKDW
Benjamin calls Zustände, di-stances that gesticulate and whose being
here and now is determined by their virtual capacity to be there and thenȥ
:HEHUȟ 
Re-enacting an artistic action by Marcel Duchamp, Amalfitano
hangs Dieste’s book on the clothesline in his backyard, an emblematic
line of domestic economy on which our prosopopoeic garments are
renewed.  The suspension of Dieste’s book from this line, alongside
such garments, constitutes a citational gesture toward the limits of
the immunological to the Zustände that both traverse and surround
them. Such a traversal is anthropomorphized in the figure of the wind,
which is described as blowing over the dead bodies of the murdered
women and the prosopopoeic catachresis of the desert landscape
ȤOD IDOGD GH ODV PRQWD³DV GHO HVWHȥ  WRXVOLQJ WKH FORWKHV RQ WKH
clothesline as though trying them on, and ruffling through the pages
RI'LHVWHȢVERRNDVWKRXJKORRNLQJIRUDQH[SODQDWLRQIRULWDOO ȤDOJR
TXHOHH[SOLFDUDȥȟ 7KHZLQGLVQRWDEDGPHWDSKRU
for thinking the traversals and intersections of immunological
structures, although it necessarily blows apart its very figuration,
along with the ideal of conceptual comprehension or other forms of
grasping. It is like the currents and ripples that seem to disperse the
parts of Archimboldi’s body as an infant, an effect that he recreated
DVDQDGXOWLQQDUUDWLYHVWKDWȤGLGQȢWOHDGDQ\ZKHUHȥ  D
buccal opening of internalizing figuration which, like Kafka’s aimless
paths, constitutes the condition of possibility of encounter. The
JHVWXUHWRWKHSDUDOOHOVDQGLQWHUVHFWLRQVRISRVW(XFOLGHDQJHRPHWU\
extends this association between disarticulation and encounter, self
104 Witnessing beyond the Human

DQGRWKHU$VWKHGHQWLVWVD\VLQȤ'HQWLVWȥZHDUHQHYHUDORQHEXWDUH
always exposed to di-stance and difference, which includes the long
history of pain and the experience of finitude. Amalfitano’s hanging
of Dieste’s book can be seen as a gestural citation of Bolaño’s own
citational gestures to the alter-immunological di-stances that traverse
and puncture the immunological structures and ostensibly seamless
expanses of late modernity. 
Q 4 Q
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture
of the Human
(XJHQLR'LWWERUQȢV3KRWRFROODJHV

([KXPDWLRQZLOOSURGXFHDGHˋQLWLYHGLVDSSHDUDQFH
—Willy Thayer

All that heavy and pathetic humanity remains suspended . . .


—Pablo Oyarzún

I invented these folded paintings to get out from this place, to be in the
world. . . . They are like messages in a bottle.
Ƞ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ

Nelly Richard describes how the legacy of the Chilean dictatorship is


perhaps best conveyed by the image of the unburied remains of the
desaparecidos—“The image of their unfound and unburied remains
VLQKDOODUVLQVHSXOWDU ȥ La insubordinación de los signos 7KLV
is because the desaparecidos represent a challenge to humanist
PRGDOLWLHV RI UHSUHVHQWDWLRQ DQG HPSODFHPHQW KRZ KXPDQ  OLIH
and death are situated in understanding and thereby contained. The
imposed placelessness of the desaparecidos is on the one hand an
extreme instance of emplacement, a condition of subjugation and
sacrifice to the despotic conception of the patria. The remnants
of the sacrifice, however, remain at large, without sepulture. This
emplacement that ends in placelessness can be countered by trying to
ˋQGWKHPDSODFHDȤ$FDSLWDOL]HG1DPHLQZKLFKWRUHVWȥ 0DUFKDQW
Ȥ$PRU GH OD IRWRȥ  1 Or the placelessness can be acknowledged,

105
along with the unresolvable tensions it evokes, including “recuerdo
\ROYLGRODWHQFLD\PXHUWHUHYHODFLµQ\RFXOWDPLHQWRSUXHED\
GHQHJDFLµQVXVWUDFFLµQ\UHVWLWXFLµQȥ Insubordinación  
This chapter considers the ways in which humanist emplacement
is challenged in visual representation, primarily photography and the
SKRWRFROODJHVRI(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ5LFKDUGDORQJZLWKDQXPEHURI
other critics, notes that photography became a privileged medium to
DGGUHVVWKHLVVXHRIGLVDSSHDUDQFHGXULQJWKHVDQGJDOYDQL]HG
debates about the nature of representation among artists and thinkers
GXULQJWKHGLFWDWRUVKLS Insubordinación  2QWKHRQHKDQGSKRWRJ-
raphy served an important documentary function, revealing the effects
of clandestine violence in opposition to the dictatorship’s sanitized
accounts of social order and economic progress. As important as this
visual activism was, it often overlooked epistemological tensions in the
LQWHUHVWRISROLWLFDOHIˋFDF\DIˋUPLQJSKRWRJUDSK\ȢVFDSDFLWLHVIRUUHYH-
lation, proof, and restitution, its frame serving as a humanistic home

Figure 4.1: (XJHQLR 'LWWERUQ The 6th History of the Human Face (Black and Red
Camino), Airmail Painting No. 70  3KRWR VLONVFUHHQ RQ WHQ VHFWLRQV RI
QRQZRYHQIDEULF[LQFKHV,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI$OH[DQGHUDQG%RQLQ1HZ<RUN
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 107

for the “memory and forgetting, latency and death, . . . revelation and
FRQFHDOPHQWSURRIDQGGHQLDOHOLPLQDWLRQDQGUHVWLWXWLRQȥLQZKLFK
'LWWERUQˋJXUHGSURPLQHQWO\SUREHGWKHHSLVWHPRORJLFDODQGHWKLFDO
complexities of photographic representation, resisting the sense of
it as a site of revelation and recuperation of what was destroyed and
EXULHGE\WKHGLFWDWRUVKLS5LFKDUGDIˋUPVWKDWWKLVLQWHUURJDWLRQZDV
FRQFHUQHGZLWKDVHQVHRIȤKLVWRULFDOPRXUQLQJȥXQGHUVWRRGQRWRQO\
as a relationship to the past or to individual deaths and disappearances,
but to totalizing paradigms of history, truth, and national or ideological
FRPPRQDOLW\ Insubordinación  2 She describes this work of mourning
as an unending and inconclusive acknowledgment of the present’s
YXOQHUDELOLW\WRDOOWKDWGRHVQRWˋWLQWRDQLQWHJUDOVHQVHRIQDWLRQDO
presence. In what follows I will explore this sense of historical mourning,
VWUHVVLQJLWVHQJDJHPHQWZLWKWKHKLVWRULFDORUˋQLWHQDWXUHRIHYHU\
relationship, including, quintessentially, the relationships between self
DQGRWKHUDQG SULRU SUHVHQFHDQGUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ

Figure 4.1 (continued)


108 Witnessing beyond the Human

Beginning in earnest in the first decade after Chile’s coup d’etat


LQ  DQG UHVSRQGLQJ WKRXJK QHYHU GLUHFWO\ WR WKH FRQGLWLRQ
of the desaparecidos, Dittborn interrogates tropes of emplacement
throughout his work. He focuses on two predominant tropes, face
and place, which together form the basis of the most pervasive trope
of emplacement, the human. He performs what Sergio Villalobos-
5XPLQRWWIROORZLQJ'HUULGDFDOOVDȤGHVLVWHQFHȥRUFULWLTXHRIVRPH
of the metaphysical assumptions underlying these tropes, which
form part of “the complex complicity between political functionality
DQGFRQWHPSRUDU\DHVWKHWLFVȥ Soberanías en suspenso: Imaginación y
violencia en América Latina 3ULPDU\DPRQJWKHVHDVVXPSWLRQV
LQFOXGHWKHVHQVHRISODFHDVDJURXQGRUJXDUDQWHHRISUHVHQFH RU
DEVHQFHXQGHUVWRRGDVSUHVHQFHHOVHZKHUH DQGWKHIDFHDVDVLJQLILHU
of the presence and communicability of the self. In addition to other
registers of place and presence—individual identity, region or country,
place in society—the human functions as a synthetic site, an ultimate
ȤXQIRXQGDQGXQEXULHGUHPDLQVȥ
As we saw at the beginning of this book, in the caption of his Pietá—
ȤFDSLWDOL]HG1DPHLQZKLFKWRUHVWȥȠ'LWWERUQFRQVLGHUVWKHKXPDQDV
DVLWHRIVHSXOWXUHGLVJXLVHGDVVDOYDWLRQ ˋJXUH, 7KLVDVVRFLDWLRQ
UHVRQDWHVZLWK'HUULGDȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHȤDQWKURSRWKHRORJLFDOȥ
which names an immunological securing of the place of human life,
supported on the one hand by a perceived correspondence between
PDQDQGJRGDQGRQWKHRWKHUE\DVDFULˋFLDOORJLFWKDWPDLQWDLQV
immunological safety by excluding and dominating apparent threats
to that safety, often performed through symbolic and discursive acts of
ingestion or internalization that bring their objects into the economy
of the semblable.
In his photocollages, Dittborn explores the thresholds of the
anthropo-theological emplacement of the human, seeking, as Patricio
0DUFKDQWPLJKWSXWLWDOWHUQDWHȤQDPHVLQZKLFKWRGZHOOȥ Ȥ$PRUGH
ODIRWRȥ   He interrogates the specular relationship between self
and other and a strict opposition between revelation and concealment,
indicating how exhumation of the other in the space of the image is
often a form of interment. Beyond such forms of emplacement, he
gestures toward a spacing that disrupts any symbolic incorporation
of the other and marks the possibility of a taking-place of life beyond
the anthropo-theological. Derrida describes such a spacing as neither
presence nor absence, but, preceding every place, a space of openness
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 109

toward the other, a registering of the other’s demands, a stance of


UHFHSWLYLW\WKDWLVQHYHUUHVROYHGRUIXOˋOOHGLWLVDOZD\VWKHUHDQG
\HWFDQEHH[SHULHQFHGRQO\ˌHHWLQJO\OLNHWKHLQGHFLVLRQWKDWKDXQWV
every decision. Of particular relevance for Dittborn’s visual art, Derrida
considers how this spacing occurs in the register of the visible through
an unresolvable suspension between revelation and revealability, in
ZKLFKWKHIRUPHULVXQGHUVWRRGDVD &KULVWLDQPHWDSK\VLFDO XQYHLOLQJ
RIWUXWKDQGWKHODWWHUDQ RQWRSRHWLF SRWHQWLDOIRUGLVFHUQLQJWKH
unconcealment of being.  An aporetic suspension of these ideals does
not mean that we are condemned to blindness, but rather that revelation
LVQHYHURQWRWKHRORJLFDOIXOˋOOPHQWHYHU\DSSHDUDQFHEHLQJPDUNHG
by an “impassible . . . restance,ȥH[SRVHGWRȤDQXWWHUO\IDFHOHVVRWKHUȥ
Ȥ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥ 
In the first section my discussion travels, like Dittborn’s work,
through different critical geographies, resisting any sense of a purely
QDWLRQDO RU SXUHO\ H[WUDQDWLRQDO KRUL]RQ KHUH , DP WKLQNLQJ RI
certain tendencies within what is known as Latin Americanism, on
WKHRQHKDQGDQG&KLOHDQDHVWKHWLFWKRXJKWRQWKHRWKHU ,EHJLQ
with Rosalind Krauss’s consideration of an artistic shift in the relation
WRSKRWRJUDSK\LQWKHVFRQFHUQLQJWKHQDWXUHRIWKHLQGH[D
notion that has been central to photographic theory throughout
its history. Krauss’s discussion provides an opportunity to rethink
the debates about photographic indexicality—basically, the way
photographs gesture to the real—which range from banal observations
about its impossibility and fervent affirmations of its obsolescence,
to thoughtful reconsiderations of its nature, even in relation to
a text widely considered to be foundational for its understanding,
Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. I stress that such a reconsideration
of indexicality, as opposed to claims that we have entered a post-
indexical age, concerns a potential site of exposure to and encounter
with the unknowability of the other, an exposure that Barthes and
Derrida respectively call advenience and invention, involving an
openness to what may come beyond any presumed integrity of the
self or the present.
)URPWKHVH1RUWK$PHULFDQDQG(XURSHDQWKHRUHWLFDOFRQVLGHUDWLRQV
of the photographic index as a site of invention or advenience of the other,
I turn to Chilean critical considerations of photography in relation to the
Avanzada, its inventions and advenimientos, critical as well as artistic.
Central to this discussion is a debate about the nature of artistic rupture
110 Witnessing beyond the Human

and the extent to which it can or cannot be situated institutionally and


politically, or alternately its transitory suspension and spacing of such
geographies, a spacing that marks the possibility of the advenience of
the other. I conclude this section with a consideration of such spacing
in relation to the structures of montage and history.
In the second section of the chapter I turn to Dittborn’s work, as
neither a primary ground nor a derivative expression of the ideas
GLVFXVVHGLQWKHˋUVWVHFWLRQEXWUDWKHUDVDQDUWLVWLFLQWHUYHQWLRQ
into questions of the relationship between representation and relation,
through a recurrent interrogation of tropes of emplacement, including
SULPDULO\WKHˋJXUHRIWKHKXPDQDQGVLWHVRIDQWKURSRWKHRORJLFDO
containment. I begin with an examination of several pieces from his
early series Final de pista  LQZKLFKKHH[SORUHVWKHDQWKURSR
WKHRORJLFDOVWUXFWXUHRIWKHKXPDQDVDVSRUWRUJDPHFRQˋQHGWRD
WUDFN pista UHSUHVHQWHGLQWKHVSDFHRIWKHYLVXDOLPDJH'HˋQLQJ
this structure of the human as a kind of sepulture, he nevertheless
indicates ways in which this sepulture is disrupted and held open to
the unknowable alterity of life and history. This desistence and excess
of place is further developed in the later Pinturas Aeropostales Airmail
Paintings  ȟSUHVHQW ZKLFKFRQVLVWRIFROODJHZRUNVRQFUDIWSDSHU
folded into envelopes and sent to different points around the globe.
As my second epigraph indicates, a primary concern of these kinetic
pieces is the tension between places, including the place of the face—
almost all of the Pinturas Aeropostales feature anonymous portraits,
and a considerable number are grouped under the title Historia del
rostro humano History of the Human Face ȠDQGWKHZRUOGZKLFKFDQEH
thought of as a spacing that both precedes and exceeds every place and
constitutes the condition of possibility of openly addressing the other.

The Image of Disappearance: Rethinking the Photographic Index

The Avanzada’s experiments with photography coincided with an


international shift in the approach to photography’s representational
TXDOLWLHVLQWKHV5RVDOLQG.UDXVVGHVFULEHVWKLVFKDQJHLQKHU
LQˌXHQWLDOHVVD\Ȥ1RWHVRQWKH,QGH[6HYHQWLHV$UWLQ$PHULFDȥLQ
which she describes a pervasive attention in North American art in
WKHVWRWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQSKRWRJUDSK\DQGWKHLQGH[
7KHWHUPȤLQGH[ȥFRPHVIURP&KDUOHV6DQGHUV3HLUFHȢVFDWHJRU\RI
signs, and signifies something that he calls a “correspondence in
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 111

IDFWȥEHWZHHQVLJQDQGUHIHUHQWDVRSSRVHGWRWKHV\PEROLQZKLFK
the correspondence is only imputed, and the icon, in which it is
based on likeness. Peirce illustrates the index with the examples of a
weathercock and the footprint of a killer beside the body of his victim.
In both cases, the relationship between the sign and the referent is a
physical one: in the former, the wind pushes the weathercock in one
direction, and the weathercock signals that the wind is blowing in
WKDWGLUHFWLRQLQWKHODWWHUWKHIRRWSULQWE\WKHFRUSVHVLJQDOVWKDWD
person had been there.7
From its earliest conception, photography was associated with a
similar physical correspondence, because its images are direct effects of
light hitting a light-sensitive sheet. Hubertus von Amelunxen notes that
LQWKHLQYHQWRURIWKHQHJDWLYHSURFHVV:LOOLDP+HQU\)R[7DOERW
GHVFULEHGSKRWRJUDSK\DVDȤSHQFLORIQDWXUHȥLQZKLFKWKHLPDJHLV
produced directly, “by the effect of the light, and not engravings after
WKHLUPRGHOȥ VHFWLRQ,; ,Q$QGU«%D]LQIDPRXVO\HFKRHGWKLV
sentiment when he described photography as sharing, “by virtue of
the very process of its becoming, the being of the model of which it
LVWKHUHSURGXFWLRQLWLVWKHPRGHOȥ TWGLQ.UDXVV $PHOXQ[HQ
stresses that this disavowal of the difference between an object and its
UHSURGXFWLRQ KHXVHVWKH*HUPDQWHUPVVorbild and Nachbild DWWHPSWV
to do away with temporal and spatial dislocation in order to create a
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UHDO VHFWLRQV;,9,,, ,QWKLVVHQVHWKHLQGH[LFDOLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRID
photograph can be understood as a kind of police vision, in which, to
UHWXUQWR3HLUFHȢVH[DPSOHRIWKHLQGH[LFDOVLJQˋQGLQJDIRRWSULQWQH[W
to the corpse is as good as nabbing the killer.
Documentary photography is widely viewed as an instrument of
resistance to police order, and as Richard observes, this was especially
so in post-dictatorship Chile, where it was regarded as a means to
UHYHDOWKHHIIHFWVRIFODQGHVWLQHYLROHQFHDQGFRXQWHURIˋFLDOYHUVLRQVRI
history. In spite of its strategic uses, which are undeniable, it structurally
imitates the sense of an indexical presence.  Although it seems to be
oriented toward the other—other bodies, other histories—it effectively
internalizes, and thereby denies, the other. Documentation aims to
capture something the way it really is in order to reduce the distance
between the photographed scene or object and the spectator of the
photograph. This is similar to Benjamin’s account of the empathy or
Einfühlung involved in historicism, in which the person contemplating
112 Witnessing beyond the Human

WKHSDVWIHHOVFORVHWRRUȤDWRQHZLWKȥWKHSDVW Ȥ7KH&RQFHSWRI
+LVWRU\ȥ $PHOXQ[HQGHVFULEHVWKLVDVDSK\VLFDOVHQVHRIHPDQDWLRQ
from an origin, which he illustrates with the metaphors of translation
and inheritance, the photograph providing a “translation of a spatio-
WHPSRUDOPRPHQWȥDQGDSDVVLQJRYHURIDQȤHVWDWHȥ VHFWLRQV;,,,
9,,, :LWKWKHVHDQDORJLHVWKHRWKHUREVHUYHGLQWKHSKRWRJUDSKLV
approached as an extension or even foundation of the self.
.UDXVVREVHUYHVWKDWLQWKHV1RUWK$PHULFDQDUWLVWVEHJDQWR
push at the relationship between photography and indexicality, not
to reject it, but to refashion its terms—a refashioning that, although
she does not make this explicit, resists subjection to a police vision
that professes to capture its subjects in representation. She links this
transmuted sense of the index somewhat unexpectedly to the work
of Marcel Duchamp. Krauss suggests that the matrix of ideas that
DUWLVWVLQWKHVVKDUHGZLWK'XFKDPSȠVKHLQVLVWVWKDWVKHLVQRW
LQWHUHVWHGLQDUWKLVWRULFDOLQˌXHQFHSHUVHȠFRQFHUQVWKHȤEUHDNGRZQȥ
RI UHSUHVHQWDWLRQ WR ȤORFDWH WKH VHOI LQ UHODWLRQ WR LWV ZRUOGȥ  
Duchamp, together with other avant-garde artists such as Man Ray,
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SDSHUWRSURGXFHDQLPSUHVVLRQ WRVWUHVVWKHIDFWWKDWPDWHULDOREMHFWV
exist, but that their representations do not, as Amelunxen describes,
WXUQGDUNQHVVLQWROLJKWDVȤVLPXOWDQHRXVUHFROOHFWLRQȥRIZKDWLVJRQH
VHFWLRQ9,,, 'XFKDPSGHGLFDWHGKLPVHOIWRH[SORULQJWKHHIIHFWRI
WLPHRQUHSUHVHQWDWLRQIRULQVWDQFHZLWKKLVVRFDOOHGȤGXVWEUHHGLQJȥ
in which accumulated dust serves as an index of the passage of time.
Furthermore, his work suggests that reality is never fully present to
LWVHOIDQLGHDH[HPSOLˋHGE\DSLHFHWLWOHGWith My Tongue in My Cheek,
which consists of the distorted impression of Duchamp’s face in plaster,
his tongue clearly in his cheek. This work suggests that indices, even
ones as apparently straightforward as a facial cast, should never be
WDNHQȤDWIDFHYDOXHȥ7KHUHLVDGLVWDQFHEHWZHHQWKHLPDJHDQGZKDW
LWSXUSRUWVWRUHSUHVHQWWKHH[SUHVVLRQȤWRQJXHLQFKHHNȥVXJJHVWLQJD
playful equivocation or verbal doubling. Krauss stresses, furthermore,
WKDWȤWDNHQOLWHUDOO\ȥDWRQJXHLQFKHHNFDQDOVRLQGLFDWHDORVVRIFDSDFLW\
for speech, an impediment to the subject’s mastery over representation,
DQG WKHUHIRUH DOVR RYHU KLPVHOI   6KH VXVWDLQV WKDW 'XFKDPSȢV
exploration of the index is always accompanied by similar disruptions of
subjective and objective self-identity. His work was driven by an effort
to demonstrate how we cannot fully know or represent ourselves or
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 113

the world in which we live, but that nevertheless things exist, and they
impose themselves on our structures of representation. Krauss describes
KRZ1RUWK$PHULFDQDUWLVWVLQWKHVHQGHDYRUHGWRLQGLFDWHDVLPLODU
ȤLPSRVLWLRQRIWKLQJVȥRQPRGHVRIXQGHUVWDQGLQJLQFOXGLQJHVSHFLDOO\
those modes equated with evidence, such as photography.
,Q &KLOH LQ WKH V WKH desaparecidos were primar y among
WKH ȤWKLQJVȥ LPSRVLQJ WKHPVHOYHV RQ TXHVWLRQV RI VHOI ZRUOG DQG
representation. This imposition is not limited to their literal absence
or the conditions of clandestine violence, which could in fact be
revealed, but concerns the effects of their disappearance on history
and relationality. As in North America and elsewhere, artists in Chile
turned to photography in order to indicate the impossibility of complete
UHYHODWLRQDQGWKHUHSUHVHQWDWLRQDOVXEMHFW RUVorbild LQWKHSURFHVV
of disappearing, and the incontrovertible fact that things—materiality,
KLVWRU\ DOWHULW\ȠH[LVW and that they alter and disturb any intact
sense of self or presence. As opposed to the ideal of “simultaneous
UHFROOHFWLRQȥ $PHOXQ[HQ ZKLFKHIIHFWLYHO\GHQLHVWLPHWKLVDOWHUQDWH
PRGHRILQGH[LFDOLW\LQGLFDWHVDQȤXQVHDOHGWLPHȥDQGVSDFHWKDWHOXGH
UHGHPSWLYHFORVXUH 5LFKDUG Insubordinación 
,DSSHDOWR$PHOXQ[HQȢVZRUNLQSDUWEHFDXVHRIWKHVWDUNQHVV RU
LQVWUXFWLYHRYHUVLPSOLˋFDWLRQ RIKLVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHUHODWLRQVKLS
between photography and indexicality, but primarily because he is one
of the most interesting proponents of the idea that we are living in a
post-indexical age.10 This claim, shared by a growing number of critics,
throws into relief what is at stake in the distinction between different
conceptions of indexicality. He avers that the ideology of the index has
EHHQRYHUWXUQHGE\WKHDGYHQWRIGLJLWDOSKRWRJUDSK\ DFODLPWKDW
can easily be extended to any form of mechanical reproduction of the
photograph, including techniques commonly employed by Dittborn,
VXFKDVSKRWRFRS\LQJDQGVLONVFUHHQLQJ $PHOXQ[HQGHVFULEHVWKLV
FKDQJHZLWKDVHQVHRIJLGG\H[FLWHPHQWȠZKLFKKHDOVRTXDOLˋHVDV
terrifying—proposing that digital photography “offers new possibilities
IRUPRQWDJHȥ VHFWLRQ,,, $OWKRXJKKHLOOXVWUDWHVWKLVSRWHQWLDOZLWKD
UHIHUHQFHWR(LVHQVWHLQZKRGHVFULEHGKLVFLQHPDWLFXVHRIPRQWDJHDV
ȤH[WHQVLRQVRIWKHPRPHQWDU\ȥ$PHOXQ[HQLQVLVWVWKDWWKHQDWXUHRI
digital montage is much more extreme: it is based on “sets of data capable
RIEHLQJPDQDJHGDQGLQWHUFKDQJHGHQGOHVVO\ȥZKLFKDUHȤDOORFDWHGWR
HDFKȡSOD\HUȢWREHIRUPHGDVKHRUVKHZLVKHVȥ VHFWLRQV;,,,9, 1R
longer bound by the presumed continuity of time and space, which is
114 Witnessing beyond the Human

VXEODWHG GHVWUR\HGDQGXSKHOG LQWKHSKRWRJUDSKKHSURFODLPVWKH


possibility of doing away with them entirely. No longer subject to the
authority of the ancestor or the faithful transposition of the origin, to
invoke his analogies of inheritance and translation, he rejects anything
outside of the self, anything outside of the autonomy of the artist.11
He excludes alterity from the realm of representation, resulting in a
ȤVHSDUDWHQHVVIURPWKHZRUOGȥDQGDUHPDNLQJRILWDQGRIKXPDQOLIH
as pure play: “the human being becomes a project, drawn in, as it were,
OLNHDSOD\WKLQJLQWRWKHSURMHFWLRQRIDOWHUQDWLYHZRUOGVȥ VHFWLRQ;,,, 
He invokes Heidegger’s understanding of terror to describe this new
condition, a terror based on the absence of proximity or distance and
concealment without trace, but he adds that in digital photography
the differences between distance and proximity, and concealment and
UHYHODWLRQDUHEDVHGRQSXUHFDOFXODWLRQ VHFWLRQ;9,, 
The claim to be free of the index, paradoxically similar to the classic
sense of the index, rejects the question, articulated by Derrida and
manifest throughout Dittborn’s work, of how photography “bears
ZLWQHVVE\LQWHUURJDWLQJXV:KDWLVDQDFWRIZLWQHVVLQJ"ȥ TWGLQ
Richter, “Between Translation and Invention: The Photograph in
'HFRQVWUXFWLRQȥ [[LY 12 The indexical guarantee of documentary
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answer through the metaphysical act of revelation. Witnessing in this
sense means revealing the past as it was, unearthing the bodies that
had been covered up. The idea of post-indexicality, on the other hand,
purports to have transcended this question: there is no longer any
relationship between representation and the materiality of history, there
is only playful management of sets of data, the algorithmic engineering
RIQHZZRUOGVDQGQHZSRVWKXPDQVXEMHFWV VXEMHFWWRWKHJRGOLNH
VXEMHFWWKDWHQJLQHHUVWKHP 
These two extremes correspond to what Derrida describes as the two
primary forms of invention: on the one hand, “a discovery or a revelation
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Copy, Archive, Signature +HSURSRVHVWKDWSKRWRJUDSK\LVVLWXDWHG
DWWKHȤLQWHUQDOHGJHRI>WKLV@GLYLVLRQȥ*HUKDUG5LFKWHUJORVVHVWKLVLGHD
by suggesting that photography marks the impossibility of both versions
of invention, resulting in an exposure to that which cannot be invented,
namely, the other. He quotes from Derrida’s “Psyche: Invention of the
2WKHUȥȤ7KHRWKHULVLQGHHGZKDWLVQRWLQYHQWDEOHDQGLWLVWKHUHIRUH
the only invention in the world, the invention of the world, our invention,
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 115

the invention that invents us. For the other is always another origin of
WKHZRUOGȥ TWGLQ5LFKWHUȤ%HWZHHQ7UDQVODWLRQDQG,QYHQWLRQȥ
[[[Y  Derrida suggests that photography demonstrates this exposure
WKURXJKWKHLQGHˋQLWHGHIHUUDO demeureH[HPSOLˋHGE\DOWKRXJKQRW
OLPLWHGWRWKHFORVLQJRIWKHVKXWWHU RIȤDFHUWDLQW\SHRIUHDOLW\WKDW
of the perceptible referent. It gives the prerogative to the other, opens
WKHLQˋQLWHXQFHUWDLQW\RIDUHODWLRQWRWKHFRPSOHWHO\RWKHUDUHODWLRQ
ZLWKRXWUHODWLRQȥ TWGLQ5LFKWHUȤ8QVHWWOLQJ3KRWRJUDSK\.DIND
'HUULGD0RVHVȥ 5LFKWHUVWUHVVHVWKHZD\WKDWSKRWRJUDSK\LQ
WKLVVHQVHVWDJHVWKHTXHVWLRQRIUHODWLRQWKHȤUHODWLRQWRUHODWLRQȥ
DTXHVWLRQWKDWFRLQFLGHVZLWKWKHTXHVWLRQRIZLWQHVVLQJ 5LFKWHU
Ȥ8QVHWWOLQJ3KRWRJUDSK\ȥ 'HUULGDFRQWHQGVWKDWVXFKTXHVWLRQV
“condition . . . every ‘social bond,’ every questioning, all knowledge,
SHUIRUPDWLYLW\DQGHYHU\WHOHVFLHQWLˋFSHUIRUPDQFHLQFOXGLQJWKRVH
RILWVIRUPWKDWDUHWKHPRVWV\QWKHWLF>RU@FDOFXODEOHȥVXFKDVWKH
SHUIRUPDWLYHLQYHQWLRQVRIGLJLWDOSKRWRJUDSK\ Ȥ)DLWKȥ 
Roland Barthes is widely regarded as a naïve apologist for a
straightforward conception of the indexical nature of photography,
DQGDVXEMHFWLYHRUȤLQYHQWLYHȥUHFHSWLRQRIWKLVLQGH[LFDOLW\ This is no
doubt based on his assertions that the photograph “attest[s] that what
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DORQJZLWKRWKHUVLPLODUVWDWHPHQWV  +RZHYHUVXFKSURYRFDWLRQV
notwithstanding, Barthes’s Camera Lucida is deeply concerned with what
Derrida calls the question of photography’s relationship to witnessing,
the way that photography poses the question of what witnessing is—
beyond a belief in direct representation and the subjective authority
RILQYHQWLRQ7KLVTXHVWLRQLQ%DUWKHVȢVUHˌHFWLRQVLQYROYHVQHLWKHUD
collapsing of the difference between distance and proximity, concealment
and revelation, or past and present, as in the classical sense of the index,
nor an inventive or calculated re-assembly of them, as in the notion of
the transcendence of photography’s indexical dimension.
Against declarations of Camera LucidaȢV REVROHVFHQFH (GXDUGR
&DGDYD DQG 3DROD &RUW«V5RFFD SURSRVH ZLWK DQ H[SOLFLW QRG WR
.UDXVVWKDW%DUWKHVȢVUHˌHFWLRQVRQSKRWRJUDSK\FRQFHUQDVHQVHRI
indexicality that is based not on a direct reference to the past or to an
absent other, but on a vulnerability to the traces of time, death, and the
other. While many readers have stressed the apparent oppositions in
Barthes’s text—between image and referent, self and other, living and
GHDGSUHVHQWDQGSDVWWKDWZKLFKFDQEHXQGHUVWRRG VWXGLXP DQG
116 Witnessing beyond the Human

WKDWZKLFKFDQQRW SXQFWXP Ƞ&DGDYDDQG&RUW«V5RFFDVXJJHVWWKDW


%DUWKHVXQGHUVWDQGVSKRWRJUDSK\OLNHORYHDQGPRXUQLQJ IUHTXHQWO\
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oppositions. In spite of the fact that photographic imagery is often taken
DVWUDQVSDUHQWHYLGHQFHRIWUXWK%DUWKHVLQVLVWVYLV¢YLVȤVXEMHFWLYHȥ
experiences that profoundly challenge the notions of transparency,
truth, and subjectivity itself, that photography can be the site of an
encounter or “advenienceȥZLWKDUDGLFDODOWHULW\DQȤLQWUDFWDEOHUHDOLW\ȥ
WKDWFDQQHYHUEHIXOO\UHYHDOHGRULQYHQWHG  7KLVLQWUDFWDEOH
reality leaves its marks on the image and the subject that regards
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Copy, Archive, Signature  &DGDYDDQG&RUW«V5RFFDGHVFULEHKRZ
the material trace of light in the negative serves as a metaphor of the
nonmetaphorical reality of the other, the index of a temporal materiality
that haunts the present, similar to how the punctum haunts legibility
 )DUIURPWKHERDVWIXOFKDUDFWHUL]DWLRQRISKRWRJUDSK\DVD
ȤSHQFLORIQDWXUHȥWKH\VWUHVVWKHGLVWDQWDQGWHQXRXVVSHFWUDOLW\RIWKH
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distant and discontinuous emanation, like any missive, is not guaranteed
to arrive, or to be perceived if it does arrive. It is fragmentary, like the
photographic experience itself, and although it is a fragment of the
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LPSO\LQJWKDWLWEHDUVDSRWHQWLDOIRUHQJHQGHULQJ &DGDYDDQG&RUW«V
5RFFD%DUWKHV &DGDYDDQG&RUW«V5RFFDVWUHVVWKDWWKH
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a beyond that, composed of time, is like the future, something to which
ZHDOZD\VUHPDLQEOLQG,WLVWKHˋHOGRIWKHSRVVLEOHȥ  
Barthes was hardly alone in his considerations of a spectral
indexicality manifest in photography. As already noted, there is a
rich history of thought in Chile on the nature of the index beyond
straightforward representation, especially in response to the effects
RIWKHFRXS6WDUWLQJDURXQGWKHVDPHWLPHDVWKHSXEOLFDWLRQRI
Barthes’s Camera Lucida, several essays appeared in Chile that similarly
concerned a spectral mode of indexicality demonstrated by photography,
focusing in particular on Dittborn’s photographic montages. Most
notable among these are Ronald Kay’s Del espacio de acá On the Space
of Here DQG3DWULFLR0DUFKDQWȢVȤ$PRUGHODIRWRȥ Ȥ/RYHRIWKH3KRWRȥ 
These essays greatly informed aesthetic criticism in Chile, including
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 117

HVSHFLDOO\WKHGLVSXWHEHJXQLQWKHVFRQFHUQLQJWKHUHODWLRQVKLS
between art and politics in the Avanzada, represented primarily by Pablo
Oyarzún’s and Willy Thayer’s critiques of Richard’s work.
Ronald Kay’s Del espacio de acáSXEOLVKHGLQ&KLOHLQWKHVDPH
year as Camera Lucida, complements and extends the scope of Barthes’s
essay. Kay describes the potential of photography in general—and, in the
latter half of the book, Dittborn’s work in particular— to disrupt what
KHFDOOVWKHȤGRJPDRIWKHRSWLFRIUHSUHVHQWDWLRQȥLQZKLFKLPDJHVDUH
WDNHQWREHUHˌHFWLRQVRIDVHDPOHVVSUHVHQW  ,QWKHRSHQLQJHVVD\
Ȥ(OWLHPSRTXHVHGLYLGHȥ Ȥ7KH7LPHWKDW'LYLGHV>,WVHOI@ȥ SXEOLVKHG
RULJLQDOO\LQ*HUPDQLQ.D\GHVFULEHVWKLVGRJPDDVIRUPLQJWKH
basis of a visual ideology shared by institutional and economic powers
WKDWGRPHVWLFDWHKXPDQOLIHDQGQDWXUDOKLVWRU\LQWRWKHˌDWVSDFHRI
LQIRUPDWLRQ([KLELWLQJDVWURQJ%HQMDPLQLDQLQˌXHQFH.D\REVHUYHV
that time in the photograph refuses to disappear, even in the apparent
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to time’s own internal divisions, exposing and engaging with “energías
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 5DWKHUWKDQVKRZLQJDPRPHQWȤWKHZD\LWUHDOO\ZDVȥ %HQMDPLQ
Ȥ&RQFHSWRI+LVWRU\ȥ RUWKHZD\LWVKRXOGEHDFFRUGLQJWRWKLVRU
that ideal, the photograph disturbs both past and present, revealing
WKHPERWKDVȤDOZD\VDQDFKURQLFȥ .D\ ,WGRHVWKLVE\EULQJLQJ
WZRXQUHODWHGPRPHQWVWRJHWKHULQȤDQLQWHUFKURQLFPRPHQWȥLQZKLFK
“both orders enter into a reciprocal relation of quotation and become,
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the photographic process rips a scene out of its context and opens it to
new and indeterminate contexts, “toward other ages, toward other sites,
WRZDUGRWKHUVLWXDWLRQVȥ  
Kay suggests that in this way the photograph always includes within
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PLUDGD GH XQ WHVWLJR SRWHQFLDOȥ  QRW MXVW WKH UHDO SRVVLELOLW\ WKDW
someone will see and acknowledge a given image, but a structural
form of testimony that exceeds both individuality and consciousness.
Kay extends Benjamin’s notion of an optical unconsciousness to include
a virtuality that is inevitably elicited by every photograph, and which
inhabits not only the photograph itself, but also the event to which it
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a communicability and interrelatednessness that only ever appear in
118 Witnessing beyond the Human

fragments, corresponding to Benjamin’s understanding of “language


DVVXFKȥDQGȤSXUHODQJXDJHȥ17 Certain kinds of photographs intensify
this virtual relationality, “mobilizing an alphabet that writes to us,
inelecutably inscribing us in a collectivity that communicates by means
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collectivity, however, stands in stark contrast to what is visible in the
photograph, which, torn from its temporal and spatial connections,
stands alone, a frozen reminder of different forms of subjection and
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the disjunction between these two orders, between what is “inside and
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RIRSWLFDOUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ  
Kay’s essays on photography are inscribed between Benjamin and
'LWWERUQ0DUFKDQWȢVȤ$PRUGHODIRWRȥHPHUJHVEHWZHHQ'HUULGDDQG
'LWWERUQȤ$PRUGHODIRWRȥZDVZULWWHQDV0DUFKDQWȢVUHVSRQVHWRDQ
invitation extended by Dittborn to Marchant and other intellectuals to
discuss an old photograph supposedly picked at random from an archive
of Chilean family photographs.:ULWWHQLQLWFDQEHVHHQDVD
theoretical elaboration of some of the same ideas that Dittborn was
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example of how critical thought developed in a mutual relationship with
the aesthetic works known as the Avanzada. In opposition to what he
calls the humanist ideal of representation, which culminates in a sense
of the image as a transparent laying bare of historical preservation,
0DUFKDQWGHVFULEHVKRZSKRWRJUDSK\H[HPSOLˋHVWKHZD\UHSUHVHQWDWLRQ
invokes an alterity that cannot be known or preserved, an alterity
that is constitutive of both history and community. A propos of the
SKRWRJUDSKWKDW'LWWERUQJDYHWR0DUFKDQW0DUFKDQWDIˋUPVWKDWWKH
SKRWRJUDSKLVDOZD\VJLYHQWKDWLWVTXDOLW\RIJLIW donación LVLQWULQVLF
WRLWVYHU\QDWXUH ȟ 7KLVJLYLQJLQYROYHVERWKWKHLQHYLWDEO\
incomplete emergence, or nonpresence, of the image and its object
of representation, and the condition of what Marchant calls a secret
circulation that inhabits every photograph, the fact that the photograph
always comes from and moves toward others. As Derrida says of the
structure of the letter, the photograph is always addressed to the other
DQG\HWQHYHUWUXO\DUULYHVHYHQZKHQLWGRHVDUULYHDWLWVLQWHQGHG
destination, the possibility that it might not have arrived is inscribed
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 119

LQLW 'HUULGDThe Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond  
Marchant explains how this epistolary aspect of photography—he avers
WKDWOHWWHUVDUHȤWKHPRVWGDQJHURXVRISKRWRJUDSKVȥ  ȠLVPDQLIHVW
in a simultaneous distance and proximity of the image, described by
the Heideggerian term Entfernung ȤGLVWDQFLQJ a-lejamiento  RI D
GLVWDQFHWKDWQHYHUFHDVHVWREHGLVWDQFHDSSUR[LPDWLRQDVVHSDUDWLRQ
VHSDUDWLRQDVDSSUR[LPDWLRQȥ  6XFKGLVWDQWDSSUR[LPDWLRQZLWKLQ
the act of representation re-enacts the interplay of distance and
proximity intrinsic to every relation, the distances inherent to every
presumption of familiarity, and the intimacy that underlies apparent
distances and differences.
Pablo Oyarzún expands on the ideas of both Kay and Marchant in
KLVHVVD\Ȥ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ Ȥ,PDJHDQG0RXUQLQJȥ IRFXVLQJPRUHRQ
the way artists associated with the Avanzada—and while Dittborn is
not named explicitly, he seems to be especially implicated—subverted
the humanist dogma of visual presence or preservation. Oyarzún
structures his account of the Avanzada’s work with photography around
WZRSULPDU\ˋJXUHVparpadeo and piedad, blinking and compassion.
He explains that the appeal of the medium of photography during
the dictatorship was related to what he terms parpadeo. He draws the
notion of parpadeoIURPDSDVVDJHRIȤ'HOHVSDFLRGHDF£ȥLQZKLFK
Kay describes the camera shutter as a prosthetic exteriorization of the
alternation between optical consciousness and the optical unconscious.
Oyarzún describes how this idea of mortal and mechanical blinking
moves us from an ideological and metaphysical sense of visual capture,
ȤVHHLQJLVKDYLQJVHHQȥDORQJZLWKLWVFRUROODU\ȤZKDWLVVHHQLVLQ
LWVHOIYLVLEOHȥ Imagen y duelo WRDVHQVHRIVHHLQJDVLQWULQVLFDOO\
GLVFRQWLQXRXV DQG LQFRPSOHWH ȤVHHLQJ LVJOLPSVLQJȥ entrever,
OLWHUDOO\VHHLQJEHWZHHQ 7KHGLVUXSWLRQRIWKHparpadeo indicates
ERWKȤH[FHVVDQGDEVHQFHȥERWKZKDWFDQQRWEHVHHQDQGWKHIDFWWKDW
what can be seen does not necessarily tell all—the idea that, as Kay avers,
WKHUHLVDOZD\VPRUHEH\RQGDQGZLWKLQWKHJD]H  2\DU]¼QVWUHVVHV
that while the parpadeo is a point of non-knowledge, it is paradoxically
WKHSRLQWIURPZKLFKDOONQRZOHGJHHPHUJHV  20
He pairs the visual metaphor of parpadeo with an affective, material
RQH(ODERUDWLQJRQDQHVVD\E\0DUFKDQW2\DU]¼QFXULRXVO\FRPSDUHV
the Avanzada’s often transient and insubstantial invocations of the
present to a weighty gem of canonical art, Michaelangelo’s Pietá  21
As is well known, the Pietá represents the Biblical scene in which
120 Witnessing beyond the Human

Mary holds up her son’s dead body after its removal from the cross.
Michaelangelo’s depiction of this moment emphasizes the heaviness and
fragility of Christ’s body, to which Mary responds with a look of great
tenderness.22 Oyarzún suggests that the works of the Avanzada perform
a gesture similar to the one represented in the Pietá. Like Mary, they
seek to hold up the creaturely body, often brutally made more creaturely
by the dictatorship. They grasp it in the moment of its fall, suspending
and making visible its agony and the injustice it embodies:

,WLVQRWDIDOOHQERG\EXWRQHDWWKHSRLQWRIIDOOLQJ en trance de caer 


DQGLQWKLVVHQVHLWLVDVXVSHQGHGERG\VHL]HG cogido LQVXVSHQVLRQ
DQGH[SRVHGLQYLUWXHRIWKDWVHL]XUH7KHJHVWXUHRIFRPSDVVLRQ pietá 
VHL]HVWKHERG\LQVXVSHQVLRQWKHOHIWKDQGKROGVLWXS lo tiende WKH
downturned gaze guards it, protects it. The gesture of compassion keeps
the body in a liminal space, nothing more than that, without predisposing
it to resurrection.  

Jesus’ body is suspended between Mary’s downturned eyes and her


tender grasp, a pose of both parpadeo and piedad. Oyarzún describes
such a momentary recognition as a Benjaminian mode of rescue or
redemption: “Rescue, not in the salvific sense of sublation, but as
FXVWRG\RIZKDWLVORVWLQVRIDUDVLWLVORVWWKDWZKLFKLVPRUWDOPietá is
hospitality and remittal of what history left truncated, loving labor of
JXDUGLQJSURWHFWLQJDQGVHQGLQJȥ Ȥ5HVFDWHQRHQHOVHQWLGRVDOY¯ˋFR
de lo que se sublima, sino como custodia de lo que se pierde en tanto
TXHVHSLHUGHORPRUWDO/DSLHGDGHVDFRJLGD\UHPLVLµQGHORTXH
OD KLVWRULD GHMµ WUXQFR DPRURVD ODERU GH UHVJXDUGR GH SURWHFFLµQ
\ GH HQY¯Rȥ    This understanding of redemption is contrasted
ZLWKUHVXUUHFWLRQERWKLQWKH&KULVWLDQVHQVHRIDGHˋQLWLYHVDOYDWLRQ
from mortality, and in the secular sense of salvation, including both
the humanist dogma that holds that photographs rescue—reveal and
preserve—their referent, and a critical approach that seeks to do the
same with art.
Oyarzún develops this final question of the relationship between
criticism and art in a series of essays written following the publication
of Richard’s Márgenes e instituciones, in which he rebukes her for what he
considers a reductive and ultimately redemptive approach to the works
of the Avanzada.+LVFULWLTXHLVWKUHHSURQJHG7KHˋUVWLVVXHFRQFHUQV
WKHZD\LQZKLFK5LFKDUGEHVWRZHGDQDPH ȤHVFHQDGHDYDQ]DGDȥ 
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 121

and by implication a single schema, that of a neo-avant-garde, on the


GLVSDUDWHZRUNVSURGXFHGGXULQJWKHˋUVWGHFDGHRIWKHGLFWDWRUVKLS7KH
VHFRQGLVVXHDQH[WHQVLRQRIWKHˋUVWFRQFHUQVKHUFKDUDFWHUL]DWLRQRI
this artistic movement as something new, disregarding its immediate
SUHGHFHVVRUVRIWKHVDQGȢVDVZHOODVLWVUHODWLRQWRWKHGULYH
WRZDUGPRGHUQL]DWLRQWKDWZDVSHUYDVLYHWR &KLOHDQ KLVWRU\DQGDUW
throughout the twentieth century. He suggests that her characterization
of the Avanzada constitutes an unwitting reappropriation of the historical
avant-garde to the horizon of the national-popular, a kind of synthesis
of the legacies of Huidobro and Neruda.
The third and most important issue concerns the way Richard linked
aesthetic rupture to political subversion, as though artistic rupture
were necessarily opposed to institutional legitimacy, as Richard’s
title announcing a neat opposition between margins and institutions
seems to suggest.  In her book she describes how the works of the
$YDQ]DGDDSSHDOHGWRȤFULWLFDOLPDJLQDWLRQDVDIRUFHGLVUXSWLYH fuerza
disruptora WRWKHDGPLQLVWHUHGRUGHUWKDWFHQVXUHZDWFKHVRYHUȥDQG
sought to “re-symbolize the social beyond the repressive coordinates
WKDWELQGLWȥ Márgenes  2\DU]¼QTXHVWLRQVERWKWKHLQWHQWLRQDO
political orientation implied in such a characterization, underscoring
the necessarily excessive relationship of art to authorial intention and
historical context, as well as her direct linking of aesthetic disruption
to political opposition, as though disruption could be transformed into
an alternate form of symbolization.27
:LOO\7KD\HUUHYLYHGWKLVFULWLTXHDWWKHHQGRIWKHV  This
return was in part a reaction to what was starting to be called the
ȤHQGRIWKHWUDQVLWLRQȥLQ&KLOHWKDWLVDVHQVHRIFORVXUHDQGˋQDOLW\
to the historical wounds associated with the dictatorship. Richard’s
international success—her work is often invoked outside of Chile as an
authoritative last word on the relationship between art and resistance in
the dictatorship and transition—may have contributed to the association
of her work with such a sense of closure. Thayer provocatively equates
Richard’s account of oppositional rupture in the Avanzada to the rupture
of the coup itself, suggesting that the coup was an event characterized
by both opposition and rupture, and hence an avant-garde rupture par
excellence. Following Oyarzún’s lead, Thayer focuses his critique on
5LFKDUGȢVFODVVLˋFDWLRQRIWKH$YDQ]DGDDVDPRYHPHQWFKDUDFWHUL]HGE\
LWVRSSRVLWLRQWRSRZHUZKLFKKHTXDOLˋHVDVDIRUPRIGRPHVWLFDWLRQRI
what was at work, or as he puts it, evoking Jean-Luc Nancy, at unwork,
122 Witnessing beyond the Human

in the artworks themselves. Villalobos-Ruminott cites a particularly


UHYHDOLQJ SDVVDJH IURP Ȥ9DQJ XDUGLD GLFWDGXUD JOREDOL]DFLµQȥ
Ȥ9DQJXDUGLD'LFWDWRUVKLS*OREDOL]DWLRQȥ LQZKLFK7KD\HU
describes the inoperative nature of art in relation to the narcissistic and
onanistic nature of criticism:

In the Avanzada there would be a primar y stratum, anasemic and


LQRSHUDWLYH GLVRSHUDWLYH WKDWGLVWDQFHVLWVHOIIURPDQ\LQWHQWLRQRI
repetition or symbolic secondariness . . . The primary inoperation of the
DYDQ]DGDSHUVHYHUHVLQWKHVXVSHQVLRQ epokhé RIDQ\JOLPSVHRI
inscription and repetition, as though this primary stratum were itself
the only witness possible, before the narcissism of the word that does not
cease to speak of itself when it supposes itself to be speaking of the other,
limited as it is to self-stimulation, typing on the back of the thing . . .

+DEU¯D HQ OD $YDQ]DGD XQ HVWUDWR SULPDULR DQDV«PLFR LQRSHUDQWH


GHVREUDQWH  TXH VH VXVW UDH D FXDOTXLHU LQWHQWR GH UHSHWLFLµQ
R VHF X QG D U LHG DG VL PE µO LF D    / D L QRS HU D QF LD SU L P D U LD GH OD
DYDQ]DGDSHUVHYHUDHQODVXVSHQVLµQ epokhé GHFXDOTXLHUDWLVERGH
LQVFULSFLµQ\UHSHWLFLµQFRPRVLORSULPDULRIXHVHHOORPLVPRHO¼QLFR
testigo anterior al narcisismo de la palabra que no deja de hablar de sí
FXDQGRVXSRQHKDEODUGHRWUROLPLWDGDFRPRHVW£DDXWRHVWLPXODUVH
WHFOHDQGRVREUHHOGRUVRGHODFRVD 7KD\HUȤ9DQJXDUGLDȥȟ
TWGLQ9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWȟ 

He describes a primary stratum of art that exceeds and resists


any kind of critical inscription or repetition, which he qualifies as
a secondary stratum. Such a distinction seems to go against one
of the basic premises of deconstruction, which problematizes the
idea of an origin prior to inscription. He characterizes the primary
substratum as anasemic, a term that comes from Nicholas Abraham’s
description of unconscious meaning, which itself complicates the
QRWLRQRIRULJLQEHJLQQLQJZLWKWKHSUHˋ[ana-PHDQLQJȤDJDLQȥRU
ȤDQHZȥ,QKLVHVVD\RQ$EUDKDPȢVZRUN'HUULGDFKDUDFWHUL]HVWKH
DQDVHPLFDVDQRULJLQDU\LQVFULSWLRQ WKDWLVLWLVDOZD\VDOUHDG\DQ
LQVFULSWLRQ WKDWȤVZHUYH>V@RIIDWDQDQJOHLQRUGHUWRWKURZWKHUHDGHU
RIIWUDFNDQGPDNHLWVLWLQHUDU\XQUHDGDEOHȥDQGZKLFKUHTXLUHVD
VHFRQGDU\LQVFULSWLRQZKLFKKHFKDUDFWHUL]HVDVWUDQVODWLRQ 'HUULGD
Ȥ)RUVȥ [OLL [[[LLL  ,Q RWKHU ZRUGV WKH DQDVHPLF VWUDWXP FDQQRW
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 123

speak directly, it cannot testify to itself, as Thayer suggests. There


FDQEHQRVLPSOHRSSRVLWLRQEHWZHHQLWVȤSULPDU\ȥWHVWLPRQ\DQGD
VHFRQGDU\ȤQDUFLVVLVPRIWKHZRUGȥWKDWWDSVXVHOHVVO\RQLWVEDFN
Thayer’s description of an abyss between criticism and the artwork
finds a curious echo in his description of the relationship between
photographs and their objects in an essay published around the same
WLPH,QȤ(O[HQRWDˋRGHOX]ȥ Ȥ7KH;HQRWDSKRI/LJKWȥ KHUHMHFWV
the humanist notion of the image as a repository for recovering and
SUHVHUYLQJWKHSDVWGHVFULELQJUHYHODWLRQDVDNLQGRIEXULDO exhumación
as inhumación DQGLQVLVWVWKDWWKHYLVXDOLPDJHLQFOXGLQJWKH
photograph, has always been a kind of cenotaph or empty tomb, its
content or encomiendaDEVHQWRUUDGLFDOO\RWKHU xenos IURPWKHRQH
viewing it. Like the description of the artwork closed onto itself like a
turtle, with critics narcissistically typing on its shell, unaware of the
abyss separating them from their object, Thayer explains that “The only
density that the photograph knows are the thoughts that we deposit on
LWVFRYHU cubierta 7KHJLIW don RISKRWRJUDSK\LVZKDWWKHH\HKDV
JLYHQLWȥ Ȥ(O[HQRWDˋRȥ 
Thayer’s accounts of how both art and photography suspend any
secondary stratum of analysis or understanding is developed in greater
depth in his extended discussion of the relationship between thought
and suspension in El fragmento repetido: escritos en estado de excepción
The Repeated Fragment: Writings in a State of Exception ,QWKH
LQWURGXFWLRQKHGLVWLQJXLVKHVEHWZHHQFULWLFLVP crítica ZKLFKKH
GHVFULEHVDVDNLQGRIGLFWDWRULDOSROLFHORJLF ȤFRPRODSROLF¯DȥȤFRPR
HOGLFWDGRUȥ GHGLFDWHGWROD\LQJGRZQWKHODZDQGPDLQWDLQLQJRUGHU
RUHVWDEOLVKLQJDQGSUHVHUYLQJDUFKLYHVDQGWKRXJKW pensamiento 
a performative mode that resembles cinematic montage, Duchamp’s
Readymades, installation art, and the dialectical image, and whose
objective he describes as “pure interruption, awakening, or a true
VWDWHRIH[FHSWLRQȥ ȤLQWHUUXSFLµQSXUDGHVSHUWDURYHUGDGHURHVWDGR
GHH[FHSFLµQȥEl fragmento repetidoȟ   Thayer describes such
radical interruption as a kind of suspension of distinctions, decisions,
representation, judgment, truth, and time. He traces this mode of
thought to Classical Skepticism, including the Pyrrohnian state of
suspension named by the term epokhé, characterized by a stilling
RI MXGJPHQWV DQG SUHFRQFHSWLRQV ataraxia  El fragmento repetido
ȟ +HUHMHFWVWKLVSKLORVRSKLFDOLQKHULWDQFHKRZHYHUFODLPLQJ
that Skeptical suspension both resembles and is subsumed by late
124 Witnessing beyond the Human

capitalist logic, a fate that he considers is ultimately shared by other


post-philosophical states of exception, that is, what he is calling
ȤWKRXJKWȥȤWKH\VHHPWREHFRPHVRPHRIWKHPDQ\VSULQJVRIQHROLEHUDO
VSHFXODWLRQ skepsis ȥZKLFKKHFODLPVȤKDVLQFRUSRUDWHGWKHDWDUD[LDV
and twitches to its de-compositional maelstroms, impeding once again
what Duchamp designated as respirationȥ ȤKDLQFRUSRUDGRODVDWDUD[LDV
\ORVFULVSDPLHQWRVDVXVUHPROLQRVGHFRPSRVLWLYRVGLˋFXOWDQGRXQD
YH]P£VORTXH'XFKDPSGHVLJQDEDFRPRrespiración,ȥEl fragmento
repetido 1HYHUWKHOHVVKHYHQWXUHVWKHSRVVLELOLW\RIFRQWHPSRUDU\
thought lies in the acknowledgement of its own impossibility: “perhaps
when we indicate that nothing breathes, in that indication something
LVEUHDWKLQJȥ  This conclusion performs the paradoxical nature of
thought that he describes in the introduction, a suspension that is at
once destruction and the possibility of awakening, the possibility of
ZKDWLVQRW \HW 1HYHUWKHOHVVKLVHPSKDVLVRQWKHVHOILPPRODWRU\
morbidity of thought distracts from the revolutionary potential he seems
to attribute to it. In his hands, any effort at thought, like his description
of photographic cenotaphs, ends up as nothing more than empty shells,
capable only of marking unbridgeable divides between thought and
representation, on the one hand, and world, others, community, and
time, on the other. His approach at times seems to be a despondent
counterpart to celebratory theories of the post-indexical articulated by
thinkers such as Amelunxen.
Thayer’s account of an inevitable suspension in thought and
representation owes much to, and yet is fundamentally different from,
Oyarzún’s lifelong interest in the gesture of suspension, which we saw
DOUHDG\LQȤ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ2\DU]¼QȢV turn to the notion of suspension
began with his doctoral dissertation on Duchamp, which he published
LQDWWKHKHLJKWRIWKHGLFWDWRUVKLSDQGFRQWHPSRUDQHRXVZLWK
the Avanzada. He describes the Readymade, ripped from its functional
and representative context, as an unsettling remainder of function and
UHSUHVHQWDWLRQ LQFOXGLQJWKHIXQFWLRQDOQDWXUHRIUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ D
suspensive remainder that is simultaneously “an occurrence . . . liberated
WRSXUHRFFXUUHQFHȥand an object that “dangles like an asphyxiated
DSSHQGL[XVHOHVVDQGDERUWLYHȥ Anestética del Ready-made 
,QKLVGLVFHUQLQJHVVD\RQ%HQMDPLQȢVȤ7KH7DVNRIWKH7UDQVODWRUȥKH
rejects the common notion of language as a bridge, and describes it
instead as an abyss, explaining that the objective of the translator or
philosopher should be to keep us suspended over this abyss.  In his
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 125

PRUHUHFHQWȤ/LWHUDWXUD\HVFHSWLFLVPRȥ Ȥ/LWHUDWXUHDQG6NHSWLFLVPȥ 
he describes how from its inception literature has performed a Skeptical
suspension of truth and judgment, expressed in its most radical form
in the genre of the essay, which he says “remains always in suspense
permanece siempre en suspenso LWVVWDWXVLVWKXVSHUHQQLDOO\
SURYLVLRQDOȥ    His suggestion of permanence is a bit misleading,
since such suspension is not a permanent state, but an active, essayistic
engagement with the differed and differential, but always potentially
imminent, nature of existence.
Oyarzún draws some of these ideas together in his “Tesis breves sobre
DUWH\SRO¯WLFDHQOD«SRFDGHODHOLSVLVGHODREUDȥ Ȥ%ULHI7KHVHVRQ$UW
DQG3ROLWLFVLQWKH(UDRIWKH(OOLSVLVRIWKH:RUNȥ SXEOLVKHGLQ
a volume titled Arte y Política that he co-edited with Richard. Likely
intended as an intervention into the longstanding debate between
Richard and Thayer, Oyarzún’s position overlaps with Thayer’s, but
only up to a point. Describing the relations among criticism, art, and
VXVSHQVLRQ2\DU]¼QH[SODLQVKRZPRGHUQ DYDQWJDUGHDQGȤSRVW
DYDQWJDUGHȥVSHFLˋFDOO\ DUWDQGFULWLFDOWKRXJKWVHHNWRGLVUXSWWKH
nearly closed circuit of consumption and communication—“consumption
DVFRPPXQLFDWLRQDQGFRPPXQLFDWLRQDVFRQVXPSWLRQȥ Ȥ7HVLV
EUHYHVȥ  He argues that they ultimately lack the force to disrupt or
resist this circuitry and are inevitably subsumed into its logic.
Nevertheless, Oyarzún proposes that art and criticism have an
elliptical or interstitial function, through which they can open up,
WKRXJKDNLQGRIFULWLFDODQGVHOIFULWLFDOXQZRUNLQJ desobramiento 
“a suspensive moment, a small dehiscence, a minimal dilation of the
breathless tempoRIPDUNHWFLUFXODWLRQȥ ȤXQPRPHQWRVXVSHQVLYRXQD
SHTXH³DGHVKLFHQVLDXQDP¯QLPDGLODWDFLµQGHOtempo sin respiro de
ODFLUFXODFLµQPHUFDQWLOȥȤ7HVLVEUHYHVȥȟ +HGHVFULEHVKRZWKLV
unworking is not only internal to the work itself, with both spectator
DQGZRUOGGDQJOLQJSDVVLYHO\RXWVLGHRILWDVWKRXJKFDXJKWLQDZHE red 
of incomprehension WKLVLPDJHLQSDUWLFXODUVHHPVWRHYRNH7KD\HUȢV
GHVFULSWLRQRIWKHDUWFULWLFW\SLQJXVHOHVVO\RQWKHVKHOORIWKHDUWZRUN 
but constitutes “the call or convocation of a subject to come into being
in that place . . . certainly not as concrete presence, but rather as a
transitory trace, as the conatus of relation, as a non-consumable enquiry
RUUHTXHVWIRUFRPPXQLW\ȥ ȤODLQWHUSHODFLµQRFRQYRFDFLµQGHXQVXMHWR
a constituirse en ese lugar, . . . ciertamente no como presencia maciza,
VLQRFRPRHVER]RWUDQVLWRULRFRQDWRGHUHODFLµQFRPRLQWHUURJDFLµQR
126 Witnessing beyond the Human

UHFXHVWDQRFRQVXPDEOHGHFRPXQLGDGȥȤ7HVLVEUHYHVȥ +HVWUHVVHV
that the suspension is situated both within the work of art and between
work and world, including, although not limited to, the work of criticism.
7KHDUWZRUNȤFRQYRNHVȥWKHVXEMHFWQRWDVDVLQJOHEHLQJRULGHQWLW\
but as a singular moment that is always in relation to both itself and
RWKHUV7KHLQWHUVWLWLDOXQZRUNLQJRIDUWGLVUXSWVWKHUHLˋFDWLRQDQG
circulation of market logic in a number of ways: exceeding the artwork’s
LQHYLWDEOHFRPPRGLˋFDWLRQDVZHOODVWKHUHLI\LQJWHQGHQFLHVRIPXFK
FULWLFLVPZKLFKVHHNVWRDVVLJQLWDVWDEOHSRVLWLRQRUPHDQLQJ VXFKDV
ȤPDUJLQDOȥRUȤSROLWLFDOȥ $VDNLQGRIUHTXHVWWKDWȤZRXOGRQSULQFLSOH
H[FHHGDQ\IRUPRIGHPDQGȥWKHDUWZRUNLQYRNHVDPRGHRIUHODWLRQRU
encounter—the very possibility of community—beyond consumption or
FRPPXQLRQ+HDGGVȤWKHˋJXUHRIWKHZLWQHVV testigo LVDQHPLQHQW
PRGHRIWKLVFRQVWLWXWLRQȥ Ȥ7HVLVEUHYHVȥ 
Although he does not elaborate on the relation between witnessing
and the encounter with alterity convoked by the unworking of art, his
use of this term witness—which is very much implied in his description
of the twinned effects of parpadeo and piedadLQȤ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ
and which does in fact appear in his writing on Dittborn, which I will
GLVFXVVODWHUȠFDQEHVHHQDVKLVFRQFHVVLRQWRDȤSROLWLFDOȥIXQFWLRQ
RIDUWZKLFKKHWDNHVSDLQVWKURXJKRXWKLVZRUN PRVWH[SOLFLWO\LQ
the introduction to Arte y política WRLQWHUURJDWH7KHWHUPVHUYHVWR
punctuate the potential ethico-political function of art and thought
that seeks neither to reveal or invent the other, or deny its accessibility,
but rather to address it as something that can never fully be known, a
ȤQRQFRQVXPDEOHHQTXLU\ȥRIUHODWLRQDOLW\WKHIDFWthat there are others.
Oyarzún’s association between suspension and testimonial exposure
to the other is markedly different from the mode of suspension invoked
by Thayer, a suspension that is not a vital limit that forms the condition
RIUHODWLRQ LHˋQLWXGH EXWDVWDWHRIGHDWKRUXQUHDFKDEOHRWKHUOLIH
for instance the anasemic stratum of art that cannot be touched by the
critical word, and the breath that may stir within the ruins of thought.
Thayer at times seems to insist on its absoluteness, describing how the
SULPDU\VWUDWXPRIDUWSHUVLVWVLQ persevera en RUVXEVLVWVEHQHDWK
WKHVXVSHQVLRQ RULPSRVVLELOLW\ RIFULWLFDOGLVFRXUVHDQGQDPHVWKLV
SHUVLVWHQFHDVWKHFRQGLWLRQRIWKHDUWZRUNȢVVHOIZLWQHVVLQJ ȤFRPRVL
lo primario fuese, ello mismo, el único testigo anterior al narcisismo
de la palabra que no deja de hablar de sí cuando supone hablar de
RWURȥ>7KD\HUȤ9DQJXDUGLD@  Such a persistent separation differs
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 127

considerably from Oyarzún’s description of a suspensive moment


that disrupts the closed circuit of market logic and its corollary in
communication, thereby forming the condition of possibility of an
unconditional address to an incommensurable other.
And in spite of Thayer’s apparent appeal to deconstruction and
Oyarzún’s studied distance from it, the latter’s notion of a momentary
suspension resonates quite strongly with Derrida’s understanding of
rupture or disruption, which he names on occasion epokhe, a pointed
reference to and departure from the Husserlian use of the term, which
served to bracket off a transcendent subjectivity, while relying on the
stability of language to supplement and support that subjectivity.
Derrida describes the term epokhe as a moment of aporetic suspension
that indicates the differential excess that structurally inhabits every
GLVFRXUVHDQGVWUXFWXUHKHQFHLWFRQVWLWXWHVDGHILQLQJHOHPHQWRI
GHFRQVWUXFWLRQ Ȥ)RUFHRI/DZȥ  He insists that just as “aporia
can never simply be endured as suchȥ Aporias VRWKHVXVSHQVLRQRI
epokhe cannot be strictly endured, but always occurs in a condition of
dependence and relation to discourse, opening the “interval of spacing
LQ ZKLFK WUDQVIRUPDWLRQVWDNH SODFHȥ Ȥ7KLV 6WUDQJH ,QVWLWXWLRQ
&DOOHG/LWHUDWXUHȥȤ)RUFHRI/DZȥ 7KLVVHQVHRIWKHepokhe is
QHDWO\DUWLFXODWHGE\9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWDVDQȤLQYHUWHGHSRNKHȥLQWKH
phenomenological sense, “where it is not the world that remains outside
the parenthesis, rather it is the parenthesis that remains completely open,
WZLVWHGUXLQHGEHQHDWKWKHGLVDVWHUHGVN\RIDWLPHWRFRPHȥ ȤHSRM«
LQYHUWLGDGRQGHQRHVHOPXQGRHOTXHTXHGDIXHUDGHOSDU«QWHVLVVLQR
TXHHVHOSDU«QWHVLVHOTXHTXHGDWRWDOPHQWHDELHUWRWRUFLGRDUUXLQDGR
EDMRHOFLHORGHVDVWUDGRGHXQWLHPSRSRUYHQLUȥSoberanías Villalobos-
5XPLQRWW 
The works of the Avanzada suspend their relationship to meaning and
reference, but they do not sever it, they do not remain in that suspension.
Such aesthetic rupture can be understood as an act of invention: neither
SURGXFWLRQQRUUHYHODWLRQDV'HUULGDFODULˋHVEXWDQRSHQLQJXSWR
the other. As an opening to the other, it also constitutes a form of
witnessing and indexicality—an opening-to, and being marked by the
other. The other can never be fully represented, but the answer is not to
refuse representation or discourse, to let disappearance testify to itself.
7KLVUHFDOOV*HRUJHV'LGL+XEHUPDQȢVUHSXGLDWLRQRI*«UDUG:DMFPDQȢV
description of the effects of the Holocaust as a “disappearance beyond
WKHYLVLEOHȥDGLVDSSHDUDQFHWKDWFDQQRWEHUHSUHVHQWHGWKURXJKLPDJHV
128 Witnessing beyond the Human

 ,QKLVERRNImages in Spite of All, Didi-Huberman counters this idea


with the structure of the montage, a form that opens out into images
ȤLQVSLWHRIDOOȥOLNHWKHRSHQSDUHQWKHVLVLQGLFDWLQJȤWKHGLVDVWHUHG
VN\RIDWLPHWRFRPHȥGHVFULEHGE\9LOODORERV5XPLQRWW Soberanías
 +HGHVFULEHVPRQWDJHDVDQȤHIIHFWRINQRZOHGJHȥWKDWLVERWK
multiple and mobile: “putting the multiple in motion, isolating nothing,
showing the hiatuses and the analogies, the indeterminations and
WKHRYHUGHWHUPLQDWLRQVȥ  +HDOVRFDOOVLWDODFXQDLPDJHȤWKH
lacuna-image is a trace-image and a disappearance-image at the
same time. Something remains that is not the thing, but a scrap of its
resemblance . . . It is neither full presence, nor absolute absence. It is
neither resurrection, nor death without remains. It is death insofar as it
PDNHVUHPDLQV,WLVDZRUOGSUROLIHUDWLQJZLWKODFXQDHȥ   Montage
in this sense—clearly different from Amelunxen’s understanding of
the term, as liberated, via digital technology, from such “scrap[s] of
UHVHPEODQFHȥȠFRQVWLWXWHVDQDWWHPSWWRUHDGWKHVHODFXQDHDQGUHQGHU
WKHPȤUHDGDEOHȥZKLFKLVQRWV\QRQ\PRXVZLWKNQRZDEOH
Didi-Huberman contrasts the notion of resurrection through
representation with a Benjaminian understanding of redemption,
which takes us back to Oyarzún’s description of the works of the
Avanzada as both performing and requiring a form of rescate, which
he also distinguishes from resurrection. Although I characterized his
understanding of such a rescue or redemption as Benjaminian, owing
to his intimate familiarity with Benjamin’s work, his description of
UHGHPSWLRQVHHPVWRGLIIHUVOLJKWO\EXWVLJQLˋFDQWO\IURP%HQMDPLQȢV
Inasmuch as he understands the redemptive act of the Avanzada to
VXVSHQGWKHRWKHUȤLQDOLPLQDOVSDFHȥDV0DU\FUDGOHV-HVXVȢGHDGERG\
2\DU]¼QȤ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ DWHQGHUZDWFKLQJRYHUDQGKROGLQJIDVW
of the remains of the past, he accounts for only part of redemption, the
part that corresponds to the epokhe, snatching the image of the past
out of the continuum of history. As Didi-Huberman says, echoing Kay,
this rupture activates “the strange law of anachronism that we could
FDOOWKHȡVXEFRQVFLRXVRI7LPHȢȥLQZKLFKWKHSDVWDOZD\VRSHQVRXW
RQWRGLIIHUHQWWHPSRUDOLWLHV Images  +HTXRWHVIURP%HQMDPLQȢV
Ȥ&RQFHSWRI+LVWRU\ȥȤ7KHSDVWLVPDUNHGE\DVHFUHWVLJQZKLFKVHQGV
it back to redemption. Do we not, ourselves, feel a faint breath of air
in which the people of yesterday lived? Do not the voices to which we
OHQGRXUHDUVFDUU\DQHFKRRIYRLFHVQRZH[WLQJXLVKHG"ȥ,UHWDLQWKH
unconventional translation here because it highlights the anachronistic
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 129

DVSHFWRI%HQMDPLQȢVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRIUHGHPSWLRQ LWDOVRUHFDOOVWKH
WHUPȤDQDVHPLDȥLQWKHHW\PRORJLFDOVHQVHRIDVLJQWKDWVLJQLILHV
ȤEDFNȥRUDJDLQDQHZ 0LFKDHO/HYLQHGHVFULEHVWKLVQRWLRQRIDVHFUHW
VLJQRULQGH[ einen heimliche Index DVDFDOORUDGGUHVVWKDWDQQRXQFHV
the ongoing survival of the past and appeals to the potential for a
PHHWLQJEHWZHHQSDVWDQGIXWXUH A Weak Messianic Power ȟ +H
stresses that this meeting—what Kay called an interchronic moment—is
not so much a coming together of future and past, but a coming “about
one another, . . . in such a way that circumvents conventional modalities
RISUHVHQFHDQGKROGVWLPHRSHQWRWKHFRPLQJRIDQRWKHU A Weak
Messianic Power  ,QWKLVVHQVHWKHODFXQDHRIKLVWRU\ȠHFKRHVWUDFHV
UHPDLQVȤGHDWKLQVRIDUDVLWPDNHVUHPDLQVȥȠDUHQRWVLPSO\VXVSHQGHG
LQWKHPRQWDJHWKH\DUHDFWLYDWHGLQWKHWUDQVLWDV0DUFKDQWVD\V
of a secret circulation, which involves the possibility of reception
or encounter. This activation is in fact acknowledged by Oyarzún’s
GHVFULSWLRQRIUHGHPSWLRQDWWKHHQGRIȤ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥDOWKRXJKLWLV
not developed. He describes piedadDVVKHOWHUDQGSURWHFWLRQ custodia,
acogida, resguardo, protección EXWDOVRDNLQGRIVHQGLQJRQ remisión,
envío ,QFLGHQWDOO\WKLVVHQVHRIȤSLHW\ȥUHVRQDWHVZLWK%DUWKHVȢVXVH
of the term piété at the end of Camera Lucida. There he turns from the
ˋOLDOHURWLFVHQVHRIȤORYHȥWRGHVFULEHWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKH
SKRWRJUDSKLWVREVHUYHUDQGLWVREMHFWWRWKHQRWLRQRIȤSLW\ȥZKLFK
he describes as a mad, passionate gathering of lacunae—“what is dead,
ZKDWLVJRLQJWRGLHȥ %DUWKHVȟ 7KLVPDGIRUPRIFRPSDVVLRQ
does not level differences and distances between self and other, past
DQGSUHVHQWDVDKLVWRULFLVWIRUPRIHPSDWK\ %HQMDPLQȢVEinfühlung,
IRULQVWDQFH EXWNHHSVWKHPLQPRWLRQȤLQWKHˋHOGRIWKHSRVVLEOHȥ
&DGDYDDQG&RUW«V5RFFD 

Addressing Life beyond the Anthropo-Theological:


From Final de Pista to the Historia del Rostro Humano

Much of Dittborn’s work consists of collages featuring different


images of the human, culled from a variety of sources, including
mass-produced publications such as magazines and newspapers,
family albums, ethnographic studies, instructional manuals, children’s
drawings, and the history of art. Institutional portraits are privileged,
especially criminal mug shots and sketches, sports and fashion
SKRWRJUDSK\DQGLPDJHVRIGHDGDQGPXPPLˋHGERGLHV7KHLPDJHV
130 Witnessing Beyond the Human

tend to be combined with snippets of text or iconography, sometimes


extracted from source material such as newspapers or books, and
sometimes inscribed by the artist, as well as different forms of stains
and marks, sometimes prominent and sometimes barely noticeable.
These elements have been relatively constant from his early work in
WKHVWRKLVODWHUVHULHVRIPinturas Aeropostales ȟSUHVHQW 
In the Pinturas Aeropostales Dittborn alters his medium slightly,
incorporating a kinetic element in which the collages are folded into
envelopes and sent through the post to different galleries around the
world. This alteration in medium has precedence in Dittborn’s life, as
he has also worked with performance, artist books, and video, but by
far the bulk of his production has consisted of collages with similar
motifs and techniques.
7KHYLVXDOLPDJHRIWKHKXPDQIDFHDQGˋJXUHH[WUDFWHGIURPDUFKLYHV
of various forms, is by far the most salient and recurrent feature of
Dittborn’s collages. This motif began in the early years of the Pinochet
dictatorship, with Delachilenapintura Ȥ2QFKLOHDQSDLQWLQJȥ DQG
Final de Pista Ȥ)LQLVK /LQHȥ   DQG KDV FRQWLQXHG WR WKH PRVW
recent Pinturas Aeropostales, including the series Historia del rostro
humano Ȥ+LVWRU\RIWKH+XPDQ)DFHȥ ZKLFKGDWHVIURP+HZDV
reportedly criticized during the dictatorship for not including images
of the desaparecidos in his art, while others interpreted his use of
archival images as substitutes for them, disguised in order to circumvent
the censors. Although the dictatorship and its violent effects were
undoubtedly a major influence for his work, his interest in the face
and form of the human body should not be read as a making visible of
that which could not be seen. As his later interest in the exhumation of
PXPPLˋHGUHPDLQVVXJJHVWVUHYHODWLRQLVQRWWKHVDPHDVUHFRYHU\WKH
uncovering of bodies reveals the uncovering of bodies, which in some
VHQVHLVLWVRZQIRUPRIEXULDO ˋJXUH 
Very much in relation to the repressive politics of the dictatorship,
but in no way reduced to them, Dittborn examines the ways in
which representation situates the other in a delimited place. The
face and the archive are different forms of positioning, sites that
ideally gather history into a kind of legibility, one into a sense of
transparent individuality, and the other in an inclusive and ordered
space of preservation. Rei Terada glosses Paul de Man’s discussion
of prosopopoeia as an attempt to recuperate or restore a missing
other through the conferring of a face. She stresses the spatial
Figure 4.2: (XJHQLR 'LWWERUQ El Cadáver, el Tesoro, Airmail Painting No. 90
GHWDLO 3DLQWVWLWFKLQJIHDWKHUVDQGSKRWRVLONVFUHHQRQWKUHHVHFWLRQVRI
QRQZRYHQIDEULF[LQ3KRWRE\-RHUJ/RKVH,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI$OH[DQGHU
and Bonin, New York.
132 Witnessing beyond the Human

dimension of this trope, noting how it “facilitate[s] the crossing of


LQZDUGDQGRXWZDUGSURSHUWLHVȥLQZKLFKWKHIDFHRSHUDWHVDVDGLUHFW
conduit to the depths of an individual’s being, depths assumed to be
HDVLO\FRPPXQLFDWHGWRRWKHUV 7HUDGD 7KHDUFKLYHLVDNLQGRI
inversion of this movement of ex-pression, an internalizing structure
that functions as both foundation and house for the collection and
preservation of the singular, and its conversion into the generic. 
'LWWERUQȢVFROODJHZRUNZLWKLPDJHVRIIDFHVDQGˋJXUHVOLIWHGIURP
old magazines interrogates this internalizing externalization that
effectively disavows anything that lies outside of its scope. He describes
his approach in his artist notes for Final de pista:

The painter owes his works to the human face, unique and generic in its
somatic constitution . . . hunting grounds of photogenia . . . The painter
owes his works to the body of the human person deported in a photogenic
state to the collective space of the magazine, consecration of its perpetual
H[SRVXUH Final de pistaFDWDORJ

(OSLQWRUGHEHVXVWUDEDMRVDOURVWURKXPDQR¼QLFR\JHQ«ULFRHQVX
FRQVWLWXFLµQVRP£WLFDFDPSRGHFD]DGHODIRWRJHQLD(OSLQWRU
debe sus trabajos al cuerpo de la persona humana deportado en estado
IRWRJ«QLFRDOHVSDFLRFROHFWLYRGHODUHYLVWDFRQVDJUDFLµQGHVXSHUSHWXR
desamparo.

The emphasis on photogenia suggests the sense in which the faces


and bodies are not autonomous to photographs that merely reveal
WKHPEXWWKDWVLPXOWDQHRXVO\ȤXQLTXHDQGJHQHULFȥWKHLUSUHVXPHG
uniqueness both produces and is produced by the photographic genre,
in Lyotard’s understanding of a genre as a discursive structure that
KROGV XV VSHOOERXQG WR D FHUWDLQ VHQVH RI WKH ZRUOG /\RWDUG The
Differend&KDPEHUV 7KHIDFHVDQGˋJXUHVDSSHDUDVERWK
origins and culminations of such a genre, a full tropic turn. Dittborn’s
GHVFULSWLRQRIWKHSDLQWHUȢVȤGHEWȥ deber QDPHVDQREOLJDWLRQWRWKH
other that exceeds such economic resolution and return.
(YHQ EHIRUH WKH\ DUH FDSWXUHG E\ WKH SKRWRJUDSKLF WDNH WKH
photographed subjects are internalized by the figure of the face,
GHVFULEHGDVDKXQWLQJJURXQGWKHUHLVQRRXWVLGHWKH\DUHPDUNHGSUH\
7KHUHVRQDQFHRIȤFDPSRGHFD]Dȥ KXQWLQJJURXQGV DQGcasa de campo
FRXQWU\KRXVH DVSDFHWKDWERWKJURXQGHGDQGSUHVHUYHGXSSHUFODVV
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 133

privilege in traditional Chilean culture, further suggests that the a priori


sense of capture represented by these pictures is one that supports and
PDLQWDLQVWUDGLWLRQDOVRFLDOVWUDWLˋFDWLRQ7KHUHLVDVLPLODUSOD\DW
work in the word deportado, which suggests both deportation and sport
deporte DFRQWHVWIUDPHGERWKE\UXOHVDQGVSDFHWKHQRPRORJLFDODQG
the topological. The photographic subjects are simultaneously banished
and contained in the genre of the human.
This sense is indicated by the series title, Final de pista, which
suggests both a sense of disappearing traces, such as the end of a
trail of footprints, and the end of a track or a space designated for a
formalized activity such as a race. This latter sense is illustrated with a
series of images of men in various stages of sporting events, their faces
GLVWRUWHGE\WKHLUHIIRUWRUWKHLUˋJXUHVFUXPSOHGLQGHIHDWDUULYLQJQRW
DWDWULXPSKDQWˋQLVKOLQHEXWDWWKHHQGRIWKHLUJDPHWKHHQGRIWKH
JDPHRIWKHKXPDQ ˋJXUHVDQG ȠDQHQGWKDWLVDQLQWHJUDOSDUW
RIWKDWJDPHUHFDOOLQJ'HUULGDȢVGHˋQLWLRQRIKXPDQOLIHDVDQWKURSR
WKHRORJLFDOO\VXVSHQGHGEHWZHHQVDFULˋFHDQGVDOYDWLRQ Ȥ)DLWKȥ 
Dittborn explores the anthropo-theological dimension of the pista
of the human throughout his work in a number of ways. One example
is a collage that appears in the catalog of Final de pista ˋJXUH ,Q
this collage, the central image is not a male athlete, but a woman with
DVRPEHUH[SUHVVLRQDQGDKDLUVW\OHWKDWHYRNHVWKHV SRVVLEO\D
-HZLVKUHIXJHH 7KLVSKRWRJUDSKFRQWUDVWVZLWKDSRUWUDLWFXWRIIPLGZD\
WKURXJKWKHH\HVRIDQRWKHUZRPDQSRVVLEO\DPRGHOLQWKHXSSHUDQG
ORZHUOHIWKDQGFRUQHUVDSSHDUWKHZRUG9($ 6(( LQEORFNOHWWHUVWDNHQ
from the popular Chilean fashion and celebrity magazine of that name.
The cropped word masacrado ȤPDVVDFUHGȥ DSSHDUVEHQHDWKWKHIRRW
of the woman in the central image, and between the two halves of the
montage appears the inscription already cited concerning the painter’s
ȤGHEWȥWRȤWKHERG\RIWKHKXPDQSHUVRQGHSRUWHGLQDSKRWRJHQLFVWDWH
to the collective space of the magazine, consecration of its perpetual
H[SRVXUHȥ7KHFODXVWURSKRELFVSDFHRIWKHFHQWUDOLPDJHLQZKLFKWKH
ZRPDQLVKHPPHGLQE\SULVRQOLNHEDUVDQGWDLOHGE\DVKDGRZ\ˋJXUH
implies an association with state repression, a repression that clearly is
not limited to Pinochet’s dictatorship. The tight crop and the typography
of the word Vea suggest a forceful and restrictive sense of what can and
VKRXOGEHVHHQXQGHUVXFKUHSUHVVLRQDQGWKHVHYHUHGSRUWUDLWRIWKH
model and the word masacrado suggest that such perception is only ever
partial. The word estado in the inscription reinforces the association
Figure 4.3: Cover from the catalog of Final de Pista[LQFKHV,PDJH
FRXUWHV\RI(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ

Figure 4.4: (XJHQLR'LWWERUQPor última vez3KRWRVLONVFUHHQDQGDFU\OLFRQ


MXWH[LQFKHV,Q.D\'HOespacio de acá,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ
Figure 4.5: (XJHQLR 'LWWERUQ Vea, from Final de Pista  ,PDJH FRXUWHV\ RI
(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ
136 Witnessing beyond the Human

of the state and a regulated exposure to light determining the limits


RIFROOHFWLYHVSDFH espacio colectivo 7KHFROODJHSUHVHQWVDKLJKO\
pertinent, if somewhat conventional, critique of commercial imagery
and its discursive complicity with state repression. The most interesting
element, and one that moves this piece beyond convention, is the visual
echo between the words consagración and masacrado, a resonance that
VLJQDOVWKHVDFULˋFLDOORJLFRQZKLFKGLVFRXUVHVRIVDQFWLW\DQGVDOYDWLRQ
rest. This is in part another lightly veiled allusion to the dictatorship,
especially since the coup and its massacres were hailed by the right as
a salvation of Chile from the scourge of Marxism, but it also indicates
a critical desistence from anthropo-theological structures that runs
throughout much of his work.
This desistence is announced on one of the catalog’s first pages,
DSDJHWKDWIHDWXUHVWKHFDSWLRQȤWH[WRSDUDILQDOGHSLVWDȥ ȤWH[WIRU
ILQLVKOLQHȥ ZKLFKLQFOXGHVDQLPDJHDQGDKDQGZULWWHQLQVFULSWLRQ
ILJXUH   7KH LQVFULSWLRQ UHDGV Ȥ< KDELHQGROH GHVFROJDGR OH
HQYROYLµHQXQDV£EDQD\OHFRORFµHQXQVHSXOFURDELHUWRHQSHQD
viva, en donde ninguno hasta entonces había sido sepultado. San
/XFDV;;,,,ȟȥ Ȥ$QGKDYLQJORZHUHGKLPVKHRUKHZUDSSHG
him in a sheet, and placed him in a sepulcher, open in living sorrow,
LQZKLFKQRERG\XQWLOWKHQKDGEHHQVHSXOFKHUHGȥFinal de Pista 
The passage is from the Gospel of Luke, and concerns the lowering
and sepulture of Christ’s body after his crucifixion. This reference
can be read as a subtle demand for the bodies of the desaparecidos,
especially since the preceding biblical verse concerns a request for
Christ’s body. Dittborn’s quotation goes beyond a demand to produce
RU UHYHDO WKHVH ȤGLVDSSHDUHGȥ ERGLHV KRZHYHU +H GRHV QRW VHHN D
counter-salvation of Chile through the return of the desaparecidos,
a return to the bosom of the Chilean familia sagrada, as one of the
ghostly pieces in Final de pistaVXJJHVWV ILJXUH 
Such a redemptive return would be a matter of developing a negative
into a positive, as if the desaparecidos could ever fully be revealed or
placed in a sepulcher or back on the pista from which they had disap-
peared. The verse from Luke concerns the interment of the recovered
body of Christ, its placement in a unique sepulcher—a kind of darkroom
RIUHYHDODELOLW\RUUHGHHPDELOLW\ȠZKHUHVDFULˋFHLVWUDQVIRUPHGLQWR
VDOYDWLRQDQGZKHUH&KULVWEHFRPHVWKHDQWKURSRWKHRORJLFDOˋJXUHSDU
excellence. Dittborn disturbs this ideal of recuperation and redemption
WKURXJKDVXEWOHPRGLˋFDWLRQLQWKH%LEOLFDOSDVVDJH7KH%LEOLFDOYHUVH
Figure 4.6: (XJHQLR'LWWERUQ8QWH[WRSDUDˋQDOGHSLVWD, from the catalog of Final
de Pista,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ
138 Witnessing beyond the Human

Figure 4.7: (XJHQLR'LWWERUQLa sagrada familia, from Final de Pista GHWDLO 
,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ

describes Christ’s sepulcher as situated “en un sepulcro abierto en una


SH³Dȥ ȤLQDWRPEFXWLQWKHURFNȥ EXW'LWWERUQȢVVFUDZOHGWUDQVFULSWLRQ
suggests that the sepulcher may not in fact be a secure place of salva-
tion.$OWKRXJKWKHUHLVDYHU\IDLQWPDUNRYHUWKHȤQȥLQSHQDWKHUH
LVQRFOHDUWLOGHVRUDWKHUWKDQDȤVHSXOFURDELHUWRHQXQDSH³DȥWKH
VHSXOFKHULVȤDELHUWRHQSHQDYLYDȥDVHSXOFKHURSHQHGWRYLYLGVRUURZ
RURSHQHGWRDNLQGRIVSHFWUDOKDXQWLQJ LQWKHVHQVHRIDQȤ£QLPRHQ
SHQDȥ DVXUYLYDORUȤOLIHȥEH\RQGGHDWKWKDWHYDGHVWKHHQFORVXUHRI
the anthropo-theological.
7KHLPDJHWKDWDFFRPSDQLHVWKLVLQVFULSWLRQ VHHˋJXUH LVWKH
VDPHWKDWZHVDZDWWKHEHJLQQLQJRIWKLVERRN ˋJXUH ,WSRUWUD\V
WKHIDWDONQRFNRXWVFHQHRI%HQQ\ Ȥ.LGȥ 3DUHWD&XEDQER[HUDW
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 139

0DGLVRQ6TXDUH*DUGHQLQ—a death by blows or golpes, evocative


of Pinochet’s golpe de estado, but not limited to it. It is an image that
Dittborn has used repeatedly throughout his work in a number of
different formats, including in a print in Final de pista titled Pietá,
DQGWKHLWHUDWLRQIURPZKLFKEHDUVWKHVDPHWLWOHDQGLQFOXGHs a
caption that reads “Humanidad: del latín humandoVHSXOWDUȥ,WKDV
also been used a number of times, including in several of the Pinturas
Aeropostales.  Whether accompanied by the Biblical passage in the
ȤWH[WRSDUDˋQDOGHSLVWDȥRUE\WKHWLWOHPietá, the image clearly invokes
the anthropo-theological relation, the notion of humanity delimited by
VDFULˋFHDQGVDOYDWLRQ
/LNHWKHERG\RI&KULVWDIWHUWKHFUXFLˋ[LRQ3DUHWȢVERG\KDVEHHQ
deportadoWRXVH'LWWERUQȢVVXJJHVWLYHWHUPVDFULˋFHGRUUHPRYHG
while in the pista of the human. As the passage from Luke reminds us,
WKH%LEOLFDOUHVSRQVHWR&KULVWȢVȤGHSRUWDWLRQȥLVDORZHULQJRIWKHERG\
descolgar DQGVHSXOWXUHLQWHQGHGDVHQFORVXUHRUSURWHFWLRQZKLFK
UHVXOWVLQUHVXUUHFWLRQDVDOYDWLRQWKDWQHYHUWKHOHVVUHTXLUHVVDFULˋFH
In the visual analogy with Paret, Dittborn seems to be asking what
sepulture would mean in his case, whether salvation or redemption is
possible, what piety or compassion is, and, especially as emphasized
E\WKHFDSWLRQKRZWKHVHFXODUQRWLRQRIKXPDQLW\VWUXFWXUDOO\
replays the anthropo-theological ideal of redemption. In conjunction
with the artist’s notes in Final de pista, the image seems to suggest
WKDWEXULDOWDNHVSODFHLQWKHLPDJH ȤFRQVDJUDFLµQGHVXSHUSHWXR
GHVDPSDURȥ DQGHYHQEHIRUHLQWKHVSHFWDFOHRIWKLVdeporte that
simultaneously performs and disavows the structure of domination
represented by the upright, dressed, light-skinned bodies bending
over the prostrate, bare, dark-skinned boxer, and which turns action
into an object of consumption. The spectacle of sport and its mediatic
broadcasts—including television, as indicated by the television frame
inconspicuously circumscribing this pista—offer redemption in the form
of fame that purports to transcend and compensate mortal suffering.
In the case of Paret’s fatal knockout, the limits of this anthropo-
theological performance seem to have been touched, its sacrificial
aspect more explicit than its consecration, which is compensated for
LQDVFHQHRIFRQFHUQDQGȤSLHW\ȥDQDORJRXVWRWKHLFRQLFVFHQHRI
the lamentation of Christ. Marian piety is conventionally understood
2\DU]¼QȢVLQWHUSUHWDWLRQQRWZLWKVWDQGLQJȠ,ZLOODGGUHVVWKLVVKRUWO\ 
as a terrestrial version of the paternal ascension of Christ, the holding up
140 Witnessing beyond the Human

RIWKHGHDGVRQFRQVWLWXWLQJDUHGHPSWLYHIRUPRIJULHIWKDWSUHˋJXUHV
GLYLQHUHGHPSWLRQ7KHDSSDUHQWFRQFHUQRIWKHER[LQJRIˋFLDOLQWKH
pistaRIWKHKXPDQZKLFKZHDVVXPHWREHUHˌHFWHGLQWKHEOXUU\IDFHV
in the audience, and extended indefinitely in the virtual televised
audience as well as the virtual observers of Dittborn’s citation of this
image, performs a similar raising up of the fallen in the form of a
humane or humanitarian reaction, a concern for the other based on a
presumption of commonality, which in turn reinforces and redeems our
sense of humanity. In a way, as in Foucault’s discussion of Velazquez’s
Las Meninas, we—the spectators of the pista of deportation—are the
KLGGHQVXEMHFWRIWKHLPDJHZLWQHVVLQJUHˌHFWVWKHVSHFWDFOHRIKXPDQ
VRYHUHLJQW\RYHUKXPDQLW\ )RXFDXOW 7KHUHPD\EHVXIIHULQJEXW
our concern for the other redeems him in a shared sense of humanity.
This sense of humanity misses structural differences such as the fact
WKDWVDFULˋFLDOGHSRUWDWLRQWHQGVWRIDOOGLVSURSRUWLRQDWHO\RQWKHSRRU
and racially and geopolitically marginalized, as well as the fact that
FRPPRQDOLW\ZLWKWKHRWKHULVDˋFWLRQWKDWDOZD\VRYHUORRNVWKHRWKHUȢV
undeniable alterity.
An interesting detail in the scene of Paret’s knockout, of which
Dittborn may or may not have been aware, adds an additional element
to this sense of humanitarian sovereignty. It turns out that the light-
VNLQQHGRIˋFLDOOHDQLQJRYHU3DUHWLVDQ$IULFDQ$PHULFDQGRFWRUDIDFW
that adds extra weight to the tension between the series of oppositions
LQWKHLPDJH VWDQGLQJSURQHGUHVVHGEDUHOLJKWVNLQQHGGDUNDOO
UHLQIRUFHGE\WKHFKLDURVFXURRIWKHLPDJH DQGWKHQRWLRQRISLHW\
RUFRPSDVVLRQ/LNHLGHQWLW\SROLWLFVWKDWDIˋUPFRPPRQDOLW\DWWKH
expense of socio-political differences, this in-visible similarity can
be understood as overshadowing the evident differences in the scene,
including the fundamental difference between the structure of the
anthropo-theological and the creaturely body, which always exceeds and
disturbs its pistas. The fact that this man is a doctor on the staff of the
boxing commission adds another dimension to the secular salvation of
WKHIDOOHQ$WHFKQLFDOSUDFWLWLRQHURIKXPDQLWDULDQLVP RUWKHKXPDQH
VLGHRIELRSROLWLFDOPDQDJHPHQW KHLVUHVSRQVLEOHIRUGHWHUPLQLQJZKR
will rise to play again, and, in the spirit of medical professionals present
during torture sessions, for determining that the violence sanctioned
by the game does not kill the players.
Dittborn’s recurrent use of this image is not intended simply to
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 141

portray the anthropo-theological sepulture of the human. The pista of


GHSRUWDWLRQZKHWKHUDVOLYHVSHFWDFOHRUPHGLDWHGLPDJH DOVRFDOOHG
ȤOLYHȥDVLIWRHOLPLQDWHWKHGLVWDQFHRIPHGLDWLRQ LVQHYHUDEVROXWH 
Like Lyotard’s description of genre, the pista of the human attempts to
contain something that cannot fully be contained, which he describes
DVDGLIIHUHQG The Differend ,Q'LWWERUQȢVWHUPLQRORJ\WKLVFDQEH
thought of as the pistas LQWKHVHQVHRIWUDFHVRUWUDFNV WKDWWUDYHUVH
and exceed the pista WUDFNODQHGHVLJQDWHGVSDFH ,QȤWH[WRSDUDˋQDO
GHSLVWDȥWKHLPDJHLVSODFHGDORQJVLGHWKHDSRFU\SKDOTXRWDWLRQIURP
the gospel of Luke, which subtly pries open the redemptive structure of
VHSXOWXUHOHDYLQJLWȤDELHUWRHQSHQDYLYDȥ,QDQLQWHUYLHZ'LWWERUQ
explains that he has a “special fascination for images which carry the
WUDFHVRIWKHLUVXFFHVVLYHWUDQVIHUVRUWKHPDUNVRIWKHLUWUDYHOVȥZKLFK
is what drew him to this image of Paret:

7KHˋUVWPHGLDWLRQZRXOGEHWKH79VFUHHQRQZKLFKLUUXSWHGWKHLPDJH
of Beny [sic] Kid Paret lying in agony on the canvas at Madison Square
Garden. A UPI [United Press International] photographer photographed
the scene from the TV screen, and later the UPI sent this photo to the
&KLOHDQPDJD]LQHȤ*RO\*ROȥZKLFKSULQWHGDQGSXEOLVKHGLW$FRS\RI
WKLVPDJD]LQHHQGHGXS\HDUVODWHULQDVHFRQGKDQGERRNVWRUHZKHUH,
IRXQGLWLQ,ZRUNHGIRUDUHODWLYHO\ORQJWLPHZLWKWKLVSKRWRJUDSK
UHSULQWLQJLWPDQ\WLPHV Mapa

+HGHVFULEHVVXFKLPDJHVDVȤ£QLPDVHQSHQDȥKDXQWLQJUHPLQGHUV
that sepulture is never complete, that human life is not contained by
the pistas of deportation.
This spectral dynamic is indicated within the image by the inclusion of
the television frame. The anachronistic curvature of the frame functions
as a temporal and spatial fold, a reminder of the fact of mediation that
GLVUXSWVWKHFROODSVLQJRIGLVWDQFHSURPLVHGE\WKHWHUPȤWHOHYLVLRQȥ
:HEHUȤ7HOHYLVLRQ6HWDQG6FUHHQȥȟ 7KHLPDJHRI3DUHWȢV
lamentation, like Christ’s sepulture in the apocryphal translation, is left
open, to elude and interrogate the secular narratives of humanitarian
UHGHPSWLRQ,QWKHYHUVLRQRIWKH Pietá ˋJXUH, LQDGGLWLRQWR
the frame within the frame, two other subtle pistas PDUNVRUWUDFHV 
GLVWXUEWKHVHSXOWXUHRIWKHKXPDQ7KHˋUVWLVDIHZGURSVRIEXUQWRLOȠ
barely visible, but noted in the list of materials—sprinkled on the surface
142 Witnessing beyond the Human

of the image like exhausted mechanical teardrops, material remains


RIWKHSURFHVVHVRIUHSURGXFWLRQDQGWUDQVSRUWDWLRQRIWKLVȤ£QLPDHQ
SHQDȥ The second is a semi-colon that appears surreptitiously at the
end of the caption “Humanidad: del latín humandoVHSXOWDUȥDPDUN
that indicates both continuity and discontinuity, a kind of syntactical
frame that suggests that the sepulture of the human is not absolute.
Although Oyarzún does not refer directly to Dittborn’s work in his
discussion of the gesture of piedad in the works of the Avanzada, it
is clearly a primary allusion. The scene of Paret’s knockout differs
VLJQLˋFDQWO\IURP2\DU]¼QȢVDFFRXQWRI0LFKDHODQJHORȢVPietá, however,
VLQFHWKHȤSLRXVȥˋJXUHEHQGLQJRYHU3DUHWVHHPVIXOO\FRPSOLFLWLQ
the structure of redemption. Nevertheless, the marks that deface and
disrupt the teleological emplacement of the human, including the frame
within the frame, the drops of oil, and the semi-colon, can be read as
effecting the kind of epochal suspension that Oyarzún associates with
Michaelangelo’s Mary, a holding up and holding open of the scene of
VXIIHULQJLQUHVLVWDQFHWRLWVDQWKURSRWKHRORJLFDOMXVWLˋFDWLRQDQG
closure. In Dittborn’s piece this suspension is not absolute or self-
contained, as Thayer imputes of the works of the Avanzada. The semi-
colon in particular indicates a rupture that is, as Oyarzún says, a kind
RIVHQGLQJ envío, remisión DQDGGUHVVRIDOWHULW\EH\RQGWKHVHSXOWXUH
RIWKHKXPDQ$V2\DU]¼QVD\VLQȤ7HVLVEUHYHVVREUHDUWH\SRO¯WLFDȥ
this sense of suspension as exposure can be thought of as a kind of
witnessing: it is a witnessing that does not congeal into the spectacle of
RXURZQKXPDQLW\EXWZKLFKFRQVWLWXWHVDIRUPRIFRPSDVVLRQ piedad 
IRUWKHRWKHUEH\RQGFRPPRQDOLW\DQGȤZLWKRXWDVVXUDQFHRIDSDVVDJHȥ
'HUULGD6KLEEROHWK  
In the Pinturas Aeropostales, Dittborn takes the spectral dynamic
of mediation and sending to a new level, at once more explicit—the
series involves literal transmission through the postal service—and
implicit—the Aeropostales PRUHFROODJHVWKDQSDLQWLQJV DUHIROGHGWR
ˋWLQWRHQYHORSHVWKHIROGVDQGWKHDFWRIIROGLQJIRUPLQJDQLPSRUWDQW
FRPSRQHQWRIWKHSLHFHV7KHˋJXUHRIWKHKXPDQLVFHQWUDOWRWKLVSKDVH
of his work, as indicated by the series Historia del rostro humano, which
forms a large part of the Pinturas Aeropostales, and links the gesture of
displacement to prosopopoeic emplacement.
Much attention has been paid to the physical transmission performed
by the Pinturas Aeropostales, especially to the way they cross geographical
borders. Continuing the approach of his earlier work, however, Dittborn
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 143

stresses that the motif of travel invoked by the Pinturas Aeropostales


operates in multiple registers, including space, time, and medium.
As with his description of the Pietá photograph, the collages involve
images taken from different times and places, transposed from one
medium to another. These registers intersect and inform another, that of
VHPDQWLFVZKLFKDOVRLQYROYHVDNLQGRIWUDYHORUPRYHPHQW ZHVSHDN
IRULQVWDQFHRIWKHFRQYH\DQFHRIPHDQLQJ +HUHSHDWHGO\VWUHVVHVKRZ
such dynamics depart from a teleological or epic structure, understood
as a linear journey that departs from a single point of origin, overcomes
REVWDFOHVDQGDUULYHVDWDˋQDOGHVWLQDWLRQWKDWSURYLGHVDWULXPSKDQW
point of closure and reward.
In a particularly intriguing analogy, Dittborn explains this sense
of epic as informing the conventional sense of representation. He
illustrates this idea with a description of a painting by Francisco de
Goya titled A caza de dientes Hunting for Teeth ZKLFKIHDWXUHVDZRPDQ
VWHDOLQJJROGˋJXUHVRXWRIDKDQJHGPDQȢVPRXWK+HVXUPLVHVWKDW
“One of the things that runs through all visual experimentation is the
search for gold, in remote places. And what is most intently sought
DIWHULQWKLVSUDFWLFHLVSUHFLVHO\WKHJOLQWRILWLQXQOLNHO\SODFHVȥ
Mapa 7KHHSLFVWUXFWXUHLQWKLVVHQVHFDQEHXQGHUVWRRGDVD
NLQGRIUHSUHVHQWDWLRQDOVHDUFKIRU(O'RUDGRLQZKLFKUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ
functions as a form of travel toward an object that uncovers its value, or
creates its value through its extraction. The example of Goya’s painting
DQGWKHGHVFULSWLRQRIȤUHPRWHȥSODFHVVXJJHVWVWKDWWKHHSLFVWUXFWXUH
of representation is characterized by both an internal and external
extension, seeking value from the depths of the emblematically familiar,
WKHKXPDQˋJXUHDVZHOODVGLVWDQWH[WUHPHVVXFKDV/DWLQ$PHULFD 
'LWWERUQȢVHYRFDWLRQRIWKH*R\DSDLQWLQJVHHPVWREHLQˌXHQFHGE\
the history of Latin American conquest and colonialism, a search for
ȤJROGȥ DQGVLOYHUFRSSHURLOIUXLWHWF LQUHPRWHSODFHVWKDWSURGXFHG
and concealed countless dead. He cautions that while postcolonial
attempts to establish a sense of autochthonous identity often base
themselves on reversing such concealment, they often unwittingly
recreate an epic structure, mining a discursive form of gold imagined to
EHHPEHGGHGLQ/DWLQ$PHULFDQKLVWRU\ 1HUXGDȢVCanto general could
EHFRQVLGHUHGWRHSLWRPL]HWKLVWHQGHQF\ 'LWWERUQFKDUDFWHUL]HVWKLV
NLQGRIWKLQNLQJEDVHGRQWKHUHFRYHU\ recogimiento RIȤHOSROYRGHORV
PXHUWRVȥDVȤ«SLFDHVGHFLUFDULFDWXUDȥ ȤWKHGXVWRIWKHGHDGDVHSLF
WKDWLVWRVD\FDULFDWXUHȥMapa  7KHDVVRFLDWLRQEHWZHHQHSLF
144 Witnessing beyond the Human

DQGFDULFDWXUH OLNHO\LQVSLUHGDWOHDVWLQSDUWE\*R\DHYHQWKRXJK
WKHVHUHPDUNVZHUHPDGHLQGLIIHUHQWLQWHUYLHZV LQGLFDWHVKRZIDFLOH
attempts to represent Latin America, which Dittborn suggests are based
on a similar kind of epic economy as colonial expropriation, constitute
a grotesque distortion of life and history in Latin America.
For Dittborn, the motif of travel concerns different forms of
HPSODFHPHQWDQGWKHLUSRWHQWLDOGLVUXSWLRQVȤ(SLFȥQDPHVDIRUPRI
voyage that constitutes and reinforces a specular relationship between
VHOIDQGRWKHUDVZHOODVVHOIDQG JHRFXOWXUDO VHOI7KHWHUPȤFDULFDWXUHȥ
stresses the way that such economic emplacement occurs in and as
representation, a journey toward the self or other with an aim to uncover
and recover, as though extracting gold from a corpse. Such a description
recalls the numerous distorted faces that appear throughout his work,
including the images of exhumed corpses interspersed throughout the
Aeropostales, a motif that evokes the practice of mining and recuperating
ȤHOSROYRGHORVPXHUWRVȥ7KHVHLPDJHVIXQFWLRQLQSDUWDVDNLQGRI
ZDUQLQJˌDJWRUHPLQGXVRIVXFKWHQGHQFLHV
However, like the images of sepulchral emplacement in Dittborn’s
earlier work, they also form part of an extended query into what it
means to regard or represent the other beyond the extraction of gold or
WKHUHFRYHU\RIWKHGXVWRIWKHGHDG'LWWERUQDIˋUPVWKDWȤWKHYR\DJH
of the AeropostalesUHIRUPXODWHVWKHHQWLUHTXHVWLRQRIJROGȥ Mapa
 DQGVXJJHVWVWKDWKLVZRUNVDUHPRWLYDWHGE\WKHTXHVWLRQRIȤKRZ
to invent . . . a gaze that would seek to gather up not only the dust
of the dead but also that which resists such gathering from the most
GLVFRQFHUWLQJIUDJLOLW\DJDLQVWWKHˌRZRIWLPHFURVVLQJGLVSHUVLRQ
FRQˋQHPHQWH[FOXVLRQDQGGHDWKȥ Mapa 7KDWLVWKH\UHMHFW
an epic economy of recovery and redemption in favor of another kind
RIYR\DJHDQGȤUHVFXHȥRUVDOYDJLQJWKDWGRHVQRWGLVDYRZWKHIUDJLOLW\
ephemerality, and dispersion of the other, that is, the fact that the other
LVDOZD\VDOVR IXQGDPHQWDOO\ LQWUDQVLW
In a related discussion, a propos of an exhibition of colonial and post-
FRORQLDO/DWLQ$PHULFDQDUWRUJDQL]HGE\D%HOJLDQPXVHXPLQ
'LWWERUQFRQVLGHUVKRZ(XURSHDQVKDYHWUDGLWLRQDOO\SHUFHLYHG/DWLQ
$PHULFDQDUW+HFKDUDFWHUL]HVWKHWUDGLWLRQDO(XURSHDQSHUVSHFWLYHDV
PHWDSK\VLFDOZKLFKKHGHˋQHVDVEHLQJJURXQGHGE\ DVERWKSRLQWRI
GHSDUWXUHDQGGHVWLQDWLRQLQWKHVWUXFWXUHRIHSLF ȤWKHPLUDJHRIRULJLQ
DGLVWDQWSRLQWRIEDODQFHXQFKDQJLQJDQGKLGGHQORVWDQGLGHDOL]HGȥ
Mapa +HREVHUYHVIXUWKHUPRUHWKDWȤWKH(XURSHDQVȠIURP
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 145

the days of the conquistadores and colonizers down to the present-day


tourists—have always endowed the American continent with this gift
RIEHLQJWKHRULJLQZKLFKDPRXQWVWRKDYLQJEHHQ DQGVWLOOEHLQJ 
SUHPRGHUQȥ Mapa 7KLVPHWDSK\VLFDOHSLFJD]HLVHSLWRPL]HG
by two predominant practices, namely ethnography, understood as a
documentation of the other as original, and religion, understood as a
shaping of aboriginal innocence into Christian piety. Dittborn describes
how colonial art subverts this order, reproducing the prescribed religious
iconography with subtle differences that he describes as “a ‘whiter shade
of pale,’ deprived and drained, these same icons resist instrumentality
DQGPHDQLQJȥ Mapa 7KDWLVFRORQLDODUWWUDFHVWKHVDPHURXWHV
and creates the same images as the colonial imaginary, but it disrupts
the specular economy based on the polarization of self and other and
all subsequent hierarchies.
'LWWERUQȢV LQWHUORFXWRU $GULDQD 9DOG«V UHPDUNV WKDW VXFK D
GHVFULSWLRQFRXOGEHXVHGWRDSSO\WR'LWWERUQȢVZRUNDVZHOOVSHFLˋFDOO\
in relation to the reproduction of iconic images of faces and exhumed
ERGLHVWKDWSHUYDGHKLVZRUN  7KDWLVWKHUHSURGXFWLRQVRI
photographs from other times, which he elsewhere describes as signs
indicating travel from other times, analogous to the temporal-spatial
MRXUQH\VRIIRVVLOOLJKWRIGLVWDQWVWDUV  GRQRWDUULYHLQWKH
SUHVHQWDVDˋQDOHSLFGHVWLQDWLRQ7KH\DUHQRWPHUHO\SHHNVLQWRWKH
past, not only revelation of forgotten remnants of the past. They reveal,
ethnographically and historiographically, that the past and the other
can never be revealed. The faces acquire through their reproduction “a
ZKLWHUVKDGHRISDOHȥWKH\EHFRPHȤLFRQV>WKDW@UHVLVWLQVWUXPHQWDOLW\
DQGPHDQLQJȥ  
Dittborn adds to the temporal and spatial dimensions of travel an
intriguing description of medium and technique in relation to the motif
of disinterment. He stresses that most of the images of disinterred
ERGLHVWKDWKHLQFOXGHVLQKLVZRUNZHUHPXPPLˋHGLQVDOWVQRZDQG
ice, that is, matter that resembles the white of paper like that used
in the Aeropostales QRQZRYHQSDSHUWREHSUHFLVHFKDUDFWHUL]HGE\
LWVSRURVLW\DQGOLPLWHGGXUDELOLW\VXFKDVWKDWXVHGLQWHDEDJV 7KH
backgrounds of many of the collages are marred by amorphous stains,
which he suggests evoke the bodies interred and preserved in the white
VXEVWDQFHV Mapa ). These stains are not markers of a surface-
depth opposition, however, nor are they indicators of a past presence
WKHZD\WKHVKURXGRI7XULQZDVEHOLHYHGWREHIRULQVWDQFH QHLWKHU
146 Witnessing beyond the Human

are they intended to mark absence, an empty sepulcher or cenotaph,


say.7KH\GRQRWUHˌHFWDQHSLFRUPHWDSK\VLFDODSSHDOWRWKHVWDELOLW\
of origins and determined destinations, but rather serve as signs of
GLIIXVLRQ 9DOG«VFDOOVWKHPȤPDQFKDVGLIXVDVȥGLIIXVHVWDLQV YLVXDO
cues of the shifts in shade and tone at work in the reproduced faces and
ˋJXUHVȠDSSHDOVWRWKHPRYHPHQWVRIWKHRWKHUWKDWHPHUJHGLVSHUVH
FRQJHDOUHWUHDWLQVKRUWWUDYHO
Dittborn observes that the international reception of his work has
tended to reproduce the colonial gaze, regarding the Aeropostales as
dispatches, from Chile to the rest of the world, of artisanally produced
UHYHODWLRQVRIQDWLYHWUXWKVWKDWKDGEHHQVWLˌHGE\WKHGLFWDWRUVKLS
That is, his work has been repeatedly misunderstood as traversing an
epic path—from the antipodes to the global metropolis, from the past
to the present, from concealment to exposure—a path that criticism
often seeks to repeat through a colonial extraction of meaning from
artistic work. He describes the process of gaining recognition on the
international art circuit with an analogy of crossing a rickety bridge:
ȤˋUVWWKHUXFNVDFNWKHQWKHFORWKLQJDQGˋQDOO\HYHQRQHȢVRZQˌHVK
2QHKDVWRFURVVWKHEULGJHVWULSSHGRIHYHU\WKLQJOLNHDVNHOHWRQȥ Mapa
 +LVLQVFULSWLRQLQWRWKHHFRQRPLFFLUFXLWRIFRQVXPSWLRQDQG
communication threatens to turn his work into one of the disinterred
corpses that his work interrogates, a morbid metaphysical icon.
Dittborn counterposes the caricatural sense of epic conquest and
appropriation represented by Goya’s etching of a corpse robbery with
DQ LPDJH RI D KDQJLQJ E\ D ZHOONQRZQ FDULFDWXULVW +H FDOOV -RV«
Guadalupe Posada’s The Hanged Man—Revolutionary Hanged by the
LandownersDȤPDWUL[ILJXUHȥ figura matricial RIWKHAeropostales
Mapa   ILJXUHVDQG +HH[SODLQVWKDWWKLVLVLQSDUWGXH
to the fact that “in spite of being hanged—suspended—he has both
feet touching the ground: the hanged man is, therefore, a bridge, the
FRQQHFWLRQEHWZHHQWKHVN\DQGWKHHDUWKȥ Mapa    He
explains this pairing of suspension and connection as central to the
technique of the Aeropostales, which travel through the air and arrive
at terrestrial destinations. Lest one be tempted to synthesize such a
movement into something resembling epic progression and arrival,
however, he stresses that both transit and arrival involve a kind of
suspension: the AeropostalesȤWUDYHOȥLQDSODQHKDQJLQJIURPWKHVN\
and then they hang from a wall just as the hanged man hangs from
DURSHȥ Mapa  
Figure 4.8: -RV«*XDGDOXSH3RVDGDEl ahorcado—Revolucionario ahorcado por los
hacendados The Hanged Man—Revolutionary Hanged by the Landowners  IURP
the portfolio 36 Grabados: José Guadalupe Posada. Photo-relief etching with
HQJUDYLQJ  [  LQFKHV ,PDJH FRXUWHV\ RI 7KH 0XVHXP RI )LQH $UWV
Houston. Gift of the Friends of Freda Radoff.
148 Witnessing beyond the Human

Figure 4.9: (XJHQLR 'LWWERUQ If Left to Its Own Devices, Airmail Painting No. 75,
ȟ 3DLQW HPEURLGHU\ VWLWFKLQJ FKDUFRDO DQG SKRWR VLONVFUHHQ RQ WZR
VHFWLRQVRIQRQZRYHQIDEULF[LQFKHV RYHUDOO ,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI$OH[DQGHU
and Bonin, New York.

The suspension and connection emblematized by the Posada print is


also indicated by the folds that crease the Aeropostales. “The airmailness
RI'LWWERUQȢVSDLQWLQJVUHVLGHVLQWKHLUIROGVȥZULWHV'LWWERUQLQRQH
RIKLVDUWLVWLFVWDWHPHQWV &RUUHFDPLQRV9,,LQAfterall: A Journal of
Art, Context, and Inquiry +HVWUHVVHVWKDWWKHIROGVKDYHDIXQFWLRQDO
aspect—namely, they are the result of reducing the artworks to the size
of envelopes, through which they are sent through the mail—but they
also represent central aspects of the works themselves. In response
WR LQWHUQDWLRQDO FULWLFDODWWHPSWVWRFODVVLI\DQGLQWHUSUHWKLVZRUN
in relation to a Chilean political context, he explains, “the political
DVSHFWRIP\ZRUNZDVWREHIRXQGLQWKHIROGVRIWKH$HURSRVWDOHV OLNH
DSRLVRQRXVSRZGHUKLGGHQWKHUH ȥ Mapa As he says of Posada’s
Hanged Man and the Aeropostales in general, both the folds themselves
and the sending that they make possible articulate a suspension that is
also a connection. The mark of a fold in paper indicates both continuity
and a kind of separation or disruption. It also indicates both revelation
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 149

and concealment: folded, the AeropostalesDUHVHFUHW ȤAirmail paintings


are secret. They move in the darkness of an envelope, in the darkness of
DQDLUFUDIWȥCorrecaminos VII, in Afterall DQGXQIROGHGWKH\UHYHDO
WKHPVHOYHVEXWDOVRWKHIDFWRIWKHLUFRQFHDOPHQW Ȥ:KHQWKLVERG\
was unfolded and displayed here or there, then, it showed the marks
RILWVRWKHUȥ 7KHIROGLQJDQGXQIROGLQJRIWKHAeropostales mimics
the inhumation and exhumation featured in its images, but disrupts
the logics of sepulchral emplacement and epic economy, opening their
enclosures, marking the limits of their revelations and extractions.
The association between suspension and politics recalls Thayer’s and
Oyarzún’s distinctive approaches to the potential of aesthetic disruption
or suspension, ideas that are developed in greater detail in their essays
on Dittborn’s work. In his relatively recent “Tierra de nadie en pinturas:
HOHQWUHOXJDUHQODDHURSRVWDOLGDGGH(XJHQLR'LWWERUQȥ SXEOLVKHGLQ
WUDQVODWLRQDVȤ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ1R0DQȢV/DQG3DLQWLQJVȥ 7KD\HU
refutes Guy Brett’s characterization of Dittborn’s Aeropostales as “kinetic
PHWDSKRUVȥ$OWKRXJKWKHWHUPPD\VHHPDSWDWˋUVWJODQFH7KD\HU
HPSKDVL]HVWKHHW\PRORJLFDOVHQVHRIPHWDSKRU FDUU\LQJDFURVV DVD
kind of transportation or translation, implying a kind of epic journey
from one sense to another. He writes, “airmail painting sheds light on the
SDUDGR[HVRIWUDQVODWLRQ WUDQVORFDWLRQ RIQRWˋQGLQJRQHVHOIZKHUHRQH
arrives, not arriving where one is located, not being where one is located,
DVLWLVGHVLJQHGIRUWKDWQRQSODFHWKDWSODFHRILQˋQLWHYLUWXDOLW\WKDWLV
WKHLQEHWZHHQ entrelugar, tierra de nadie LPSRVVLEOHWRSLQGRZQDWRQH
SRLQWDˌDVKRISUHVHQFHȥ   The folds mark this interstitiality,
functioning as neither cut nor connector, but as an autoimmune or
aporetic “effervescence that activates unstable coordinates by breaking
GRZQWKHLUWRSRORJLHVȥ    The fold indicates the necessary
IDLOXUHRIPHWDSKRUWUDQVODWLRQRUHSLFIXOˋOOPHQWDWWKHVDPHWLPH
WKDWLWHQDEOHVDMRXUQH\Ȥ7KHWUDQVODWLRQ WUDQVORFDWLRQ IDLOVLQWKH
LQˋQLWHVLPDO$QGQRQHWKHOHVVLWLVWUDQVODWHGȥ7KD\HUVWUHVVHVWKHIDFW
that such translations and differences do not congeal into pluralism or
identities of difference: “The fold institutes qualitative disturbances
of heterogeneous in-differentiation, not quantitative equivalences of
KRPRJHQHRXVGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQȥ  
7KHWHUPȤLQGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQȥRQWKHRQHKDQGVHHPVWRLQGLFDWH
KRZWKHHIIHUYHVFHQWYLUWXDOLW\LQGLFDWHGE\WKHIROGLQˋQLWHO\GLVWXUEV
the sense of presence and identity intrinsic to pluralistic notions of
GLIIHUHQFHȤ,QGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQȥDOVRUHVHPEOHVWKHZRUGȤLQGLIIHUHQFHȥ
150 Witnessing beyond the Human

however, which recalls his description in El fragmento repetido of a


ȤSXUHLQWHUUXSWLRQȥRUUDGLFDOVXVSHQVLRQRIMXGJPHQWUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ
decision, relationality, et cetera, which functions more as impasse than
DSRULD  +HFRQˋUPVWKLVDVVRFLDWLRQZKHQKHGHVFULEHVWKHIROGVLQ
'LWWERUQȢVZRUNDVLQGLFDWLQJDȤSXUHLPPLQHQFHȥDWHUPWKDWVXJJHVWV
DVHQVHRIDUULYLQJEXWZKLFKUHODWHVHW\PRORJLFDOO\WRVXVSHQVLRQ OLNH
LPSHQGLQJ KHFLWHVDȤSXUHLPPLQHQFHȥRIȤWKHstay, the arrival, the
departure, . . . the voyage,ȥDQGRIUHYHODWLRQ Ȥ7LHUUDGHQDGLHȥ
 $SXUHLPPLQHQFHZRXOGVHHPWRLPSO\WKDWQRWUDYHORULQGHHG
DQ\UHODWLRQWRWKHRWKHUFDQRFFXUFRQWUDGLFWLQJKLVDIˋUPDWLRQWKDW
translation does take place, in spite of or even because of its impossi-
bility. He acknowledges a multidimensional aspect of the movement
of the Aeropostales—consisting in ascent, executed in air travel and
SLFWXUHKDQJLQJȤLPPRELOHVXVSHQVLRQȥHPEOHPDWL]HGE\3RVDGDȢV
Hanged ManDQGGHVFHQWDVVRFLDWHGZLWKWKHPietá—but in spite of
these different movements, he insists on a permanence of suspension
in which the Aeropostal “remains unsteady in the virtuality of the cross-
road, in the . . . zone of indecision and the systematic destruction of
identityDQGSRVLWLRQȥ Ȥpersevera vacilante en la virtualidad del cruce,
HQOD]RQDGHLQGHFLVLµQ\VLVWHP£WLFDGHVWUXFFLµQGHODLGHQWLGDG\
ODSRVLFLµQȥ Ȥ7LHUUDGHQDGLHȥ (YRNLQJKLVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKH
UHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKHDUWZRUNDQGFULWLFLVPLQȤ9DQJXDUGLDȥGLFW-
DGXUDJOREDOL]DFLµQȥDQGWKHSKRWRJUDSKUHIHUHQWDQGREVHUYHULQ
Ȥ(O[HQRWDˋRGHOX]ȥKHDGGVȤWhe airmail painting does not represent
RQHWKLQJ DUHDOLW\ EHIRUHDQRWKHU DVSHFWDWRU ,WWHVWLˋes on itself
EHIRUHLWVHOIȥ ȤODDHURSRVWDOQRHVW£HQUHSUHVHQWDFLµQGHXQDFRVD XQD
UHDOLGDG SDUDRWUDFRVD XQHVSHFWDGRU 6HWHVWLˋFDDV¯PLVPDSDUDV¯
PLVPDȥ Ȥ7LHUUDGHQDGLHȥ +HFDXWLRQVWKDWWKHWHUPȤLWVHOIȥLV
not a single thing, which is to say that “,WIRUHYHUWHVWLˋHVEH\RQGLWV
testimony in each caseȥ ȤWHVWLˋFDVLHPSUHP£VGHORTXHHQFDGDFDVR
WHVWLPRQLDȥ QHYHUWKHOHVVWKLVH[FHVVDSSHDUVWREHDQH[FOXVLYH
property of the artworks, beyond any relation to another.
$OWKRXJK7KD\HUUHIHUVWR2\DU]¼QȢVZRUNRQ'LWWERUQDVFRQˋUPDWLRQ
RIKLVLQWHUSUHWDWLRQ2\DU]¼QȢVDSSURDFKH[KLELWVVXEWOHEXWVLJQLˋFDQW
differences, consistent with the distinction that I explored earlier.
(YRNLQJ0DUFKDQWȢVGHVFULSWLRQRISKRWRJUDSK\2\DU]¼QGHVFULEHVKRZ
Dittborn’s work stresses the elements of transmission and resistance to
transmission intrinsic to all representation. He observes the element of
transmission not only in the fact that the Aeropostales are sent through
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 151

the mail, echoed formally through the iterations of screen printing


VHULJUDSK\ EXWDOVRLQWKHIROGVWKDWFUHDVHWKHPIURPZLWKLQ+HZULWHV
the fold “refers us . . . to the letter and to custody. Both things would
seem to enclose a question, the question of the secret . . . indispensable
GXSOLFLW\WKDWFRQVWLWXWHVWKHVHFUHWȥ ȤQRVUHPLWHDODFDUWD\DOD
FXVWRGLD$PEDVFRVDVSDUHFLHUDQHQFHUUDUXQDFXHVWLµQODFXHVWLµQ
GHOVHFUHWRLPSUHVFLQGLEOHGREOH]TXHFRQVWLWX\HHOVHFUHWRȥEl rabo
del ojoȟ  The folds echo the epistolary effect of the Aeropostal,
SHUIRUPLQJZKDW0DUFKDQWWHUPHGWKHȤVHFUHWFLUFXODWLRQȥLQWULQVLFWR
the photograph, an apostrophic movement that carries the image from
and toward the unknowable other, without ever fully arriving.
The sense of the secret as fundamentally double or duplicitous comes
from Derrida, who describes the impossibility of true secretion, of
VKHOWHUDQGUHWUHDWKHLQVLVWVWKDWWKDWZKLFKLVRVWHQVLEO\VHFUHWHGDZD\
LVDOVRLQHYLWDEO\H[SRVHGWRWKHRWKHU Aporias  &RQYHUVHO\HYHU\
act of exposure or presentation is also marked by the secret, that which
UHVLVWVSUHVHQWDWLRQDVVXFK'HUULGDQDPHVWKLVGRXEOHQHVVȤDSRULDȥ
which he describes as a site of impassability or impossibility that is also
WKHYHU\FRQGLWLRQRISRVVLELOLW\ Aporias  
Oyarzún describes the duplicity indicated by Dittborn’s folds as a kind
of suspension, and it is a mode of suspension more in line with Derrida’s
description of the aporia than Thayer’s notion of a no-man’s land or pure
imminence or virtuality. In Oyarzún’s characteristic style, this Derridian
LQˌXHQFHLVPHOGHGZLWKD%HQMDPLQLDQOH[LFRQȤ$VWULFWWDVNWKDWRIWKHVH
folded papers. A task of grasping, of gathering . . . They hold up nothing,
and nonetheless they give something up. They give up a remainder. A
remainder: they return that which is fallen to its falling . . . A wake that
VHWWOHVIRUDVLQJOHLQVWDQWWRKDQJLQGLVVLSDWLRQȥ Ȥ7DUHDHVWULFWDOD
de estos papeles plegados. Tarea de coger, de recoger . . . Nada alzan,
y sin embargo rinden. Un resto rinden. Un resto: restituyen lo caído
D VX FDHU(VWHOD TXH VH SRVD SRU XQ LQVWDQWH VµOR SDUD SHQGHU
GLVLS£QGRVHȥEl Rabo ȟ -XVWDV'HUULGDVWUHVVHVWKDWȤWKHDSRULD
can never simply be endured as suchȥ Aporias  2\DU]¼QGHVFULEHV
the secret enveloped by the folds as a momentary gathering, a holding in
and holding open that anticipates his later analogy with Michaelangelo’s
Pietá, but less ponderously, emphasizing its ephemerality and dispersal.
He suggests that Dittborn’s work demonstrates how every act of having,
protecting, secreting away is also an act of losing, of letting fall. This is
a conceit for thinking or perceiving historically, acknowledging that we
152 Witnessing beyond the Human

never really possess anything, even ourselves, a fact that paradoxically


forms the condition of possibility for relating to the other—including
that which lies within us, which lies enfolded in our world, and that
which emerges from the folds of history. Reinstating a sense of historical
fall makes possible momentary lapses or suspensions—folds—that enable
DQXQFHUWDLQEXWH[LJHQWOHJLELOLW\RIKLVWRU\ DȤSDOHRJUDSK\RIˌHHWLQJ
IDFHVȥ DQGDQRSHQLQJRIWKHSRVVLELOLWLHVRIOLIHKXPDQLW\DQGZRUOG
EH\RQGWKHORJLFVRISURSULHW\DQGSUHVHUYDWLRQ El rabo 2QFH
again rounding out his difference from Thayer, Oyarzún describes this
opening—which is always marked by a fold or secret, a parpadeo—as
a form of testimony, not self-oriented and self-contained, as Thayer
proposes, but as what Oyarzún later calls “the conatus of relation, as
DQRQFRQVXPDEOHHQTXLU\RUUHTXHVWIRUFRPPXQLW\ȥ Ȥ7HVLVEUHYHV
VREUHDUWH\SRO¯WLFDȥ 
In his discussion of his work, Dittborn stresses this sense of an
epochal suspension that opens onto the other. Describing the spaces
in between the faces featured in his Historia del rostro humano series—
VSDFHVWKDWWHQGWREHPDUNHGE\IROGV ˋJXUH ȠKHZULWHVWKDWKLV
aim is

WRˋQGIDFHVWKDWDUHDWDPD[LPXPGLVWDQFHIURPRQHDQRWKHU$FHUWDLQ
vertigo is produced by these abysses, these jumps from one face to the
next, from one technique to another, and between the different places in
which I found each face. So that as each Airmail Painting travels, there
are journeys within the work itself: the enormous distances between one
IDFHDQGWKHQH[W$QWLSRGHVDEUXSWO\SODFHGLQWRFRQWDFW Mapa 

Like any citation ripped out of context and placed into another,
Dittborn’s collages stress both discontinuity and new possibilities
of association, what Richard describes as the possibility of an event:
“The temporality of that which is gone becomes an event again by
YLUWXHRIEHLQJWUDQVIHUUHGLQWRWKHSUHVHQW XQGHUVWRRG DVD]RQHRI
VKRFNVEHWZHHQYLVLELOLW\DQGGLVDSSHDUDQFHȥ Ȥ(VDWHPSRUDOLGDGGHOR
ido redeviene acontecimiento por el hecho de trasladarse al presente
FRPR]RQDGHFKRTXHVHQWUHYLVLELOLGDG\GHVDSDULFLµQȥMárgenes  
This event involves both the suspension and disruption of any epic
sense of representation—of history, of humanity—and the possiblity
of non-epic journeys, a bringing together that is also a distancing, a
Figure 4.10: (XJHQLR'LWWERUQThe 6th History of the Human Face (Black and Red
Camino), Airmail Painting No. 70 GHWDLO 3KRWRVLONVFUHHQRQWHQVHFWLRQV
RI QRQZRYHQ IDEULF  [  LQFKHV ,PDJH FRXUWHV\ RI $OH[DQGHU DQG %RQLQ
New York.
154 Witnessing beyond the Human

distancing that is also a bringing together, albeit only momentarily,


conditionally, the unfolding always re-marked by the folds.
Dittborn’s description of his principle of composition is strikingly
similar to his description of the work of memory:

In my artwork, memory is produced by connecting elements that are


GLVWDQFHGIURPRQHDQRWKHU0HPRU\LVSURGXFHGE\FRQQHFWLQJDˋJXUH
with another figure, a technical procedure with another . . . It is not
reminiscence recovered from some depth and brought to the surface, but
rather a term that precipitates itself on another in order to transform it,
RUZKLFKYHUWLJLQRXVO\WUDYHOVDGLVWDQFHWRˋQGLWDQGPDNHDFDWDVWURSKH
ZLWKLW7KDWVPDOOFDWDVWURSKHSURGXFHVPHPRU\ Ȥ%\HE\HORYHȥȟ

(Q PL WUDEDMR GH DUWH OD PHPRULD VH SURGXFH DO FRQHFWDU HOHPHQWRV
GLVWDQFLDGRVHQWUHV¯/DPHPRULDVHSURGXFHDOMXQWDUXQDˋJXUDFRQ
RWUDˋJXUDXQSURFHGLPLHQWRW«FQLFRFRQRWUR1RHVODUHPLQLVFHQFLD
UHVFDWDGDGHDOJ¼QIRQGR\WUD¯GDDODVXSHUˋFLHVLQRXQW«UPLQRTXHVH
precipita sobre otro para transformarlo o que vertiginosamente recorre
XQDGLVWDQFLDSDUDHQFRQWUDUOR\KDFHUFDW£VWURIHFRQ«O(VDSHTXH³D
FDW£VWURIHSURGXFHPHPRULD

The Aeropostales spatialize the process of memory or historical


thinking, not as a process of revelation and preservation, but as a
process of precipitous encounter, momentary contiguities on the edge
of oblivion. This vertiginous process stands in contrast to a sense
RIWKHSUHVHQWDVZKDWKHFDOOVWKHȤVXSHULPSRVLWLRQRIIRUJHWWLQJȥ
ȤVREUHSRVLFLµQGHROYLGRVȥ HVSHFLDOO\SUHYDOHQWLQ&KLOHDIWHUWKH
end of the dicatorship, in which there was a general atmosphere of
history as an open, or at least openable, book, in distinction to the
years of suppression. In contrast to such an ideal of openness, the
precipitous encounters in a “zone of shocks between visibility and
GLVDSSHDUDQFHȥ 5LFKDUGMárgenes FRQVWLWXWHLQVWDQFHVRIȤVPDOO
FDWDVWURSKHVȥVXGGHQGRZQWXUQV cata-strophe DZD\IURPDQ\HSLF
VHQVHRIUHVWRUDWLRQRUUHVWLWXWLRQ 'LWWERUQȤ%\HE\HORYHȥ 
Dittborn describes the Aeropostales’ folds, and the way they are folded
LQWRHQYHORSHVDVWRPEVKRXVHVDQGZRPEV Ȥ&RUUHFDPLQRVȥ9,,LQ
Afterall 7KLVVHULHVRIDQDORJLHVVXJJHVWVDFRQGLWLRQRILQFRPSOHWH
enclosure, enclosure that is at the same time a site of emergence and
sending. The envelope as tomb, or the tomb as envelope, suggests a
Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture of the Human 155

transmissibility of the past akin to the above decription of memory,


that is, a tomb that does not retain its corpse, but sends it toward
the possibilty of catastrophic memory. The envelope as house, or the
house as envelope, suggests an inescapable uncanniness intrinsic to
any sense of the proper, an uncanniness that is also a sending toward a
sense of community that never congeals into commonality. Finally, the
envelope as womb, or the womb as envelope, suggests the potential for
engendering intrinsic to every act of holding or having, in which the
very act of holding near constitutes a epochal rupture that sends even
that which is most deeply embedded toward the other.  This sense
of engendering in the folded space of the Aeropostales helps explain
the spatial and temporal abysses invoked by the collages, in which
the abysmal distances and differences that separate them also make
SRVVLEOHYHUWLJLQRXVDQGˌHHWLQJDVVRFLDWLRQVDQGFRQQHFWLRQVQRQHSLF
journeys that are internal to the pieces, and which shadow the non-epic
journeys of their postal trajectories.
T h i s a sso c iat ion b e t we en enclos u r e a nd en g ender i n g i s
incorporated formally into a number of the pieces of the Historia del
rostro humano through the inclusion of drawings of faces by Dittborn’s
young daughter Margarita, generally in between the silk-screened
SKRWRJUDSKV DQG VNHWFKHV RI DERULJLQDOV DQG FULPLQDOV ILJ XUHV
 'LWWERUQGHVFULEHVWKLVLQFOXVLRQDVPDUNLQJWKHDE\VVHV
EHWZHHQWKHIDFHVDQGVHUYLQJDVȤGDPVDQGEULGJHVȥEHWZHHQWKHP
Mapa   That is, Margarita’s sketches double the folds and
the distances between the faces, which are also described as sites
of epochal suspension and opening to relation. On the one hand,
they exaggerate the distances between the faces in their condition
as anthropomorphic icons springing from a child’s sense of human
likeness, cheerful and carefree embryos of an ideal humanity, which
differ considerably from the sense of history’s secrets enfolded in the
somber faces of aborigines and criminal suspects. On the other hand,
Margarita’s rudimentary sketches can be seen as indicating the face
as an engendering structure, like a womb or envelope, which carries
over to the institutional portraits, transforming them like the small
catastrophes of the work of memory, destroying any universal sense
of human representation, and posing the question—which could be
understood as the fundamental question underlying the “Historia del
URVWURȥVHULHVDQGPXFKRI'LWWERUQȢVZRUNȠRIZKDWHPHUJHVIURPWKH
envelope of the anthropomorphic.
156 Witnessing beyond the Human

Richard draws attention to the fact that the abysses and folds that lie
between the faces in the AeropostalesUHˌHFWDQDE\VVWKDWOLHVEHWZHHQ
our faces and theirs. She describes this abyss as both an unbridgeable
GLVWDQFH LQGLFDWHGE\WKHYLUJXOHLQWKHWLWOHRIKHUHVVD\Ȥ1RVRWURVORV
RWURVȥ>8V2WKHUV@ EXWDOVRDVWKHFRQGLWLRQRISRVVLELOLW\RIHQFRXQWHU
DFRQGLWLRQVKHWHUPVȤUHYHUVLEOHIURQWDOLW\ȥ  ,ZRXOGSURSRVH
to modify this slightly, borrowing from David Wills, to call it more of a
reversible dorsality. Rather than indicating a potential reversibility or
H[FKDQJHRIIDFHVDQGSHUVSHFWLYHV ȤZHIDFHWKRVHZKRIDFHXVȥ WKLV
would suggest an en/frentamiento WKHWHUPLV5LFKDUGȢV RUHQFRXQWHU
that confronts the fact that the face—of the other, of ourselves—is not
a direct form of transmission, but a necessarily enfolded surface, a mark
of manifold distances and deviations.
Dittborn’s work repeatedly emphasizes how our sense of the human
is always in tropic transit. As seen in one of the epigraphs for this
chapter, he describes his collages as attempts to “get out from this
SODFHWREHLQWKHZRUOGȥOLNHFU\SWLFDQGUXGGHUOHVVȤPHVVDJHVLQD
ERWWOHȥ7KLVDQDORJ\UHVRQDWHVZLWK3DXO&HODQȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIKLV
SRHPVDVȤPHVVDJHVLQDERWWOHȥPDNLQJWKHLUZD\WRZDUGȤVRPHWKLQJ
VWDQGLQJRSHQȥ &HODQVHHDOVR/HYLQH 6XFKRSHQQHVV
conditions not only the addressee, but also the message itself, as both
Celan’s and Dittborn’s work ceaselessly demonstrate. Dittborn illustrates
KRZKLVZRUNXVHVWKHKXPDQˋJXUHDVDNLQGRIPHVVDJHLQDERWWOH
ZLWKUHIHUHQFHWRD%ULWLVKVS\ˋOPWLWOHGThe Man Who Never Was, in
ZKLFKWKHȤVS\ȥLVDFWXDOO\DGHDGERG\SODQWHGZLWKPLVLQIRUPDWLRQ
and thrown into the waters off the Spanish coast.  This anecdote
can be read as suggesting how the faces that peer out from Dittborn’s
FROODJHVȤQHYHUZHUHȥLQDQ\VWUDLJKWIRUZDUGVHQVHWKH\ZHUHQHYHUWUXH
agents bearing forthright messages, but, bearing manifold treacherous
messages, are making their way toward something beyond the horizon
of the known, which is nonetheless intrinsically folded, bearing a secret
that cannot be known. Another anecdote illustrates this in another way:
Dittborn recounts how his sister was bringing him a mask from Africa
when she died en route, and he compares the faces in his collages to
WKDWPDVN Mapa 7KLVDQDORJ\VWUHVVHVKRZWKHSURVRSRSRHLF
ȤPHVVDJHȥRIWKHRWKHULVQHYHULQWDFWDQGIDLWKIXOEXWUDWKHUDVD
given or sent face, is a catechresis of something that can never be fully
known.  Dittborn’s work constitutes a repeated effort to tear such
messages from their archival frames and indicate the voyages they are
always inevitably making toward the alterity of the world.
Conclusion

,QDQG'LWWERUQSURGXFHGVHYHUDOZRUNVWKDWLQYRNHWKH
figure of Robinson Crusoe. These include Aeropostales that feature
shipwrecks and footprints amidst icons of domesticity, and a video
SHUIRUPDQFHWKDWIHDWXUHVDEHDUGHGDQGKDOIQDNHGPDQZKRˋQGV
himself washed up on an indeterminate shore.1 The years of these works
coincide with the end of the Pinochet dictatorship and the beginning
of the transition to democracy. They can be seen as allusions to a
sense of vulnerability and exposure related to the historical period
in which they were made, although the lack of historical markers
underscores the fact that creaturely vulnerability is not the exclusive
mark of dictatorship societies. Alfonso Iommi observes of the Crusoe
video that it presents not only the vulnerability of existence, but also
the precariousness, and indeed inadequacy, of the structures we have
WRPDNHVHQVHRIVXFKYXOQHUDELOLW\  
In the second volume of The Beast and the Sovereign, Derrida considers
Crusoe’s encounter with a footprint in relation to how the notions
of humanity and world immunologically seek to dominate or banish
such vulnerability. Shipwrecked and apparently alone on an unknown
island, Crusoe’s world is gone, and yet he recreates it as an insular-
LPPXQRORJLFDOVSDFHRI VHOI NQRZOHGJH$VWKHPDUNRIDQRWKHUKH
cannot identify, his discovery of the footprint threatens this sense of
world. Not only might it belong to a beast-like force capable of devouring
him, rather than a beast-like subject of his tiny realm, he also begins to
question whether it was left by him, a trace of his own humanness that
he can nevertheless not recognize, the mark of a disorientation that
unsettles his sense of self-awareness and requires him to cautiously

157
158 Witnessing beyond the Human

Figure C.1: (XJHQLR 'LWWERUQ The Gloom in the Valley, Airmail Painting No. 74,
6WLWFKLQJDQGSKRWRVLONVFUHHQRQWZRVHFWLRQVRIQRQZRYHQIDEULF[
LQFKHV,PDJHFRXUWHV\RI$OH[DQGHUDQG%RQLQ1HZ<RUN

VHDUFKDQGLQTXLUHHYHQDERXWKLVRZQWXUQVDQGUHWXUQV The Beast


and the Sovereign 'HUULGDFRQWUDVWV&UXVRHȢVHQFRXQWHUZLWK&HODQȢV
YHUVHȤ7KHZRUOGLVJRQH,PXVWFDUU\\RXȥ2 He stresses that this verse
confronts a similar state of vulnerability and precariousness, but does not
however ensconce it within humanist assumptions about self and world,
on the contrary acknowledging them as fundamentally conditioned by
such vulnerability. Derrida describes the verse as performing a double
form of salutELGGLQJIDUHZHOORUȤVHQGLQJRIIȥDQRWLRQRIWKHZRUOG
understood as the totality of what is or can be, and sending a salutation
toward a notion of world in which our debt or obligation to a radical other
Ȥ,PXVWFDUU\\RXȥ FRQGLWLRQVRXUYHU\H[LVWHQFH
The objective of this book is to show how the works of Gelman,
Chejfec, Bolaño, and Dittborn similarly address the vulnerability and
alterity of life, in ways that are both historically and geo-culturally
situated and yet also exceed any single site or situation. Working in the
Figure C.2: (XJHQLR 'LWWERUQ El Crusoe, Airmail Painting No. 127 GHWDLO  ȟ
2001. Tincture, sateen, embroidery, stitching, and photo silkscreen on two sections
RIGXFNIDEULF[LQFKHV3KRWRE\2UFXWW 9DQ'HU3XWWHQ,PDJH
courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York.
160 Witnessing beyond the Human

wake of the systematic violence of state-sponsored terrorism in Chile


DQG$UJHQWLQDLQWKHVDQGȢVWKH\FRQVLGHUWKHYXOQHUDELOLW\
of life, death, self, and other beyond immunological and anthropo-
WKHRORJLFDOUHGHPSWLRQZKHWKHULQWKHVDFULˋFLDOVWUXFWXUHRIPLOLWDQW
subjectivity, the prosopopoeic practice of mourning that aims to
recuperate loss within an economy of the same, or the epic march of
capitalism and the biopolitical management of life in late modernity.
7KH\LQVLVWRQDVHQVHRIOLIHRUVXUYLYDOWKDWGRHVQRWˋWLQWRVXFK
immunological economies, but on the contrary exceeds and disrupts
their apparent closure. I regard such alter-immunological inscription
as a kind of witnessing, which constitutes a critical engagement with
ZKDW'HUULGDFDOOVWKHȤHQLJPDRIWKHSROLWLFDOȥ Rogues /LNH&HODQȢV
verse, such witnessing performs a kind of saludoȤVHQGLQJRIIȥKXPDQLVW
structures of knowledge, relation, and representation, and addressing a
radical alterity that is the condition of possibility for possibility itself,
and therefore, for politics and the world.
Notes

Introduction

  ,GLVFXVVWKLVSLHFHDWOHQJWKLQ&KDSWHU'LWWERUQLQFOXGHGWKLVLPDJHLQD
VHULHVRISLHFHVVWDUWLQJLQ,DPIRFXVLQJRQWKHYHUVLRQIURPGXH
to the inscription, which is not included in any of the other versions.
  )RU LQWHUHVWLQJ SHUVSHFWLYHV RQ WKH WHUPȤSRVWGLFWDWRUVKLSȥ VHH /XLV
0DUW¯Q&DEUHUD ȟ DQG)HGHULFR*DOHQGHȤ3RVWGLFWDWXUDHVDSDODEUDȥ
  :DOWHU%HQMDPLQȢVQRWLRQRIWKHFUHDWXUHO\ERG\DQGWKHSURIHVVHGVDQFWLW\
of life haunts these thinkers from the second half of the twentieth century,
probably more Derrida’s and Marchant’s than Foucault’s. See for instance
Benjamin’s description of the preservation of life as pretext for institutional
YLROHQFHDWWKHHQGRIȤ&ULWLTXHRI9LROHQFHȥ ȟ DQGDOVR(ULF6DQW-
ner’s On Creaturely Life.
  ,DPGUDZLQJKHUHIURPȤ:KDWLV(QOLJKWHQPHQW"ȥThe Order of Things, and
Society Must Be Defended. See also Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? [LYȟ
[YL DQGȤCinders $IWHU%LRSROLWLFVȥ [YL 
  2IˋFLDOFRXQWVWDOO\FDVHVRIWRUWXUHDQGRIGHDWKDQGGLVDS-
SHDUDQFHLQ&KLOHDQGFDVHVRIGHDWKDQGGLVDSSHDUDQFHLQ$UJHQ-
tina, although in both cases the numbers are understood to be higher. See
,QIRUPHGHOD&RPLVLµQ1DFLRQDOVREUH3ULVLµQ3RO¯WLFD\7RUWXUD
  Ȥ5HFKD]DPRVFDWHJµULFDPHQWHODFRQFHSFLµQPDU[LVWDGHOKRPEUH\GHOD
VRFLHGDGSRUTXHHOODQLHJDORVYDORUHVP£VHQWUD³DEOHVGHODOPDQDFLRQDO\
pretende dividir a los chilenos en una lucha deliberada entre clases aparen-
WHPHQWHDQWDJµQLFDVSDUDWHUPLQDULPSODQWDQGRXQVLVWHPDWRWDOLWDULR
\RSUHVRUGRQGHVHQLHJXHORVP£VFDURVDWULEXWRVGHOKRPEUHFRPRVHU
UDFLRQDO\OLEUHȤ'LVFXUVRGH$XJXVWR3LQRFKHWDXQPHVGHODFRQVWLWXFLµQ
GHODMXQWDGHJRELHUQRȥ QS Ȥ8QFXOSDEOHVLOHQFLRKDQJXDUGDGROD8QLµQ
6RYL«WLFD\&XEDIUHQWHDORVUHLWHUDGRVGHVDILRVTXHOHVKHPRVKHFKRHQ
PDWHULDGHUHVSHWRDODGLJQLGDGKXPDQDȥ 0HQVDMHSUHVLGHQFLDO6HSW
 
7. For insightful discussions of the limitations of human rights discourse in

161
162 Notes

UHODWLRQWR&KLOHVHH0DUW¯Q&DEUHUDFKDQG$OHVVDQGUR)RUQD]]DUL
Speculative Fictions: Chilean Culture, Economics, and the Neoliberal Transition.
Derrida’s own perspectives on the necessity of human rights, but also the
need to recognize their limitations, can be found in “Philosophy in a Time
RI7HUURUȥOn Cosmopolitanism, RoguesȤ,QWHUSUHWDWLRQVDW:DUȥDQGȤ)RUFH
RI/DZȥDPRQJRWKHUWH[WV6HHDOVRAnd Justice for All? The Claims of Human
Rights HG(GXDUGR&DGDYDDQG,DQ%DOIRXU'XUKDP1&'XNH8QLYHUVLW\
3UHVV 
  6HHIRULQVWDQFHLa insubordinación de los signos  2QWKHUHODWLRQVKLS
between the tenets of traditional Leftist ideology and the figure of testi-
PRQ\VHHSSȟ$QGILQDOO\VHHKHUFDXWLRQUHJDUGLQJWKHUHODWLRQ
EHWZHHQUHSUHVHQWDWLRQDQGWKHKXPDQRQSSȟ$OOWKHVHLGHDVDUH
recurrent throughout Richard’s work.
  5LFKDUGDGGUHVVHVVXFKDOWHUQDWLYHDSSURDFKHVLQ La Insubordinación de
los signos IRULQVWDQFHII DQGWKURXJKRXWKHUZRUN,GLVFXVVVRPH
GLIIHUHQWDVSHFWVDQGSHUVSHFWLYHVRQWKHVHLGHDVLQ&KDSWHUHVSHFLDOO\WKH
tensions that have arisen between her thought and that of Pablo Oyarzún
DQG:LOO\7KD\HU0\RZQZRUNKDVEHHQPRUHLQˌXHQFHGE\2\DU]¼QWKDQ
Richard, although I have an enormous respect for her enduring contribu-
tion to contemporary critical thought. Other critics who address similar
issues relating to Latin America in ways compatible with my own, and whose
work has inspired and influenced me in countless ways, include Sergio
Villalobos-Ruminott, Alberto Moreiras, Federico Galende, Gareth Williams,
3DWULFN'RYH%UHWW/HYLQVRQ6XVDQD'UDSHUDQG(ULQ*UDII=LYLQ
 0DUWLQ+¦JJOXQGREVHUYHVWKDW'HUULGDGHVFULEHVWKHUHODWLRQVKLSRIVSDFLQJ
to life as early as Writing and Difference Radical Atheism ,WLVDOVR
present in almost all his discussions of Heidegger, most notably Of Spirit.
 'HUULGDȢVGLVFXVVLRQRIVDFULˋFHLQWKLVVHQVHLVODLGRXWPRVWFOHDUO\LQȤ(DWLQJ
:HOOȥWKHUHLVDOVRDQDOOXVLRQWRLWLQȤ)RUFHRI/DZȥ  ,WLVDOVRLPSOLFLW
WKURXJKRXWȤ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥ7KLVODWWHUHVVD\LVXQGRXEWHGO\RQHRI
Derrida’s most important essays, and, interestingly enough, can be read as
DUHZULWLQJRIȤ7KH(QGVRI0DQȥ'HUULGDDSSURDFKHVVDFULˋFHLQDVOLJKWO\
different way in The Gift of Death, where he considers it in relation to the
nature of aporia, although the roots for his later approximation are indeed
DOUHDG\HYLGHQW VHHGift [70] and also David Wills Matchbook: Essays in Decon-
struction ȟ &DU\:ROIHȢVGLVFXVVLRQVRI'HUULGDȢVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRI
life have contributed greatly to this section. See “Cinders$IWHU%LRSROLWLFVȥ
Animal Rites &KDSWHU DQGWhat is Posthumanism? &KDSWHU 
 'HUULGDȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIDXWRLPPXQLW\DVDȤSULQFLSOHRIVDFULˋFLDOVHOIGH-
VWUXFWLRQUXLQLQJWKHSULQFLSOHRIVHOISURWHFWLRQȥ Ȥ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥ
 PHDQVWKDWLWVDFULILFHVWKHLQWHUQDOL]LQJH[WHUQDOL]LQJVWUXFWXUHRI
VDFULˋFHSHUIRUPLQJZKDWKHFDOOVLQȤ(DWLQJ:HOOȥDȤVDFULˋFHRIVDFULˋFHȥ
VHHDOVRȤ)RUFHRI/DZȥȟDERYHDOOLQUHODWLRQWRWKHTXHVWLRQRI
MXVWLFHZKLFK,DGGUHVVEHORZ 
 'HUULGD ILUVW DGGUHVVHG WKH WHUP ȤVXUYLYDOȥ LQ Demeure: Fiction and
Notes 163

Testimony, DQGGHYHORSHGLWPRUHIXOO\LQȤ/LYLQJ2Q%RUGHU/LQHVȥSpecters
of Marx, and Learning to Live Finally: The Final Interview.
 7KLVTXRWDWLRQDOVRDSSHDUVLQ:ROIHȢVLQWURGXFWLRQWRCinders. In a similar
vein, Derrida also describes survival and auto-immunological disruption as
opening to “the other, the future, death, the coming of the other, the space
DQGWLPHRIDVSHFWUDOL]LQJPHVVLDQLFLW\EH\RQGDOOPHVVLDQLVPȥ Ȥ)DLWKȥ
 
 'HUULGDGLVFXVVHVUHVSRQVLELOLW\LQDQXPEHURISODFHVLQFOXGLQJEXWQRW
OLPLWHGWRȤ3RHWLFVDQG3ROLWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥ  Ȥ)RUFHRI/DZȥ II 
On the Name II Eating Well ȟ DQGPolitics of Friendship
  6HH DOVR 7KRPDV .HHQDQȢV LQVLJKWIXO GLVFXVVLRQ RI UHVSRQVLELOLW\
throughout Fables of Responsibility.
 ,QȤ3RHWLFVDQG3ROLWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥDQGLQWHUPLWWHQWO\LQȤ)DLWKDQG
.QRZHOGJHȥ'HUULGDSOD\VZLWKWKHPXOWLSOHPHDQLQJVRIZLWQHVVLQJDQG
WHVWLPRQ\LQFOXGLQJWKHGRXEOHVHQVHRIȤWHVWLI\LQJWRȥWKHRWKHU7KHUHLV
FOHDUO\QRWDQDEVROXWHGLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQȤUHVSRQVLELOLW\ȥȤUHVSRQVHȥDQG
ȤWHVWLPRQ\ȥQRWWRPHQWLRQVRPHRIKLVRWKHUWHUPVVXFKDVȤVDOXWȥDQG
ȤKRVSLWDOLW\ȥ
17. On the notion of a law of iterability, suspended halfway between a struc-
tural law and a Kantian imperative, see “This Strange Institution Called
/LWHUDWXUHȥ ȟ Ȥ3ROLWLFVDQG3RHWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥ  Ȥ7KH8QLYHU-
VLW\:LWKRXW&RQGLWLRQȥ  Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ UHJDUGLQJWKHH[FHVV
RIWKH.DQWLDQLPSHUDWLYH 6HHDOVR:ROIHȢVGLVFXVVLRQRIWKLVODZLQWhat
is Posthumanism? ȟ $OWKRXJKWKHQRWLRQRIȤUHVSRQVLELOLW\ȥLVRIWHQ
DVVRFLDWHGZLWKȤODWH'HUULGDȥLWLVDOVRSUHVHQWLQVRPHRIKLVHDUOLHUZRUNV
PRVWQRWDEO\Ȥ9LROHQFHDQG0HWDSK\VLFVȥ
 2QWKHGLIIHUHQWVHQVHVRIȤZLWQHVVLQJȥDQGȤWHVWLPRQ\ȥVHH5DFKHO%RZO-
by’s comments on the relation between witnessing and témoignage in the
QRWHWRKHUWUDQVODWLRQRI'HUULGDȢVȤ$6HOI8QVHDOLQJ3RHWLF7H[Wȥ Q 
 6HHDOVR3DWULFN'RYHȢVH[FHOOHQWGLVFXVVLRQRIWKLVLQȤ0HPRU\%HWZHHQ
3ROLWLFVDQG(WKLFV'HO%DUFRȢV/HWWHUȥ
 4WGLQ&KDPEHUV6HHDOVR:ROIHHVSHFLDOO\UHJDUGLQJWKH:LWWJHQ-
VWHLQLDQFRPSRQHQWRI/\RWDUGȢVQRWLRQRIJHQUH,GLVFXVVWKLVLQ&KDSWHU
It should be noted that Derrida presents a cogent critique of Lyotard’s The
Differend, primarily in relation to the apparent inclusiveness of the pronoun
ȤZHȥ Ȥ/\RWDUGDQG8Vȥ 
21. Cary Wolfe discusses Derrida’s silent interpellation of Agamben’s work in
his prologue to Cinders [[Q QRWLQJWKDWLWDSSHDUVSULPDULO\LQWKHWKLUG
session of The Beast and the Sovereign, vol. 1, and The Animal That Therefore
I Am.
22. Throughout Remnants of Auschwitz, and indeed the entire Homo Sacer
trilogy, Agamben refers to the demarcation of humanity and inhumanity,
which he examines more explicitly in The Open: Man and Animal. His
conclusions in The Open are consistent with his analysis of the inhuman
and human components of testimony in Remnants. Like the convergence
164 Notes

of the possible and impossible, and the inhuman and human, elements of
WHVWLPRQ\LQDˋJXUHVXFKDV3ULPR/HYLZKRUHDFKHGDVWDWHRILPSRVVLEOH
witnessing but returned to testify to the experience, Agamben describes a
convergence of animal and human life in a structure of redemptive medi-
ality, which he characterizes as a form of suspension—“the suspension of
VXVSHQVLRQ6KDEEDWRIERWKDQLPDODQGPDQȥȠDIˋUPLQJWKDWLWSURPLVHV
UHGHPSWLRQHYHQLQWKHDEVHQFHRIUHGHPSWLRQ The Open  
 0\GLVFXVVLRQRI$JDPEHQLVJUHDWO\LQGHEWHGWR/LEUHWW6HHDOVR:ROIHȢV
reference to his work in the Prologue to Cinders.
 6HH IRU LQVWDQFH /D]]DUD   DQG 0DUW¯Q&DEUHUD ȟ  $OWKRXJK
0DUW¯Q&DEUHUDGHVFULEHVWKHȤUDGLFDOO\DQWLRQWRORJLFDOQDWXUHȥRI$JDP-
ben’s theory of testimony, I am not sure to what extent he understands
Agamben’s argument. He discusses Agamben’s theory of testimony in rela-
WLRQWRDVFHQHIURP3DWULFLR*X]P£QȢVEl caso Pinochet in which the mother
of a desaparecido is brought to see a common grave where the remains
of her son were found. She says, “And now, I have seen . . . I haven’t seen
DQ\WKLQJ DQG , GRQȢW WKLQN , DP HYHQ JRLQJ WR VHH DQ\WKLQJȥ 0DUW¯Q
&DEUHUDGHVFULEHVKRZLQWKLVVHJPHQWRIWKHˋOPWKHFDPHUDȤZRUNVDVWKH
$JDPEHQLDQ 2WKHURIWKHZLWQHVVWKDWJXDUDQWHHVWKHSRVVLELOLW\RIWUDQV-
PLWWLQJWKHLPSRVVLELOLW\RIWHVWLPRQ\ȥ  ,QWKLVVHQVHWKHFLQHPDWLF
FDPHUDLVOLNHWKHYRLFHRIWHVWLPRQ\WKDWWUDQVFHQGVDQGXQLˋHVWHVWLPR-
ny’s possibilities and impossibilities. Nevertheless, Martín-Cabrera seems
WRUHJDUGWKHHQFRXQWHUEHWZHHQUHYHODWLRQDQGFRQFHDOPHQWLQWKHˋOPDV
DFDOOIRUFKDQJHȤDGLIIHUHQWQRWLRQRIMXVWLFH\HWWRFRPHȥZKLFKPHDQV
WKDWRQWRSRHWLFIXOˋOOPHQWKDVQRW\HWEHHQUHDFKHG  
 $JDPEHQ EDVHV KLV XQGHUVWDQGLQJ RI VXFK D ODZ RQ :DOWHU %HQMDPLQȢV
QRWLRQRIȤSXUHODQJXDJHȥȤ:HZLOOWKHQKDYHEHIRUHXVDȡSXUHȢODZLQWKH
sense in which Benjamin speaks of a ‘pure’ language and a ‘pure’ violence. To
a word that does not bind, that neither commands nor prohibits anything,
but says only itself, would correspond an action as pure means, which shows
RQO\LWVHOIZLWKRXWDQ\UHODWLRQWRDQHQGȥ State of Exception 7KH
problem with this, however, is that Benjamin never suggested that we could
live in pure language. Pure language or the potentiality of meaning is some-
thing we can indicate only through certain uses of language or gesture such
DVWUDQVODWLRQFLWDWLRQFROOHFWLRQˋOPFXWVDQGSKRWRJUDSK\7KHVHFXWVRU
coups are not instrumental, but neither are they pure means without ends.
They are in fact forms of decision. See also Librett’s analysis of Agamben’s
ȤVDFULˋFHȥRIODZ ȟ 
 6HHIRULQVWDQFHȤ)RUFHRI/DZȥ ȟ 
27. Derrida goes great lengths to explain how witnessing gestures to something
fundamentally heterogeneous to knowledge, certainty, and judgment, which
QHYHUWKHOHVVXQGHUOLHVDQ\DIˋUPDWLRQRINQRZOHGJHRUMXGJPHQW Ȥ3RHWLFVȥ
ȟ +HGHVFULEHV&HODQȢVSRHPȤ$VFKHQJORULHȥDVDȤGHVSHUDWHVLJKȥWKDW
WHVWLˋHVWRWKLVSDUDGR[
 (ULQ*UDII=LYLQSURYLGHVWKLVLOOXPLQDWLQJTXRWDWLRQLQKHUH[FHOOHQWHVVD\
Notes 165

Ȥ%H\RQG,QTXLVLWLRQDO/RJLFȥȤ:KDWLIEHIRUHHWKLFVWKHUHZHUHDQRWKHU
practice that makes of the double suspension of the ethical by the polit-
ical and of the political by the ethical its very possibility? This practice,
ZKLFKˋQGVLWVH[SUHVVLRQLQOLWHUDWXUHEXWLVQRWOLPLWHGWROLWHUDWXUHLV
infrapolitical practice. It exposes us without ulterior purpose, and there-
fore remains, itself, beyond the double suspension. It remains haunted, and
OLYHVLQWKHKDXQWLQJȥ TWGLQ*UDII=LYLQIURP0RUHLUDVȤ,QIUDSROLWLFDO
/LWHUDWXUHȥ 6HHDOVR*UDII=LYLQȢVHQWU\RQ(WKLFVLQWKHDictionary of
Latin American Cultural Studies.
 7KLVUHFDOOV5HL7HUDGDȢVLPDJLQDU\GLDORJXHEHWZHHQ'HUULGDDQG3DXOGH
Man on how or whether to name what lies beyond prosopopoeia: “Even if
\RXLPDJLQHWKDW\RXOHDYHWKHJURXQGȡEH\RQGSURVRSRSRHLDȢXQGHˋQHGFDOOLQJ
LWPHUHO\ȡWKHRWKHUȢRUȡWKHQHZȢWKHVHFKDUDFWHUL]DWLRQVDUHDVGHˋQLWLRQDODQG
as hallucinatory as others. ‘Beyond prosopopoeia’ you have placed prosopo-
SRHLDLWVHOI,QIDFWWKDWȢVZKDWSURVRSRSRHLDLVLQWKHˋUVWSODFHȠWKHLGHDWKDW
there’s something ‘beyond prosopopoeia.’ But to this Derrida could reply: Yes,
but listen to what you’ve said: prosopopoeia is the idea that there’s something
beyond prosopopoeiaȥ  ,QȤ3V\FKHȥDQGWKURXJKRXWKLVZRUN'HUULGD
PDNHVFOHDUWKDWWKHWHUPȤRWKHUȥH[FHHGVVXEMHFWLYHDQGREMHFWLYHFDWHJR-
ULHV VHHIRULQVWDQFH7HUDGD 
 ,DPLQGHEWHGWR*HUKDUG5LFKWHUȢVGLVFXVVLRQRILQYHQWLRQLQȤ%HWZHHQ
7UDQVODWLRQDQG,QYHQWLRQȥIRUWKLVGLVWLQFWLRQ,ZRXOGDUJXHWKDWPDQ\RI
the writers and artists associated with the traditional avant-garde were also
more engaged with such invention than an appropriative gesture of the new.
,ZLOOGLVFXVVWKHFRQWHQWLRXVˋJXUHRIWKHDYDQWJDUGHLQJUHDWHUGHSWKLQ
&KDSWHUVDQG
 6HH GHO %DUFR QS  DQG 3DWULFN 'RYHȢV H[FHOOHQW GLVFXVVLRQ RI WKLV LQ
Ȥ0HPRU\EHWZHHQ3ROLWLFVDQG(WKLFV'HO%DUFRȢV/HWWHUȥ

Chapter 1: Messianicity beyond Militant Messianism

1. The quotations in this paragraph come from the editorial “Poesía, memoria,
YHUGDG\MXVWLFLDȥ$OOWUDQVODWLRQVDUHPLQH
  /D&£PSRUDD3HURQLVWRUJDQL]DWLRQUHOHDVHGDVWDWHPHQWREVHUYLQJWKDW
while many people acknowledging Gelman’s passing have never read
his poetry, “contrariamente a lo que pueda parecer, eso no representa
un defecto, sino una gran virtud. Cuando se define lo popular, se debería
tener como paradigma una figura similar a la de un poeta que pocos han
leído pero que lo conocen y admiran millones. Porque su vida y su obra
se entremezclan a tal punto de que ya no es posible separarlas. Su obra se
GLOX\HHQVXYLGD\YLFHYHUVDȥ Ȥ3RHV¯DPHPRULDYHUGDG\MXVWLFLDȥQS 
)HUQ£QGH]ȢVHOHYDWLRQRI*HOPDQȢVGHDWKLQWRDQRFFDVLRQIRUQDWLRQDO
mourning can be seen as a public relations appropriation of his life story
as representative of the Peronist party, as one whose commitment to social
MXVWLFHZDVEUXWDOO\GLVUXSWHGE\WKHPLOLWDU\FRXSLQDQG\HWUHWXUQHG
166 Notes

WRFRQWLQXHLWVPLVVLRQȠSHUKDSVQRWVRPXFKLQWKHRSXOHQWVEXW
IURPWKHDVKHVRIWKHSROLWLFDODQGHFRQRPLFFULVLVZLWK)HUQ£QGH]ȢV
KXVEDQG1«VWRU.LUFKQHUDQGVXEVHTXHQWO\)HUQ£QGH]KHUVHOI7KH.LUFK-
ners were the presidents most dedicated to addressing the abuses of the
dictatorship, supporting, among other things, the overturning of the laws
of impunity and the subsequent prosecution of some of the dictatorship’s
primary agents.
In terms of published criticism, Pablo Montanero’s Juan Gelman: Esper-
anza, utopia y resistencia  LVSUREDEO\WKHEHVWUHSUHVHQWDWLYHRIWKLV
WHQGHQF\WRYLHZKLVSRHWU\DVDQH[WHQVLRQRIKLVSROLWLFV-RUJH%RFFDQH-
ra’s &RQˋDUHQHOPLVWHULR9LDMHSRUODSRHV¯DGH-XDQ*HOPDQ  LVSURE-
ably the best representative of the view that his poetry is disengaged from
his politics. The best works of criticism on Gelman’s poetry, in my view,
are María del Carmen Sillato’s Juan Gelman: las estrategias de la otredad
 DQG*HQHYLªYH)DEU\ȢVLas formas del vacío: La escritura del duelo en
la poesía de Juan Gelman  6LOODWRDSSURDFKHV*HOPDQȢVZRUNZLWKD
theoretical lens, but tends to turn away from politics toward autobiograph-
ical or literary historical questions at key moments. Fabry divides her anal-
\VLVDORQJWKHOLQHVRIWKHWZRGHˋQLWLRQVRIWKHZRUGdueloDV SROLWLFDO 
FRPEDWDQG SHUVRQDO PRXUQLQJ6KHGRHVKRZHYHUDFNQRZOHGJHWKDW
the two meanings are inseparable and omnipresent in Gelman’s work.
Two relatively recent chapters on Gelman are worth special mention for
their innovative approaches to questions of the personal and the political
in Gelman’s work: they appear in Monique Balbuena’s Homeless Tongues:
Poetry and Languages of the Sephardic Diaspora and Ben Bollig’s Modern
Argentine Poetry.
The attention to Gelman’s political involvement may be less evident
in what is written about him than in what is not written. In a personal
FRQYHUVDWLRQLQ-XO\WKHSRHWDQGOLWHUDU\FULWLF7DPDUD.DPHQV]DLQ
commented that Gelman is not taken very seriously in Argentine literary
FLUFOHVEHFDXVHKHLVFRQVLGHUHGWREHDQȤHVFULWRUFRPSURPHWLGRȥWKDWLV
his literary productions are conditioned by his political commitment.
  6HHContraderrotaȟDQGȤ0RQWRQHURV'RFXPHQWRVLQWHUQRV
UHVROXFLRQHVFRPXQLFDGRV\SDUWHVGHJXHUUDȥ&RQFHUQLQJWKHGLIIHUHQFHV
and uncertainty that inevitably confront revolutionary struggle, Gelman
and Mero discuss the need for, and relative absence of, critical reflection
DQGGLVFXVVLRQLQWKH0RQWRQHURVDQHHGZKLFKFRQWUDVWHGIXUWKHUPRUH
with the Messianic zeal discussed below, but strangely evocative of a kind
of alternate mysticism, that is, a space apart from rational decisionism and
a confrontation with aporia. For instance: “creo que a medida que las condi-
FLRQHVVHSRQHQP£VMRGLGDVKD\P£VQHFHVLGDGGHSHQVDUVREUHODVDFFLRQHV
DVHJXLU(VWRQRHVFXHVWLµQGHWLHPSRPDWHULDOHVWDPEL«QXQWLHPSRLQWH-
ULRUHQHOVHQWLGRGHTXHGHEHGDUVHHQWRQFHVXQWLSRGLVWLQWRGHUHˌH[LµQȥ
VHHDOVRDQGII 
  ,QContraderrota Gelman and Mero discuss the religious dimension of the
Notes 167

0RQWRQHURVRQȟ7KRPLVWLFWKRXJKWRQWKHFRPSRVLWHQDWXUHRI
human existence is slightly more complex than the outline they give here,
but this is perhaps not fully relevant.
  2OLYHUD:LOOLDPV8ULEHDQG6LOODWRDUHQRWDEOHLQWKLVUHJDUG,QKHUDGPLUDEOH
book Las formas del vacío: La escritura del duelo en la poesía de Juan Gelman,
Geneviève Fabry presents a more complex and nuanced approach to the role
of mourning in Gelman’s work. In many ways her analysis of Gelman’s poetry
DVDȤZULWLQJRIPRXUQLQJȥLVTXLWHVLPLODUWRP\GLVFXVVLRQRIKLVDSRVWURSKLF
poetics. She seeks to show how, throughout his work, Gelman’s writing indi-
cates the effects of loss on the experience of life, representing it not as some-
thing prosopopoeically recuperable, but as something that ruptures and exceeds
NQRZQIRUPVRIUHSUHVHQWDWLRQDVDȤIRUPDGHVHQFDQWDGDGHORSRVLEOHȥ  
However, I disagree with her assessment of Gelman’s belief in the redemptive
power of poetry, described as a Phoenix that rises from the ashes of catastrophe:
Ȥ(QVXYXHORHOS£MDURHVER]DXQDWUD\HFWRULDGHUHFRQFLOLDFLµQFRQHOYDF¯R
/HMRVGHKXLUGHOYDF¯RHOS£MDURVHDOHMDGHODWLHUUD OROOHQR KDFLDHOFLHOR OR
YDF¯R ȥ  7KLVDSRWKHRVLVRIWKHSRHWDQGWKHLPSOLFLWSURPLVHRIUHGHPS-
tion, a linear progress toward a positive or negative divinity, is at odds with my
own reading of Gelman’s work.
  7KHGLVWLQFWLRQEHWZHHQSURVRSRSRHLDDQGDSRVWURSKHLVDKHXULVWLFRQH
De Man acknowledges that there are different uses of prosopopoeia: one
in which it is assumed that the giving of face is a restoration of an original,
SUHH[LVWHQWIDFHDQGDQRWKHULQZKLFKLWLVDFNQRZOHGJHGWKDWȤWKHRULJ-
LQDOIDFHFDQEHPLVVLQJRUQRQH[LVWHQWȥ+HDOVRFRQVLGHUVSURVRSRSRHLD
to be the trope of apostrophe, that is, the unreliable instrument on which
DQ\DGGUHVVWRDQRWKHUȠRQHDEVHQWRULQYLVLEOHȠGHSHQGV The Resistance to
Theory  
Note that Derrida acknowledges the play between strophe and apostrophe
LQȤ3RHWLFVDQG3ROLWLFVRI:LWQHVVLQJȥ  
Also, the distinction between prosopopoeia and apostrophe roughly
corresponds to that between mourning and melancholy, and even more
so to that between introjection and incorporation as discussed by Maria
Torok and Nicholas Abraham. Not surprisingly, Derrida rejects the neatness
RIVXFKRSSRVLWLRQV+HZULWHVWKDWLQFRUSRUDWLRQ DQDORJRXVWRDFHUWDLQ
point, with melancholy, at least in the sense in which melancholy desig-
nates an experience of loss in which it is not known exactly what has been
ORVW>)UHXG@ VHHPVȤWRSUHVHUYHWKHRWKHUDVRWKHU IRUHLJQ EXWLW
also does the opposite. It is not the other that the process of incorporation
preserves, but a certain topography it keeps safe, intact, untouched by the
very relationship with the other to which, paradoxically enough, introjection
LVPRUHRSHQȥ Ȥ)RUVȥ +HKDVDOVRFDOOHGWKHDOWHUQDWHIRUPRIPRXUQLQJ
ȤPLGPRXUQLQJȥ The Post Card 6HH5DQMDQD.KDQQDȢVGLVFXVVLRQRI
this in Algerian Cuts II 
7. Derrida uses the metaphor of pregnancy and maternity throughout his work
VHHȤ0QHPRV\QHȥDOVRVHH&OHR0F1HOO\.HDUQVȢVȤ0DU\0DWHUQLW\
168 Notes

DQG$EUDKDPLF+RVSLWDOLW\LQ'HUULGDȢV5HDGLQJRI0DVVLJQRQȥ 6HHDOVRP\
GLVFXVVLRQRIWKLVLQȤ-XDQ*HOPDQȢV2SHQ/HWWHUVȥ
  2Q'HUULGDȢVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRIPHVVLDQLFLW\VHHȤ0DU[ 6RQVȥ HVSHFLDOO\
ȟ RQMXVWLFHVHHȤ)RUFHRI/DZȥ HVSHFLDOO\ȟ 
  ,QDQLQWHUYLHZZLWK0DULR%HQHGHWWL*HOPDQRIIHUHGVRPHWKRXJKWVRQ
the effects of fragmentation: “Los lenguajes fragmentarios se malentienden
y son causa de cacofonía, pero en su interior, como adentro de una vaina,
se agita el balbuceo. La palabra balbuceo contiene, en una bolsa de agua,
ODDFFLµQGHEXFHDU\SRUHVRORVOHQJXDMHVIUDJPHQWDULRVMXQWRDVXGXUD
soledad, conocen el posible vigor de la raíz buscada y el seguro rechazo
GHORTXHIXHPHQWLUD\FRQVWUXFFLµQTXHFRQGXMHURQDHVWDGHVWUXFFLµQ
como verdad. Los lenguajes fragmentarios cuestionan al mundo como niños
que lloran asustados por el trueno, y de ese llanto y susto extraen fuerza y
SRUYHQLUȥ TWGLQ)DEU\Q 
10. Gelman asserts that a process of learning and unlearning is also central to
DQ\SURMHFWRIUHYROXWLRQ Contraderrota  
11. Los poemas de Sidney West, Traducciones III is part of a series begun with
two other books, Los poemas de John Wendell and Los poemas de Yamano-
cuchi Ando, published in Cólera Buey IURPPDWHULDOZULWWHQEHWZHHQ
DQG *HOPDQGHVFULEHGWKLVRQJRLQJSURMHFWRQQXPHURXVRFFD-
sions, describing his use of heteronyms at one point as a form of Brechtian
GHIDPLOLDUL]DWLRQȤFXDQGRHPSHF«FRQHOLQJO«VIXHSDUDH[WUD³DUPHGH
DOJRTXHPHHVWDEDRFXUULHQGR H[WUD³DUPHORGLJRHQHOVHQWLGREUHFKWLDQR 
SRUTXHPLSRHV¯DVHHVWDEDYROYLHQGRPX\¯QWLPDȥ TWGLQ2Ȣ+DUDȤ(OFDQWR
TXHVHFDQWDGHSUHVWDGRGH6LGQH\*HOPDQD-XDQ:HVWȥ $WDQRWKHU
SRLQWKHH[SODLQHGȤ,QYHQW«WHUFHURV\ORVSXEOLTX«GHHVDPDQHUDHQ
SDUWHSRUTXHFRQVWLWX\HQDV¯XQDSURYRFDFLµQDODVFRUULHQWHVSRSXOLVWDVHQ
boga, que suponen que una poesía es nacional—o no—si menciona—o no—
ORVVLWLRV\RWUDVDQ«FGRWDVGHODQDFLµQȥ TWGLQ6LOODWR 2QWKHXVHRI
SVHXGRQ\PVLQ*HOPDQȢVSRHWU\VHH%ROOLJ Ȥ:KDW'R:H6D\:KHQ:H6D\
-XDQ*HOPDQ"2Q3VHXGRQ\PVDQG3ROHPLFVLQ5HFHQW$UJHQWLQH3RHWU\ȥ 
12. Since much of Gelman’s poetry employs virgules in the text, I will use a
double virgule to indicate line breaks.
 7KHIROORZLQJTXRWDWLRQVVXJJHVWWKDW:HVWLVERWKKXPDQDQGDQLPDOȤTX«
SRFDSRUDOUHGHGRUGHHVWHKRPEUH\DGHQWURTX«DQLPDOȥDQGWKDW:HVW
LVERWKDOLYHDQGGHDGȤDVLGQH\ZHVWVHORFRPLHURQWRGRVORVS£MDURVTXH
VXSRLQYHQWDUȥȤcHQHOFHPHQWHULRGH2DNDOO¯ORSXVLHURQDVLGQH\
ZHVWTXHGXHUPDȥ ȟ 
 7KHUHDUHPDQ\GHWDLOVLQWKHVHSRHPVWKDW,GRQRWXQGHUVWDQG2QHRI
WKHPLVWKHVLJQLˋFDQFHRIWKHQDPHV3DUVLIDODSSHDUVWRUHIHUWR5LFKDUG
Wagner’s opera of that name, possibly due to the young orphan called a fool
for not understanding other knights’ suffering.
 7KHVHVWDQ]DVUHSOLFDWHSDUWRIWKHSRHPȤ6¯ȥIURP Cólera buey, which,
similar to this and the previously discussed poem, stresses the link between
SRVVLELOLW\DQGDIˋUPDWLRQ  
Notes 169

 $QH[DPSOHRIWKLVNLQGRIDQLPDOLW\LVCólera buey. Another appears in


ȤIHGHHUUDWDVȥZKHUHWKHȤEXH\ȥLVPHQWLRQHGDVDQDQLPDOȤTXHDOO¯
VHDUµQRSRGULGRSRUODSHQDRODIXULDȥDQGLWLVVDLGRI6LGQH\:HVW
ȤTX«SRFDSRUDOUHGHGRUGHHVWHKRPEUH\DGHQWURTX«DQLPDOȥ  ,Q
WKHVHH[DPSOHVWKHˋJXUHRIWKHDQLPDOVXJJHVWVDQJHUDWLQMXVWLFHLQWKH
ZRUOGȠVSHFLˋFDOO\DQDQJHUDWDNLQGRIGRPHVWLFDWLRQRULQVWUXPHQWDO-
L]DWLRQRIOLIHȠDOWKRXJKLWLVQHYHUOLPLWHGWRWKDW,QȤIHGHHUUDWDVȥWKH
animal reference is developed further by the image of West as a waterwheel
GRQNH\VSOLWDQGJRLQJDURXQGLQFLUFOHV,QWKLVVHQVHWKHˋJXUHRIWKH
animal suggests emotion as discussed by Terada in Feeling in Theory, as a
differentiality that is never subsumed into self identity.
17. AmorarLVDZRUGLQ,GRDQRIIVKRRWRI(VSHUDQWR+RZHYHUWKHUHLVQR
subjunctive in either of these constructed languages.
 6HH2Ȣ+DUDȤ'DQ]DGHODVFXFKDUDVWU¯SWLFRYDOOHMLDQRȥIRUDWKRURXJK
GLVFXVVLRQRIWKHˋJXUHRIWKHVSRRQLQ9DOOHMRȢVDQG*HOPDQȢVZRUNV
 &RQFHUQLQJWKHV\PEROLVPRIWKHVSRRQDQGWKHORVVRIWKHPDWHUQDOEUHDVW
stanza two says “antes había bebido toda la leche de la mañana // jugos del
FLHORRGHODYDFDPDGUHVHJ¼QXQW£QGRODFRQORVVXH³RVTXHVHODFD¯DQ
ODQRFKHDQWHULRUȥ
20. The Diccionario de la Real Academia Española offers the following defi-
nitions of juego, all of which can be read in productive tension with this
poem: 6. P'LVSRVLFLµQFRQTXHHVW£QXQLGDVGRVFRVDVGHVXHUWHTXHVLQ
VHSDUDUVHSXHGDQWHQHUPRYLPLHQWRFRPRODVFR\XQWXUDVORVJR]QHVHWF
7. P(VHPLVPRPRYLPLHQWR8. m. Determinado número de cosas relacio-
QDGDVHQWUHV¯\TXHVLUYHQDOPLVPRˋQJuego de hebillas, de botones, de
café 9. P(QORVFDUUXDMHVGHFXDWURUXHGDVFDGDXQDGHODVGRVDUPD]RQHV
FRPSXHVWDVGHXQSDUGHDTXHOODVVXHMH\GHP£VSLH]DVTXHOHFRUUH-
sponden.10. P9LVRV\FDPELDQWHVTXHUHVXOWDQGHODPH]FODRGLVSRVLFLµQ
particular de algunas cosas. Juego de aguas, de colores, de luces 2FWREHU
 
 %HWZHHQVDPP\ȢVGHDWKDQGKLVGHSDUWXUHDVKRZHURIȤSDUWVȥȠRIDQJHOV
DQGDXWKRULW\ILJXUHVȠUDLQVGRZQDQGODQGVDWKLVIHHW pieses $WWKH
end, the sun does not represent a unifying point of meaning, as one might
H[SHFWDIXQFWLRQDWWULEXWHGLQVWHDGWRVKDGRZ,GLVFXVVWKHˋJXUHRIWKH
VXQLQQRWH
22. Carta abierta was originally published in Si dulcemente  
 7KHYHUVLRQSXEOLVKHGLQInterrupciones TXRWHGKHUH KDVPLQRUYDULD-
WLRQVIURPWKHHGLWLRQLQFOXGHGLQSi dulcemente, quoted by Bollig. The
SULPDU\GLIIHUHQFHVDUHWKHGDWHȠRQHOLVWVWKHGDWHDVWKHWKDQGWKH
RWKHUDVWKHWKȠDQGWKHLQFOXVLRQRIWKHZRUGVȤ\PXULµȥLQUHIHUHQFH
to Gelman’s grandchild. Curiously enough, in the version included in the
anthology de palabraWKHUHLVQRPHQWLRQDWDOORIȤHOKLMRGHDPERVȥ)RU
WKH(QJOLVKWUDQVODWLRQ,FRQVXOWHGDQGPRGLˋHG+DUGLH6W0DUWLQȢVWUDQVOD-
tion published in Dark Times Filled with Light.
 ,GLVFXVV%ROOLJȢVSRVLWLRQLQJUHDWHUGHSWKLQȤ-XDQ*HOPDQȢV2SHQ/HWWHUV
170 Notes

Mourning and Mundo EH\RQG 0LOLWDQF\ȥ ,QFLGHQWDOO\ %ROOLJ GHVFULEHV


*HOPDQȢVGHGLFDWLRQWRKLVGHDGVRQDVDQLQYHUWHGUHˌHFWLRQRIWKHZRUN
of HIJOS, a human rights organization formed by children of people who
were disappeared in the Dirty War, with which Gelman has been peripher-
ally associated. Bollig describes this organization, whose acronym stands for
Ȥ+LMRVSRUOD,GHQWLGDG\-XVWLFLDFRQWUDHO2OYLGR\HO6LOHQFLRȥDVDJURXS
dedicated to “completing the political work of their disappeared parents
with an identity politics whose basis is the restoration of a militant identity,
ZKLFKZDVYLROHQWO\QHJDWHGE\WKHFULPHVRIWKHGLFWDWRUVKLSȥ %ROOLJ 
,QERWKFDVHV%ROOLJLPSOLHVWKDWWLPHDQGHYHQOLIHLWVHOIDUHVDFULˋFHGWRD
patrilineal inheritance
 7KHZRUG nuncaHFKRHVWKHVORJDQȤQXQFDP£VȥZKLFKWRJHWKHUZLWKWKH
SKUDVHȤDSDULFLµQFRQYLGDȥZDVXVHGE\WKH0DGUHVGHOD3OD]DGH0D\RDV
a gesture of protest against their children’s disappearance at the hands of
the dictatorship. As other critics have noted, these slogans are not evidence
of a mass hallucination that the Madres’ children are really still alive, but a
GHPDQGWKDWWKH6WDWHDFNQRZOHGJHWKHHIIHFWVRIWKHYLROHQFHLWLQˌLFWHG
on the population. Federico Galende interprets these slogans as a disrup-
tive insistence on the ineradicability of pain, while Ross Chambers suggests
that they function as haunting reminders of what state power is capable
RI *DOHQGHȤ(OGHVDSDUHFLGRODGHVGLFKDGHOWHVWLJRȥ&KDPEHUV 
7KHUHIUDLQȤQXQFDP£VȥDSSHDUVLQSRHP9,RICarta abierta, and is marked
by uncertainty, discontinuity, repetition, and incompletion: “¿te duelo el
QXQFD"P£V"RQXQFDP£V"ȥ
 )DEU\QRWHVWKDWWKHUHDUHWZHQW\QHRORJLVPVZLWKWKHSUHIL[des- in this
ERRN   $ERXW WKH RSHQLQJ SDLU RI ZRUGV VKH VD\VȤ0LHQWUDV TXH
‘hablarte’ funda la existencia del poemario, ‘deshablarte,’ con su matiz de
LQYHUVLRQ\SURFHVRUHJUHVLYRODSRQHHQWHODGHMXLFLRQDGDP£VTXHDEULUHO
OLEURȥ
27. The Latin roots of passion and passage are so close as to be homonymic.
PassusKDVWKUHHGHˋQLWLRQV  IURPpando, meaning outspread, extended,
DOVRVSUHDGRXWGULHGDVVXEVWDQWLYHQRXQZLQHRIGULHGJUDSHV  IURP
patiorWRVXIIHU DQGDOVRWREHDUVXSSRUW   DVQRXQDVWHSSDFHWUDFN
WUDFH /HZLV 7KHVHQVHRIH[SRVXUHLQWKHˋUVWGHˋQLWLRQRIpando reso-
nates with the nature of pathos as described by Derrida as something “open
EXWLOOHJLEOHȥ TWGLQ7HUDGD 
 7KHVHQVHRIKDXQWLQJFRPHVIURPWKHSKUDVHȤDOPDTXHPHSHQ£VHO
PLHQWUDVȥ   : KLOH penar primarily indicates suffering, its use
ZLWK ȤDOPDȥ DQG ȤPLHQWUDVȥ VXJJHVWV D SXUJDWRULDO VWDWH RI FRQWLQXHG
movement.
 )DEU\FRQYLQFLQJO\GHPRQVWUDWHVDQLQWHUWH[WXDOUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQ
Carta abierta and San Juan de la Cruz’s Cántico espiritual, which is a
UHZULWLQJRIWKH6RQJRI6RQJV )DEU\Las formas del vacíoȟ 7KH
OLQHȤEHVDUFRQEHVRVGHODERFDȥLVWKHILUVWWKDW)DEU\LGHQWLILHVDVDQ
indication of this relationship. Another key moment appears in poem XIII,
Notes 171

LQZKLFKWKHSRHWVHHNVWRDUULYHDWȤWXDOPLWDUȥDQHRORJLVPWKDWHYRNHV
both the alma and altar of the son—suggesting that the poet’s disap-
SHDUHGVRQLVVLWXDWHGDVDVHPLGLYLQHILJXUH ȟ )DEU\DVWXWHO\
observes that this intertextual reference does not imply that Carta abierta
VKDUHV 6DQ -XDQȢV QDUUDWLYH RI WUDQVFHQGHQFH ([FHSW IRU PRPHQWV RI
wistful longing for a liberation from his pain, Gelman appears to use San
-XDQȢVZRUNDVDȤWHRU¯DGHOGRORUȥ  DQGDPRGHORIPHPRU\LQZKLFK
PHPRU\LVOLQNHGWRWKHSDLQRIGHDWK  6KHDOVRUHIHUVDQH[SODQD-
WLRQJLYHQE\*HOPDQRIKLVXVHRI6DQ-XDQȢVDTXHOORDVDˋJXUHWKDWȤGD
FXHQWDGHORTXHQRWLHQHIRUPD\GHMDWUD]Dȥ TWGLQ)DEU\*HOPDQ
Ȥ1RWDVDOSLHȥ 
Fabry’s reading of poem XXIV as a glimpse of hope, and of XV as a
UHWXUQWRWKHFORVXUH DQGFORLVWHULQJ RIDPRXUQLQJQHFHVVDULO\LQFRP-
plete until the remains of the desaparecidos are returned reveals her own
DVVRFLDWLRQEHWZHHQWKHFRPSOHWLRQRIPRXUQLQJDQGWUDQVFHQGHQFH Las
formas del vacío 7KLVDVVRFLDWLRQLVDOVRJOLPSVHGLQKHUGHVFULSWLRQ
of how Gelman’s poetry seeks to find a voice so that the “‘cementerio de
ODPHPRULDȢVHOLEHUHSURJUHVLYDPHQWHGHVXVHVSHFWURVȥ Las formas del
vacío 
 )DEU\SURYLGHVDVXJJHVWLYHLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRIWKHHQGRIWKHSRHPDVLQGL-
cating a mutual engendering of father and son, as well as an engendering of
GHDWK  6KHDOVRSRLQWVRXWWKDWWKHQHRORJLVPhijar can be found in the
ZRUNRI&«VDU9DOOHMRIRULQVWDQFHLQTrilce;,,, )DEU\Q 
 7KHLQGHWHUPLQDF\RIWKLVQHRORJLVPFRUUHVSRQGVWRWKHSKUDVHH[SUHVVHG
by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo that “nuestros hijos nos parieron en la
OXFKDȥ TWGLQ/XLV0DUW¯Q&DEUHUD 
 $OWKRXJK,WKLQNWKDWWKHPDLQSRLQWLQWKHDVVRFLDWLRQEHWZHHQIDWKHUDQG
country is the dual sense of loss, another element probably informs the
GHVFULSWLRQRIWKHIDWKHUDVȤGROHGRUGHWDQWRȥZKLFKLVWKHNQRZOHGJHWKDW
the son’s abduction was directly related to the father’s political involve-
PHQW7KHXVHRIWKHIHPLQLQHDUWLFOHWR ȤLQFRUUHFWO\ȥ PRGLI\WKHZRUG
ȤSDGUHȥPD\LQGLFDWHWKHSRHWȢVYXOQHUDELOLW\DQGWKHIDFWWKDWKHKDGQR
LQWHQWLRQRILQˌLFWLQJSDLQ
 7KHDiccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española states
that alma is derived from the Latin anima. The sense of detaching the
son from death evokes the beginning of Gabriela Mistral’s “Sonetos de la
PXHUWH'HOQLFKRKHODGRHQTXHORVKRPEUHVWHSXVLHURQWHEDMDU«DOD
WLHUUDKXPLOGH\VROHDGDȥ
 ,DPSULPDULO\WKLQNLQJRIWKHVHQVHRIGHˋQLWLRQRIobra in the Diccio-
nario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española: “10. I$FFLµQ
moral, y principalmente la que se encamina al provecho del alma, o la que le
KDFHGD³Rȥ XVHGSULPDULO\LQWKHSOXUDO %LEOLFDOUHIHUHQFHVLQFOXGH-DPHV
DQG3HWHU HVSHFLDOO\LQUHODWLRQWREXLOGLQJZLWKVWRQHVLQIXVHGE\
VSLULWRUEUHDWK )DEU\SRLQWVRXWWKDWobra and trabajo are words used in
San Juan’s Cántico espiritual  
172 Notes

 7KHPRWLIRIWKHVXQLQ*HOPDQȢVSRHWU\LVDFRPSOH[DQGVKLIWLQJRQHQRW
an immutable point of reference by which earthly systems orient themselves
IRULQVWDQFHDVD*RGIRUUHOLJLRQVRUDV5HDVRQIRUWKH(QOLJKWHQPHQW 
In Carta abiertaWKHVXQDSSHDUVDVSOXUDO 3RHP;;,9 IHPLQLQH 3RHP
,; SHUVRQDODQGGLPLQXWLYH ȤWXVROLWRȥ3RHP9,,, DVDYHUE ȤVROH£V"ȥ
3RHP;;,, SRVVHVVLQJDQLPDOIRUFH ȤVROTXHEXH\£Vȥ3RHP;;,, DQG
UHSUHVHQWLQJWKHVRQȢVDEVHQFH ȤVROGHWXVDXVHQFLDVȥȤUHY«VGHOX]GRQGH
FDOODEDVPXFKRFRPRFDQWRFD\HQGRGHODVROȥ3RHP,; 

  ,Q WKHLU GHWDLOHG DQDO\VHV RI WKHVH ERRNV /LOL£Q 8ULEH DQG 0DU¯D GHO
Carmen Sillato attempt to identify specific texts that Gelman’s poems
may be rewriting, highlighting similarities between the poems and their
presumed sources. They defend this approach by virtue of their under-
standing of the books’s titles. Uribe explains the term citar as a form of
UHIHUHQFHWKDWPDLQWDLQVDȤˋGHOLW\ȥWRLWVVRXUFHDQGcomentar as a mode
RIȤFODULˋFDWLRQȥZKLFKVKHXQGHUVWDQGVDVDIRUPRIȤLQFRUSRUDWLRQȥRU
ȤLQWHJUDWLRQȥRIRQHYRLFHLQWRDQRWKHUȢV  6LOODWRREVHUYHVWKDWcitar
FDQDOVRPHDQȤWRPHHWZLWKȥVXJJHVWLQJDIDFHWRIDFHGLDORJXHEHWZHHQ
*HOPDQȢVSRHPVDQGWKHRULJLQDOVRXUFHV  7KHDQDORJ\FRPSOHPHQWV
the prosopopoeic address of the other presumed by these and other critics.
Sillato and Uribe follow María Rosa Olivera-Williams’s lead in regarding
Citas and Comentarios as books that express the poet’s determination to
ȤXQLUVHFRQODDXVHQWHȥZKHWKHUWKHREMHFWRIUHFXSHUDWLRQEHDZRPDQRU
the poet’s patria  
 6LOODWRQRWHVWKDW6DQ-XDQDQG6DQWD7HUHVDZHUHGHVFHQGHQWVRI-HZLVK
converts to Christianity, and that sixteenth-century Christian mysti-
FLVPZDVLQIOXHQFHGE\&DEEDOLVWLFWKHRULHV  +RZHYHULQNHHSLQJ
with her comparisons of Gelman’s poems and Santa Teresa’s and San
Juan’s texts, she stresses continuities and similarities between the Chris-
tian mystics and the possible Kabbalistic sources without explaining
the differences between them and their significance for understanding
Gelman’s poetry. For example, although Sillato identifies images such as
GRRUVFLUFOHVDQGEXWWHUˌLHVFRPPRQWRERWKWKH.DEEDOLVWLFDQG&KULV-
WLDQ P\VWLFDO WUDGLWLRQV ȟ  VKH GRHV QRW DFNQRZOHGJH WKH EDVLF
difference between the Teresan doctrine of teleological progress toward
God and the Kabbalistic understanding of Messianic change, which rejects
the notion of progress and imagines an end to exile not as a return to a
ȤKRPHȥ RUȤIDWKHUȥ EXW DV WKH XVKHULQJ LQ RI DQ DJH ZLWKRXW VXIIHULQJ
VXFK DV QHYHU EHHQ NQRZQ EHIRUH %XFN0RUVV ȟ  7KH KLGGHQ
influence of Jewish mysticism on the Christian mystical texts cited in
Citas and Comentarios offers insight into Gelman’s approach to tradi-
tion and the use and quotation of older texts. The word Kabbalah means
ȤWKDWZKLFKLVUHFHLYHGWKURXJKWUDGLWLRQȥEXWWKHQRWLRQRIWUDGLWLRQWKDW
it invokes is different from the usual linear structure leading back to an
authoritative original. For Kabbalist scholars, the present time reveals
new aspects to old texts, and vice versa. Reading and interpretation
Notes 173

are believed to bring about transformations of meaning, rather than the


SUHVHUYDWLRQ RI DQ RULJLQDO KLVWRULFDOO\ ORFDWHG RQH %XFN0RUVV  
 7KHHGLWLRQ,DPXVLQJIRUCitas and Comentarios is in de palabra.
 Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española,GHˋQLWLRQ
of pena.
 7KLVVHQVHRIVHDUFKUHFDOOV*HOPDQȢVGHVFULSWLRQLQContraderrota of the
QHHGIRUDUDGLFDOIRUPRIȤUHˌHFWLRQȥLQDQ\FROOHFWLYHHQGHDYRU  +H
GHVFULEHVVXFKUHˌHFWLRQDVDPRGHRIȤOHDUQLQJȥDQGȤXQOHDUQLQJȥZKLFKKH
FRQWUDVWVZLWKWKHȤEXUHDXFUDWL]DWLRQȥRIUHYROXWLRQDU\WKRXJKWH[SHULHQFHG
E\WKH0RQWRQHURVLQWKHPLGV
 6HH)DEU\ȢVGLVFXVVLRQRIWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQsentir and saber 
 ,EHOLHYHWKDW*HOPDQSUHVHQWVDWHQVLRQEHWZHHQIHHOLQJDQGNQRZLQJ
rather than privileging one over the other, as Fabry suggests in relation to
Incompletamente.
 6LOODWRGHVFULEHV*HOPDQȢVȤComentario;;,9ȥDVDQȤ¯QWLPDXQLµQTXHOH
SHUPLWLU£DOXQRIXQGLUVHFRQHORWURHQXQDFWRGHUHIUDFFLµQȥ  8ULEH
VWDWHVWKDWȤODFRPXQLµQGH«VWHFRQHO\RGHOVXMHWRO¯ULFRVHHVWDEOHFHGHVGH
HOFRPLHQ]Rȥ  2OLYHUD:LOOLDPVZULWHVȤ3RUPHGLRGHODW«FQLFDGH
ODUHSHWLFLµQFRQVXFDSDFLGDGP£JLFRULWXDOORJUDFDSWDUODXQLµQGHOD
SHUVRQDSR«WLFDFRQODSDWULDȥ  
Sillato and Uribe have identified different sources for this poem. One,
LGHQWLˋHGE\6LOODWRFRPHVIURP6DQ-XDQȢVȤ5RPDQFHVȥ

Como amado en el amante


uno en otro residía
y aquese amor que los une,
en lo mismo convenía
con el uno y con el otro
HQLJXDOGDG\YDO¯D Ȥ5RPDQFHVȥȟTWGLQ6LOODWR 

This passage appears at the beginning of the first Romance, which


describes the creation of the world by the trinity. The two discussed in
these lines are God and the divine word, related like father and son or like
lovers. The theological paradox of the trinity concerns a plurality that is
also a unity, which is described in these lines as a resemblance or conver-
JHQFHLQȤHTXDOLW\DQGYDOXHȥ*HOPDQȢVSRHPVSHDNVRIFRQYHUJHQFHDQG
equality only in the hypothetical, drawing attention to the fact that there
are in fact two different beings that are not equal or the same. Further-
more, the heavy use of caesura and enjambment, together with the confu-
sion of pronouns, serves to draw attention to the language of the poem,
a use of language that seems to run away from both author and reader,
drawing attention to the fact that it lies very far from the divine word that
becomes one with God. If anything, the language in Gelman’s poem, even
more than in other poems from this book, stresses an irreducible multi-
plicity, even as it professes to seek unity.
174 Notes

Uribe identifies another source for Gelman’s commentar y in San


Juan’s prose commentary on song XXXVI of his Cántico espiritual, which
concerns union between the mortal soul and God, similarly described as
ORYHUV7KLVFRPPHQWDU\DVVHUWVWKDWVLQFHȤSHUIHFWXQLRQȥKDVDOUHDG\
been established between the soul and God, the song serves to describe
how that union is exercised. In an amazing feat of critical obfuscation,
WKHFRPPHQWDU\JORVVHVWKHSRHWLFYHUVHȤY£PRQRVDYHUHQWXKHUPR-
VXUDȥZLWKDORQJGHQVHSDUDJUDSKH[SODLQLQJKRZȤGHWDOPDQHUDHVW«
yo transformada en tu hermosura . . . de manera que, mirando el uno al
otro, vea cada uno en el otro su hermosura, siendo la una y la del otro tu
hermosura, y tú a mí en tu hermosura . . . porque tu misma hermosura
VHU£PLKHUPRVXUD\DV¯QRVYHUHPRVHOXQRDORWURHQWXKHUPRVXUDȥ
TWGLQ8ULEH +HUHWKHODQJXDJHLVFORVHUWR*HOPDQȢVLQLWVSURQRP-
inal confusion, which seems to undermine the professed union between
the two subjects. Nevertheless, just as the trinity is paradoxically three
in one, so this confusing chain of inversions also purports to support a
ȤSHUIHFWXQLRQȥ$V,PHQWLRQDERYH8ULEHWDNHVWKLVXQLRQDWIDFHYDOXH
ignoring the disruptions caused by the successive derivations or commen-
taries. Fabry, quoting Nadine Ly, stresses Gelman’s reappropriation of San
Juan’s disjunctive excess, against a sense of unity or continuity of deriva-
WLRQDQGVRXUFH  
 7KLVLQWHUSUHWDWLRQUHOLHVRQWKHIDFWWKDW*HOPDQRIWHQDOWHUVWKHJHQGHUHG
form of nouns and adjectives, so the feminine adjectival form of dicha may
be said to modify the masculine sabor.
The linguistic sense of dicha is also evident in the previous poem, in
ZKLFKDȤSHQDGHYRVTXHYLYHPXHUHȥLVȤNLOOHGȥE\WKHRWKHUDQGWUDQV-
IRUPHG LQWR DȤGLFKD GH YRVȥ Comentario ;;,,,  7KLV WUDQVIRUPDWLRQ
VLJQLˋHVHLWKHUDJRGOLNHFRQYHUVLRQRISDLQLQWRMR\RUDWXUQLQJRIWKH
OLYLQJG\LQJSDLQLQWRODQJXDJHDVZKDWUHPDLQVRIDQGE\ ȤGHȥ WKHRWKHU
Supporting this second interpretation is the emphasis on the mouth in the
VHFRQGVWDQ]DȤSDODGDUDOTXHPLOHQJXDHVW£SHJDGDFRPROHQJXDGH
YRVȥDOLQHFOHDUO\LQˌXHQFHGE\DVHFWLRQRI6DQ-XDQȢVȤ5RPDQFHVȥWKDW
suggests that if the speaker enjoyed the foreign land in which he was forced
into exile, he would lose his language—literally, that his tongue would be
fused to his palate: “si en la ajena me gozaba/ con mi paladar se junte/ la
OHQJXDFRQTXHKDEODEDȥ Ȥ6XSHUˌXPLQD%DE\ORQLVȥOOȟ *HOPDQȢV
SRHPDSSHDUVWRVXJJHVWWKDWWKHȤVWLFNLQJȥRIWKHSRHWȢVWRQJXHLVDVWLFNLQJ
of language to the other and to its living-dying pain.
 $VQRWHGDERYHVHH8ULEH  DQG6LOODWR  ,QDGGLWLRQWRWKRVH
poems already analyzed, other poems indicate a similar resistance to the
ˋJXUHRIXQLRQȤKDFLDXQRYDPRV"PHVRV"WHVR\"GLVWDQFLDV
GHYRVDP¯GHYRVDYRV"ȥ Comentario ,; ȤXQRTXHQRVHHQWLHQGH
VLQRHQGRV"ȥ Cita;;;,, 0RUHRYHUWKHIROORZLQJOLQHIURPSalarios del
impío articulates a similar sense of unknowing orientation: “Yo no conozco
QDGDVLQRYRVFRQPLJRHQYRVTXHQRFRQR]FRȥ Salarios del impío 
Notes 175

Chapter 2: Myopic Witnessing and the Intermittent Possibilities


of Community in Sergio Chejfec’s Los planetas and Boca de lobo

1. Rimbaud included the image of the seer in at least two letters, one to
*HRUJHV,]DPEDUGGDWHG0D\DQGDQRWKHUWR3DXO'HPHQ\GDWHG
0D\ Rimbaud: Complete Works, ȟ +HGHYHORSVWKHLPDJH
more in the second letter.
2. “The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derange-
ment of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness. He searches
himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintes-
sences. Unspeakable torture where he needs all his faith, all his superhuman
strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great
criminal, the one accursed—and the supreme Scholar!—Because he reaches
the unknown! Since he cultivated his soul, rich already, more than any man!
He reaches the unknown, and when, bewildered, he ends by losing the intel-
ligence of his visions, he has seen them. Let him die as he leaps through
XQKHDUGRIDQGXQQDPDEOHWKLQJVRWKHUKRUULEOHZRUNHUVZLOOFRPHWKH\
ZLOOEHJLQIURPWKHKRUL]RQVZKHUHWKHRWKHURQHFROODSVHGȥ 5LPEDXG 
  6DHUOLYHGLQ3DULVIURPRQEXWKHDOZD\VUHPDLQHGVWURQJO\LGHQWLˋHG
as an Argentine writer.
  7KH HSLJUDSK RI WKH ERRN UHDGVȤ'HO FRQMXQWR GH SD¯VHV LQYLVLEOHV HO
SUHVHQWHHVHOP£VH[WHQVRȥ7KLVVHQWHQFHLVDOVRUHSHDWHGDWWKHEHJLQQLQJ
RIWKHˋQDOFKDSWHUDWZKLFKSRLQWWKHQDUUDWRUPXVHVZKHWKHUKHEHOLHYHV
it to be true, and what it might mean. The repetition of this sentence at the
beginning and at the end of the novel recalls Borges’s use of repetition in
WH[WVVXFKDVȤ/DHVIHUDGH3DVFDOȥZKLFKHPSKDVL]HVWKHGLYLGHGȠZKLFKLV
to say, temporal—nature of the present.
  &KHMIHFȢVQRWLRQVRIFRPPXQLW\DQGUHODWLRQDOLW\UHVRQDWHVWURQJO\ZLWK
Jean-Luc Nancy’s influential discussion of community in The Inopera-
tive Community ZKLFKLVLWVHOISDUWRIDGHFDGHVORQJFRQYHUVDWLRQDERXW
the nature of community, including the voices of Maurice Blanchot and
-DFTXHV'HUULGDDPRQJRWKHUV 1DQF\GLVWLQJXLVKHVcommunity from forms
of collectivity based on identity, ideal communion, or collective “produc-
WLRQȥ&RPPXQLW\QDPHVDQLGHDORIEHLQJWRJHWKHUWKDWUHVLVWVDQGUHDFKHV
beyond social and political divisions, administrative organization, and atem-
SRUDOLGHQWLˋFDWLRQV ZKHWKHUQDWLRQDOUHJLRQDORUXQLYHUVDOKXPDQLVW )RU
Nancy, community is a temporal, and therefore endlessly shifting, experience
of being-together that is inevitably divided, a shared exposure to an other-
ness that can never be fully known, and which inhabits both self and other.
  ,QBoca de lobo, Chejfec ironically turns his criticism from journalism to
QDUUDWLYHˋFWLRQVXJJHVWLQJWKDWQRYHOVWHQGWRVWLFNWRWKHVXUIDFHRIWKLQJV
like boats that cross through icy waters, never recognizing how much danger
OLHVEHQHDWK  &OHDUO\VRPHQRYHOVDOVRDGGUHVVWKHPXUN\ZDWHUVEHQHDWK
the surface.
7. The figure of intermittent starlight is evocative of Walter Benjamin’s
176 Notes

interest in monads, as described by Peter Fenves, especially in regard to


their receptive quality, which for Benjamin placed them at the threshold
RISDUDGLVH  %HQMDPLQȢVLQWHUHVWLQPRQDGVLVUHODWHGWRKLVLQWHUHVW
in constellations and quotations: quotations and stars are both isolated
elements, but when a relationship is established among several of them, the
individual components implicitly change.
  2Q&KHMIHFȢVWKRXJKWVDERXW6HEDOGVHHDOVRȤ%UHYHVRSLQLRQHVVREUHUHODWRV
FRQLP£JHQHVȥ
  &KHMIHFJLYHVXVQRUHDVRQWRVXVSHFWWKDW0LVDQ\WKLQJRWKHUWKDQFROODW-
HUDOGDPDJHWRWKHEUXWDOUHSUHVVLRQRI/HIWLVWV\PSDWKL]HUVLQWKHV
Nevertheless, there exists a possibility that he was not strictly innocent, and
indeed there is one implication that M’s ideas might be considered revolu-
WLRQDU\DQGPLJKWFRQVHTXHQWO\ODQGKLPLQMDLO  %XWPRUHLQWHUHVWLQJ
perhaps, is the reflection on the nature of innocence that is interspersed
LQWRWKHUHFRXQWLQJRIWKH(]HL]DPDVVDFUHLQZKLFKWKHWZRER\VWDONDERXW
the prospect of losing their virginity. One of the remarks that after it is lost,
“ya no pueden recuperar la inocencia. ‘Pero sí pueden, y de hecho todos lo
KDFHPRVȢVXUJLµHORWUR(VYHUGDGUHVSRQGLµHOSULPHURȥ  3HUKDSVWKLV
exchange is meant to suggest that innocence is an abstraction that depends
on multiple contingencies, and is incapable of being judged as such. One of
WKHER\VVD\VWKLVLQHIIHFWȤ/DFDVWLGDGHVXQDDEVWUDFFLµQHTXLYDOHQWH
DODIDOWDGHFDVWLGDGȥ
10. Such insistence on what cannot be known resembles what Derrida calls
ȤVXQIORZHU EOLQGQHVVȥ D SURSRV 6W 3DXOȢV FRQYHUVLRQ WR &KULVWLDQLW\
Memoirs of the Blind 
 Ȥ/DVXVWLWXFLµQYLROHQWD\WULYLDOSURGXFLGDHQHOOODPDGRVHQWLGRKLVWµULFRȥ
 Ȥ(QWRQFHVHOVHQWLGRKLVWµULFRQRHVWDEDHQODSURIXQGLGDGHUDVXSHU-
ILFLDOHVWDEDDODYLVWDGHWRGRVVDWXUDGRGHPXHUWHVȥ ȟ 6HH
4XLQWDQDȢVGLVFXVVLRQRIWKLVVHFWLRQ
The narrator’s evident anti-Peronism is mitigated somewhat by the
ȤV\PSDWK\DQGLQFUHGXOLW\ȥWKHER\VIHHOIRUWKHFURZGPHQWDOLW\WKDW
eddies around them. Such a pairing of sympathy, fascination, and critique
RI3HURQLVWPDVVFXOWXUHLVHYLGHQWDOVRLQ&«VDU$LUDȢVEl tilo and Arturo
Carrera’s Potlatch.
 4XLQWDQDDOVRXQGHUVWDQGVWKHSODQHWVDVDPHWDSKRUIRUXUEDQOLIH Ȥ&LXGDG
\PHPRULDȥ 
 7KLVDFWLRQLVGHVFULEHGDVDV\PEROLFVDFULˋFH:KHUHDVWKHFRXSOHIURP
Formosa symbolically sacrifice the girl they met in the countryside and
UHSODFHKHUȤPDUNȥ huella ZLWKUHOLJLRXVLFRQRJUDSK\ DOEHLWJOHDQHGIURP
SRSXODUPDJD]LQHV WKHQDUUDWRUUHVSRQGVWR0ȢVGLVDSSHDUDQFHZKLFKKH
describes at one point as a sacrifice, by writing in a way that emphasizes
the marks that our encounters with others leave on us, and which perpet-
XDWHVWKHLULQWHUPLWWHQWˌLFNHULQJVWKURXJKDQDUUDWLYHVW\OHWKDWSULYLOHJHV
interruption and discontinuity—of which this story about the couple from
Formosa is an example.
Notes 177

7KHWHUPȤVDFULILFHȥXVHGLQUHODWLRQWR0ȢVGLVDSSHDUDQFHLVDPELJXRXV,WLV
DVDFULILFHWKDWKDVQRFRQQHFWLRQWRVDOYDWLRQȤ0HUDHOP£UWLUSHURQR
SRUTXHVXVDFULˋFLRHVWXYLHUDGLULJLGRDQXHVWUDVDOYDFLµQVLQRSRUTXHVX
GHVDSDULFLµQHUDQXHVWUDPDUFDȥ  0ȢVGLVDSSHDUDQFHLVVDLGWROLYHRQDV
DNLQGRIGHEWWXUQLQJDOOWKRVHZKRUHPDLQLQWRGHEWRUV DFRQFHLWWKDWLV
reiterated in Boca de loboZLWKUHJDUGWRWKHSUROHWDULDW 
 $VLQKLVREVHUYDWLRQVDERXW6HEDOGȢVZULWLQJ&KHMIHFGHYHORSVDVXVWDLQHG
FULWLTXHRIZKDWKHFDOOVȤPHPRU\DVDSRVLWLYHHQWLW\ȥWKURXJKRXWKLVZRUN
Ȥ(OHVFHQDULRȥ ,QLos planetas, we read how “Cada vez hay menos señales
TXHUHPLWHQD«O6µORHQODPHPRULDVHFRQVHUYDQSHUROOHJDXQPRPHQWR
cuando no estamos seguros del verdadero valor de lo guardado, porque así
como podemos decir tantas cosas cuando decimos olvido, muchas de ellas
FRQWUDSXHVWDV\FRPSOHPHQWDULDVWDPEL«QHVYHUGDGTXHDOGHFLUUHFXHUGR
PHPRULDRVLPSOHPHQWHHYRFDFLµQQRGHEHPRVVLQRGHVFRQˋDUWDPEL«Q
DOO¯VHGLVLPXODXQDFXHYDGHVRPEUDVȥ ȟ 
 0DUW¯Q .RKDQ REVHUYHV WKDW LQGHWHUPLQDWLRQ LV RQH RI WKH NH\ FRPSR-
nents of this novel: “la novela prescinde así de todas las marcas de lo real
\VHSODQWHDHQW«UPLQRVGHXQDQRWRULDLQGHWHUPLQDFLµQȥ Ȥ(VFULWXUDGH
ORVRFLDO"ȥ :KLOH,DJUHHJHQHUDOO\ZLWKWKLVREVHUYDWLRQWKHYRFDEXODU\
VHHPVWRLQGLFDWHDQ$UJHQWLQHFLW\VFDSH HJȤFROHFWLYRVȥ ZKLFKLVPRVW
likely the outskirts of Buenos Aires or Rosario. Kohan concedes that the only
thing that breaks through the haze of indetermination is the name Borges,
DQGLQGHHG&KHMIHFVHHPVWREHXSGDWLQJ%RUJHVȢVFKURQRWRSLFˋJXUHRIWKH
ȤRULOODVȥRUXUEDQOLPLWVWRWKHWXUQRIWKHPLOOHQQLXP2QWKLVWURSHVHH
Beatriz Sarlo, and Jenckes, Reading Borges after Benjamin: Allegory, Afterlife,
and the Writing of History, chapter 1.
 7KLVGHVFULSWLRQDSSHDUVRQWKHEDFNFRYHURIBoca de lobo.
 (YHQEHIRUHKHVSHDNVWRKHUIRUWKHˋUVWWLPHWKHQDUUDWRUREVHUYHVȤ'HOLD
HQFDUQDEDSDUDP¯HOLGHDOGHPXMHUP£VGHVHDEOH\DFDEDGRȥ  'DQLHO
Noemi Voionmaa stresses the idealization of the figure of Delia in his
analysis of Boca de lobo in Leer la pobreza en América Latina: literatura y
velocidad.
 ,DPLQGHEWHGWR%UHWW/HYLQVRQDQG*DUHWK:LOOLDPVIRULQWURGXFLQJPHWR
5DQFLªUHȢVWKRXJKW6HH:LOOLDPVȤ7KH0H[LFDQ([FHSWLRQDQGWKHȡ2WKHU
&DPSDLJQȢȥDQG/HYLQVRQMarket and Thought,&KDSWHU2QDVLPLODU
interpretation of Marx, see Federico Galende’s discussion of the proletariat
LQȤ(OporPDU[LVPRȥ

Chapter 3: Living and Writing in the Deserts of Modernity

  0HQVDMH3UHVLGHQFLDO6HSWHPEHU
  6HH7KD\HUȤ9DQJXDUGLDGLFWDGXUDJOREDOL]DFLµQȥLQPensar en/la postdict-
aduraDQGȤ(O*ROSHFRPRFRQVXPDFLµQGHODYDQJXDUGLDȥEl fragmento
repetido. For his remark on capitalism as rupture, see “The Possibility of
&ULWLFLVPȥNepantla 1:1. For an intriguing alternative perspective on the
178 Notes

DYDQWJDUGHVHH$QGUHHD0DULQHVFXȤ,&DQȢW*R2Q,ȢOO*R2Qȥ6HHDOVRP\
GLVFXVVLRQRI7KD\HUȢVLGHDVLQP\FKDSWHURQ'LWWERUQ &KDSWHU 
  6HH /HYLQVRQ Ȥ&DVH &ORVHG 0DGQHVV DQG 'LVVRFLDWLRQ LQ 2666ȥ DQG
:LOOLDPVȤ6RYHUHLJQW\DQG0HODQFKROLF3DUDO\VLVLQ5REHUWR%ROD³RȥDQG
“2666DQGWKH(QGRI,QWHUUXSWLRQȥ,WVHHPVWRPHWKDWWKHWHUPȤJHQHU-
DOL]HGPHWRQ\PL]DWLRQȥZKLFK:LOOLDPVFLWHVIURP-HOLFD6XPLFPLJKWEH
said to mirror the blogosphere, where, perhaps not coincidentally, Bolaño’s
work is summarily celebrated, as if viewed as an extension of itself.
  ,KDYHFRQVXOWHGDQGDWWLPHVUHOLHGRQKHDYLO\WKHH[LVWLQJWUDQVODWLRQVRI
%ROD³RȢVZRUNEXWWKHUHDUHQXPHURXVRFFDVLRQVRQZKLFK,KDYHPRGLˋHG
those translations somewhat heavily. Nonetheless I include page references
WRERWK(QJOLVKDQG6SDQLVKLQWKDWRUGHU
  )RUDPRUHGHWDLOHGGLVFXVVLRQRIWKLVVHH6DPXHO:HEHUBenjamin’s –abil-
ities SSIII DQG5RVV&KDPEHUVȢVAn Atmospherics of the City:
Baudelaire and the Poetics of Noise. Benjamin focuses on two historical
FRQˋJXUDWLRQVRIPRGHUQLW\WKH*HUPDQ%DURTXHDQGWKHKLJKFDSLWDOLVPRI
QLQHWHHQWKFHQWXU\3DULV,QWKHVHYHQWHHQWKFHQWXU\WKHˋJXUHRIVXEMHF-
WLYLW\ZDVH[HPSOLˋHGLQWKHˋJXUHRIWKHZLO\FRXUWLQWULJXHUZKRZRUNHG
WKHOHYHUVEHQHDWKWKHPDVTXHUDGHRIPRQDUFK\WKHIDFWRIWKLVPDVTXHUDGH
ZDVWKHIRFXVRIWKH*HUPDQ%DURTXHGUDPD DFFRUGLQJWR%HQMDPLQ ,QWKH
QLQHWHHQWKFHQWXU\WKHȤFDSLWDOȥRIWKHPRGHUQVXEMHFWZDVSULPDULO\ˋQDQ-
cial, accumulated and displayed in bourgeois living rooms and arcades. For
Benjamin, Baudelaire served as its most astute chronicler: in his work the
danse macabre wins out over the lure of lyric redemption, and the econo-
PLHVRIODQJXDJHDQGVXEMHFWLYLW\DUHOHIWWXPEOLQJRQWKHVHDRIˋQLWXGH
unable to complete their epic adventures and close their economies. In his
work, subjectivity is captured in mid-parry, and economies of all types are
fed counterfeit coins.
  6HHIRULQVWDQFHWKHYHUVHVȤ3RXUQȢ¬WUHSDVFKDQJ«VHQE¬WHVȥDQGȤ%HU©DQW
QRWUHLQˋQLVXUOHˋQLGHVPHUVȥ
  6HHIRULQVWDQFHȤ&KDTXH°ORWVLJQDO«SDUOȢKRPPHGHYLJLH(VWXQ(OGRUDGR
SURPLVSDUOH'HVWLQȥȤVDQVVDYRLUSRXUTXRLGLVHQWWRXMRXUV$OORQVȥȤ8QH
YRL[GHODKXQHDUGHQWHHWIROOHFULHm$PRXUJORLUHERQKHXU}(QIHU
FȢHVWXQ«FXHLOȥȤULHQQHVXIˋWQLZDJRQQLYDLVVHDX3RXUIXLUFHU«WLDLUH
LQI¤PHȥ
  Ȥ/HPRQGHPRQRWRQHHWSHWLWDXMRXUGȢKXL+LHUGHPDLQWRXMRXUVQRXV
IDLWYRLUQRWUHLPDJH8QHRDVLVGȢKRUUHXUGDQVXQG«VHUWGȢHQQXLȥ
  ,DPJUDWHIXOWR:LOOLDPVIRUOHDGLQJPHWRWKLVSDVVDJHLQKLVSDSHUȤ2666
DQGWKH(QGRI,QWHUUXSWLRQȥ
 Ȥ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥ  Ȥ(DWLQJ:HOOȥ HWSDVVLP 
 1DQF\ DOVR DGGUHVVHV WKH WHUPȤHYLOȥ ȟ  7KLV LQWHUSUHWDWLRQ RI
%ROD³RȢVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRIHYLOGLIIHUVFRQVLGHUDEO\IURP'RYHȢV Literature
and Interregnum 
12. Bolaño enigmatically describes how the documentary of death is really two
ˋOPV  ,VXJJHVWWKDWWKHVHQVHRIGRXEOHQHVVUHIHUVWRWKH IDOVH 
Notes 179

alternative between enslaving and being enslaved. In the former, the “actual
ˋOPȥWKHˋOPPDNHUDWWHPSWVWRDVVHUWWKHVRYHUHLJQW\RIVXEMHFWLYLW\RYHU
death. The latter might be considered the rough footage of the process of
death, more a desert of tedium than an oasis of horror. The director is said
WRGLUHFWWKLVRQHIURPKLV3URFUXVWHDQEHGLQZKLFKFDVHWKHȤˋOPȥ PRUH
DQDFNQRZOHGJPHQWRIWKHIDFWRIGHDWK H[SRVHVWKHYLROHQWH[FLVLRQV
behind the ontological ideal of subjectivity. Bolaño’s essay constitutes an
DOWHUQDWLYHWRWKHVHWZRPDVRFKLVWLFˋOPV
 ,QKLVFRQVLGHUDWLRQRIWKHVKDUHGURRWVRIWKHWHUPVȤHPSLULFLVPȥDQG
ȤH[SHULHQFHȥ 1DQF\ UHVSRQGV WR 'HUULGDȢV FRPPHQWV LQȤ9LROHQFH DQG
0HWDSK\VLFVȥFRQFHUQLQJ/HYLQDVȢVUHIHUHQFHWRDȤUDGLFDOHPSLULFLVPȥDQG
its link to experience. Derrida asks, “But can one speak of an experience of
WKHRWKHURURIGLIIHUHQFH"ȥ Ȥ9LROHQFHDQG0HWDSK\VLFVȥ ,WFRXOGEH
said that the entirety of The Experience of Freedom constitutes an attempt to
respond to this question.
 Ȥ,PSRVVLELOLW\PHDQVWKDWHWKLFVDQGMXVWLFHFDQˋQGQRSULYLOHJHGJURXQG
for their articulation, no unquestionable epistemological standpoint
somehow removed from the strife, investments and contamination regularly
associated with them. Justice and responsibility are only possible, if they
have a chance of happening at all, starting from their exposure to a strict
DQGXQSUHGLFWDEO\UHFXUULQJSRVVLELOLW\ȥ .HHQDQ 
 2QWKHˋJXUHRIWKHDE\VVVHH1DQF\Ȥ7KHDE\VV RIIUHHGRP LVWKDWWKHUH
is something, and it is nothing else. It ‘is’ therefore, as abyss, only the
unleashing that emerges ‘out of it,’ or more exactly and because there is no
substantiality or interiority to the abyss, the ‘abyss’ itself—a term still too
evocative of depths—is only the unleashing, prodigality, or generosity of the
EHLQJLQWKHZRUOGRIVRPHWKLQJȥ ȟ 
 7\UDQQ\LVWKHURRWRI3HSHȢVHSLWKHWȤ3HSHHO7LUDȥZKLFKKHH[SODLQVUHIHUV
WRKLVSURIHVVLRQ tiraLVDFROORTXLDOZRUGIRUFRSSULPDULO\LQ0H[LFR EXW
also evokes the tyranny associated with that profession. He asks, “Where
does the word cop come from? It comes from copper, he who cops or caps,
that is captures . . . he who doesn’t have to answer to anyone, who has impu-
nityȥ Ȥ'HGµQGHYLHQHODSDODEUD7LUD"9LHQHGHWLUDQDWLUDQRHOTXHKDFH
cualquier cosa sin tener que responder de sus actos ante nadie, el que goza,
en una palabra, de impunidadȥ 7KHWHUPVȤW\UDQWȥDQGȤLPSXQLW\ȥ
hardly seem to apply to the mild-mannered Pepe or the anguished singing
of his aunt. These attributions may be subtle holdovers from other Bolaño
fictions in which he portrays a complicity and complementarity between
defenders of the social order and cutting-edge art. Nevertheless there is a
certain consistency with this story, in which such complicity and comple-
PHQWDULW\LVTXHVWLRQHGIURPZLWKLQLWVLQWHUQDOˌDZVREVHUYHGE\3HSH,
EHOLHYHWKDWLQWKLVFRQWH[WWKHWHUPȤLPSXQLW\ȥUHIHUVQRWWRDVWDWXVDERYH
or beyond the law, or the pain or punishment it entails, although clearly it
HYRNHVVXFKDVWDWXVHQMR\HGE\PDQ\ȤHQIRUFHUVRIWKHODZȥ5DWKHUOLNH
WKHHTXDOO\VXUSULVLQJDWWULEXWHRIȤW\UDQQ\ȥLWVHHPVWRHYRNHDVLPLODU
180 Notes

exception to the state of rule, relating to the sense of punishment as a


means of correcting or setting right a wrong, compensating for or expiating
an offence. Pepe and Josephine are outside such a settling of accounts: as
ȤW\UDQWVȥWKH\FDQȢWEHSXQLVKHGEXWQHLWKHUFDQWKH\FRQWULEXWHWRWKH
settling of accounts, the expiation of wrong, the purifying of the collective.
17. Another invocation of the structure of immunity appears in the descrip-
tion of a lab mouse that was fed poison and then released into the sewers
in the hope of eradicating other rodents. This challenge to the immunity
of the rodent population was unsuccessful, resulting in increased resis-
tance to contagion, but the introduction of new perspectives—namely, the
experience of having lived aboveground—altered the ideal of social totality,
leaving some mice not working for the good of the all, but dreaming about
the moon, in what is perhaps a caricature of a useless poet, akin to the
OLWHUDU\XWRSLDVWKDW%ROD³RGHSLFWVLQKLVȤ&KLOHDQȥQRYHOV
 :KHQ3HSHˋUVWˋQGV+«FWRUKHLVVSHDNLQJLQDVWUDQJHˋJXUDOODQJXDJHD
ODQJXDJHWKDW3HSHVHQVHVDVSURIRXQGO\XQIUHH ȤZRUGVWKDWFUDZOHG>rept-
aban@RQWKHXQGHUVLGHRIIUHHGRPȥ 
 ,QWKLVVHQVHWKLVVWRU\VHHPVWRDQWLFLSDWHȤ7KH3DUWRIWKH&ULPHVȥLQ2666.
20. The unresolved ending of this story seems to invoke both Kafka’s “The
%XUURZȥDVWRU\OHIWXQˋQLVKHGSHUKDSVGXHWR.DINDȢVLOOQHVVDQGSUHPD-
ture death, in which a mole-like creature creates a labyrinthine refuge from
DQXQNQRZQHQHP\ DQHQHP\WKDWLQIDFWPD\QRWHYHQH[LVW DQG%RUJHVȢV
Ȥ7KH6RXWKȥZKLFKHQGVZLWKWKHSURWDJRQLVWJRLQJRXWWRˋJKWDGXHOWKDW
may or may not occur, and in some sense represents the confrontation with
WHPSRUDOUHDOLW\EH\RQGWKH OLWHUDU\ LGHDO
21. This scene represents the culmination of a motif of doubleness that runs
throughout the novel. At one point he calls Wieder his evil Siamese twin,
and Belano’s literary vertigo is preceded by the recognition of a certain
symmetry between himself and Wieder. This apparently Manichean motif
appears to be the inspiration for Gareth Williams’s critique of this novel as
a defense of Carl Schmitt’s friend-enemy distinction. I believe that the motif
is intended to suggest neither that there is no difference between friend
and enemy, good and evil, nor that the distinction is between two integral
identities, but rather, as I have been trying to show in this chapter, that the
GLIIHUHQFHOLHVEHWZHHQVWUXFWXUHV RIOLIHVXEMHFWLYLW\FROOHFWLYLW\ WKDWUHO\
on binaries, and structures exposed to what exceeds them. See Marinescu’s
Ȥ,&DQȢW*R2Q,ȢOO*R2QȥIRUDFRPSHOOLQJLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRIWKLVPRWLI
22. See Jameson 102. On the broader implications of conversion, including
especially the demand for religious conversion in Spain and the Spanish
FRORQLHVDVDQLPSRUWDQWIDFHWRIWKHYLROHQFHRIPRGHUQLW\VHH(ULQ*UDII
=LYLQȢVQRWLRQRIȤLQTXLVLWLRQDOORJLFȥGHYHORSHGDWOHQJWKLQKHUERRNFigu-
rative Inquisitions6KHDOVRLQYRNHVWKLVQRWLRQLQDQDUWLFOHRQWKHˋHOGRI
Latin Americanism, titled “Beyond Inquisitional Logic, or, Toward an An-ar-
FKDHRORJLFDO/DWLQ$PHULFDQLVPȥ
 7KHLPDJHRIWKHLQWHUPHQWRIWKHLQWHUPHQWRIKLVWRU\EHQHDWKDQH\HOLG
Notes 181

resonates with the allusion in By Night in Chile to the imbunche, the myth-
ical creature of Mapuche legend created from the capture and mutilation
of a child, a mutilation that includes, among other things, a suturing of his
RULˋFHV7KLVDOOXVLRQLVPDGHLQBy Night in ChileLQUHODWLRQWR6HEDVWL£Q
the son of María Canales and Jimmy Thomson, who torture political dissi-
GHQWVLQWKHEDVHPHQWZKLOHKROGLQJOLWHUDU\VRLU«HVRQWKHPDLQˌRRU7KH
narrator describes his impression of the child as having “los labios sellados,
ORVRMRVVHOODGRVWRGRVXFXHUSHFLWRLQRFHQWHVHOODGRȥZKLOHDWWKHVDPH
WLPHȤHVRV JUDQGHV RMRV YH¯DQ OR TXH QR TXHU¯DQ YHUȥ    $V DQ
LPEXQFKHOLNHˋJXUHKHLVDZLWQHVVWKDWFDQQRWZLWQHVVRUZKRVHDWWHVWD-
tion has no outlet, an interesting counterpart to the literati that do not see
what is underneath their noses.
 7KHSURMHFWHGLQDELOLW\WRPDLQWDLQKLVILQJHUVLQDQHUHFWSRVLWLRQREYL-
ously implies the expectation of sexual impotence, which corresponds to
the fact that in the midst of his despair Bolaño has just been surprised by
the desire to make love to his doctor. In a section titled “Illness and Height
[estatura@ȥKHFRQVLGHUVWKLVGHVLUHLQUHODWLRQWRWKHQDWXUHRIOLIHDQGWKH
human, beginning with the account of how, after receiving his terminal
diagnosis, “I had the impression that others were crawling on all fours, while
,ZDVXSULJKWȥ ȟ $WWKHPRPHQWLQZKLFKKHLVDERXWWRIDOO
over from fear and start crawling, the doctor, who is very short, approaches
him to invite him to perform some diagnostic tests, including the test of the
ȤXSULJKWˋQJHUVȥ7KLVH[WHQGHGSOD\RQVWDWXUHWRJHWKHUZLWKWKHQDUUDWRUȢV
observation, as he contemplates his desire for the short doctor, that anyone
DERXWWRGLH LQFOXGLQJȤWKHKHOSOHVVWKHLPSRWHQWWKHFDVWUDWHGWKH
seriously injured, the suicidal, the impenitent disciples [seguidores irre-
dentos@RI+HLGHJJHUȥȟ ZDQWVPRVWRIDOOWRIXFNWDNHVWKH
notion of human rectitude to its limit. Stature implies stasis, the opposite
RIWKHGLIIHUHQWNLQGVRIWUDYHODQGHQFRXQWHU LQFOXGLQJVH[DQGOLWHUDWXUH 
invoked throughout the essay.
 %ROD³RPHQWLRQV+HLGHJJHUHDUOLHULQWKHHVVD\  
 'HUULGDQRWHVWKDWWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKLQNLQJDQGJUDVSLQJKDVD
long tradition, including key moments in Descartes, and informing much of
+HJHOȢVZRUN ȤGechlecht,,+HLGHJJHUȢV+DQGȥȟ :ROIHKLJKOLJKWV
Derrida’s point that an important component of Heidegger’s discussion of
WKHKDQGDQGRIJHQUH *HVFKOHFKW LQJHQHUDOHVSHFLDOO\KLVUHVLVWDQFHWR
evolutionary determinism, concerns his attempt “to distinguish between
the national and nationalism, that is, between the national and a biolo-
JLFLVWDQGUDFLVWLGHRORJ\ȥ 'HUULGDTWGLQ:ROIHAnimal Rites ,
am indebted throughout this section to the discussions of Heidegger and
Derrida in Lawlor and Wolfe.
 'HUULGDȤ+HLGHJJHUȢV+DQGȥ,QThe Experience of Freedom, Nancy writes,
“On the archi-originary register of sharing, which is also that of singulari-
ty’s ‘at every moment,’ there are no ‘human beings’ . . . It is . . . freedom that
gives humanity, and not the inverse. But the gift that freedom gives is never,
182 Notes

insofar as it is the gift of freedom, a quality, property, or essence on the order


of humanitasȥ  
 1RWH'HUULGDȢVGLVFXVVLRQRI+HLGHJJHUȢVRSSRVLWLRQEHWZHHQWKHW\SHZULWHU
DQGKDQGZULWLQJLQȤ*HVFKOHFKW,,ȥ ȟDOVR:ROIHAnimal RitesQ 
 2QWKHLPSDVVDEOHQDWXUHRIDSRULDVHH'HUULGDȢVȤ)RUFHRI/DZȥ DQG
ȟ 
$OWKRXJKWKHˋQDOUHˌH[LYHSURQRXQLQWKHIRUPXODWLRQȤFDPLQRVSRUORV
TXHKD\TXHLQWHUQDUVH\SHUGHUVHSDUDYROYHUVHDHQFRQWUDUȥ ȤSDWKVRQH
KDVWRIROORZDQGORVHRQHVHOIRQVRDVWREHDEOHWRILQGRQHVHOIDJDLQȥ 
suggests the possibility of discovering oneself, I would argue that the syntax
of the sentence works against any sense of a closed economy of the proper:
ˋUVWEHFDXVHWKHH[SUHVVLRQȤYROYHUVHDHQFRQWUDUȥVHHPVWRLQGLFDWHDUHOD-
WLRQVKLSWRRXUVHOYHVEDVHGRQWXUQVDQGUHWXUQVPRUHWKDQDGHˋQLWHDUULYDO
s’apparaître DQGVHFRQGEHFDXVHWKHFRQMXQFWLYHSKUDVHȤRDOJRORTXH
VHDȥGLVVROYHVWKHSUHHPLQHQFHRIWKHȤVHOIȥFRQMRLQLQJLWWRWKHUHVWRI
ˋQLWHH[LVWHQFH
 7KLVH[DPSOHRIZKDW,DPFDOOLQJWKHEXFFDORSHQLQJRIDOWHULPPXQR-
ORJLFDOSRVVLELOLW\VKDUHVDFHUWDLQVLPLODULW\ZLWKWKHȤQRȥPRXWKHGE\WKH
spectral militant at the end of By Night in Chile  6HH'UDSHUȢV
FRPSHOOLQJDQDO\VLVRIWKLVSKDQWDVPDWLFȤQRȥDVGLVWXUEDQFHRIWKHLPPX-
QRORJLFDOPHWDSKRURIWKHKRXVH $IWHUOLYHVRI&RQˋQHPHQW 
 ,DPLQGHEWHGWR'RYHIRUVKDULQJKLVFRPSHOOLQJZRUNRQ2666 with me
before it was published in two forms, as an article, “Literature and the Secret
of the World: 2666*OREDOL]DWLRQDQG*OREDO:DUȥDQGDVWKHFRQFOXGLQJ
chapter of his book Literature and “Interregnum”: Globalization, War, and the
Crisis of Sovereignty,ZDVˋUVWH[SRVHGWRKLVDQDO\VLVRI2666 in the form
RIDFRQIHUHQFHSDSHUGHOLYHUHGDW/$6$LQ Ȥ*HRPHWU\3ROLWLFVDQG
Insecurity: Global War and Interruption in 2666”), and found it enormously
suggestive. However, I did not read the extended versions until I had written
most of this chapter, so I do not know how to properly acknowledge what I
OHDUQHGIURPKLPDQGZKDW,FDPHWRRQP\RZQH[FHSWZKHUH,VSHFLˋFDOO\
reference him. There are interesting convergences and divergences between
our readings, which I do not fully know how to explain. I do not share his
insistence that we are past modernity, nor do I share his overly generalized
consideration of the aesthetic avant-garde. However, as I hope is evident
from my brief discussion of his work, I think that ultimately there are more
similarities than differences in our interpretations.
 6HH /HYLQVRQȤ&DVH &ORVHG 0DGQHVV DQG 'LVVRFLDWLRQ LQ 2666ȥ DQG
Williams, “2666 DQG WKH (QG RI ,QWHUUXSWLRQȥ 7KH GLVWLQFWLRQ IURP D
PDGQHVVDVFULVLVRUSRVVLELOLW\FRPHVIURP:LOOLDPV PVȟ 
 ([SµVLWRDQGGH'LRVDUHODVWQDPHVWUDGLWLRQDOO\JLYHQWRDEDQGRQHGFKLO-
dren. I am indebted to Sam Olson for pointing this out.
 )RULQVLJKWIXODQGSURYRFDWLYHFRQVLGHUDWLRQVRIWKHKLVWRU\RIWKHKXPDQ-
ities and the modern university, see Jacques Derrida, “The future of the
SURIHVVLRQRUWKHXQLYHUVLW\ZLWKRXWFRQGLWLRQ WKDQNVWRWKHȡ+XPDQLWLHVȢ
Notes 183

what could take placeWRPRUURZ ȥ6DPXHO:HEHUInstitution and Interpreta-


tionHVSHFLDOO\&KDSWHUVDQGDQG:LOO\7KD\HULa crisis no moderna
de la universidad moderna, which triggered the debate with Nelly Richard
discussed in my chapter on Dittborn.
 'HUULGDGHVFULEHVWKHPRGHUQWUDGLWLRQRIWKHXQLYHUVLW\DVVWUXFWXUDOO\
FRPPLWWHGWRWKHHVWDEOLVKPHQWRIȤZKDWLVSURSHUWRPDQȥDQGDȤQRQˋ-
QLWHVHULHVRIRSSRVLWLRQVE\ZKLFKPDQLVGHWHUPLQHGȥȠRSSRVLWLRQVWKDW
DUHXOWLPDWHO\UHODWHGWRWKHYHU\QDWXUHRIVRYHUHLJQW\ Ȥ7KHIXWXUHRIWKH
SURIHVVLRQȥȟ 
 $OWKRXJK$UFKLPEROGLȢVDGRSWLRQRIKLVSVHXGRQ\PVHHPVSULPDULO\WR
contrast with Ansky’s idealization of the totalizing prosopopoeia of Arcim-
boldo’s portraiture, it also can be understood as a tribute to the surviving
WUDFHVRIWKLVXQNQRZQZULWHU GRXEO\DQHQHP\ZKRP5HLWHU$UFKLPEROGL
LVKDXQWHGE\WKHWKRXJKWKHPD\KDYHNLOOHG LQSDUWLFXODUWRKLVWKRXJKWV
on revolution, which resonate in interesting ways with his observations
DERXW$UFLPEROGR$QVN\GHVFULEHVWKHUHYROXWLRQDVWRWDOL]LQJ Ȥ,QWKRVH
days Ansky thought it wouldn’t be long before the revolution spread all over
WKHZRUOGȥ DQGVSHFLˋHVWKLVWRWDOLW\DVLQFOXGLQJWKHYHU\QDWXUHRIWLPH
and life: “Ultimately, thought Ansky, revolution would end up abolishing
GHDWKȥ  :KHQSUHVVHGRQWKLVSRLQWKHUHVSRQGVLQWHUPVWKDW\HW
again recall Bolaño’s description of the relationship between writing and
VXUYLYDODWWKHHQGRIȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥIRUKLPWKHDEROLWLRQRI
GHDWKPHDQVWRȤVXEPHUJHHYHU\WKLQJLQWKHXQNQRZQXQWLOZHˋQGVRPH-
WKLQJ hasta encontrar otra cosa ȥ  7KLVGHVFULSWLRQRIUHYROXWLRQ
as submersion in or exposure to the unknown is of course the opposite of
WKHWRWDOL]LQJLGHDORIUHYROXWLRQ5HLWHU$UFKLPEROGRODWHUUHˌHFWVWKDWERWK
revolution and Ansky’s own thoughts are characterized by a “rabid immatu-
ULW\ȥ  DNLQGRILQGHWHUPLQDWHHPHUJHQFHWKDWVHHPVWRLQGLFDWHD
resemblance between life and revolution, again in opposition to redemptive
DQGWRWDOL]LQJˋJXUDWLRQ
 +LVVLVWHU/RWWHGHVFULEHVKLVZULWLQJWKXVȤ7KHVW\OHZDVVWUDQJH7KH
writing was clear and sometimes transparent, but the way the stories
followed one after another didn’t lead anywhere: all that was left were the
children, their parents, the animals, some neighbors, and in the end, all that
was really left was nature, a nature that dissolved little by little in a boiling
FDXOGURQXQWLOLWYDQLVKHGFRPSOHWHO\ȥ ȤXQDQDWXUDOH]DTXHSRFRDSRFRVH
LEDGHVKDFLHQGRHQXQFDOGHURKLUYLHQGRKDVWDGHVDSDUHFHUGHOWRGRȥ
 
7KH%DURQHVVYRQ=XPSH$UFKLPEROGLȢVUHOXFWDQWHGLWRUDQGVRPHWLPHVORYHU
GHVFULEHVLWDVFRQVLVWLQJRIȤXQLQWHOOLJLEOHVROLORTXLHVȥWKDWPLJKWEHZLWK
the author himself, but also might be monologues in the presence of others,
and if so, she queries, “who was that other person? A dead man? A German
GHPRQ"$PRQVWHUKLGLQJLQWKH9RQ=XPSHIRUHVW"7KHJKRVWRIWKHSHDW
ERJV"ȥ ȟȟ 
 3UHYLRXVDOWHUHJRFKDUDFWHUVKDYHQDPHVVWDUWLQJZLWKWKHOHWWHUV% %HODQR
184 Notes

$UWXUR%HYHQ%LELDQR LQ2666, the alter-ego characters’ names start with


$ WKHUHLVDOVRDOHVVFRQVLVWHQW$%%$VWUXFWXUH$UWXUR%HODQR%HQLWR
Archimboldi, which, furthermore, play with Bolaño’s two last names, Bolaño
ƒYDORV ,WLVWHPSWLQJWRVHHLQWKLVLQYHUVLRQDQREOLTXHDOOXVLRQWR%RUJ-
HVȢV$OHSKQDPHGDIWHUWKHˋUVWOHWWHURIWKH+HEUHZDOSKDEHWLQZKLFKWKH
FKDUDFWHUVȠOLNHODQJXDJHLWVHOIȠˋQGWKHPVHOYHVFDXJKWEHWZHHQGLIIHUHQW
possible approaches to difference: on the one hand, as world-making
WRWDOLW\ UHSUHVHQWHGLQȤ7KH$OHSKȥE\WKHDPELWLRXV'DQHUL DQGRQWKH
RWKHUDVQRQUHGHPSWLYHQRQWRWDOL]LQJJOLPSVHVRIEHLQJLQWLPH WKH
somewhat hapless alter-ego character of Borges as a counter to the Dante-
OLNH'DQHUL 
 Ȥ5DPRQ/OXOOȥWikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
-XQH
 6HHIRULQVWDQFH'HUULGDRQ+HJHODQGWKHWHUPBegriff Ȥ*HVFKOHFKW,,ȥ
 
 $OWKRXJK'HUULGDGRHVQRWXVHWKHWHUPȤDXWRLPPXQLW\ȥLQȤ&RJLWRDQG
WKH+LVWRU\RI0DGQHVVȥKHGHVFULEHVWKHVDPHSKHQRPHQRQLQRWKHU
terms. In this essay he contests Foucault’s reading of Descartes, suggesting
that he reads him in terms of what we have been calling immunity, clearly
opposing reason and madness. Incidentally, Gareth Williams cites this
essay in his “2666DQGWKH(QGRI,QWHUUXSWLRQȥDSURSRVRI%UHWW/HYLQ-
son’s reading of madness in “Madness and Dissociation in 2666ȥ:LOOLDPV
and Levinson read 2666DVLQGLFDWLQJWKHHQGRIZKDW'HUULGDFDOOVˋQLWXGH
RUȤSRVVLELOLW\DVFULVLVȥ TWGLQ:LOOLDPV $OWKRXJK,DJUHHWKDW%ROD³R
is trying to represent the possibility of the end of possibility in late moder-
QLW\ ȤDQRDVLVRIKRUURULQDGHVHUWRIERUHGRPȥ ,EHOLHYHȠDVVKRXOGEH
obvious by now—that his work also insistently points to the possibility of
possibility.
,VKRXOGQRWHWKDWWKHȤDXWRLPPXQHȥVNHSWLFLVPRI'HVFDUWHVDQG%ROD³RȢV
spectral voice is significantly different from Oyarzún’s and Thayer’s ap-
proach to skepticism as a radical exposure to what is, suspension of dogma,
preconceptions, doctrine, an idea I take up in my next chapter.
 'HUULGD GLVFXVVHV WKH UHODWLRQ EHWZHHQ ORJRFHQWULVP DQG SDWHUQLW\ LQ
Ȥ3ODWRȢV3KDUPDF\ȥ ȟ 
 $PDOˋWDQRGRHVHODERUDWHVOLJKWO\+LVIXOOUHVSRQVHLVWKLVȤ1RVDLG$PDO-
fitano, value/valor never betrays us. And our love for our children either.
$KQR"VDLGWKHYRLFH1RVDLG$PDOˋWDQRVXGGHQO\IHHOLQJFDOPȥ 
 7KHUHIHUHQFHWRˋOLDOORYHVXJJHVWVDGLIIHUHQWUHODWLRQVKLSWRSDWHU-
nity than the calm patriarchal control outlined by the voice. The refer-
ence to valor is slightly enigmatic. Natasha Wimmer translates it simply as
ȤEUDYHU\ȥZKLFKPDNHVVHQVHJLYHQ%ROD³RȢVUHFXUUHQWWKHPDWL]DWLRQRI
EUDYHU\ valentía WKURXJKRXWKLVZRUNVZKLFKDOWKRXJK,ZLOOQRWH[DPLQH
here, I want to suggest should be considered in relation to its Latin roots
relating to health and wholeness, and as greeting—related for instance
to Derrida’s discussion of salutLQȤ5DPVȥLQFKDSWHUȠLQRSSRVLWLRQWR
Notes 185

a sense of life understood as possessing an exchangeable value within a


closed economy, as articulated by the voice, Johns, and Yeltsin, and also to
WKHVHQVHRIVDFULˋFHDVVRFLDWHGZLWKZKDW%ROD³RFDOOVWKHȤJXHUUDVˌRU-
LGDVȥ VHH/µSH]&DOYR 
One of Bolaño’s most interesting discussions of the relationship between
valorDQGZULWLQJLVIRXQGLQDQHVVD\WLWOHGȤ([LOLRVȥLQZKLFKKHVWDWHV
XQHTXLYRFDEO\Ȥ([LOHLVYDOXHYDORUȥ Ȥ(OH[LOLRHVHOYDORUȥȤ([LOLRVȥ +H
explains that he understands exile not only in terms of geographic displace-
ment, but in relation to the exilic nature of life itself, what he describes
LQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥDVWUDYHO viajes DQGDVLQWKDWHVVD\KH
considers writing and reading to be inevitably engaged with such an exilic
VWDWH Ȥ([LOLRVȥ ,QWHUHVWLQJO\KLVSULPDU\H[DPSOHLV$ORQVRGH(UFLOOD
ZKRVHZRUNFRQWUDVWVLQLQWULJXLQJZD\VZLWK$PDOˋWDQRȢVFRQVLGHUDWLRQ
RI/RQNR.LODS£QLQ 2666, a Mapuche writer who claims the ability to suture
ethnic and historical differences through a kind of telepathic translation
DQDSSHDOWRHVVHQWLDOWUDQVODWLRQWKDWUHVHPEOHVWKHLGHDORIGHFRORQLDOLVP
FXUUHQWO\HVSRXVHGE\DVHFWRURI/DWLQ$PHULFDQFULWLFLVP $PDOILWDQR
REVHUYHVWKDWWKHERRNZDVSXEOLVKHGLQDWWKHKHLJKWRIWKH3LQRFKHW
dictatorship, and he considers that it could well have been penned by a mili-
WDU\RIˋFLDORUHYHQE\3LQRFKHWKLPVHOIDSVHXGRHWKQRJUDSKLFRULJLQVWRU\
RIQDWLRQDOXQLW\DIDQWDVWLFDOYHUVLRQRIWKHNLQGRIXQLˋFDWLRQWKHPLOLWDU\
UHJLPHVRXJKWWRLPSRVHE\IRUFH 2666 
 0\ IDPLOLDULW\ ZLWK :LWWJHQVWHLQ LV ZRHIXOO\ ODFNLQJ DQG VHHPHG WRR
much to take on in the course of this project. I have relied considerably on
secondary sources, and am greatly indebted to Oyarzún’s “Teoría y ejemplo:
8QDFXHVWLµQHVWUDW«JLFDHQODFU¯WLFDGH:LWWJHQVWHLQDODPHWDI¯VLFDȥDQG
Cary Wolfe’s discussion in Animal Rites ȟ ,DOVRIRXQGLQWULJXLQJWKH
comparison of uncertainty and musical dissonance in Wittgenstein in Mathew
Lau’s “Problems He Never Gets Anywhere Near: Wittgenstein’s Reading
RI%HHWKRYHQDVD9LHZRIKLV/DWHU3KLORVRSK\ȥ/DXOLNH:ROIHSURYLGHV
an illuminating discussion of Stanley Cavell’s approach to Wittgenstein.
0\ XQGHUVWDQGLQJ RI /\RWDUG RZHV PXFK WR :ROIH RS FLW  DQG 5RVV
&KDPEHUV ȟ 
 6HH 'HUULGDȢV GLVFXVVLRQ RI WKH YDULRXV VHQVHV RI WKH ZRUGȤFDSLWDOȥ LQ
Ȥ3ODWRȢV3KDUPDF\ȥ  
 7KHGHVFULSWLRQRIWKLVGUHDPIROORZVDGLVFXVVLRQRIOLWHUDWXUHVSHFLIL-
cally in relation to Georg Trakl and the fact that he was a pharmacist,
ZKLFKFRUUHVSRQGVLQDJHQHUDOVHQVHWRWKHDOWHULPPXQRORJLFDO SKDUPD-
NRQRORJLFDO UHDGLQJ,KDYHEHHQJLYLQJKHUH,QWKLVSDVVDJH$PDOˋWDQR
describes literature as a kind of combat with something that threatens us
DOO ȤHVHDTXHOORTXHDFRTXLQD\HQFDFKD\KD\VDQJUH\KHULGDVPRUWDOHV
\IHWLGH]ȥ DˋJXUHWKDWGHVLJQDWHVDPRUHDQWDJRQLVWLFUHODWLRQVKLSZLWK
ˋQLWXGHWKDWRIWKHYR\DJHDVLWLVLQYRNHGLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV ,OOQHVVȥ
although the combat is also related to the opening of a path: he describes
great works as “imperfect, torrential, works that open a path into the
186 Notes

XQNQRZQȥ 2666 7KHFRPEDWIXUWKHUPRUHLVHYRNHGLQFRQWUDVW


WRWKHPLOLWDULVWLFLPPXQRORJ\RI.LODS£QȢVERRNGLVFXVVHGLQQRWH
 7KHUHIHUHQFHWR3L³HUDȢVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRI6DGHKHOSVHOXFLGDWH VOLJKWO\ 
the subsequent part of this passage on Amalfitano’s dream, when Yeltsin
H[SODLQVKLVXQGHUVWDQGLQJRIWKHWHUPȤPDJLFȥȤ$QGZKDWLVPDJLF"0DJLF
LVHSLFDQGLWȢVDOVRVH[DQG'LRQ\VLDQPLVWDQGSOD\ȥ  2QHFDQ
VXUPLVHIURPWKLVWKDWWKHȤPDJLFȥWKDWKHOSVWKHPDUNHWDORQJLVUHODWHGWR
a sadistic impulse for domination, which reaches an extreme state with the
sexualized murders of the women in Santa Teresa. Bolaño offers some addi-
WLRQDOUHˌHFWLRQVRQWKHDVVRFLDWLRQEHWZHHQYLROHQFHVH[HYLODQGFDSL-
WDOLVPLQDVHFWLRQWLWOHGȤ,OOQHVVDQG'LRQ\VXVȥLQȤ/LWHUDWXUH,OOQHVV 
,OOQHVVȥ
 6HH'RYHȢVLQWULJXLQJDQDO\VLVRIWKLVSDVVDJHLQZKLFKWKHDSSHDUDQFH
of Dieste’s book symptomatically interrupts the ritual of Amalfitano’s
ȤXQSDFNLQJRIKLVSHUVRQDOOLEUDU\>ZKLFK@ZRXOGV\PEROL]HWKHXQLˋFDWLRQ
of past and present, contingency and necessity, displacement and home-
PDNLQJGHVWLQ\DQGIUHHGRPȥ Literature and “Interregnum” 
The term hrönirFRPHVIURP%RUJHVȢVVWRU\Ȥ7O¸Q8TEDU2UELV7HUWLXVȥZKHUH
it describes material manifestations of idealism, and seems to define the
very nature of a psycho-somatic symptom, simultaneously manifesting and
EHWUD\LQJWKHORJLFRILGHDOLVP Ficciones ȟ 
 ,DPLQGHEWHGKHUHWRWKH:LNLSHGLDHQWULHVRQQRQ(XFOLGHDQJHRPHWU\
1LNRODL/REDFKHYVN\DQG%HUQKDUG5LHPDQQDOODFFHVVHGRQ-XO\
 1RWHWKDW:HEHUȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKH%UHFKWLDQJHVWXUHLVVLPLODUWRWKDW
RIWKHGLDOHFWLFDOLPDJHERWKDUHFOHDUO\UHODWHGWRWKHDFWLRQRIFLWDWLRQ
ȟ  'UDSHU LQWHUHVWLQJO\ DVVRFLDWHV %HQMDPLQȢV VHQVH RI HSLF ZLWK
VXEDOWHUQKLVWRU\  
 $PDOILWDQR H[SODLQV WKDW WKH LGHD FRPHV IURP 'XFKDPSȢV Ready-made
malheureux, a conceptual piece that Duchamp sent to his sister and broth-
HULQODZDVDZHGGLQJSUHVHQWLQZKLFKKHVSHFLˋHGWKDWWKH\VKRXOGKDQJ
DJHRPHWU\ERRNȠUHSRUWHGO\(XFOLGȢVElements—on a string outside their
window and expose it to the elements, with the idea that in this way the
JHRPHWU\ERRNPLJKWOHDUQVRPHWKLQJDERXWWKHZRUOG  'RYH
KLJKOLJKWVWKHGLIIHUHQFHEHWZHHQ'XFKDPSȢVDFWLRQDQG$PDOˋWDQRȢVUHHQ-
actment, namely that Duchamp’s work took place in a time in which culture
and art represented “the autonomy of the modern subject as evidenced and
SHUIHFWHGWKURXJKDHVWKHWLFHGXFDWLRQȥ Literature and “Interregnum” 
a notion his work attempted to disrupt. Dove suggests on the one hand that
since in our current era art is no longer deemed relevant to the social order,
$PDOˋWDQRȢVDFWLRQHIIHFWVOLWWOHPRUHWKDQDȤPLVVHGHQFRXQWHUȥ2QWKH
other hand, he associates this sense of missed encounter not only with the
anachronism of the reenactment of one of Duchamp’s ready-mades, which
themselves call into question the relationships between origin and repeti-
tion, and action and representation, but also with another kind of missed
encounter that occurs within representation itself, including symbolic
Notes 187

understanding—a missed encounter or interruption that Lacan terms the


tuché Literature and “Interregnum” +HGHVFULEHV$PDOILWDQRȢVUHHQ-
actment as a missed encounter of a missed encounter and an interruption
of interruption, and links such a double divergence to the idea of an inter-
regnum, which he describes as “persisting within the ruins of the modern in
a way that illuminates their ruination, albeit without being able to imagine
RULQDXJXUDWHDQHZRUGHU Literature and “Interregnum”  
 7KHUHIHUHQFHLQDistant Star to the expanding universe serves to empha-
VL]HWKDWWKLVGLVWDQFHLVPXFKJUHDWHUWKDQRXURZQˋQLWHVWDQFHV 
 ,QYHUVHO\DSDVVDJHLQ2666 shows how cosmic metaphors can help
us understand the distances that condition the historical present: on the
verge of death, Ingeborg points to the stars and observes “All this light is
dead . . . All this light was emitted thousands and millions of years ago.
It’s the past, do you understand? . . . It’s the past, we’re surrounded by the
past, everything that no longer exists or exists only in memory or conjec-
WXUHLVWKHUHQRZDQGZHFDQȢWGRDQ\WKLQJWRVWRSLW evitarlo ȥ 2666,
 

Chapter 4: Image and Alterity Beyond the Sepulture


of the Human

1. This is Pablo Oyarzún and Willy Thayer’s gloss on Marchant’s work on the
name of the patria, from their prologue to Escritura y temblor. The allu-
VLRQLVWR0DUFKDQWȢVHVVD\Ȥȡ$WµSLFRVȢȡHWFȢHȡLQGLRVHVSLULWXDOHVȢȥ Escri-
tura y temblorȟ 6HHDOVR6HUJLR9LOODORERV5XPLQRWW Soberanías en
suspenso 
2. I am extrapolating slightly on Richard’s ideas here, combining her descrip-
WLRQRIDȤGXHORKLVWµULFRȥDQGȤXQDWHPSRUDOLGDGQRVHOODGD>@LQFRQFOXVDȥ
LQGLFDWHGE\WKHȤUHIUDFWRU\ȥDHVWKHWLFVRIWKH$YDQ]DGD Insubordinación
 ZLWKKHURQJRLQJULJRURXVFULWLTXHRIWKHPHWDSK\VLFDOWHQGHQFLHVRIWKH
political Left in Chile. In Márgenes e instituciones, for instance, she explains
how the Chilean Left sustained a belief that ideological coherence and
historical continuity had merely been interrupted by the military coup. She
describes how its members, largely dispersed and exiled during the dicta-
torship, longed for the “continuity [of history], for a complete and transcen-
GHQWDOPHDQLQJIRUDQRULJLQDQGDGHVWLQ\ȥ Márgenes  
  7KLVLVDOVRIURP2\DU]¼QDQG7KD\HUȢVSURORJXHWREscuritura y temblor.
In another essay, Oyarzún describes Dittborn’s work as interrogating “los
XPEUDOHVFRUSµUHRVGHODKRPLQL]DFLµQȥ Rabo 
  'HUULGDXVHVWKHQDPHkhora to designate this sense of spacing beyond
presence or foundation, interiority and exteriority, and anthropo-
theological management of global geographies. He describes it as a
non-place that is nevertheless the possibility of a taking-place or event, “a
support or a subject which would giveSODFHE\UHFHLYLQJRUFRQFHLYLQJȥ
Ȥ.KRUDȥ +HGHVFULEHVDPRGHRIVXVSHQVLRQRUȤLQGHFLVLYHRVFLOODWLRQȥ
188 Notes

epokhé LQZKLFKWKLVVHQVHRIVSDFLQJDVUHFHSWLRQLVHQFRXQWHUHG+H
VWUHVVHVWKDWRQHFDQQRWUHPDLQLQWKLVVWDWHRIVXVSHQVLRQUDWKHULWLVȤWKH
FKDQFHRIHYHU\SRVVLEOHGHFLVLRQȥRUHYHQW Ȥ)DLWKȥ ,ZLOOUHWXUQWRWKLV
later in my chapter.
  7KHVHWHUPVGHULYHIURP+HLGHJJHUȢVDWWHPSWWRGLVWLQJXLVKEHWZHHQDQ
ontological poetics capable of revealing the aletheia of Being, and Christi-
anity, which dictates a teleology of revelation through God. In spite of this
dimension to these terms, I believe that what Derrida is saying about them
goes beyond his differences with Heidegger, or rather, can be understood
without recourse to the details of this dispute.
  6HHWKHStanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyHQWU\Ȥ3HLUFHȢV7KHRU\RI6LJQVȥ
-DPHV(ONLQVFDXWLRQVWKDWWKHXVHRIWKHWHUPȤLQGH[ȥLQSKRWRJUDSK\
theory has tended to oversimplify Peirce’s semiotics, in which the index is
described as multifarious and inextricably related to other kinds of signs,
LQFOXGLQJEXWQRWOLPLWHGWRWKHV\PERODQGWKHLFRQ (ONLQVQ 
  0DU\$QQ'RDQHIROORZLQJ'LGL+XEHUPDQQRWHVWKDWWKHWHUPȤLQGH[ȥ
LPSOLHVWZRLQFRPSDWLEOHRUFRQWUDGLFWRU\GHˋQLWLRQVWKHWUDFHRULPSULQW
IRULQVWDQFHWKHIRRWSULQW DQGWKHGHL[LV WKHZHDWKHUYDQHRUSRLQWLQJ
ˋQJHU 7KHIRUPHUVLJQLˋHVȤLWZDVȥDȤEUXWHDQGRSDTXHIDFWȥZKHUHDVWKH
ODWWHULQGLFDWLQJRQO\DGLUHFWLRQLVPRUHOLNHDSURPLVH ȟ 
  7KHSRLQWKHUHLVQRWWRGHPRQL]HUHDOLVWSKRWRJUDSK\EXWWROHDUQKRZWR
approach it critically via montage. See Didi-Huberman’s cautious handling
RI&ODXGH/DQ]PDQQȢVUHMHFWLRQRIȤDUFKLYDOȥSKRWRJUDSK\ II DQGKLV
GLVFXVVLRQRI6LHJIULHG.UDFDXHUȢVFULWLTXHRIFLQHPDWLFUHDOLVP ȟ 
  6HH 7KRPDV 'HDQH 7XFNHUȢV Derridada: Duchamp as Readymade Decon-
struction HVSHFLDOO\&KDSWHU IRUDQLQWULJXLQJGLVFXVVLRQRI'XFKDPSȢV
approach to the traces of time.
 2QWKLVVHH)ULHG  DVZHOODV(ONLQVDQG.UDXVVLQWKHVDPHYROXPH
especially Krauss’s terse note on how Fried’s “need for artistic control over
HYHU\DVSHFWRIWKHZRUNOHDGVWRKLVVXSSRUWRIGLJLWDOLPDJLQJȥ Q 
$OVRVHH-RV«3DEOR&RQFKDZKRVWUHVVHVWKHH[FHVVHVWKDWXSVHWWKHLGHDORI
documentary indexicality, which he sees threatened by digital photography
Más allá del referente 
11. These analogies are clearly intended as nods to Derrida’s and Benjamin’s
interpretations of translation and inheritance, and in his critique of analog-
ical photography Amelunxen seems to acknowledge what he calls the “alle-
JRULFDOZHDOWKRISKRWRJUDSK\ȥLQZKLFKUHIHUHQFHLVWUDYHUVHGE\différance
to result in the differential, that which concerns the transmission of what is
GLIIHUHQWEXW\HWJHDUHGWRLWVRWKHU VHFWLRQ9,,,DQGQRWH 1HYHUWKHOHVV
Amelunxen appears to discard this component when he turns to the nature
of digital photography.
12. This sense of photographic witnessing as interrogation of what is witnessing
DQGZKDWLVZLWQHVVHGUHFDOOV'HUULGDȢVXVHRIWKHWHUPȤUHIHUHQWLDOȥLQȤ7KH
'HDWKVRI5RODQG%DUWKHVȥ  
 5HL 7HUDGD DOVR GLVFXVVHV WKH ILJXUH RI LQYHQWLRQ LQ 'HUULGDȢV Psyche:
Notes 189

Inventions of the Other, stressing its double-edged nature as supplement


ȟ 
 6HH)ULHG&RQFKDDQG$PHOXQ[HQIRUXQHTXLYRFDODVVHUWLRQVRI%DUWKHVȢV
REVROHVFHQFH(ONLQVDQG.UDXVV Ȥ1RWHVRQWKH3XQFWXPȥ FKDUDFWHUL]HWKLV
assertion as subjectivist.
 &DGDYDDQG&RUW«V5RFFDDFNQRZOHGJHDOWKRXJKWKH\GRQRWGHYHORSWKHLU
relationship to, Krauss’s innovative approach to the index, which appears in
ERWKȤ1RWHVRQWKH,QGH[ȥDQGLQUHODWLRQWR%DUWKHVȢVZRUNLQȤ1RWHVRQ
WKH3XQFWXPȥ Q 7KHLUDSSURDFKWR%DUWKHVȢVZRUNLVVXEWO\VXSSRUWHG
by David Levi Strauss’s characterization of Barthes’s notion of indexicality
DVȤSRLQW>LQJ@WRVRPHWKLQJHOVHȥ Between the Eyes  .HOVH\DQG6WLPVRQ
similarly reframe the notion of the index, turning away from the old sense of
WKHLQGH[DVDȤUHJXODWLYHLGHDOȥDIˋUPLQJDȤPDWHULDOFRQQHFWLRQEHWZHHQ
SKRWRJUDSK\DQGWUXWKȥWRDQHWKLFDOO\FKDUJHGdeixisȤ(YHQEXULHGLQWKH
weightless image ocean of the Internet, photographs retain the promise of a
reality to which we can point, and which in turn points, with its demand for
DFFRXQWDELOLW\DWXVȥ [LL[LY[[LYȟY 
Mary Ann Doane’s essay provides an additional dimension to some of
the ideas I am discussing here. Her account of an alternate sense of the
index concerns a notion of materiality, understood as something that “leaks
RXWDQGFDQQRWEHFRQWDLQHGZLWKLQWKHQRWLRQRIVHPLRVLVȥDQGZKLFK
LVLQWULQVLFDOO\ȤKLVWRULFDOȥLQD.UDFDXHULDQVHQVHRIȤWKHUHVLVWDQFHVDQG
ȡWKHUHQHVVȢRIKLVWRULFLW\ȥ  6KHGHVFULEHVKRZERWKWKHIDQWDV\RIUHIHU-
entiality, anchored by the ideal of the index, and the fantasy of immate-
riality generated from the innovation of digital photography, resist such
KLVWRULFLW\DOWHUQDWHO\DVDWKHRORJLFDOJHVWXUHRUIURPDVHFXODUXWRSLDQLVP
that Benjamin associates with both the beginning and end of technologies
'RDQH 
 ,QMás allá del referente&RQFKDLQWHUSUHWVWKLVDVDQȤHPDQFLSDWLRQȥIURP
LQGH[LFDOLW\ ȟ $OWKRXJK,DSSUHFLDWHKLVDWWHPSWVWRSDUVH.D\ȢV
dense prose, I strongly disagree with his overall point, as well as his valo-
UL]DWLRQRIZKDWKHFDOOVȤODDXWRQRP¯DGHOOHQJXDMHIRWRJU£ˋFRȥ  3DXOD
Cucurella mentions Kay’s approach to quotation in “A Weak Force: On the
&KLOHDQ'LFWDWRUVKLSDQGWKH9LVXDO$UWVȥ,ˋQGLWFXULRXVWKDWERWKWH[WV
are framed by a forceful rejection of Richard’s work.
 6HHȤ7KH 7DVN RI WKH 7UDQVODWRUȥ DQGȤ2Q /DQJXDJH DV 6XFK DQG WKH
/DQJXDJHRI0DQȥ1RWHWKDW.D\ȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHYLUWXDODVSHFWRIWKH
photographic image corresponds to Weber’s description of Benjamin’s pecu-
liar notion of the image as something that is “both actual and virtual at the
VDPHWLPHȥ Benjamin’s –abilities 7KLVQRWLRQRIYLUWXDOLW\LVVLJQLIL-
cantly different from Thayer’s use of the term in “Tierra de nadie en
SLQWXUDVȥZKLFK,DGGUHVVODWHULQWKLVFKDSWHU
 0DUFKDQWFRXOGEHFDOOHGWKHLQWHOOHFWXDOJRGIDWKHURI&KLOHDQWKRXJKWIURP
WKHVWRWKHSUHVHQW+HOHIWEHKLQGUHODWLYHO\OLWWOHSXEOLVKHGZRUN
however: only two books and a collection of essays, edited posthumously
190 Notes

by his most immediate heirs, Oyarzún and Thayer. They call this essay the
SXQFWXPRIWKHERRNDQGGHVFULEHLWDVDSRHP Escritura y temblor 
 Ȥ3DUSDGHR\SLHGDGȥLVWKHWLWOHRIDQHDUOLHUYHUVLRQRIWKLVHVVD\ZKLFK
is referenced by Nelly Richard in La insubordinacion de los signos. It was
SXEOLVKHGLQDVSDUWRIWKHFDWDORJIRUDQH[KLELWLRQFDOOHGȤ&LUXJ¯D
SO£VWLFDȥDQGZDVUHSULQWHGLQArte, visualidad e historiaȤ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ
was published in 2000 in Mexico.
1RWHWKDW2\DU]¼QXVHVWKHWHUPȤ$YDQ]DGDȥZLWKUHOXFWDQFHUHPDUNLQJ
WKDWLWȤSRVWXODODXQLGDGUHIHUHQFLDOGHXQDPXOWLWXGKHWHURJ«QHDGHREUDV\
SHVTXLVDVȥ  'LWWERUQLVQRWPHQWLRQHGH[SOLFLWO\EXW2\DU]¼QȢVDOOXVLRQV
to reproductivity, seriality, folds, sending, and the Pietá are all suggestive of
Dittborn’s work.
20. Although mentioned only as a function of Kay’s Benjaminian approach,
Oyarzún’s description of the parpadeo is clearly based on an interpreta-
tion of Benjamin’s theory of a dialectical image that erupts into the present
instant, which he describes as an Augenblick. Augenblick is a composite word
WKDWOLWHUDOO\PHDQVȤH\HORRNȥDQGȤLVRIWHQPLVWDNHQO\EXWVXJJHVWLYHO\
WUDQVODWHGLQ(QJOLVK>DV@LQWKHȡEOLQNLQJRIDQH\HȢȥ :HEHUȤ0DVV0HGL-
DXUXVȥ 7KHWHUPDSSHDUVWKURXJKRXW%HQMDPLQȢVZULWLQJVRQKLVWRU\
LQFOXGLQJDIDPLOLDUSDVVDJHIURPȤ2QWKH&RQFHSWRI+LVWRU\ȥȤ$UWLFXODWLQJ
the past historically does not mean recognizing it ‘the way it really was.’ It
PHDQVDSSURSULDWLQJDPHPRU\DVLWˌDVKHVXSLQDPRPHQW Augenblick 
RIGDQJHUȥ  $VRSSRVHGWRDKLVWRULFLVWDSSURDFKWKDWVHHNVWRUHFRQ-
struct the past, Benjamin calls for a historical practice that responds to the
ˌHHWLQJOHJLELOLW\RILPDJHVWKDWˌDVKXQH[SHFWHGO\IURPWKHSDVWOLNHLQYRO-
untary memories. Unsurprisingly, Benjamin suggests that photography
JDLQVLWVVLJQLˋFDQFHIURPLWVHYDQHVFHQWLQFXUVLRQLQWKHAugenblick VHH
:HEHUȤ0DVV0HGLDXUXVDQG%HQMDPLQȤ2Q6RPH0RWLIVLQ%DXGHODLUHȥ
 
Samuel Weber describes the dialectical image as a momentary interpene-
WUDWLRQRIDFWXDOLW\DQGYLUWXDOLW\ Benjamin’s –abilities 5HVRQDWLQJZLWK
Oyarzún’s characterization of the image as a promise that relates to both fu-
WXUHDQGSDVW La dialéctica en suspenso ȟ DQGZLWK.D\ȢVDFFRXQWRI
the photographic call to a virtual collectivity, Weber explains this interpene-
tration as the condition of historical possibility. He construes this virtuality
as a becoming readable or recognizable that explodes from the past into the
present, which it reveals as divided and itself virtual, capable of becoming
ȤRWKHUWKDQLWLVDQGKDVEHHQȥ  
21. Neither Marchant nor Oyarzún mentions Dittborn’s recurrent invocations
of the Pietá, although since both critics were actively engaged with his work,
they were undoubtedly familiar with it. Marchant discusses Michaelangelo’s
Pietá in Sobre árboles y madres.
 )ROORZLQJ0DUFKDQW ZKRYLHZVWKHSLHFHDVSUHVHQWLQJWKHTXHVWLRQRI
OLIHRUVXUYLYDOȤHVHVRODYLGD"ȥ 2\DU]¼QVWUHVVHVWKHWUDQTXLOLW\DQG
HYHQȤFRQIRUPLGDGȥ LQ 0LFKDHODQJHORȢV GHSLFWLRQ RI 0DU\ȢV H[SUHVVLRQ
Notes 191

 )RU2\DU]¼QVXFKFRQIRUPLW\UHODWHVWRWKHȤFRQIRUPLGDGGHOGXHOR
FRPRWUDEDMRGHDPRUȥ  DJHVWXUHKHFRQVLGHUVUHSHDWHGLQWKH$YDQ-
zada : “No habría opuesto un poder a otro, ilusoriamente, habría buscado no
HQWDEODUUHODFLµQFRQHOSRGHU\VXYLROHQFLD6X¼QLFRVDEHUKDEU¯DHVWULEDGR
HQDˋUPDUTXHHQHODUWHODPD\RUIXHU]DSRVLEOHHUDQRRWUDODIXHU]DGH
SDVLµQHQODKXHOODGHODLPDJHQȥ Ȥ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ ,GLVDJUHHZLWK
such a characterization, which sounds altogether too contemplative, in the
sense Benjamin explicitly rejected. Dittborn’s Pietá, as I will discuss later in
the chapter, rejects any such conformity or withdrawal.
 Ȥ1RHVXQFXHUSRFD¯GRVLQRHQWUDQFHGHFDHU\HQHVWHVHQWLGRXQFXHUSR
VXVSHQGLGRFRJLGRHQVXVSHQVR\H[SXHVWRHQYLUWXGGHHVDFRJLGD(OJHVWR
de pietá coge en suspenso ese cuerpo, la mano zurda lo tiende, la mirada
FHODGDORJXDUGDORSURWHJH(OJHVWRGHpietá retiene al cuerpo en una zona
OLPLQDUQRP£VTXHHVRVLQSUHGLVSRQHUORDODUHVXUUHFFLµQȥ 2\DU]¼Q
Ȥ,PDJHQ\GXHORȥ 
 2\DU]¼QGRHVQRWPDNHWKH%HQMDPLQLDQUHIHUHQFHVH[SOLFLWLQWKLVHVVD\
but they are very clearly implied.
 5LFKDUGȢV ERRN ZDV SXEOLVKHG LQLWLDOO\ LQ D ELOLQJXDO HGLWLRQ LQ 
Margins and Institutions. Art in Chile since 1973. It was republished, entirely
in Spanish, in 2007, together with a new prologue by Richard and essays
SUHVHQWHGDVSDUWRID)/$&62VHPLQDUWLWOHGȤ$UWHHQ&KLOHGHVGH
(VFHQDGH$YDQ]DGD\VRFLHGDGȥ2\DU]¼QȢVFULWLTXHDSSHDUVSULPDULO\LQ
Ȥ&U¯WLFDKLVWRULDȥRQHRIWKH)/$&62WH[WVDQGȤ$UWHHQ&KLOHGHYHLQWH
WUHLQWDD³RVȥERWKIURP6RPHRIWKHFRQFHUQVWKDW2\DU]¼QDUWLF-
XODWHVLQȤ&U¯WLFDKLVWRULDȥUXQWKURXJKRXWWKHRWKHU)/$&62HVVD\VLQ
various formulations. My focus on Oyarzún’s critique is primarily due to
limitations of space, but also to the way it is developed by Thayer and later
E\2\DU]¼QKLPVHOIDQGDOVRLQVSHFLˋFUHODWLRQWR'LWWERUQȢVZRUN
What primarily interests me in this debate is the way Oyarzún, and later
Thayer, explain the relations among criticism, aesthetics, and politics. Con-
sequently I do not include much discussion of Richard’s work or weigh in on
whether I believe their critique to be apt. In her prologue to the revised edi-
tion of Márgenes e instituciones, Richard acknowledges that her tone in the
ERRNZDVSROHPLFDODQGWKDWVRPHRIWKHSURSRVLWLRQVZHUHȤWRRVFKHPDWLFȥ
 Ȥ/DXUJHQFLDFU¯WLFRSRO¯WLFDGHDˋODUORVFRUWHVGHODȡDYDQ]DGDȢSDUD
GDUOHPD\RUQLWLGH]GHSHUˋOHV\FRQWRUQRVDXQDVXEHVFHQDTXHHOOLEUR
TXHU¯DGRWDUGHYLVLELOLGDGHVWUDW«JLFD\GHIXHU]DLQWHUSHODQWHHQXQPHGLR
DGYHUVRIRU]µHOWRQRGHOOLEURDVHUP£VDˋUPDWLYRTXHLQWHUURJDWLYRȥ  
I believe this goes a long way toward explaining the differences between
Oyarzún’s and Richard’s work: Oyarzún’s tone tends in the opposite direc-
tion, toward the interrogative—sometimes so much so that it threatens to
FDQFHODQ\SRWHQWLDOȤSROLWLFDOȥDIˋUPDWLRQ WKHVFDUHTXRWHVLQGLFDWLQJWKH
sense in which the political always necessarily implies an interrogation of
LWVHOI 7KHGLIIHUHQFHVEHWZHHQWKHLUDSSURDFKHVSULPDULO\FRPHGRZQWRD
question of naming: whether the act of declaring something political some-
192 Notes

KRZUHGXFHVZKDWȤWKHSROLWLFDOȥPLJKWEH7KHRWKHUSULPDU\GLIIHUHQFH
FRPHVIURPWKHLUSKLORVRSKLFDODIˋOLDWLRQV5LFKDUGȢVXQˌDJJLQJDSSHDOWR
SOXUDOLW\DQGKHWHURJHQHLW\ HPHUJLQJIURPDVWURQJDIˋQLW\IRU%DNKWLQDQG
)RXFDXOW GLIIHUVFRQVLGHUDEO\IURP2\DU]¼QȢVLQVLVWHQFHRQVXVSHQVLRQ SUL-
PDULO\UHODWHGWR%HQMDPLQDQG'HUULGD 9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWSURYLGHVDQ
insightful and nuanced explanation of this debate. He notes that all three
FULWLFVDGGUHVVWKHȤLPDJHRIGLVDSSHDUDQFHȥDQGLWVFKDOOHQJHVWRUHSUH-
sentation, but he stresses that what is at stake in their different approaches
LVDUHODWLRQVKLSWRKLVWRU\EH\RQGUHSUHVHQWDWLRQ Soberanías en suspenso,
&KDSWHU 0\DFFRXQWRIWKLVGHEDWHRZHVPXFKWRKLVGLVFXVVLRQ6HHDOVR
Paula Cucurella’s “A Weak Force: On the Chilean Dictatorship and the Visual
$UWVȥRQWKHSKLORVRSKLFDODVVXPSWLRQVEHKLQG5LFKDUGȢVZRUN
 ,QKHUFRQWULEXWLRQWRWKH)/$&62VHPLQDU'LDPHOD(OWLWRIIHUVDQDOWHUQDWH
GHVFULSWLRQRIWKHȤILVXUDHQWUHPDUJHQHLQVWLWXFLµQȥDVDTXDVLVFKL]R-
phrenic state. She says that Richard’s book resembles the works of art it
H[DPLQHVDQGDVVXFKLVDYXOQHUDEOHDQGHPHUJHQWȤODUYDȥVLWXDWHGLQWKLV
ˋVVXUH Ȥ(OHJLUHODUWHHVVH³DODUVHODUYDȥ(OWLWȤ<DFHULQFXEDGDȥ 
 2\DU]¼QZULWHVLQȤ$UWHHQ&KLOHGHYHLQWHWUHLQWDD³RVȥȤ(OJLURHVHQFLDO
GHODSURGXFFLµQGHȡDYDQ]DGDȢDHVWHUHVSHFWRHVSDGHFHUHOGDWRSULPDULR
de ese indecible como algo que es clandestino aun para su propio portador,
que, por lo tanto, desarticula las pautas de identidad individual y colec-
tiva . . . aparece aquí como transitoriedad insuprimible, que determina la
índole de obra de estas manifestaciones a partir de la fragilidad de su propio
procesoGHFRQVWLWXFLµQȥ  +HVXJJHVWVWZRQDPHVIRUWKLVLUUHSUHVVLEOH
WUDQVLWRULQHVVKLVWRU\DQG&KLOHȤ/RTXHHVWDSURGXFFLµQUHFRQRFHFRPR
VXQRVDEHUHVGHVXVWDQFLDKLVWµULFDȥȤ$FDVRVXLQGHFLEOHHVȡ&KLOHȢFRPR
REMHWRIXJD]GHDOXVLµQȥ  7KHSULPDU\GLIIHUHQFHZLWK5LFKDUGȢV
approach is the emphasis on the unsayable and ungraspable nature of this
KLVWRU\+HFRQFOXGHVKLVȤ&U¯WLFDKLVWRULDȥZLWKWKHWKRXJKWWKDW5LFKDUG
KDVQRWVXIˋFLHQWO\H[SORUHGZKDWLVȤGHˋQLWLYDPHQWHLQDUWLFXODEOHȥLQWKH
ZRUNVRIWKH$YDQ]DGD  
 7KD\HUȢVUHFXSHUDWLRQDQGLQWHQVLˋFDWLRQRIWKLVGHEDWHFXOPLQDWHGLQWZR
HVVD\VWKDWKHZURWHLQDQGUHVSHFWLYHO\WLWOHGȤ9DQJXDUGLD
GLFWDGXUDJOREDOL]DFLµQ /DVHULHGHODVDUWHVYLVXDOHVHQ&KLOHȟ ȥ
DQGȤ(OJROSHFRPRFRQVXPDFLµQGHODYDQJXDUGLDȥ LQFOXGHGLQEl frag-
mento repetido  5LFKDUGUHVSRQGHGWRWKLVVHFRQGHVVD\ZLWKDQHVVD\WLWOHG
Ȥ4XL«QWHPHDODQHRYDQJXDUGLD"ȥ $V9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWQRWHVWKH
ideas behind Thayer’s acerbic critique were already explicit in his refuta-
WLRQRI5LFKDUGȢVSUHVHQWDWLRQRIKLVERRNLa crisis no moderna de la
universidad modernaSXEOLVKHGLQ(QJOLVKDVȤ7KH3RVVLELOLW\RI&ULWLFLVP
A Response to Nelly Richard’s ‘The Language of Criticism: How to Speak
'LIIHUHQFH"Ȣȥ$VWULNLQJO\UHYHDOLQJDQDORJ\RIKHULQWHUSUHWDWLRQRIKLVERRN
DVWKHDFWRIDEDGPRWKHUZKRKDVLQˌLFWHGWUDXPDWRKHUQHZERUQJRHVD
long way toward explaining the peculiarly ad mulierem tone that pervades
this short text as well as his subsequent engagements with Richard’s work
Notes 193

Ȥ7KH3RVVLELOLW\RI&ULWLFLVPȥ 7KHILJXUHRIWKHPRWKHUVKRXOGEH
understood in psychoanalytic terms, and was invoked in the initial reception
RIKHUERRNDV(OWLWQRWHVLQȤ<DFHULQFXEDGDȥ  
(XJHQLR'LWWERUQȢVUHPDUNWKDWFULWLFDOHVVD\VIURP/DWLQ$PHULFDQȤFDQ-
not be translated. In them one is constantly burning what one has said and
VXJJHVWLQJZKDWZLOOQHYHUEHVDLGȥULQJVHVSHFLDOO\WUXHIRU7KD\HUȢVZRUN
Mapa ,UHDOL]HWKDWP\DWWHPSWWRȤWUDQVODWHȥVRPHRIKLVWH[WVKHUHYL-
RODWHVZKDWKHPLJKWFDOODQHIIHUYHVFHQFHRIKLVSURVHDQGWKRXJKW,DP
FHUWDLQO\RQWKHVLGHRIȤFULWLFLVPȥUDWKHUWKDQȤWKRXJKWȥLQKLVWHUPV1HY-
HUWKHOHVVPDLQWDLQLQJDGLVWDQFHIURPWKRXJKWLVDNLQWRUHLI\LQJLWP\HI-
IRUWVKHUHDLPWRUHVLVWVXFKUHLˋFDWLRQ,ZDQWWRDGGWKDWP\FULWLTXHRI
Thayer’s work stems from my very deep respect and affection for him. I hope
he understands it as such.
 ,QȤ7KH3RVVLELOLW\RI&ULWLFLVPȥ7KD\HUVLPLODUO\GHVFULEHVȤFRQWHPSRUDU\
FDSLWDOLVPDVUXSWXUHRIDOOQRUPDOLW\LUUHFRQFLOLDELOLW\DVHIIHFWLYLW\  
 ,W LV SRVVLEOH WKDW 7KD\HUȢV UHIHUHQFH WR DQDVHPLD LV LQIOXHQFHG E\ KLV
mentor Patricio Marchant, who, as Villalobos-Ruminott points out, appealed
to Abraham’s term in his exegesis of Gabriela Mistral’s poetry to describe
DQȤDQWHULRUODQJXDJHȥIURPZKLFKGLIIHUHQWODQJXDJHVHPHUJH 0DUFKDQW
Escritura y temblor9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWSoberanías en suspenso 
Marchant names this stratum poetic, and describes it as existing within
HYHU\KXPDQEHLQJȤHOSRHPDGHOLQFRQVFLHQWHȥ,QFRQWUDVWWR7KD\HU
however, he affirms the possibility of analysis: “analizar la obra de arte
misma para comprender lo que es obra produce, trae a la luz, como produc-
FLµQPD\RUQXHYD HVDGHFLUFRPRRWUDSRVLELOLGDGRWUDVDOLGDRWUDDOWHU-
QDWLYD ȥ Escritura y temblor 0DUFKDQWOLQNVWKLVQRWLRQRIDQRULJLQDU\
SRHWLFVSDFHWR0LVWUDOȢVZRUNVSHFLˋFDOO\DV9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWSXWVLW
ȤHOWµSLFRSVLFRDQDO¯WLFRGHODPDGUHFRPRˋFFLµQJHQHUDWLYDGHORULJHQȥ
Soberanías del suspenso 
 $WWKHHQGRIWKLVGLVWLQFWO\DSRFDO\SWLFHVVD\ZKLFKDFNQRZOHGJHVDOPRVW
QRSRVVLELOLW\RIDGLVUXSWLRQWRZKDWKHFDOOVWKHȤK\SHUUHDOLW\RIOLJKWȥ
 WKDWLVWKHDEVHQFHRIGLIIHUHQFHWLPHKRSHHYHQWHWFKHJHVWXUHV
toward a potential space of difference in the psyches of the viewers of the
images: “Nosotros, los visitantes, somos su reserva de luz, su secreto, su
novedad y el acontecimiento que la fotografía espera. Bajo la illusion de
LQWHUQDUQRVVXSHUˋFLHDGHQWURODVXSHUˋFLHIRWRJU£ˋFDH[SORUDHQQXHVWUD
IDQWDVLDȥ   7KH ORFDWLRQ RI WKHVH SRVVLELOLWLHVLQIDQWDV\KRZHYHU
threatens to negate any real potential of event, the realm of fantasy func-
tioning as its own kind of [HQRWDˋR. For a compelling discussion of the apoc-
alyptic tendencies in Thayer’s work, see Oyarzún’s review of Thayer’s The
Unmodern Crisis of the Modern University.
 +HGHVFULEHVWKHGLDOHFWLFDOLPDJHDVDQȤHVWDGRGHH[FHSFLµQSXUDPHQWH
GHVWUXFWLYRȥ D VXVSHQVLRQ WKDW IRXQGV GHFLGHV OHJLVODWHV UHSUHVHQWV
SURPLVHVQRWKLQJ  WKHOLPLWDQGGHDWKRIUHSUHVHQWDWLRQDWHPSRUDO
VXVSHQVLRQEHWZHHQWKHȤ\DQRP£VȥDQGWKHȤD¼QQRȥ ȟ 
194 Notes

 7KD\HUDFNQRZOHGJHVWKDWKLVERRNOLHVFORVHUWRFULWLFLVPWKDQWRWKRXJKW
although he lays the blame for this at the feet of his editors at Metales
Pesados, a gesture that could be read as guarding the potential of thought in
the autonomy of the writer, which more closely resembles the kind of police
logic that he associates with criticism than with the destruction of inherited
LGHDOVWKDWKHDWWULEXWHVWRWKRXJKW  
The kernel of the ideas presented in this book repeat and develop key
SRLQWVIURP7KD\HUȢVˋUVWERRNLa crisis no moderna de la universidad mod-
erna VHHIRULQVWDQFHDQG DVZHOODVWKHGLVFXVVLRQRIWKHERRNLQ
essays by Oyarzún, Richard, and Thayer’s response to Richard, which antici-
pates the debate about the Avanzada.
 2\DU]¼QȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKH5HDG\PDGHDVDQHYHQWIUHHGLQWRHYHQWQHVV
LVSUHFHGHGE\DOLVWRIHSLWKHWVWKDW,ˋQGVRPHZKDWWURXEOLQJȤXQHVS¯ULWX
suelto, un espritXQLQJHQLRDELHUWRȥ  ,FDQQRWKHOSEXWDVVRFLDWHWKLV
characterization with the character Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest,
FODLPHGE\-RV«(QULTXH5RGµDVWKHV\PERORI/DWLQ$PHULFDQVXSHULRULW\
to North American materialism. Whether or not this allusion was intended,
I suspect that Oyarzún’s objective was to stress how Duchamp’s work radi-
cally disturbed the conventional distinction between matter and idea, as an
eminent performance of proto-deconstruction. See Thomas Deane Tuck-
er’s intriguing book Derridada for a detailed discussion of the relationship
between Duchamp and Derrida.
Incidentally, Oyarzún’s interpretation of the Readymade as an event of
eventness differs substantially from Lyotard’s appraisal of Duchamp’s work
DVIXQGDPHQWDOO\WHPSRUDO OLQHDU FRQGLWLRQHGE\WKHˋJXUHRIvanitas KH
LVUHIHUULQJWR/DUJH*ODVV LQGLVWLQFWLRQWR%HUQDUG1HZPDQȢVZRUNZKLFK
KHFRQVLGHUVWRHPERG\WKHHYHQW The Inhuman 
 +HGHVFULEHVȤHOPDQWHQLPLHQWRVREUHHODELVPRȥDVȤODFODYHGHOSURSµVLWR
EHQMDPLQLDQRȥ Ȥ6REUHHOFRQFHSWREHQMDPLQLDQRGHWUDGXFFLµQȥ 

  2\DU]¼QPDNHVVRPHLQWULJXLQJGLVWLQFWLRQVEHWZHHQQDUUDWLYHˋFWLRQDQG
the essay. Using Borges’s work as exemplary of literature’s fundamentally
VNHSWLFDOQDWXUHKHGHVFULEHVKRZWKHVWRULHVRIDˋFWLWLRXVXQLYHUVHLQGL-
cate a deep uncertainty of how the world really is. Using a line from one of
Borges’s essays, he suggests that the form of the essay concerns not only
QRQNQRZOHGJHRUˋFWLRQEXWDOVRWKHSRVVLEOHȤLQPLQHQFLDGHXQDUHYH-
ODFLµQȥDWHQVHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQWKHDFWLYHGHVWUXFWLRQRIUHFHLYHG
truths, and what may come, what is different and deferred from present
NQRZOHGJH Ȥ/LWHUDWXUD\HVFHSWLFLVPRȥ 2\DU]¼QDOVRGHVFULEHV
KRZLQLWVHDUOLHVW(XURSHDQIRUPWKHHVVD\ZDVIRXQGHGDVˋFWLRQVLQFH
it turned its back toward the conquest of America, and consequently “veri-
ˋHGWKHVSDFHRI (XURSHDQ ˋFWLRQȥZKLFKKHFRQVLGHUVWKHGRPHVWLFVLGH
RIFRORQLDOLVP  %RUJHVLVKHOGXSLQWKLVFRQWH[WDVWKHˋJXUHZKRPRVW
radically opposes such insensibility, developing the form of the essay—
HYHQLQKLVˋFWLRQVȠDVDIXQGDPHQWDOO\$PHULFDQJHQUHDQWLFLSDWLQJDQG
Notes 195

LQYHUWLQJWKHQRWLRQDUWLFXODWHGE\*HUP£Q$UFLQLHJDVWKDWȤ$P«ULFDHV
XQHQVD\Rȥ TWGLQ DQLQYHUVLRQDUWLFXODWHGE\-RUJH3DQHVLȢVDVVHVV-
PHQWWKDWȤ$PHULFDLWVHOILVD%RUJHVHDQVXEMHFWȥ 3DQHVL 
 7KHDVVRFLDWLRQEHWZHHQFRPPXQLFDWLRQDQGFRQVXPSWLRQFRQFHUQVWKH
ideal of a seamless exchange of meaning without remainder, among auton-
omous subjects in control of their language. This resonates with Marchant’s
work, as discussed earlier, and also Thayer’s, as discussed below.
 2\DU]¼QLVSOD\LQJKHUHZLWKWKHURRWRIWKHZRUGSHUSOH[LW\ perplejidad 
which comes from the Latin plectere (and earlier the Greek pleikin ZKLFK
means to plait or interweave. In his introduction to the volume, he names
the experience and exploration of perplexity as the core of the critical task
 LQȤ7HVLVEUHYHVVREUHDUWH\SRO¯WLFDȥKHGHVFULEHVLWDVȤODP¼OWLSOH
GLVSRQLELOLGDGGHVXFXHUSRDOSDGHFLPLHQWRGHODLQWHUURJDFLµQODDSHU-
WXUDDODGLYHUJHQFLDȥ  7KLVQRWLRQRISHUSOH[LW\QRGRXEWDOVRLPSOLHV
a certain relation to the fold or pliegue, which shares the same Greek, if not
/DWLQURRW LWFRPHVIURPplicare rather than plectere 
 ,WLVSRVVLEOHWKDW7KD\HULQWHQGVWKHZRUGperseverar in the psychological
sense of a compulsive repetition detached from the original stimulus. Such a
repetition would, however, like the psychological connotations of anasemia,
challenge the distinction he makes between the primary and secondary
spheres.
 'HUULGDPHQWLRQVepokhe throughout his work in relation to a number of
GLIIHUHQWGLVFRXUVHVLQFOXGLQJOLWHUDWXUH LQYRNLQJVSHFLILFDOO\GH0DQȢV
VHQVHRILURQ\DQG&HODQȢVSRHWLFV ODZDQGUHVSRQVLELOLW\ Ȥ)RUFHRI/DZȥ
ȟ PRXUQLQJ Politics of Friendship DQGIDLWK DVRSSRVHGWRNQRZO-
HGJH ZKLFKKHGLVFHUQVDWWKHKHDUWRIWKHWHVWLPRQLDOH[SHULHQFH Ȥ(SRFKH
DQG)DLWK$QLQWHUYLHZȥLQDerrida and Religion: Other Testaments
Ȥ)DLWKDQG.QRZOHGJHȥ 
 9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWȢVDSSHDOWRDNLQGRIFDWDVWURSKLFFRQVWHOODWLRQ ȤFLHOR
GHVDVWUDGRȥ LVGHHSO\LQˌXHQFHGE\'LGL+XEHUPDQȢVUHDGLQJRI%HQMDPLQ
VHHIRULQVWDQFHSoberanías en suspenso ȟ 
 'LGL+XEHUPDQDOVRGHVFULEHVWKLVTXDOLW\RIGLVFRQWLQXLW\RIWKHPRQWDJH
DVLQWULQVLFWRWKHLPDJHLWVHOI VHH9LOODORERV5XPLQRWWȢVUHIHUHQFHWRKLVLa
imagen mariposa in Soberanías en suspenso 
 6HH 6DPXHO :HEHUȢV GLVFXVVLRQ RI WKH WHQVLRQ EHWZHHQ Einfühlung and
disruption related to montage in Chapter 7 of Benjamin’s –abilities HVSH-
FLDOO\DQG 
 7KHSXEOLVKHGFULWLFLVPRQ'LWWERUQȢVZRUNLVULFKDQGYDULHGDQGVRPH
of what I say will no doubt be repeating what others have said before me.
In the spirit of the collage, however, I hope to bring things together in a
slightly different way, to discuss the ways that Dittborn’s work interrogates
the visual emplacement of the human.
 6HH-XVWR3DVWRU0HOODGR
 'HUULGDUHPLQGVXVWKDWWKHPXOWLSOHPHDQLQJVDWWULEXWHGWRWKH*UHHNURRW
196 Notes

arkhe—origin, ground, foundation—are intrinsic to the structure of the


archive, which constitutes a kind of ideological home that orders and shel-
WHUVLWVFRQVWLWXHQWSDUWV Archive Fever 
 %DUWKHVGHVFULEHVSKRWRJHQLDDVDVXERUGLQDWLRQRILPDJHWRPHDQLQJ,
ˋQGWKHOLQNEHWZHHQJHQUHDQGJHQLDPRUHLQWULJXLQJWKDQVLJQLˋFDWLRQ
Image-Music-Text ȟ 
 'HUULGDGHVFULEHVWKHVWUXFWXUHRIWKHDUFKLYHDVORFDWHGDWWKHLQWHUVHFWLRQ
RIWKHWRSRORJLFDODQGWKHQRPRORJLFDO Archive Fever 'H0DQFRPSDUHV
WKHLGHRORJLFDOGHˋQLWLRQRIWKHKXPDQWRDVSRUWRUJDPHFKDUDFWHUL]HGE\
DȤSULQFLSOHRIFORVXUHȥLQDFFHVVLEOHWRȤFULWLFDODQDO\VLVȥ Aesthetic Ideology
 
 $SURPLQHQWLQVWDQFHRIWKLVLVIRUPHUSUHVLGHQW(GXDUGR)UHLȢVDVVHVVPHQW
WKDWȤ/RVPLOLWDUHVKDQVDOYDGRD&KLOH\DWRGRVQRVRWURVȥ Ȥ)UHL0LOLWDUHV
KDQVDOYDGRD&KLOHȥ 
 7KHUHSURGXFWLRQRIWKHLQVFULSWLRQLQWKHFDWDORJLVQRWYHU\FOHDUVR,PD\
EHZURQJDERXWWKHPLVVLQJRUSDUWLDOWLOGH(YHQZLWKDWLOGHWKHUHWKH
wording is unlike any that I found among Spanish translations of the Bible,
DQGWKHRGGLPDJHRIDȤSH³DYLYDȥLVDVVXJJHVWLYHRIDQH[FHVVLYHOLIHQRW
constrained to conventional understanding, like the haunting implied by
ȤSHQDYLYDȥ
 7KHVFHQHLVIURP3DUHWȢVIDWDOPDWFKDJDLQVW(PLOH*ULIˋWKIRUWKHZHOWHU-
ZHLJKWFKDPSLRQVKLSLQLQ1HZ<RUN&LW\3DUHWDEODFN&XEDQER[HU
ZKR KDG LPPLJUDWHG WR WKH 8QLWHG 6WDWHV LQ WKH V ZDV SXPPHOHG
GXULQJWKHPDWFKIHOOLQWRDFRPDDQGGLHGWZRZHHNVODWHU,WZDVWKHˋUVW
boxing death witnessed by a national television audience, and resulted in a
nearly decade-long hiatus in televised broadcasts of boxing. The man in the
foreground is Dr. Alexander Schiff, an African American doctor for the New
York State Athletic Commission. References come from the documentary
ˋOPRing of Fire and the New York Times obituary for Dr. Alexander Schiff.
 7KHUH KDYH DOVR EHHQ VHYHUDO SLHFHV WLWOHG Pietá that feature different
LPDJHV Ȥ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQȥ3DSHU%ORJ 
 
 6HH6DPXHO:HEHUȤ7HOHYLVLRQ6HWDQG6FUHHQȥ
 7KLV ZDV D WHFKQLTXH 'LWWERUQ XVHG UHSHDWHGO\ GXULQJ WKLV SHULRG
LQFOXGLQJ LQ D SHUIRUPDQFH SLHFH LQ  WLWOHG Ȥ&DPELR GH DFHLWHȥ
in which he poured a barrel of burnt oil into the Atacama Desert, the
dumping grounds for hundreds of disappeared bodies: a material of trans-
mission marking the exilic space of the disappeared. See Osvaldo de la
Torre for a compelling account of this performance.
 6HHP\HDUOLHUGLVFXVVLRQRIVKDUHGURRWRISDVVLRQDQGSDVVDJHLQ*HOPDQ
FKDSWHU passus DQGSDVVLRQDVGLVWXUEDQFHRIVXEMHFW 7HUDGD 
 7KHWHUPȤHSLFȥDSSHDUVWZLFHLQWKHLQWHUYLHZVFROOHFWHGLQMapa  
I am extrapolating from his descriptions. The sense of different regis-
ters of the motif of travel is commented on throughout the critical pieces
collected in this volume, perhaps most clearly in the essays by Nelly
Richard and Guy Brett.
Notes 197

 7KLVPRWLILVGLVFXVVHGE\.D\LQWKHFKDSWHUWLWOHGȤ/DUHSURGXFFLµQGHO
QXHYRPXQGRȥLQDel espacio de acá, as well as by Richard in “Nosotros/Los
RWURVȥ
 6HH'RDQHȢVGLVFXVVLRQRI'LGL+XEHUPDQȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHVKURXGRI
7XULQDVWKHHSLWRPHRIWKHLQGH[DVZHOODV7KD\HUȢVȤ(O[HQRWDˋRGHOX]ȥ
discussed earlier, on the notion of photographs as empty cenotaphs, that
is, the converse of indexicality.
Many critics have offered interpretations of the gesture of staining in
'LWWERUQȢVZRUN2QWKLVVHH9DOG«VȢVPRUHUHFHQWHVVD\Ȥ*HVWDȥ5REHU-
WR0HULQRȢVȤ/DUXWDGHODVPDQFKDVȥ5LFKDUGȢVȤ1RVRWURVORVRWURVȥ.D\ȢV
Ȥ(OFXHUSRTXHPDQFKDȥ LQDel espacio de acá DQG2VYDOGRGHOD7RUUHȢV
chapter on Dittborn. Oyarzún notes that in the Aeropostales Dittborn
PRYHGDZD\IURPKLVHDUOLHUDSSHDOWRWKH VWDLQHG VKURXGZKLFKVXJJHVWV
a more direct form of indexicality, to the innumerable crossings of an ir-
UHFXSHUDEOHDEVHQFH Rabo  DQGLQDGGLWLRQWRWKHVHQVHRIGLIIXVLRQKH
VXJJHVWVWKDWWKHH[FHVVRIˋJXUHPDUNHGE\WKHVWDLQVXJJHVWVHIIXVLYH-
QHVVVSRQWDQHLW\DQGFRQIXVLRQWKDWLVDˌXLGLW\RUˌLJKWWKDWH[FHHGV
WKHH[SHFWHG Rabo 7KLVDVVRFLDWLRQLVFRUURERUDWHGE\'LWWERUQȢVDF-
FRXQWRIWKHVWDLQLQȤ&RUUHFDPLQRVȥKHGHVFULEHVKRZȤD]DU\IRUWXQDVRQ
ODPLVPDPDQFKDȥDQGȤWLQWXUD\SOLHJXHDOHQFRQWUDUVHKDFHQHQWRQFHV
]RQDGHFDW£VWURIHȥ IURPȤ&RUUHFDPLQRV9,,ȥLQFugitiva 1RWH
WKDWȤ&RUUHFDPLQRV9,,ȥDSSHDUVLQ DWOHDVW WZRSODFHVFugitiva  
and Afterall  ,QVSLWHRIWKHVDPHQXPEHUWKHWZRYHUVLRQVDUHGLI-
ferent, and I will name the source each time I refer to this title.
 7KLVFRQWUDVWVLQDQLQWHUHVWLQJZD\ZLWK%RUJHVȢVUHIHUHQFHWRWKH&DEEDO-
istic description of the aleph, which is said to have “la forma de un hombre
que señala el cielo y la tierra, para indicar que el mundo inferior es el
HVSHMR\HVHOPDSDGHOVXSHULRUȥDJOREHHQFRPSDVVLQJJHVWXUHWKDWLV
VDWLUL]HGE\WKHSRPSRXVILJXUHRI&DUORV'DQHUL$UJHQWLQR Ȥ(ODOHSKȥ
 

  7KD\HU LQYRNHV %UHWWȢV HVVD\ Ȥ'XVW &ORXGVȥ SXEOLVKHG LQ Mapa. Like
Thayer, Brett engages the term entrelugar: “Dittborn’s Airmail Paintings
H[SORUHDVKLIWLQJWUDQVLWRU\EHWZHHQVSDFHRILGHQWLW\DQGPHDQLQJȥ
Mapa $OWKRXJK%UHWWGLVFXVVHVWKLVLQWHUVWLWDOLW\LQLQWHUHVWLQJDQG
WKRXJKWIXO ZD\V KH VHHPV WR XQGHUVWDQG WKH ȤEHWZHHQVSDFHȥ DV DQ
obstacle to an end, akin to how Dittborn describes the cracks in Duchamp’s
/DUJH*ODVVLQGLVWLQFWLRQWRWKHIROGVLQKLV$HURSRVWDOHV Mapa 
7KLVLVHYLGHQWIURP%UHWWȢVˋUVWSDUDJUDSKLQZKLFKKHLGHQWLˋHVFRPPX-
nication across distances as a primary concern of Mapa, that is, Dittborn’s
work and the critical essays dedicated to it. Toward the end of the essay,
after discussing multiple forms of distance, he returns to communication
LQWKHIRUPRITXRWLQJ-RV«-RDTX¯Q%UXQQHUȢVSOXUDOLVWLFQRWLRQRIQDWLRQDO
FRPPXQLW\ Ȥ,QVWHDGRIDQDWLRQDOLGHQWLW\ZHKDYHDFXOWXUHRIDSOXUDOLW\
RILGHQWLWLHVȥTWGLQDust Clouds  %UHWWLOOXVWUDWHVWKLVLGHDZLWKDQ
anecdote from Goethe, via Bakhtin: in response to his fear while traveling
198 Notes

of the “ghostly and unaccountable . . . Goethe would purposefully orien-


WDWHKLPVHOIE\WU\LQJˋUVWWRJUDVSWKHJHRORJLFDOKLVWRU\RIWKHVSRWKH
was in . . . ‘Thus in Goethe, from a murky sense of the past and the present
WKDWIULJKWHQHGHYHQKLPWKHUHDURVHDUHDOLVWLFVHQVHRIWLPHȢȥ Mapa 
Brett continues with another anecdote of how the sailors of the Kon-Tiki
expedition turned their ship into a home by leaving it for a few hours. He
suggests that Dittborn’s Aeropostales establish or shouldHVWDEOLVK WKLVLV
DPELJXRXV DVLPLODUVHQVHRIKRPHDEURDG1RWKLQJFRXOGEHIXUWKHUWKDQ
Thayer’s description of the entrelugarDVDQRQSODFHRIȤLQˋQLWHYLUWXDOLW\ȥ
7KD\HUȤ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ1R0DQȢV/DQG3DLQWLQJVȥ 
 ,TXRWHERWKWKH6SDQLVKODQJXDJHȤ7LHUUDGHQDGLHHQSLQWXUDV(OHQWUH-
OXJDUHQODDHURSRVWDOLGDGGH(XJHQLR'LWWERUQȥDVZHOODVWKH(QJOLVK
Ȥ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQ1R0DQȢV/DQG3DLQWLQJVȥKHQFHWKHWZRDOWHUQDWH
page citations that exist here.
 7KD\HUDOOXGHVWR'HUULGDȢVVHQVHRIDXWRLPPXQLW\ZLWKWKHGHVFULSWLRQWKDW
WKHIROGWULJJHUVWKHȤPXWXDOLQIHFWLRQȥRIWKHVSDFHVLWGLYLGHVȤLQVXFKD
way that that they are born without the possibility of topologically anchoring
WKHPVHOYHVDVWKHPVHOYHVEDUUHGIURPLGHQWLW\DQGSUHVHQFHȥ  

  2\DU]¼QȢVHVVD\VRQ'LWWERUQȢVZRUNDUHFROOHFWHGLQEl rabo del ojo. Most of
P\UHIHUHQFHVFRPHIURPȤ3URWRFROODJHGHOHFWXUDȥZKLFKZDVRULJLQDOO\
ZULWWHQLQ*HUPDQWRDFFRPSDQ\RQHRI'LWWERUQȢVH[KLELWLRQVLQ
and was subsequently published in Pinturas postales de Eugenio Dittborn in
7KHRWKHUHVVD\VDUHWLWOHGȤ8QVDOYDWDMHȥDOVRSXEOLVKHGLQDQG
Ȥ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQLa ciudad en llamasȥSUHVHQWHGLQ
,QFLGHQWDOO\ 7LFLR (VFREDUȢV H[FHOOHQW HVVD\Ȥ&LQFR LPDJLQHV SHQG-
LHQWHVȥRIIHUVDSRVLWLRQWKDWPLJKWEHVDLGWROLHLQEHWZHHQ7KD\HUDQG
2\DU]¼Q(VFREDUFLWHV'HOHX]HȢVGHVFULSWLRQRIWKHIROGDQGLWVXQIROGLQJ
ȤHOGHVSOLHJXHQRHVORFRQWUDULRGHOSOLHJXHVLQRODFRQWLQXDFLµQRODH[-
WHQVLµQGHVXDFWRHOUHTXLVLWRGHVXPDQLIHVWDFLµQȥ  7KLVLQH[WULFDELO-
LW\RIIROGLQJDQGXQIROGLQJIRUPZKDW(VFREDUFDOOVWKHdeslugar evoked by
'LWWERUQȢVZRUNV  UHPLQLVFHQWRIWKHUDGLFDOVXVSHQVLRQRI7KD\HUȢVen-
trelugar,EXWUDWKHUWKDQVXVSHQGHGLQDSXUHLPPLQHQFH(VFREDUYLHZVWKH
XQGHFLGDELOLW\RIWKHIROGDVKDYLQJWKHHIIHFWRIȤGLVHQWUHQFKLQJȥ desencas-
trar WKHWHUPVRIWKHRSSRVLWLRQDQGRSHQLQJWKHPWRȤMXHJRVDFFLGHQWDOHVȥ
 

  7KURXJKRXW WKHVH HVVD\V 2\DU]¼Q VWUHVVHV WKH IRUPDO HOHPHQWV RI
Dittborn’s work, and his description of the testimonial aspect of it is no
H[FHSWLRQ+HZULWHVȤ9DGHDQGRHOWHVWLPRQLR SUHVXQWDPHQWH LQPHG-
iato de los estados de dolencia personal o colectivo debido a la crudeza
FRWLGLDQD\DODVDWURFLGDGHVGHOSRGHUGH«VWDVPLVPDVH[WUDH'LWWERUQODV
claves para releer una historia—historia nuestra—en sus despojos y sobras,
y solo entonces ofrecer, en el cuerpo marcado de la obra, un testimonio
FLHUWRȥ Rabo  ,QFLGHQWDOO\WKLVUHODWLRQVKLSWRWKHPDWHULDOLW\RIWKH
work is illustrated somewhat enigmatically with the inclusion of an unat-
WULEXWHGSDUDEOHDWWKHHQGRIȤ(XJHQLR'LWWERUQLa ciudad en llamasȥWKDW
Notes 199

VWUHVVHVWKHQHHGWRWKLQNRISDLQWLQJ RUDUWLQJHQHUDO WKURXJKSUHSRVL-


tions, that is, in relation to relation. The disciple asks about the meaning
of “la pintura paraV¯PLVPDȥDQGUHFHLYHVWKHDQVZHUWKDWDUWIRULWVHOILV
nothing at all. This perplexing story stands in interesting tension with an
DSKRULVWLFVWDWHPHQWLQȤ3URWRFROODJHGHOHFWXUDȥWKDWȤ(OULHVJRHOFRQVWL-
WXWLYRULHVJRTXHWRGDOHFWXUDVHSURPHWHHVVHUOH¯GDHOODSRUHOODPLVPDȥ
Rabo 7KLVULVNRIUHDGLQJRIDQGE\LWVHOIVXJJHVWVDIROGLQWULQVLFWR
PHGLDWLRQWKDWLVQRWDKRUL]RQ DUWIRUDUWȢVVDNH EXWFRUUHVSRQGVWRD
relationality that begins with the relation to itself. This is significantly
different from Thayer’s description of the work’s ability to testify to itself,
if only in that for Oyarzún this duplicitous or aporetic self-testimony is
only one expression of the work’s testimony of the other, whereas for
Thayer it appears that it is its only expression.
 6HHP\GLVFXVVLRQRI'HUULGDȢVDSSHDOWRWKHWURSHRISUHJQDQF\DVDˋJXUH
for mourning and the ethical relation to the other in my Gelman chapter
&KDSWHU DVZHOODVȤ-XDQ*HOPDQȢV2SHQ/HWWHUVȥ
$GULDQD9DOG«VIUDPHVKHUHVVD\Ȥ*HVWDȥDURXQGWKHQRWLRQRIJHVWDWLRQ
LQ'LWWERUQȢVZRUNZKLFKVKHGHVFULEHVDVȤXQRVFXURLUGDQGRDOX]ȥDQG
relates to Roberto Merino’s description of how the Aeropostales appeal to
ȤXQVHFUHWRHQHVWDGRHQLQPLQHQFLDȥ Fugitiva  1HYHUWKHOHVVVKH
seems to negate this interpretation when she considers the Aeropostales as
DYHUVLRQRIWKHIRUWGDJDPHZKLFKVKHGHVFULEHVDVDFKLOGOLNHEXWȤVRˋV-
WLFDGRMXHJRGHS«UGLGD\UHFXSHUDFLµQȥ  

  Ȥ/RVURVWURVGH0DUJDULWDKDU¯DQGHGLTXH\GHSXHQWHPDUFDVSDUDPHGLU
la distancia entre los rostros de los aborígenes y los delincuentes, harían
PHQVXUDEOH\YLVLEOHHODELVPRHQWUHHOORVȥ Mapa 
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behind, raises that question, infects as it were that strict forward linearity
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enticing, including Winston Churchill’s remark that if the operation didn’t
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200 Notes

recalls Celan’s description in his Meridian speech of art’s movement “out of


ZKDWLVKXPDQ\HWWXUQHGWRZDUGWKHKXPDQȥ Selected Poems and Prose
of Paul Celan 

Conclusion

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reproductions mentioned here. The icons of domesticity include a house, a
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of domesticity is accompanied by a series of illustrations about how to draw
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mid-air: he concludes with Crusoe and Heidegger, leaving the implica-
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fundamentally different from his allusions to Heidegger’s understanding of
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of sovereignty that, in the face of the world’s departure, makes “the world
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Escrituras americanas  ȟ:HE6HSWHPEHU
. Ȥ9DQJXDUGLDGLFWDGXUDJOREDOL]DFLµQ /DVHULHGHODVDUWHVYLVXDOHV
HQ&KLOHȟ ȥPensar en/la postdictadura(G1HOO\5LFKDUGDQG
$OEHUWR0RUHLUDV6DQWLDJR&XDUWR3URSLRȟ3ULQW
. Ȥ(O[HQRWDˋRGHOX]ȥPolíticas y estéticas de la memoria(G1HOO\
5LFKDUG6DQWLDJR&XDUWR3URSLRȟ3ULQW
Tucker, Thomas Deane. Derridada: Duchamp as Readymade Deconstruction.
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010. Print.
8ULEH/LOL£QȤCitas y comentariosRODOHFWXUDUHYHODGDȥLQJuan Gelman:
Works Cited & Bibliography 215

poesía y coraje(G0DU¯DƒQJHOHV3«UH]/µSH]0DGULG/DS£JLQD
HGLFLRQHV3ULQW
Valderrama, Miguel. 0RGHUQLVPRVKLVWRULRJU£ˋFRVDUWHVYLVXDOHVSRVWGLFW-
adura, vanguardias.6DQWLDJR3DOLQRGLD3ULQW
9DOG«V$GULDQDȤ3UHIDFLR*HVWDȥFugitiva6DQWLDJR)XQGDFLµQ*DVFR
ȟ3ULQW
9DOOHMR&«VDUȤ3HGUR5RMDVȥPoemas en prosa, Poemas humanos,
España, Aparte de mí este cáliz(G-XOLR9«OH]0DGULG&£WHGUD
ȟ3ULQW
Villalobos-Ruminott, Sergio. “A Kind of Hell: Roberto Bolaño and the Return
RI:RUOG/LWHUDWXUHȥJournal of Latin American Cultural Studies
 ȟ:HE$SULO
Weber, Samuel. Benjamin’s –abilities. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
3UHVV3ULQW
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. Ȥ0DVV0HGLDXUXV2U$UW$XUDDQG0HGLDLQWKH:RUNRI:DOWHU
%HQMDPLQȥWalter Benjamin: Theoretical Questions(G'DYLG)HUULV
6WDQIRUG&DOLI6WDQIRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVVȟ3ULQW
. Ȥ7HOHYLVLRQ6HWDQG6FUHHQȥMass Mediaurus: Form, Technics,
Media6WDQIRUG&DOLI6WDQIRUG8QLYHUVLW\3UHVVȟ3ULQW
Williams, Gareth. “2666DQGWKH(QGRI,QWHUUXSWLRQȥ/DWLQ$PHULFDQ
6WXGLHV$VVRFLDWLRQ$QQXDO&RQIHUHQFH:DVKLQJWRQ'&&RQIHU-
ence Presentation.
. Ȥ7KH0H[LFDQ([FHSWLRQDQGWKHȡ2WKHU&DPSDLJQȢȥSouth Atlantic
Quarterly  ȟ3ULQW
. Ȥ6RYHUHLJQW\DQG0HODQFKROLF3DUDO\VLVLQ5REHUWR%ROD³RȥJournal
of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesiaȟ  ȟ
Print.
Wills, David. Dorsality: Thinking Back Through Technology and Politics.
0LQQHDSROLV0LQQHVRWD8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV3ULQW
. Matchbook: Essays in Deconstruction. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford
8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV3ULQW
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. On Certainty7UDQVODWHG'HQLV3DXODQG*(0
$QVFRPEH2[IRUG%DVLO%ODFNZHOO3ULQW
Wolfe, Cary. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and
Posthumanist Theory&KLFDJR&KLFDJR8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV3ULQW
. “CindersDIWHU%LRSROLWLFVȥ,QWURGXFWLRQWR'HUULGDCinders. Minne-
DSROLV8QLYHUVLW\RI0LQQHVRWD3UHVVYLLȟ[[[3ULQW
. What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
2010. Print.
Index

$JDPEHQ*LRUJLR[L[[[Lȟ[[LLL %DUWKHV5RODQGȟ
ȟQ ȟQQ
Alter-immunity, alter-immuno- %DXGHODLUH&KDUOHV[[YLLL
ORJLFDO[YL[[LLL[[YLȟ[[L[ ȟȟ
ȟȟ Q
ȟ %HQMDPLQ:DOWHU
QQQSee also ȟȟ
autoimmunity QQȟQQQ
DOWHULW\[LLL[Y[YLLȟ[YL[[[LLLȟ ȟQȟQ
[[LY[[YLL[[L[ȟ[[[ȟ %ROD³R5REHUWR[LLȟ[LLL[[LYȟ[[YL
 [[YLLLȟ[[[ȟȟ
 ȟQȟQ2666
See also otherness ȟȟQȟQ
$PHOXQ[HQ+XEHUWXVYRQȟ AmuletoȟȤ'HQWLVWDȥ
Q ȟEstrella distante
DSRULDȟȟ ȟQȤ/LWHUDWXUDHQIHU-
ȟ PHGDG HQIHUPHGDGȥȟ
QQQQ ȟȟȟ
DSRVWURSKHDSRVWURSKLF[L[ȟ ȟȟQȟQ
ȟȟ Nocturno de ChileȟQȤ(O
Q SROLF¯DGHODVUDWDVȥȟ
autoimmunity, reactive or indem- ȟQ
QLˋFDWRU\[[YLLLȟ %ROOLJ%HQMDPLQȟQ
 ȟQ
DXWRLPPXQLW\QRQLQGHPQLˋ- %RUJHV-RUJH/XLVQ
FDWRU\[YLȟȟ QQQQȟQ
See also Q
alter-immunity %XWOHU-XGLWK
avant-garde, neo-avant-garde,
[[Yȟȟ &DGDYD(GXDUGR
ȟQQQ QQ

217
218 Index

Celan, Paul, xviii, xxi, xxiii, xxv, ȟQȟQQ


[[YLL ȟQQȟQ
QQQ 'LGL+XEHUPDQ*HRUJHVȟ
&KDPEHUV5RVVQ QQQ
QQQ 'LWWERUQ(XJHQLR[Lȟ[LLL[Y[[LYȟ
&KHMIHF6HUJLR[LLȟ[LLL[[LYȟ[[YLL [[YL[[L[ȟ[[[ȟȟ
[[[ȟȟȟQ ȟȟQQ
Boca de lobo, ȟQQ QQȟQQ
Los planetas, ȟ ȟQ
ȟQ 'RDQH0DU\$QQȟQQ
collectivity, community, xiii, xv, 'RYH3DWULFNȟȟQ
[[LLLȟ[[Y[[YLLȟ QQQQ
ȟȟȟȟ 'UDSHU6XVDQDQ
ȟ QQ
ȟȟȟ 'XFKDPS0DUFHOȟ
ȟQQ QQQQ
QQQ
communication, communicability, (ONLQV-DPHVȟQ
(OWLW'LDPHODȟQ
[Y[L[ȟ[[
(ULQ*UDII=LYLQQQ
ȟQQ
Q
&RQFKD/DJRV-RV«3DEORȟQ
(VFREDU7LFLRQ
&RUW«V5RFFD3DXOD
Q
)DEU\*HQHYLHYHȟ
FULWLFLVP crítica ȟ
ȟQȟQȟQ
ȟȟQ
ˋQLWXGH[L[LY[L[ȟ[[[[LLȟ
&XFXUHOOD3DXODQQ
ȟȟȟ
ȟQ
GH$YLOD6DQWD7HUHVDȟ ȟQQ
172n )RUQD]]DUL$OHVVDQGRQ
GHODFUX]6DQ-XDQȟQ )RXFDXOW0LFKHO[LLLQ
GH0DQ3DXOQQ QQ
ȟQQ )UDQFR-HDQ
GHEWREOLJDWLRQ[YL[YLLLȟ )ULHG0LFKDHOQ
ȟQ
GHFLVLRQ[[LLL *DOHQGH)HGHULFRQQ
QQQ 170n, 177n
'HO%DUFR2VFDU[[YLȟ[[YL *HOPDQ-XDQ[LLȟ[LLL[[LYȟ[[YLL
QQ [[[ȟȟȟQ
'HUULGD-DFTXHV[LLLȟ[[Y[YLLȟ[[[ QQCarta abierta, ȟ
ȟȟȟ ȟQCitas y Comentarios,
ȟȟ ȟȟQLos poemas de
ȟ Sidney West, ȟȟQ
ȟȟQ *R\D)UDQFLVFRGH
ȟQQȟQQ *XQGHUPDQ&KULVWLDQ
Index 219

*X\%UHWWȟQ [YLLQODZRIWKHRWKHU
*X\HU6DUDȟ 

+¦JJOXQG0DUWLQQ /DZORU/HRQDUGQ
human, humanity, humanism, xi, /HYLQH0LFKDHO[YLLL
[LLLȟ[YLLL[[ȟ[[LL[[LYȟ[[YL 
[[L[ȟ[[[ȟ /HYLQVRQ%UHWWQQ
ȟȟȟ QQ
ȟȟ Lezra, Jacques, xiv
ȟȟȟ /LEUHWW-HIIUH\[[LQ
ȟȟȟ /LIH[LLL[Yȟ[YLL[L[[[LL[[LY
ȟQȟQQQ [[YLȟ[[YLLL[[[ȟȟ
ȟQQ ȟȟȟȟ
KXPDQLWLHVQ ȟȟȟȟ
ȟȟȟȟ
LPPXQLW\LPPXQRORJLFDO[Yȟ ȟȟ
[YL[L[[[LLLȟ[[[ 
ȟȟȟ ȟQ
QQȟQQ
ȟ
ȟQȟQQQ
QQȟQSee also
See also survival
autoimmunity
/\RWDUG-HDQ)UDQ©RLV[L[ȟ[[
LQGH[[[L[ȟ
ȟQQ
ȟȟQQ
Q
,RPPL$OIRQVR
Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, 17,
-DPHVRQ)UHGULFQ
ȟQ
-HQFNHV.DWHQQ
0DUFKDQW3DWULFLR[LLL
-RVHSKLQHWKH6LQJHU FKDUDFWHU  ȟȟQQ
ȟȟȟQ ȟQQQ
MXVWLFH[[L[[LLLȟ[[LY[[YLL 0DULQHVFX$QGUHHDQQ
ȟ 0DUW¯Qȟ&DEUHUD/XLVȟQ
QQQQQ QQ
0DU[.DUOQ
.D\5RQDOGȟȟQ PHPRU\[YLL[[YLLȟ[[YLLLȟ
Q ȟȟ
.HHQDQ7KRPDVQQ ȟ
Kelsey, Robin, and Blake Stimson, ȟ
Q ȟQQQ
.KDQQD5DQMDQDQ Q
.UDXVV5RVDOLQGȟ 0RUHLUDV$OEHUWR[[LYQQ
ȟQ PRXUQLQJ[LLL[L[[[YLLȟ
ȟ
ODZ[[Lȟ[[LYQ ȟQȟQ
QQODZRILWHUDELOLW\ QQ
220 Index

1DQF\-HDQȟ/XFȟ ȟȟ
ȟQ QQQ
ȟQQ SURVRSRSRHLD[Lȟ
1HUXGD3DEOR ȟȟ
Noemi Voionmaa, Daniel, 177n QQQ
QQ
2OLYHUDȟ:LOOLDPV0DU¯D5RVD
QȟQ 4XLQWDQD,VDEHOQ
otherness, others, the other, xiii,
[Yȟ[[[ȟȟȟ 5DQFLHUH-DFTXHVȟ
ȟȟ redemption, resurrection, salvation,
ȟȟȟȟ UHFRYHU\[L[YL[[YL[[[ȟ
ȟ ȟ
ȟȟ ȟ
ȟȟȟ ȟQQ
ȟQQQȟQ QQ
QQQSee also UHVSRQVLELOLW\[YLLȟ[YLLL[[LLL[[[
alterity
QQQ
2\DU]¼Q3DEOR[[L[ȟ
UHYHODWLRQ[Y[[LL[[Y[[L[
ȟȟȟ
ȟȟ
ȟȟ
ȟȟ
QȟQQȟQ
ȟȟ
ȟQ
QQQ
5LFKDUG1HOO\[LYȟ[Y[[L[
SKRWRJUDSK\[L[ȟ[[[ȟ
ȟ
ȟȟȟ
ȟQQQ
ȟQȟQ
ȟQ ȟQQȟQ
Pietá,[Lȟ[LLL[[L[ȟ 5LFKWHU*HUKDUGȟQ
ȟȟȟ 5LPEDXG$UWKXU[[YLLȟ[[YLLL
ȟQQ ȟȟQ
3RVDGD-RV«*XDGDOXSHȟ 5LVFR$QD0DU¯DQ
 5RELQVRQ&UXVRH FKDUDFWHU 
SRVVLELOLW\LPSRVVLELOLW\[LY[YLLȟ ȟQ
[YLLL[[Lȟ[[LLL[[YLLȟ[[YLLL[[[
ȟȟ VDFULˋFH[YLȟ[YLL[[LY[[YLL[[[
ȟȟ ȟ
ȟȟȟ ȟ
ȟȟȟȟ QQQQQ
ȟ 6DHU-XDQ-RV«[[YLLȟ
ȟ ȟQ
ȟQQQQQ 6FKPLWW&DUO
QQQQ VHFUHW[L[ȟȟ
pregnancy, engendering, pro- ȟȟQQ
FUHDWLRQ[YLLLȟȟȟ VHQGLQJ[[YLL[[[
Index 221

ȟ ȟȟ
Q QQ
6LOODWR0DU¯DGHO&DUPHQ QQ
ȟȟQȟQ 7XFNHU7KRPDV'HDQHQQ
survival, másvida[YLȟ[YLLL[[LL
[[YLLȟȟ 8ULEH/LOL£QQȟQ
ȟȟȟ
QQ 9DOG«V$GULDQDQQ
VXVSHQVLRQ 9LOODORERVȟ5XPLQRWW6HUJLR
ȟ ȟQ
ȟȟQQ QȟQ
QȟQQQ
:HEHU6DPXHOQ
7HUDGD5HLQȟQ QQȟQȟQ
QQ :LOOLDPV*DUHWKQ
7KD\HU[[L[ȟ ȟQQQQ
ȟQQQ :LOOV'DYLGQQ
QQQȟQ witnessing, testimony, xi, xiii, xv,
ȟQ [YLLȟ[[[ȟ
WLPHWHPSRUDOLW\[YLȟ[YLL[[LLȟ ȟȟ
[[LLL[[YLLȟ[[YLLLȟ 
ȟȟȟ ȟQQQQ
ȟȟ ȟQ
ȟȟȟȟ :LWWJHQVWHLQ/XGZLJȟQ
ȟQQ Q
QQQȟQ :ROIH&DU\ȟQȟQ
ȟQȟQQ Q
WUDQVODWLRQȟ world, xvii, xix, xxv, xxvii, xxx,
ȟ ȟȟȟ
ȟQQȟQ ȟȟȟ
QQ ȟ
travels, travelers, voyage, xxviii, ȟȟȟ
ȟȟȟ ȟQQQ