The special edition of Extinction, the Notation Script is finally ready. This edition is in accordion format, with special elongated jacket and two very significant images (those who know the story and this script will understand the meaning of these images). The special edition version will have only ten copies (subsequent copies will be released in more conventional booklet format, with A5 size). These special books are still available at this link (there is also a digital version in epub or PDF format).
(The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine, by Albrecht Dürer)
The wheels for torture were broken with the explosion and death of the executioners, and the sky blasted and roared with a hailstorm, while the earthly fire departed from St. Catherine, she had the neck sliced by iron and thus ended. But there is something more in this picture, or better it most completely written in eternity by the carvings in the wood.
The wheel is the center, a little eccentric, as is the center of a fan, which is full although not round. And there is a crank for moving the wheel and this wheel is double and the two halves rotate in opposite directions, as also opens the fan.
The wheel is the center, a little eccentric, as is the center of a fan, which is full although not drive. And there is a crank for moving the wheel and this wheel is double and the two halves rotate in opposite directions, as in the open fan’s movement.
The flames flow according to this rotation like water from a mill, and the soil’s fragments of the hill rush towards them, which continue them, and the trees above are further stacked in horizontal pieces that go down from the right section, as a cloud, and feed the turning of the wheel.
The rain of heaven falls according to both sides of an isosceles triangle whereupon these horizontal sizes are based; the filled basis folds itself (shaped as a pluviometer) and creates the right arm of the executioner, raising cloak and sword at the right side; the left arm remais covered, as the wind rises his coat from the ventilation fins of the blower wheel, the two ears of a pentagon or reversed kite; and the shape of the triangle is visible too, to signify God: the fire of the Father between co-personnel clouds.
And above the city, which is carried by the wheel, there is a hill that descends from the sky, and drops to the ground where are the dead executioners and recall the leaves around the wheel; and there are three stages in the image, to signify the three worlds. The hill flows harmoniously with the folds of the dress and the beautiful curved line of the gastrocnemius muscles, which are the Dürer's legs.
This dress and these legs are the tail and the dress of a greater Saint beheaded that fills the image, with the croup on the shoulder of the executioner, the navel on the eye of Catherine, the cut in the horizontal terminal line to the pieces of the hill. The severed neck ends according to the hard edge of the a man fleeing radius, in the extension of one of the features with clouded nuance that is more thrusting than sword. And the head and the hair rolled from the city and trees sloping towards the mill wheel, for the new gyration.
Alfred Jarry (Perhinderion, n. 02, June 1896)
Above, as an introduction to the new Raphus Press book series, the translation of a brief review by Alfred Jarry to the expressive, troubled and apocalyptic Dürer's engraving about Saint Catherine last moments. The first book will be a translation of the Jarry's creation to his other imagery magazine, L'Ymagier, plus a introductory piece, a imaginary portrait/exegesis.
A story produces a series of complex effects after appears in some strange way in our universe – especially when that strange way is the book as a medium. The most obvious effects are speculative, in the field of critical rationalization: the essays, reviews the studies. Even the treatises. But there are some less visible effects - truncated ideas, indirect analogies, fictional constructs in the verge of the impossibility. I call imaginary exegesis these less visible effects and they are the object of the first chapbook released by Raphus Press, Bibliophage editorial development, specializing in limited editions, unique and handcrafted works.
Thus, The Ghost of the Western Borders is a small book of imaginary exegeses and visual essays, available in print and electronic (Epub and PDF) form. Visit the Raphus Press homepage for more detailed information.
Just a source of light projected through one lens set toward the blank screen is enough. Along the way, the light passes through a glass plate, bright as a multi-faceted jewel, painted with scenes of daily life, funny or dramatic imagery of a dull daily routine transfigured in a illuminated shape. Alternatively, fantastic scenes of shipwrecks, ghosts, the hell itself full of demons and damned designed in the most gaudy colors possible, in its most aberrant forms. The magic lantern show, available today only through recreations in certain artistic performances or evoked in the narratives of authors like Balzac, in the Swedenborg's visionary theological philosophy and in the patient conceptual reconstruction carried out by historians as Laurent Mannoni, was the imaginary basis of these narratives, glass plates molded from the life and work of unique authors on the fringes of the usual canonization processes that make the Culture something predictable and perhaps unfair.
Such nightly shows were translated into book form by the patient editorial work of Dan Ghetu and by careful revision of the original material by the extraordinary Damian Murphy. In its final form, this show of lights and shadows became something else, a spellbook as imaginary as the phantasmagoria catalog used by Christiaan Huygens to impress some impertinent friends with his latest invention, the magic lantern. With the difference that Lanterns of the Old Night is real.
The photos below were kindly provided by Dan Ghetu. The book starts delivered tomorrow, June 7, 2016.
There is a vertiginous moment that can occur daily or at least once in the life of each one, when we realize that everything around us is hollow, empty, and the life is nothing but a dream. This formulation is of course a cliché – true, but still a cliché. Maybe better reformulates it: our time is motionless. Like the arrow in one of the Zeno of Elea paradox of motion, we live in the perpetual stasis, the permanent immobility. Our gadgets, wars, refugees and everyday problems are only a foam briefly visible in the troubled sea. Thus we still live the time of the artistic avant-gardes. We are driven by the same contradictions, move us the same dramas, and our scandals are ignited by the same épater la bourgeoisie techniques. Perhaps this facts happens because the artists of the early twentieth century avant-garde discovered the secrets about a new narrative and theatrical genre: the universal tragedy – or perhaps, the universal comedy, because the two genres flow in parallel in this new form. The production of this unprecedented genre was unique: a drama, immense and uninterrupted, whose central theme is the annihilation of art.
In this new kind of Gesamtkunstwerk unveiled by the avant-gardists, the audience on a global scale is invited to take part in an act in which the artists and their creations are crushed by numerous repressive forces, but still seek desperately to remain alive and conscious, despite all the violence and the temptations that include some souls sales off. The portraits, paintings, images, stories and tragedies vanguards of the twentieth century Avant Gard sucks the audience to the inside of a kind of play without stage, the maelstrom of other and apparently remote era; when we look at a painting like Umberto Boccioni's La città che sale (The City Rises), made in 1910, we have exactly that feeling, even if we ignore its creator or the central theme of the composition. The dynamic forms of men and horses in Boccioni image takes the viewer to a kind of abyss, another time, or better yet, another time possibility, in which the dramatic tension is permanent. So the righteous concerns of our time disappear before the uncertainties of the Bolshevik Revolution, the stylized barbarity of fascism, the terrible hyperinflation everyday, the civil, European and World wars. If we were to christen this genre of a unique work, premiered in the early twentieth century and still pulsating, we could use a synthetic and effective term: perhaps Conflagration, not coincidentally, this is the title of the D. P. Watt new work, published by Ex Occidente Press Bucharest through its new editorial persona, the Mount Abraxas series.
The Watt's new book has a curious format: quadrangular, something that the editor had already employed in L'homme recent series but in a bigger format. The jacket has a continuous illustration (made by Misanthropic Art) as a poster, the image of a black sun at the center, mediating between a hand and eyes of immense and divine proportions in the polar sides, the two fields marked by the presence of human ornamental forms. Given this extraordinary jacket, the minimalist cover, as a default by the publisher, provides an effective counterpoint with his animal fur texture, its low relief and its orange color (the same for the page marker). As soon as we started reading the book (after extraordinary photograph that serves as frontispiece to the book, "Multiple self-portrait in mirrors" by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz) we are surprised by a brochure that shows us the "Instructions for Reading". Such instructions begin as follows: "Please read this text in one sitting, commencing at precisely 7.30pm one evening." This procedure, to guide the hypothetical reader in a recommended reading method according to the author, was used with similar purposes by Julio Cortázar in his experimental novel Rayuela (Hopscotch, in the most recent translation); as in the case of Cortázar, Watt invites us to disobey the rules established by himself, which incidentally we did just like Des Lewis in his excellent review of Conflagration (which can be read here). Soon after that first moment of estrangement, a Dramatis Personae as in a play appears. In this list, there are the names of the various avant-garde innovative theater creators in the twentieth century, from Alfred Jarry to Jean Genet, Bertolt Brecht to Eugene Ionesco, Vsevolod Meyerhold to Samuel Beckett. But the brief texts of the book does not follow the traditional structure of a play adapted to a book format. Brief and fluid narratives, this vignettes are marked by a date and a topographical title, time and an indication of place as "The streets of Trieste" or "Galerie Montaigne, Paris". These small narratives establish themselves on the balance between the abstract, the fantastic, the comic and the tragic. In this sense, the subtitle is revealing: "immoral vignettes", short scenes that could be staged as imaginative and critical (or ironic) commentaries about the contemporary (and historical) drama. Thus Beckett's universe resurfaces in the French countryside devastated by war. Ionesco's La cantatrice chauve materializes as false just in the time of its conception. The tragedy of Meyerhold unfolds clearly before the reader, to its inevitable end decreed by Stalinist orthodoxy. But these are only a few fragments, some of these voracious vignettes that seem to summarize all contemporary history beginning in Braunau am Inn, the April 20, 1899.
In one of these vignettes, "Sprovieri Gallery, Rome", we have a vivid and dynamic description of the Italian Futurist theater. Suddenly, we are told that the images used as background to these presentations, representations of the mechanical vehicles speed and strength based on Neapolitan carnival, "were nothing but the force of speed and the energy of vehicles, the surging of movement and the violence of colour. They depicted only the passion of their own inception." Perhaps, this is the best way to describe this little masterpiece, a description that also fit to characterize the intents and unstable utopias, fragile, decadent and useless contraptions produced by the perpetually fascinating art of the avant garde in the twentieth century – a mist, a stream and a ghost, whose intensity dazzles and impresses all the witnesses by its own infinite driving force.
The first three photos below were kindly provided by the publisher, Dan Ghetu.
The idea for the blog Bibliophage (and his sister, Bibliofagia) emerged during the now distant year of 2013. At the time, I studied the fiction of J. G. Ballard and worked on the translation of the book The Atrocity Exhibition for Portuguese. In the middle of this journey, I realized how weird, strange, fantastic and speculative fiction adopted, since its beginnings, the form of the book as a vehicle of expression for the sense of ambiguity and instability of the universe around us, the usual goal in this form of fiction. The development of these ideas led to the blog setup and the contact with fantastic fiction creators (authors, editors, artists) in activity. The project on Ballard is now closed, others have come since then, but the blog has remained as an extremely pleasurable activity, so useful for my studies as well. So why not share the pleasure it brings me reading and creating this mazy analysis for all these books?
But unfortunately, it is so hard to keep the blog alive: there are long gaps in posts flowing because every detail is systematically designed – the choice of the book, reading, material analysis, preparation of text, images shooting, etc. Thus, in order to blog maintenance and even the possibility of increasing the quantity and quality of published and future essays (I think even in video essays and audio interviews for the future) is that I ask the readers, who appreciate and understand both the needs of this work (unpaid, but with so much love, like building barricades according to Charles Fourier) to collaborate with my project through Patreon. Thank you in advance the attention and support.
I sit down before a book: the jacket is entirely black, slightly glossy. I can hardly distinguish his name on the spine or the front of the jacket but it is possible to read the title, A Distillate of Heresy, written by Damian Murphy. The only image at the jacket, besides the tiny publishing house logo on the spine, is a small illustration of an angel sitting on Saturn; the predominant color, again, is black, now mixed to a pale golden, a necessary hue to build the volume illusion in the image. I pull out the jacket to contemplate the book in its nakedness: the cover, made of fabric, is also black, unadorned and without indication of any kind whatsoever. This dark predominance makes the reader's head go round: would be before a Grimoire, a clandestine book? A printed material that was, somehow forbidden or at least profane, demonic? The content would be near the blackness that dominates the external surface of the book? But here we come to the guard of the book: the black finally gives way to red shades in profusion, an abstract marbled effect, deeply significant because alludes to ancient books, lost in libraries and secondhand bookshops. So we are facing a more complex sense of purpose which only the outside design organization of a book: the blackness of the cover and dust jacket gives way to bright red tones of the guard in a kind of sequence, intense and dull colors in a contradictory shadow play, though potentially complementary in a ceremonial sense. For this book deals with ceremonies in so many aspects. But it is too early to discuss its contents.
Soon after the guard, a stylized, almost typographic image – the salamander (a creation by Sorina Vazelina) in the form of an "S, a minimalist figure that seems to reach, despite its simplicity, the formalization found in a letter or in some hieroglyphs. After all, this "S" guard the twisting sense of the fantastic animal (the salamander) and seems to communicate with the book's narratives, dealing with mistakes, coincidences and chance encounters that generate ceremonial and ritualistic effects. This calligraphic image seems to contrast with the typography of the title page and the elaborate subsequent image of a hand holding a heart on fire, cut in big closeup of a much larger and more complex pictorial composition; this is the Saint Augustine (1645-1650), a painting by the Baroque Philippe de Champaigne, reproduced above. In the image of Champaigne, the saint is in his study room, apparently enjoying a moment of enlightenment after intense intellectual work. The ecstatic eyes of the saint converge on the veritas shining like a small sun in the upper left corner as his hands holding a pen and a heart on fire by divine inspiration. Highlighting just the hand that holds the heart in flames, the Murphy's book graphic work displaces the intellectual saint imagery of its usual position; there is no veritas that illuminates everything, even the spatial location and the general background of the image, but only the bloody organ on fire, something spiritual and carnal, even cruel, but certainly ritualistic.
As the narratives, these brief images place in the space of the book paratexts seems to indicate that the conventional ways hide many shortcuts and unknown routes far from salvation and enlightenment for anyone that discovers these kind of paths. There are brief texts, epigraphs that prepare the reader for the actual stories. In one of these epigraphs, we read that the book is intended "For the heretics, the few, the outlaws, those who turned to face the Moon rather the Sun." There are no images in the rest of the book, but they would be unnecessary: the form was established by this presentation that works an organic link between text, images, layout, design aesthetics and essence of the narrative. As written by the researcher Évanghélia Stead in another context: "Pictures and prints, folds, covers and bindings, ornaments, graphics and typography, even the ink and the letters, the insects that go through the desert of the paper and were endowed with an intellectual, poetic and sensual sense." Damian Murphy, in this sense, is a unique narrator to handle unusual elements in the white desert of the paper, turning it into a dense forest of signs: his stories have a ritualistic sense, a game between objects (everyday or not) and chance, each of this parts playing essential functions. His protagonists are unique characters, whose life follows its own meaning in contrast to the more mundane aspect of existence, priests or shamans seeking ritualistic events in every little chance of escape. And the editions released by the publishers Zagava and Ex Occident Press, complete the complex sense of these narratives moving the fluidity of the reality electrified by symbolic and mythical meanings.
The first tale of the book, "The Book of Alabaster", is about a recluse who collects in his tower, unique objects like an old video game cartridge whose name is the title of the story. In the first sentence, a synthesis of the Murphy's aesthetic and narrative vision: "Stefan lived alone in the lookout tower." There is something timeless in this short sentence, whose center is the expression lookout tower, a type of military construction which generally refers to the primeval times, to the Middle Ages. This early disorientation of the reader possibly disappear in the flow of the plot, but never so as to realize a well-defined and clear universe and/or scenery. For Murphy narratives develop in an abstract plan, in which physical landmarks easily get lost and confused with psychic perception or mythic space in its roundness, infinity and ritualistic unfolding. The subsequent stories of A Distillate of Heresy develops in different directions this proposal of a physical universe which contains his double, difficult to define or perceive with the necessary clarity required by mimetic realism, culminating in "Permutations of the Citadel", a tale in which the fictional reality seems continually transmute around the characters. These are games and pursuits involving daily life opening new possibilities not only for the initiation rite, but also for sacrifice, with the view at the same time dark and desirable of endless territories under our cities, places where the evocation potential hellish seems relatively easy. The city is a theme dear to Murphy: a twilight and tentacular entity whose daytime and everyday appearance is just one of its many labyrinthine manifestations.
Murphy's subsequent productions – actually the novel "The Salamander Angel", published in Infra Noir collection, preceded the tales of A Distillate of Heresy in a few months – as the novels The Imperishable Sacraments and "The Hour of Minotaur" (penultimate narrative the collection The Gift of Kos'mos Cometh!) had been exploring new ways in the infinite possibilities of ritualistic and ludic combination in terms of narrative. One of these ways – very well developed in the latest Murphy's novel, The Exaltation of Minotaur – is precisely the philosophical dialogue that unfolds in intricate structured combinations for the stories turning around symbolic elements that allow the first narrative chapters, "An Incident in the House of Destiny" to use titles that allude to archetypal forms: the bureaucrat, the anarchist, the vision, catastrophe. Even the division between different literary genre looks inappropriate in the narratives of The Exaltation of Minotaur, complex forms between the short story and the novel intertwine in obsessive detail, cyclical aspects endow the characters ritualized activities of meaning layers. Murphy, accordingly, performs multiple evocations every narrative; perhaps some of the evoked names can be recognized by the reader: Alain Robbe-Grillet and J. K. Huysmans, somehow. But this is only the surface: the nuances and consequences of Murphy's stories are situated in an opaque, indefinable and dangerous region we usually call imagination, a place that is not always easily accessible.
Some of the photos below (the last three, from the books The Imperishable Sacraments and The Exaltation of Minotaur, respectively) were kindly provided by Dan Ghetu.
If a narrative does not close, if the end is not resolved, reasons, consequences, perpetrators and victims, all these elements remains unclear. Because the narrative needs to be the strict exposure of events within a dynamic structure of cause and effect, a machine of projections similar to a magic lantern – the lack of a solution, obscure or crystal clear, this kind of structural error, this defect perhaps unforgivable before the insoluble. Before the mystery, however, there is still one last breath: the ambiguity. In fact, there are differences between the ambiguity and mystery; in the first case (easily exemplified by the elegant and subtle Henry James's fiction), there is a calculated interpretative sequence before the events resulting in the explanatory polysemy effect about what was said/narrated. The ambiguity allows the reader the pleasure of controlled game, the excitement on the given reality of understanding possibilities whose central elements seem to escape the usual rules of probability and logic. The mystery can not be reduced to a number of possible results, a probabilistic combinatorial form: the mystery reveals the limits of interpretative rationality, the way our consciousness interlinks the facts that result in a narrative. With the mystery, the realm of contingencies was past with it’s certainties and the borders of this obscure gray area, the sacred, is the new and unpredictable territory for the reader’s explorations.
In this sense, it would be possible say that the Joan Lindsay's historical novel Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) hangs more to the mystery. Written in a particularly rich time of Australian fiction, with powerful developments in the cinema – a few years before, Kenneth Cook launched Wake in Fright, also striking book with an amazing film adaptation – Picnic narrates in its 17 chapters, the events of a unusual day of Saint Valentine in the region of Mount Macedon, where is located the mountain formation known as Hanging Rock, in 1900. In the novel, the students of the a fictional high class boarding school, the Appleyard College, just choose the day of Saint Valentine for a tour – the picnic at the title – in a inhospitable region, close to Hanging Rock. Two teachers head the tour, for better control of the students and to prevent that the open, natural and wild environment does not contaminate in any way the girls. But all this effort was not enough: four brightest students, Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith, move away from the group toward the Hanging Rock. To this misguided four students joins the math teacher who accompanied the tour, Greta McCraw. All of them disappear without a trace except for Edith, who returns hysterical and amnesic to picnic and Irma later rescued thanks to Michael Fitzhubert efforts, a young man of wealthy family who had an epiphany when contemplating the girls (especially Miranda) in its final upward route. But the other two girls and the math teacher remained missing despite all the searches. As the locals and the police elaborates various explanatory theories, the scandal caused by the mysterious disappearance affects the survivors with the dramatic intensity of the Greek tragedy’s catastrophe unfolding the consequences of the mystery and the inability to understand all it’s branches and clusters. Even after the reader finishes the reading, the mystery seems to linger in its most terrible and irrational sense, so that the very disappearance becomes an opaque event, as the girls and the teacher assumed a role of freewill offerings in a sacrifice. Therefore, a book that appeared in 1987, The Secret of Hanging Rock, with the last chapter and a supposed solution to the mystery, material "discovered" three years after the death of the author for her astute editor, considerably weakens the narrative to offer a solution next to the science fiction. We came to the conclusion that if this "lost chapter" was not pure mystification, some judicious editor acted with considerable efficiency cutting such eighteenth chapter of the final edition. The "alternative" ending published in 1987 makes Lindsay narrative ambiguous, no more mysterious; ambiguity even absorbs the supernatural in its potential possibilities, only providing some central elements of puzzle at it's heart. In the case of the mysterious version of Picnic, we have only specific elements – the date, the weather, the location, the witnesses – irreducible on the possibilities of what actually happened, the disappearance. There are many possible explanatory options: accident, kidnapping, rape, spiritual rising, banal incident; but there isn't any hint to provide advantage to any of these options.
The book by Joan Lindsay made considerable success in such a way so that already in 1975 Peter Weir, at the time a promising filmmaker, made the adaptation of the novel to the cinema. The script was done by Cliff Green, a professional writer with several works for television. Weir, meanwhile, made an extraordinary film, the dark comedy The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), a film whose ironic ideas and iconic design influence other motorized dystopias like Mad Max, of his compatriot George Miller. In contrast to the ironic acidity of The Cars, the film translation of Lindsay's novel is subtle: the cinematography seems dominated by faint yellowish tones of sepia, a clear influence of the Australian Impressionism artists as Frederick McCubbin in Russell Boyd’s work as the film cinematographer. Repressed and oblique sexuality appears ubiquitous in this universe of faded colors, which greatly expands its suggestive impact. The school girls emerge as nymphs, appearances of pre-Raphaelite paintings with his long hair and expressions of frozen ecstasy. The ethereal beauty of Anne-Louise Lambeth, in this sense, it is essential for her Miranda personification provides a transcendent and puzzling sense to the perverse games of students and teachers. Thus, the adaptation of Weir has the fidelity to the original story mystery essence, because the film could show more, go further in school details or even make his conundrum explanation, but chose not to do so.
The Blu-ray and DVD edition of the film, released by Criterion Films in 2014, seeks to evoke the elusive beauty of Lindsay's prose and the impressionist, ethereal color palette of the Weir film at the same time. For this, first, the movie and book were released in the same case. The brochure and the digipak packaging of each media creates an harmony that works as a complete presentation of the narrative. In this sense, although the edition of the book is simple, there is the beauty of the cover (not a frame of the movie but a Robert Hunt painting) that creates a curious balance for the whole package art (which also includes a booklet with more stills, technical specifications and two essays about the film, written by Megan Abbott and Marek Haltof). Because the typography, visual design and the stills of the film in this edition have dual resonance alluded by the centrality of the Miranda character, which seems to put hypnotically as a kind of events center, even the most inadvertent and incidental facts, an effect that pulses from the narrative of the book to the film. Would Miranda be the focus and the key to the mystery? Wisely, Criterion Picnic at Hanging Rock edition just underlines the question without any formal answer.
The mystery is the curse of our logic, the destruction of the basis of our consciousness that is the interpretation of the ordered facts. We tolerate even an interpretation that provides ambiguities or multiple results, but not the unthinkable or the inscrutable. However despite our horror of such uncertainties, the fascination of what we can’t explain is something appealing and effective. Then we started the theories development to fight and reduce the mystery to nothing. But in many cases we have only frustration, so we return to the beginning, to stunned contemplation of the bankruptcy of our explanatory rationality. This cyclical path feeds some extraordinary fictions, and Picnic at Hanging Rock falls into this category.
In recent months, this blog has been stopped, stationary, dormant for several reasons. Some deadlines, among many other problems, contributed to this wide break. But there was something good that soon death of the blog: the possibility to develop certain reflections. Perhaps the most fundamental of all came from reading the remarkable work of the researcher Évanghélia Stead, La Chair du Livre. At the end of the nineteenth century, poets, storytellers, artists, readers, critics and readers realized that even the blank space in every page could at any moment turn into a real gulf of emptiness, a place out of nowhere, a desert in which words would travel as explorers in an inhospitable environment. This situation was described accurately by Stead: "Pictures and prints, folds, covers and bindings, ornaments, graphical elements and typography, even the ink and the letters, all the insects that go through a kind of paper wilderness were provided with a intellectual, poetic and sensual meaning."
But if the blank page earned this new connotation, what not to say about other objects which through the planned design approached in one way or another the book form, a transmutation of narrative and poetic unique, exquisite possibilities. These new material forms associated with the book, implementing narrative and poetic processes will also be represented here in the form of the usual brief analyzes, the Bibliophage methodology. Thus, the case is about an expansion that we follow gladly: the codex that transmutes into other objects, offering rich and new reading possibilities. But that does not mean abandon our old methods and analysis of objects - will soon return from interviews with contemporary authors. Anyway, we hope that our readers enjoy this new phase and discover with us, fierce amplitude of the book. But that does not mean to cease all use of our old methods and analysis – the interviews with contemporary authors will soon return. Anyway, we hope that our readers enjoy this new phase and discover with us, the fierce amplitude of the book.
Images: The blu-ray edition of David Cronenberg's Scanners released by Crtiterion, the pop-up effect inside the Konchuuki CD by the Japanese noise rock band Merzbow and the combinatorial book Animalário Universal do Professor Revillod, by Javier Sáez Castán and Miguel Murugarren (Portuguese edition by the publisher Orfeu Negro).
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, in a particularly fierce aphorism of their Dialectic of Enlightment latter section – a treatise about the rationality booby traps – saw some similarities between the haruspex in a pagan altar and the professor working on a dissecting table of a ultra-modern laboratory. For the two German philosophers both the priest and the scientist represents the Man and the Humanity devoted to the ecstatic observation of Nature in bloody agony, slowly tasting the perverse pleasure that such activity can provide. Of course, it is not the suffering of Nature as a totality, since the focus is on the potential and preferred victims, seen as the weakest links in the terrible chains of natural and social logic – captured animals, the natural sources with easy access, peaceful and isolated communities, segregated human groups, women – chosen for sacrifice. When faced all the blood, viscera, and the torment of open wounds, the owners of knowledge (scientific or ritualistic) seek signs, evidence, portents. So this brief aphorism, titled “Man and beast”, presents the thesis, central to Adorno and Horkheimer philosophy, that the brutal and fearful exploitation of Nature reflects the brutalization of man from the remotest origin, the most distant historical sign and myth. The devastated Nature and the Humanity enslaved reflected each other, lighting points, details and degrading aspects. Thus, the fierce and brutal Cannibals of West Papua, a novel by Brendan Connell recently launched by Zagava Press not only takes up the thesis of the philosophers like Adorno and Horkheimer as the turns inside out their propositions, thanks to the almost unlimited resources of an intricate and fluid narrative, which gives the reader the vertiginous sense of risk, as we should possibly feel when entering an unknown and uncivilized jungle.
On your journey to South America in 1832, Charles Darwin was deeply impressed with a native tribe of Tierra del Fuego living in a primitive state bordering the unthinkable to the young Victorian naturalist: “One can hardly make oneself believe that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world”. This tribe, the Selk'nam, had a kind of photographic testament in a brief peaceful moment before the extinction thanks to the Martin Gusinde, an Austrian priest, between 1918 and 1924 (these photographs were published in the book The Lost Tribes of Tierra del Fuego). The Gusinde arduous struggle to preserve at least the image and the memory of the Selk'nam conflicted with the genocidal fury of Julius Popper, a Romanian engineer who performed manhunts since the early 1890s with the intention of pacifying the territory, facilitating the work of miners and ranchers. It would not surprise if the Patagonian Indian hunters – adepts, by the way, of the documentary photography, especially to record the dead human prey – imagined that the Selk'nams, with their stylized and complex rituals, were cannibals, a powerful argument to help in the rationalization of murders. A hypothetical meeting between Gusinde and Popper (impossible, for the second died peaceful in 1893), in turn, would be an interesting opportunity to put face to face antagonistic perceptions of savagery, civilization, progress, dialogue, peace. The Cannibals of West Papua central characters, Don Ramiro Duarte and Fr. Massimo Tetrazzini embody the extreme positions of civilizational scope in the similar manner as Popper/Guslinde – the first, preaching the forced conversion and the imposition of industrial rationality; the second, adept at a less radical position, searching for some understanding with the natives. This does not mean, however, that the novel is based on manicheistic oppositions; apart from the secondary characters contributed with some nuances to the question (as Sergio Manuel, the helicopter pilot, or Vali, a native of Patntrm tribe) the position of the two main characters is far from solid. An initiatory path is imposed on those two Catholic priests, a way that the reader follows anxiously, though that's not to say that the Connell’s novel is a kind of conventional thriller in the same pattern as The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. It is a narrative much more complex, which approximates the Hades of Dantesque feature to the eastern Buddhist hells, the prose of gothic horror to the criticism of the Nature and Culture destruction by the illicit interests, the ethnographic poetry of oral indigenous people to the visions about the infernal gears of Natural World worthy of the Fitzcarraldo, the Werner Herzog movie. The unique structure of the Connell's fiction comes in a flash on the first page of the novel, when Don Ramiro notes terrified “that vast expanse of green, deceptively beautiful, without any signs of highways, housing or civilization – instead a flowing sea of hypnotic violence."
Cannibals of West Papua is a sequel of a previous novel, involving one of the protagonists (Fr. Massimo Tetrazzini), The Translation of Father Torturo (Prime Books, 2005). However, despite this relationship of continuity, clear at times in passages related to the past of Fr. Massimo, the new novel works very well alone. With the focus on the enhancing a wide evocative universe that goes far beyond the West Papua, Connell elegantly avoids the pitfalls of novels serialization. Such elegance is expressed in every detail of the novel, from the language to the creation of a timeless atmosphere, despite all the signs of modernity that appear particularly in the novel's introductory four chapters. After the discovery of the isolated and aggressive tribe of Up-Rivers in the chapter V, the plot leaves any strictly realistic or casuistry restriction to plunge into a chaotic universe full of violence and supernatural (a exquisitely and unique supernatural proposition, in fact), although without losing the subtlety and the systematic development of the narrative structures. As in The Day of Creation or The Crystal World, both by J, G. Ballard, Connell's novel is crisscrossed by two conflicting principles: the reversal and the hybridization tendencies. The central characters, in their successive and agonizing metamorphoses, put both principles in collision and conflict. Not coincidentally, the tradition (in pictorial or narrative terms) enshrines these two foundation concepts to the characterization of hell and thanks to the old and new potentates of the Earth (which are the subject of the author's disgust and anger in the epigraph that opened the book) our planet acquires the features of a continuous and exquisitely Hades, bureaucratized and inescapable, as described in detail by the Connell’s sulphureous prose.
The book as an object, produced by Jonas Ploeger of Zagava Press, is intensely beautiful. There are two editions with covers based in the random and unique patterns of leaves – one of this editions with only 26 copies in leather. These patterns suggest, both in visual and tactile terms, a dense, mysterious rainforest. It is impossible not to continuously contemplate, in the reading intervals, this strange and beautiful cover, in search of some hypnotic revelation. Each edition is signed by the author and, although there is no illustrations – just an amazing mask appears in the first pages of the book – the general layout and the paper have a perfect balance, which greatly facilitates the reading. A simple and competent editorial jewelry, the perfect way for a novel that affects the reader, as described by Kafka, like an ax blow.
This review was accomplished support from PNAP-R program, at the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (FBN).