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To say that the two poets chosen display particular sensitivities as regards the theme of feminine experience is taking the hypothesis for its answer; but if one always finds what one was originally looking for, the question is whether the omission of theory is any less unwarranted. Thus a feminist analysis does not come here to divide the individual from its tradition, but, hopefully, to signal a more delicate relation. Your body must be heard.

A defect in this systematics of representation and desire. This brings us further into the use of the body as a heuristic tool that counters the gaze-oriented masculine epistemology. The photographer stays in the dark for he knows only in the black to organize himself. And from the baptismal font of his art emerged a blot of life a monkeyish mug of death a reprint of the negative a renewal of the unhealing absence the abandonment, the silence. That was the only positive. The photographer had managed to depict the silence. The only positive.

The perfumed garden of the holistic female self escapes him. However, the poem does not end with the butterfly wrestling the camera from the photographer, and this silence merely lodges the protest of the dissenter; but this is, at best, the silence of the lambs. If a woman is no other than the ephemeral butterfly in the garden of short-lived blossoms, then absence and death, the defaulting silence instead of self-generated signification, becomes her only destination. And she makes clear that a man, also, can go through such experiences.

The relic of my mother has become hard I still inhabit it since I was never born I just exist and hurt each time I touch the stonewalls of the world. I never started weaving lies around the nakedness of my death. An embryo aged [ Yet again we see the dilemma of this pleasure of knowledge achieved only through pain and sacrifice, the punishment of resisting the symbolic order.

Indeed, the equation of birth and death, of womb and tomb, archetypally feminine though it may be, is a gesture of futility, a post-mortem deferral of protests. One further understands that, for a culture as richly inundated and conscious of its myths as the Greek one, such a palimpsestic deconstruction entails serious audacity. I lick a stone. The pores of my tongue settle within the pores of the stone.

For it, like Oedipus, is also irregular with deep furrows for eyes. It also rolls on swollen feet. And when standing still, it hides under it a destiny, a serpent, my forgotten self. This stone I call Oedipus. For while in itself it has no meaning, it has the shape and the weight of choice.

I call it and I lick it. Up to the end of my story. Until I understand what choice means. Until I understand what end means. The total sensory experience of the stone, the surprising irreverence of it claims the space for its arbitrary redefinition, pointing thus to the arbitrariness of symbolic denominations which go unnoticed.

Helene Cixous and the Theatre : Julia Dobson :

The poet reverses the roles of the naming game, becoming the feminine giver of meanings to men. Only stupid power. Violence and the annihilation of the other are one and the same. What remains, then, for the fleshpo e t to do? But the opposite rules the feminine. Instead of a star a scar shone high over my birth Who knows in one night what transactions took place, what I gave, what I got, what I gave up, what I promised so that life would keep me as its maidservant It was blackmail, deal, threat, should I be grateful for the hacked-up gift of existence or vengeful?

In the attic I set up the kingdom of my dreams from fashion-book cutups The kitchen and my paper fantasy, thus early, then, are the polarities engraved? As a punishment, your vision will stay hungry The body is the Victory of dreams when uninhibited like water rises from sleep with its still-sleeping imprints The body is the Victory of dreams when it puts one foot before the other and wins the specific space.

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One place. With heavy crash-thump. If the poetry of Anghelaki-Rooke turns inward to the singular self-as-body, Eleni Vakalo is probably the most outwardly-directed, toward a female experience that embraces women and their representative metaphors as a multitudinous gender category. The question, then, is whether two different poets can possibly go through a parallel problematic, with common results. The shape of the forest has The shape of the jellyfish Plants have a different upbringing than that of humans Plants are continuously revolutionary Just think how plants increase at the hour of the moon.

An other hour of the moon. When women increase Sitting together On hilltops With the bodies Appearing tangled in the moon Equally smoothed over for clinging plants some times in moist places especially where vegetation is permanent one on top of the other support the ascendance of branches that shoot high up Inhabited that I am not an empty land At the crossroads of insects The passageways are dark, the channels that certainly exist Their supervision for the task, for the salvage of the waters Through underwater pores, difficult passages hitting on the bushes I recall.

Female identity here can be seen as the dark and shifting forest with its lurking flora and fauna. Vakalo especially devotes large space to plants, noting their quaint perspective, suggesting the possibility of a different sensibility to the established, phallogocentrism of Western culture:. She said, move aside, ye men That would kill for the other things When the bread is lacking And she comes down the road That leads toward the city Carriages would go by To bring over wheat For the city to eat Grandma grabs the reigns And she drags it up to us They ate, they were sated Both soldiers and kids And all know that next to her, The driver ate too.

Secondly, as with otherness, she turns her unspecifiable self into an advantage by choosing for her other poetic persona the Jester. She is neither one nor two. It also makes for semantic guerrilla tactics that feminist discourse particularly favors, as Ann R. Cacoullos points out:. For hybridity cannot dispel, in fact sustains, the uncomfortable condition of being at once inside and outside Abiding in this state of hybridity, theoretically and experientially is, I would argue, a necessary condition for developing radical, emancipatory autonomous discourses and practices.

At the same time, however, these images of mercurial and subversive femininity are equally imbued with negative traits. In Vakalo the body appears not only as metaphor, but also as a metonymy suggested by its primary sensation, pain. This in turn leads one to question whether this game of transformations is rather an evasive technique for escaping the overwhelming presence of a threat:. We are the ones who make of death something mortaI and negative. Yes, it is mortaI, it is bad, but it is al so good; this depends on uso We can be the killers of the dead, that's the worst of all, because when we kill a dead person, we kill ourselves.

But we can also, on the contrary, be the guardian, the friend, the regenerator of the dead. Writing is this complex activity, "this learning to die," that is, not to kill, knowing there is death, not denying it and not procIaiming it. In life, as soon as I say my, as soon as I say y daughter, y brother, I am verging on a form of murder, as soon as I forge t to unceasingly recognize the other's difference.

Y ou may come to know your son, your sister, your daughter well after thirty, forty, or fifty years of life, and yet during those thirty or forty years you haven't known this perso n who was so cIose. Y ou kept him or her in the realm of the dead. And the other way around. Then the one who dies kilIs and the one who doesn't die when the other dies kilIs as well.

And then Lydia Tchoukovskaia's husband was deported because he was a Jewish scholar.


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When he was arrested Lydia was notified of the verdict: "Ten years without the right to correspond. For several years she had been carrying inside herself a living deadman, alive within her, decomposing outside her. This is the story of Edgar Allan Poe's "Mr. Valdemar calIs the narrator, who is a hypnotist, telling him to come quickly since he is about to die.

It is time, according to their pact, for him to hypnotize the dying mano The narrator arrives. Valdemar doesn't hear the narrator, who has just enough ti me to catch his breath and put him to sleep. After rather a long time, we feel that Mr. Valdemar, who is now in a hypnotic state, is suffering terribly. When the narrator "wakes up" Mr. Valdemar, the sleeper's life breaks out in a flow of pus because he "was" dead. This is Tchoukovskaia's story, the loved one remained inside her, a dead man inexplicably without his death. Tchoukovskaia telIs us about "plunging" as if it's drinleing or eating.

She says: "I am going to plunge. The book begins with something dreadful: she screams at night and it's always the same dream, she dreams that her dead husband has come backj he walks past her, he looks at her with hatred, acts as if he doesn't know her, and goes to speak to other people. Each time it's the same cruel dream which she doesn't understand. Hatred burns between them.


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  • U ntil suddenly one day she understands the hatred this man she loves so much has shown her. She understands ileI' hatred. Her OWll Ilatred. Tlleir llatred: which satisfies itself in her dreams. She is staging an unenvisionable crime. What she lives out, and what she rejects with alI her strength, is the fact that the deadman reproaches her for being alive. This is something she cannot come to terms with since she is both characters at once, herself and her-him. She is guilty of being a survivor. She didn't folIow him.

    She isn't him. We know these returns. In IfTlzis Is a Man Primo Levi speaks of the dream he has, which is, he says, a dream alI the deportees had, the absolute nightmare, the dream of the impossible return. They deprive him of his suffering. They take away his dreadful possession, his truth as a tortured prisoner. He is guilty of being a victim. It is experience turned inside out. Not dying, living after the other, "remaining," is also an intolerable experience. It is at this point that we feel, though we can do nothing about it, that there may be the 1tl1pardol1able ill ourselves.

    There is a mUJ-der that assassinates us, it's not you, it's not me, but between you and me, between my love and your love there is mUl-der. AlI great texts are prey to the question: who is killing me? Whom am I giving myself to kilI? We passionately love murder stories: we believe we are reading one of Dostoyevsky's books, but what we are tasting is the account of our own murders.

    The Notebooks for tlze Idiot are haunted by this initial nucleus from which The Idiot was born. Tlze Idiot is the book that survived many other books. The book that wilI be published is the strongest, the one that mysteriously survived aH the others. Beneath this boole there are hundreds of books that weren't written, that were gradualIy pushed aside.

    In The Notebooks for the Idiot hundreds of books that were proposed, erased, and, at the sa me time, reproduced so that The Idiot could exist, lie helplessly in ruins. She is there throughout The Notebooks, she is constantly transformed, sometimes she's a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes young, sometimes old. She wilI end up dividing herself between Nastasia Philipovna and Rogojine. Dostoyevsky was prey to this character's mystery: what causes a young woman to bloody the enti re house. She is a monster who isn't a monster. I could be her. I who am al so you. From his upbringing and his surroundings he early imbibed this poison, which had penetrated his very bloodstream.

    Instead of useful activity-evil. Or else he sat down one day and wrote out his will. He wanted to kill himself, but didn't, instead he began an intrigue. They set fire to the house. A preciolls questioll and allswer:. They set the house on fire, and the burned finger. He loves Umetskaia. A strange and utterly childlike friendship with the yurodivaia. She never instructs him as to his duties toward his wife, she merely acts. In the country she had twice set fire to a barn, so as to be like Olga Umetskaia. She set a fire in Petersburg, too. Perhaps it woltld be far better to 1I7ake him a legitimate sono.

    Then die welIj one can die well even when spitting one's last, vanity, the baby, your sufferings, mountainsWhen it becomes necessary-why not speak outr-Since you wanted to shoot yourself, why, shoot yourself.. To the hospital, spittle, how stupid I amo One can die more nobly. The School ojthe Dead "Well, shoot yourself. As if you frighten uS. Why is it necessary in the construction of the world that there should be people condemned to die?

    Read The N otebooks of the l diot and you'll know everything: we need those who are condemned to death and we need books that "condemn" us. Here is what Kafka wrote in to his friend Pollak: I think we ought to only read the kind of books that wound and stab us. Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to.

    But we ne ed the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, lilee a suicide. A boole must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief. J o He wrote this letter because his friend had reproached him for not having answered his letters. Kafka answers him by saying: excuse me, but I was reading. The book was so important I couldn't stop. Always the same violent relationship: the boole first, then yOU. I too believe we should only read those books that "wound" us and "stab" us, "wake us up with a blow on the head" or strike us like terrible events, that do and don't do us good, that don't do us good in doing us good, a book "like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves," or that is "like being banished into forests far from everyone," or books that are "like a suicide.

    Those books that do break the frozen sea and kill us are the books that give us joy. Why are such books so rare? Because those who write the books that hurt us al so suffer, al so undergo a sort of suicide, al so get lost in forests-and this is frightening. You do not want to lose your life so easily in writing, yet this is what Clarice Lispector did. Not only did she do this metaphoricalIy, she also did this in reality. I I Thoughout the writing of the book everyone is terrified, the writer is terrified, the book is terrifiedj the text starts telling us something, then it gives up. We feel as if something terrible is going to happen and we readers are also frightened: we leeep thinking that something we don't want to happen wilI happen, only it doesn't happen.

    We go with misgivings from page to page. And suddenly it happens: the text strikes, the boole is finished, Macabea is dead. But not only is Macabea dead, Clarice Lispector is al so dead, she died immediately afterward. The book has achieved in the most truthful way possible the reality, the secret ofwriting. Clarice Lispector was ilI. She did not know she was going to die, but she knew it the moment she finished this book. One does not realIy know who wrote the book or who killed who. One does not know whether Clarice Lispector wrote the book in haste be cause she thought she was going to die or whether the book put an end to her life.

    Because of this strange connection between writing and dying writers feel a strange desire for death. They feel like dying. But it is something they cannot say. I can't say: "I feellike dying," because it is forbidden, and yet it is realIy the only thing one should say. The writers I feel dose to are those who play with fire, those who play seriously with their own mortality, go further, go too far, sometimes go as far as catching fire, as far as being seized by fire. How terrible to. I find the same desires, the same cries in the introduction to Ingeborg Bachmann's Franza: I have often wondered, and you too I suppose, what has become of the virus of CI-ime?

    It cannot suddenly bave disappeared from the universe. What she writes is dangerous be cause Auschwitz is always there in every human being. In an interview in which she talks about her books she says everything is war. War doesn't begin with the first bombs that are dropped, it doesn't begin with the terror recounted in the newspapers: it begins in the relationships between people.

    She also insists: "Facism is the first thing in the relationship between a man and a woman, I have tried to say that here, that in this society it's always war. Not that there is war and peace, there is only war. In France we also say that there is war, but we al so say we are subjects of peace. But for Austria there is only war. As soon as you open the boole as a door, you enter another world, you close the door on this world.

    Reading is escaping in broad daylight, it's the rejection of the otherj most of the time it's a solitary act, exactly like writing. We don't always think of this because we no longer readj we used to re ad when we were children and knew how violent reading can be. The book strikes a blow, but you, with your book, strike the outside world with an equal blow. We cannot write in any other way-without slamming the door, without cutting the ties. The writer is a secret criminal. First because writing tries to undertake that journey toward strange sources of art that are foreign to us.

    The writer has a foreign originj we do not know about the particular nature of these foreigners, but we feel they feel there is an appeal, that someone is calling them back. The author writes as if he or she were in a foreign country, as if he or she were a foreigner in his or her own family. We don 't lenow the authors, we read books and we take them for the authors. We think there must be an analogy or identification between the book and the author.

    But you can be sure there is an immense difference between the author and the person who wrotej and if you were to meet that person, it would be someone else. The foreign origin of the book makes the scene of writing a scene of immeasurable separation. Is Rembrandt "Dutch"? He always painted "in foreign countries. Everyone has been struck by the fact that Rembrandt constantly painted Jews, imaginary Jews, bedecked Jews: calm, doubly foreign as Jews and as bedizened beings, triply hyperoriental and foreign in their looks.

    It is as if this strange man had passed through the painting's shadow toward the far distant source, the foreign source from which he painted, he who was more than a man of his country, more than the issue of Dutch soil. It is also a metaphor for Rembrandt's enti re.

    Yet they be10ng to this other world or he to theirs. As if he were painting to discover his secret foreign origino We write, we paint, throughout our enti re lives as if we were going to a foreign country, as if we were foreigners inside our own families, "hinaus in die Fremde del' Heimat," as Ce1an writes, that is where we go. It is both utterly banal and the thing we don't want to know or say. A writer has no childrenj I have no children when I write. The moment l pick up my pen-magical gesture-I forget alI the people I lovej an hour later they are not born and I have never known them.

    Yet we do return. But for the duration of the journey we are killers. Not only when we write, when we re ad too. Writing and reading are not separate, reading is a part of writing. AreaI reader is a writer. AreaI reader is already on the way to writing. What is Reading? It's Eating on the Sly It's also a clandestine, furtive act. We don't acknowledge it. It confuses.

    Paul Allen Miller

    Reading is not as insignificant as we claim. First we must steal the key to the library. Reading is a provocation, a rebe1lion: we open the book's door, pretending it is a simple paperback cover, and in broad daylight escape! We are no longer there: this is what real reading is. We are eating. Reading is eating on the sly. Reading is eating the forbidden fruit, making forbidden love,. Reading is doing everything exactly as we want and "on the sly.

    Those that teach us how to die. For example Montaigne, our textual grandfather. The title announces: "Montaigne. WilI it be a portrait? So we think this wilI be a portrait of Montaigne or that it wilI return to Montaigne, the head of the text. And this is where the text starts, by Beeing.

    In Bight. Written to Bee a death threat. The Bight and the fugitive's panting wilI trace the text's path and rhythm. Montaigne whom he loves best. And the whole of this short adventure deals with that choice in darkness. This is how it starts and it then goes on to tell the adventure of reading that book. The text is areaI lesso n in writing, paragraph by paragraph, step by step, as if you were inside the tower and climbing step by step-I won't tell you if it is up or down-in complete obscurity.

    Since you re ad with your body, your body paragraphs. The steps are almost comparable in size. Sometimes a bit shorter or a bit longer. And they are alI equalIy dense and urgent. It is immediately about the essenti al experiences of our lives. No sooner do we enter than we take Bight. In the first paragraph we already have a series of directions. And each one of them wilI be pursued, none of them wilI be abandoned by the text. However, for the major part of this text, we run and Bee in the dark: "I took refuge in a corner of the tower, and without light. I had taken In absolute darkness I had taken a book from the library.

    Montaigne with whom I am, in a certain lI1t1mate and actually enlightening way, a relative more than with anybody else. Here's the light, in the relationship with Montaigne. It is an enlightening relationship. Third paragraph: On the way which led me to the tower, where as I have said I did not put on the light because of the mosquitoes, I tried very consciously, with the greatest concentration, to guess which book I had picked up on the shelf, but all the philosophers who went through my head, were all possible philosophers except Montaigne.

    Montaigne comes to him from within, like necessity itself. This is already a lesson in true readingj reading we cannot dissociate from our lives. Reading, which establishes another universe of light and dark to that of the outside world, and which is obviously the prolongation of the universe of writing. This happens in intimacy, where sunlight does not reign, reigned over by another light. Tlze Selzool oJ tlze Dead That is what we do, we pick up something in the dark. We don't know what we will pick up. We always do this: we pick up a book, but we don 't know why. And it happens to be our parent, since the only way to find our real parent is to pick up a book: in the dark.

    It is mysterious. Maybe it is the parent on the shelf that has chosen us, but it can't be explained. Anyway, this is the way we happen on those book:s that will change our lives. Of course we have at Ieast heard a signifier, but we do choose in this completely blind way and it turns out to be light. This is how Montaigne com es to Bernhard: as the totally unexpected and completely hoped foro All the philosophers go through his head except Montaigne.

    A subtle scene of overinvestment. The desire for Montaigne is so strong that he doesn't expect Montaigne. And Montaigne com es on the condition of being unexpected. He is absolutely unexpected. There must be an absence of light, plus light in the sentence in order to find Montaigne.

    Hélène Cixous: I say Allemagne

    Because, of COUl-se, light comes from inside and you cannot account for the arrivaI of light in your life and your head through books. Eventually, we reach the point where Bernhard has read Montaigne and has come to this sentence: Let. On a realistic levei the parents appear to be worried l'm talking about the contents of the sentence, not about the intervention of the sentence in the text.

    We could unravei the sentence forever. One world is being swaUowed by another. The continuity is wonderful. Bernhard doesn't say whether this sentence is inside or outside. The sentence bumps into him. It is imagined as if it were a dream. Are you in your dream or are you already outside? The sentence that has just been uttered: is it still in the dream or is it already outside? It is delocalized. There is hesitation as to the sentence's origin because, after all, Montaigne isn't Montaigne: he is "my family. Now we don't know whether this sentence, which is the Iast sentence of the boole, is heard inside or outside the tower.

    Just as we don't know whether the book happens inside or outside. Why did Bernhard need to take refuge in the dark tower-Montaigne's tower, obviously-unless it was to sa ve his life, which had been threatened since his earliest childhood by his executioner-family. Things are dear in the dark library. It concerns the deadly war waged between children and parents, this war that turns in cirdes and began before us alI: fear and destruction weave their web between children and parentsj you want to kill me, says one, no, you're the one who wants my death, says the other.

    And it's true, each one kiUs the other, on either side of the booIe: the object of passion. It's true: those who love texts incite the hatred of those who don't. For or against. One can kill a poet on account of poetry. It's true: poetry-what poison to those who can't take it. For between us, readers and antireaders, there are crimes prompted by jouissance. Our murders are decided in an obscure and violent relation to jouissance, in jealousy so dark, primitive, and remote we don't even see it. There, in the shadows, a scandalous scene of deprivation is played out: the parent would lik:e to starve the chi Id or at least use hunger to Ieeep hold of him or her.

    And all this is not without love, not without Iute. Tlle Sellool oftlle Dead If in the past I was frightened to death to take a lump of sugar from the sugarbowl in the dining room, today I am frightened to death to take a book from the library and I am even more frightened to death if it is a philosophy book, like last night. In the beginning they told you: you must not drink this water, because it is poisoned.

    If you drink this water, you are heading for disaster, if you read this book, you are heading for disaster. They lead you into the forest, they put you in dark children's rooms, to disturb you, they introduce you to people you immediately recognize as those who will destroy you.

    And they calI reading a sin, and writing is a cri me. And no doubt this is not entirely false. They will never forgi ve us for this Somewhere Else. Let's come back to the first words of this text; alI this is done only "in order to escape. Let us hope that nothing happened to him. This sentence was not from Montaigne, but from my family who were looking for me and were roaming round the foot of the tower in search of me. We are stilI in the dark. Without artificial light: but not without light. We must be as refined as he is, everything is, so to speak, dear.

    I come back to the beginning of the text. The text takes off at full speed, in order to escape. The escape is not carri ed out. All the while the others are there down below. There is a relationship between reading and what engenders the need, the urgency of reading: you can't have one without the other. To escape. I read. That's the mystery of reading. And no realismo One must stay on the side of the text. Accepting the fact that reading is carri ed out "with the shutters locked. We must constantly have one foot in one world and one in the other.

    This does not belong to the fantastic: it is misleading in Kafka's manner. Y ou believe you are on a path, but you're on another, you're on that one, etc. Such is the relation between reading and writing. In the same way this text is written by the light of an inner Montaigne, in the darle. We write in the dark, we read in the dark: they are the same processo. What do we do with the other when we create? What does the author dor What does the painter dor That is, what do we dor This is our portrait, the portrait of the artist done by himself or herself, the portrait of you by me: it is ovaI: the Egg of Evi!.

    What do we do with the body of the other when we are in a state of creation-and with our own bodies too. We annihilate ourselves Thomas Bernhard would say , we pine ourselves away Edgar Allan Poe would say , we erase ourselves Henry James would say. In short, we institute immurement. It alI begins with walls. Those of the tower. Those of the chateau we enter as we follow a seriously wounded narrator. The narrator arri ves in a strange room full of pictures, and his attention is. Tl7e Sc of tl7e Dead caught by a particular ovaI portrait, which is so extraordinary that he does not believe his eyes.

    Little by little the story unravels in such a way that you become fixed, focused on the ovaI portrait: and the ovaI portrait has its own story that the narrator will read. You pass into the other story, which is the story within the story. This story, of the young woman's life and death, serves as model for the story. While you get into the story of the ovaI portrait you completely forget about the narratorj not only do you forget, but he completely disappears from the scene, and when the tale ends it ends inside the ovaI portrait-behind the wall of the portrait-and you as reader have committed something very strange: you have erased the narrator from your memory, you are in another scene.

    This is Poe's genius. When we re ad "The OvaI Portrait," we think we are reading the story of "The OvaI Portrait": the story of a painter who was a genius, who married a beauty who was life itself and started to paint her. This is what Poe says, or the narrator. I don't know who says it finally, because there is Poe, the narrator, and the writer of the book in which the ovaI portrait is described. And he was a passionate, and wild, and moody man, who became lost in reveries; so that he would not see that the light which fell so ghastly in that Ione turret withered the health and the spirits of his bride, who pined visibly to all but him.

    Yet she smiled on and still on And he would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sat beside him. And when many weeks had passed, and but little remained to do, save one brush upon the mouth and one tint upon the eye, the spirit of the lady again flickered up as the flame within the socket of the lampo And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter sto od entranced. Tl7e ScI of tl7e Dead before the work he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life itself!

    It is a kind of allegory for what happens in creation. It is not, because in the course of reading we have ourselves become the painter. We too have followed and started painting and forgetting and erasing the narrator in particular, which is very strange. And I suspect we might even come out of the turret or the tale without ever realizing what we have done. This is the writer's crime. It is described by Poe. It is paroxystic and something he does often, almost as if he had feminist leanings, since he nearly always gives men the part of the killer and women the part of the victim.

    I know a type of painter who did exactly the same thing. Be painted his poems with the blush of the women he loved. I am talking about Rilke. Be kept a diary called Das Testa1l7ellt during the last years of his life, when he was deeply in love with Merline. It was published fifty years later. Klossovska and to poetry. It is almost unbearable. It reveals a pining for poetry that is heartrending and at the sa me time involves a terrible war waged against this woman-though this is not expressed directly to her since she did not re ad the diary.

    There is also a large volume of letters exchanged between Rilke and his beloved, alI of which say the same thing: don't come, don't approach me, don't kill mej that's what he says to her, because he must write. Sometimes he only saw her once in six months, and she, a powerful woman, did not enjoy the situation. She suffered and he sufferedj and he explains everything about sublimation in beautifulletters.

    I don't know whether this testament should have been published or noto It is true that you may be allowed to "murder" symbolically in intimacy, but if it com es out, if the Cl-ime has witnesses, it is terrible:. He asks the woman he loves to accompany him in the sphere of poetry. At the same time he needs her to be real.

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    Bernhard, on the contrary, will claim the crime directly. It is part of his power to say direetly: "Will you excuse me, for I must kill you. So he is not a ghost narrator, for he takes up two thirds of the text. The economy of our relation to the subject and the narration is an effect of the text but it's also linked to what the text is telling uso The narrator makes such a disappearing disappearance that we disinvesto We reinvest in the painter's scene: so that's it, farewell narrator! Yet we should worry about him, for he is seriously wounded. AlI this is the extraordinary staging of our capacity for repression.

    We the murderer-painter. This is the art of Edgar Allan Poe: he makes 11S carry out what is done in the text here, by the painter. The portrait is in the portrait, the book is in the book, and the last circle of this process tells us: be careful, if someone paints what happens to the model?

    Hélène Cixous

    What relation do es the painter have to the model? A banal yet indispensable question. All painters' models ask it. Pirandello wrote the same story. It's the story of the person who gives lifej it's the model who gives life whereas we think it's the painter. The painter is the one who takes the model's life. A metaphor for all the arts. Bernhard says that at certain moments you have to cross over corpses, you have to kill someone in order to write.

    It's true and it's not true. Certain artists say it's true, others say it isn't. With Edgar Allan Poe there is an additional victim who is the narrator himself. With Poe we execute the narrator. There is a secondary character in the narrative: the audience. We are the onlookers in the brief story re ad in the boole. The audience: a nonindividualized yet interested audience. It appears as the witness to a great love affair. The audience is clearly distinguished from the author, the "analyst" of this short volume. The audience says: you must love. The analyst telIs us that the painter's relationship to his wife is a misfortune whereas the audience telIs us it's good fortune.

    It is a reading position. And then the audience is sent awayj it isn't there when the cri me takes pIace. There is no one to relate it except the anonymous narrator-analyst. We, as spectators of creation, are blindo We are lost in admiration for this great painter and do not lenow the price such a great work will costo "I," the unknown narrator, knows it. The young woman knows it. If we tried to derive from this short narrative a kind of ethic for the relation between the artist and the model, how might we read the last lines of the tale? In the nineteenth century the ethical relation between the creator and the created was an essential questiono It also appears in Bernhard's texts.

    It's a recurrent theme in Poe. The antagonistic and deadly man-woman relationship is everywhere. There is not even any ambivalence: man is bad, woman is good. Many texts take up this simple opposition, others are more ambiguous: in these, on the contrary, sometimes the woman is good or bad, while the man is often in the painter's position. Let's take the end of the text: as the painter looks at the painting, he sees for the first time. He has never seen before. Our narrator begins by seeing, then he works on this seeing: what did I see?

    I saw, etc. But the painter never saw. He is blindo It's only at the end, when "the thing" is finished and it ends with "one tint" on the eye that he takes a moment to regard. And in that moment he sees for the first time, he sees the truth. He sees: it is life itself that has been painted. In the second moment: what he sees filIs him with terror.

    Which means a redoubling of his blindness. He never wanted to do that. He cries: It's life, as if he were crying: It's death. In absolute terror. In the third moment: he "turned suddenly," and as he turns, it's exactly what he feared seeing: she is dead. It is an analytical scene. God is not there. Although there is interdiction and permission.

    There wilI have been the superego but not God. What we are made to understand is that there can't be life on both sides. As the analyst telIs us, the painter. We might expect him to be proud of the work but he can't be. We are made to understand: we cannot create in a just manner. In creation we find ourselves before the inevitable failure.

    It's a double bind: either you don't render life or you take it. Everything is a failure,. Thinking about these desired yet feared booles is unsettling. I am afraid of the fire that devoured Clarice and Ingeborg, though at the same time I admire it. I revolved around this violently magi c little. It is the most extraordinary example of total exchange and merging with the soft and mysterious violence of writing.

    Tlle H ' oJ tlle Star is the final boole, and in order to write the final boole Clarice Lispector had to transform herself, abandon herself, lose herself in a masculine author. We, the spectators, would like to console ourselves and repress the scene's cruelty, saying that the end justifies the means. But we live in a feminist era and we protest: women are the ones who pay for the affair. We lose either art or life. The l'est is truth. What comes bacie to us, no matter what our piace, is a duty to truth, to lenow what is at stalee and not deny it.

    This is the narrator's task in "The Ovai Portrait. But, as the text implies, the narrator "is gifted for that," he accepts the sight of death because, from the beginning, he is mortally wounded. It is indeed necessary to have been wounded to tolerate seeing death ineluctably inscribed in the scene. It can also happen that an author will kill himself or herself writing.

    The only boole that is worth writing is the one we don't have the courage or strength to write. The boole that hurts us we who are writing , that malees us tremble, redden, bleed. It is combat against ourselves, the author; one of us must be vanquished or die. I dOll't want to write the true boole; it's the one I want to write: I tear it from myself.

    The desire to die is the one thing in the world we cannot permit ourselves to admit; I am IlOt talking about suicide: the desire to die and the temptation of suicide are two different things; suicide is murder, suicide is aimed at someone or something, whereas the desire to die is not this at all-which is why we can't tal le about it. Some people have spoleen about this poetically and directly. Clarice Lispector spoke about this through Macabea but without emphasizing that she was thereby expressing her desire to die.

    While she was weaving Macabea's death, she wrote in her notebooks: The only way to know if life exists after death is to believe while still being ali ve. I wanted to die once and come back to life-simply in order to know the juice of life that is death.

    My days are numbered without my knowing it. Thinking about it, what we unde! God acted on a Iarge scale. To do this he wasn't concerned with individuaI or even with collective death. He only works with millennia. Minutes don't count for Him. He reaches the inevitable through thousands of centuries. And wewe have a! Wc must. God created death and afterward he could never repair it or abolish it. Death exists. Perhaps my ultimate destiny will be as an oboe. As Kafka said: "You keep on talking about death, and yet you do not die.

    I am just saying my swan-song. One man's song is longer, another man's song is shorter. But the difference can never be more than a matter of a few words. We have to be two to say that to ourselves: I the living one and I the dying one. Human beings desire this paradoxical duplicity, which decently shouldn't be expressed, which people like Kafka and Clarice express. There is an absolute difference between me and the dying one. But the author wants to die. Because it is over there that "it" happens. He or she envies, he or she is jealous, he or she loves the dying and the dead.

    It's a desire I have had to formulate for myself less clearly than Kafka did. I have never said to myself: What, you're not dying? Because I don't believe I am going to die. Why don't I, H. One of us shall die. This is my life schema. Kafka's father was such that Kafka could say: l'm the one who will die.

    Mine, such that I can only say: why not me? So, after all, the desire to die is only the desire to taste the fruits of the tree of Good and EviI. To be able to want to taste the fruits of the tree of Good and Evil, contrary to what the Bible says, one has to be mortaI. It's very difficult if one isn't mortaI. Not everyone is mortaI. Not everyone has this difficult fortune. I myself don't have it. I have always loved the writers whom I calI writers of extremity, those who take themselves to the extremes of experience, thought, life. The Schoo! What I realize only now is that I re ad her-I'm forcing a bit, but not much, in order to reach a state of mind-beyond, outside time.

    She appeared so great and strong in her text that I didn't think of her outside it. I re ad her above and beyond Clarice Lispector. What carried me, what retained me, was the power of her thought. I spent a year listening to what she was saying, without thinking about her. It was alI in the eternaI future. And suddenly, I was told she had died. I believe this didn't affect me at all, because I hadn't thought of her as either alive or dead. The life and death of Clarice Lispector had remained in another world.

    I was in the future of Clarice Lispector's texts. When I re ad Kafka, I read him dead, all the more dead be cause he di ed in the same way and at the same age as my father. So it was obvious to me: I didn't even wonder about it. I always read him as dead. He was dead. The dead mano Once a dear friend of mine a woman had me read Thomas Bernhard. At first I felt a deep aversion his. Then I enjoyed myself. I had never read texts that made me laugh, the most mysterious thing of alI. I said to myself: How can you write something so impudent without paying for it?

    I was delighted that he existed. One day my mother carne in and said: "Have you heard, that man you are reading I was reading A Child at the time , well, he just died. So I was laughing at the mornent he died. Y ou will tell me everyone dies, but not everyone dies of writing. Here are two writers who di ed of writing because they went so far toward approaching what is forbidden, so near what Kafka called the fire, that they actually caught fire.

    In fact Clarice Lispector only barely escaped being burned alive ten years before she did eventually die. She was seriously burnt, her bed caught fire, and she was saved at the last rnornent by her son, but her hands were badly burned and she could no longer write by hand.

    Tile Scllool oj tlle Dead People keep saying they do not know what happened. Ber bedroom, her bathroom, they say, suddenly burst into flames, and she died. One does not know whether she committed suicide, as is implied in biographical notes about her, or whether it was an accident. There is burning to death in her books. When you are ali ve and writing you question yourself: Am I writing? Am I burning? Or am I pretending? These writers have gone toward the truth.

    I hope you will forgive me if I use the word "truth. The word exists, therefore the feeling exists. Retrospectively, after long years of reading, I said to myself: when I re ad someone that person dies. But I can do nothing about it. I only like those who write from there. I am not a sorceress and I am innocent of these events and coincidences. On the other hand the fact that I have an ear for a certain type of writing that doesn't hesitate to go beyond the self, beyond oneself, is of my doing. These texts move me, touch me, strike me with blows of the axe be cause they are the texts Kafka talks about, texts that give me such intense joy that it resembles pain.

    And we can only undergo that joy over tlm'e. I could say "there"-it's the direction. These are people who write in the direction. Something alli es truth with death. We cannot bear to tell the truth, except in the final hour, at the last minute, since to do so eadier costs too much. But when does the last minute come? Perhaps going in the direction of what we call truth is, at least, to "unlie," not to lie. Our lives are buildings made up of lies. We have to lie to live. But to write we must try to unlie. Something renders going in the direction of truth and dying almost synonymous.

    It is dangerous to go in the direction of truth. We cannot re ad about it, we cannot bear it, we cannot say itj all we can think is that only at the very last minute wiU you know what you are going to say, though we never know when the last minute will be. Writing or saying the truth is equivalent to death, since we cannot tell the truth. It is in every way forbidden because it hurts everyone. We never say the truth, we must lie, mostly as a result of two needs: our need for love and cowardice.

    The cowardice of love but al so love's cOUI'age. Cowardice and courage are so dose that they are often exchanged. Cowardice is probably the strange, tortuous path of courage. Love is tortuous. So it is only at the very last page of a book that we perhaps get a chance to say what we have never said, write what we have never written all our lives, i. I have respect and admiration for those writers who, in their lifetime, have approached that point where cowardice and courage are so dose to each other they might fly into the flames if they were to say one word more.

    This is what Tsvetaeva describes, the point that I call the truth and which she calIs the magical words in writing. Be is going to meet Pugachev, an imposter, a Cossack who challenged the Czar's power and almost became the Russian emperor. At the beginning of the novel, young Grinov gets lost in a huge snowstonu, and suddenly, in the distance he sees something moving. Tsvetaeva cites this episode: It is strange that I, who was so slow at reasoning and so bad at guessing in childhood, and in life too, I whom it was so easy to fool, guessed right in this instance and right away, as soon as amid tlle lllurky maelstl'om oJ tlle blizzard something black could be seen.