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Cultural Exclusion and Frontier Zones

Cataleptic consciousness

Language as a figure of silence
Natalia Artemenko
p. 136-149

Abstract

What could be meant by «trauma»? Trauma can be regarded as a single event which has actually occurred and has fundamentally changed life of society, has shifted self-perception people had and greatly changed the potential future for these people. Trauma can also stand for some process which started to unfold after a catastrophic event and remains ongoing. Assuming a fact that that trauma can be regarded in various ways, it can also stand for some situation of deprivation, when people realize that they were deprived of something, trying to find or regain what was lost through the present. At the same time, trauma can be regarded as a story line, when we realize that something has happened and try to tell about it in different ways in various genres, using the same or very similar images. By trauma we can also mean something which is called a unifying event, i.e. that something which creates us. Trauma is not something naturally existing, but on the contrary it is constructed by the society; individual and social traumas are very different. There is also a gap between the event and its representation: this gap is the trauma process. All of us, regardless of specifics of history of the nation we belong to, exist in a post-catastrophic time and bear the burden of responsibility for past but not fully comprehended horrors. Deep experiencing of a catastrophic event, a collapse of all usual human relationships, prearranges a transition to cataleptic consciousness, practicing oblivion and forming a particular subject, i.e. a post-traumatic subject, a subject of time-after, who gets crucified between the ever-lasting pain, i.e. something that never ceases to generate pain, something which remains in memory, and a power of oblivion, functioning as a defense mechanism. The relation between memory and trauma represents a very central focus in the memory and trauma studies and has been analyzed by several scholars.

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Note dell'autore

The reported study was funded by Rfbr according to the research project n. 16-03-00442 Project at St. Petersburg State University.

Testo integrale

  • 2 Adorno (2004: 362).
  • 3 Podoroga (2013: 24).

1In the last chapter of his Negative Dialectics (in the section entitled After Auschwitz), Theodor Adorno asks whether it is possible to write poetry after Auschwitz and answered that, «it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living».2 However, what could be meant by time-after, time-onward? Is it possible to talk of time-after? Valery Podoroga remarked, «Indeed, after – is the time that comes afterwards, but whom does it come to?».3

2Time-after … This mode of time does not fit into any structure, i.e., it does not belong to any chronological period. It is neither the past nor the future nor the present. It is none of their ecstatic drafts of time, it does not imply leaping ahead or an outline from the future. There is some stillness in it, which is neither the past nor the present, and it is certainly not the future. It is a time of the timelessness. We will call it the post-catastrophic time. It is a time that figuratively stops all other times. The post-catastrophic landscape is devastated and returned to our eyes in its uncomfortability. The autonomy of the self-subject is at stake. Deep experiencing of a catastrophic event, a collapse of all the usual human relationships, the enormity and improbability of what happened prearranges a transition to cataleptic consciousness, practicing oblivion and forming a particular subject. This subject will represent the resultant of the escape from an intolerable situation of the permanent disintegration of the world, its inability to be assembled, the absence of an assemblage point and grounds for assembling. «The Great Transcendental Observer», independent and neutral, does not exist anymore. On the contrary, trauma itself conceives a subject. A neutral observer cannot get inside trauma, inside the void, which from now on represents the essence of this mode of time, the post-time. It is the time of inability to make a decision to live-after. With the loss of the theological faith in the integrity of the world, odd pages of books do not get united into a single text of the truth anymore, and the «loss» itself is perceived as the characteristic feature of modernity.

 

  • 4 See, e.g., Levi (1996).
  • 5 Assmann (2006b).
  • 6 Baraban (2009: 632).
  • 7 Erll (2011).
  • 8 Podoroga (2013: 56).

3The time after the Second World War… If there is no investigation of crimes against people, a nation does not become a nation, it loses an ability to comprehend its own history and make a decision – a decision of exiting the time-timelessness.4 Jaspers stated that this time-after is «axial»: a traumatic event does not last in it but it does not allow a wound to heal. If this decision is not made, the history remains unfinished, incomplete. And this is relevant both to personal and to collective history. Unfinished history will be persistently returning in the form of the same traumatic event to personal memory or to politics and culture, through collective memory. This is precisely why the debates about the problems of collective guilt, memory and identity became so acute recently.5 And it is not just the theoretical interest of researchers, historians, film6 and stage directors, writers, biographers that is behind these disputes but, perhaps, the fear of a fact that a powerful wave of the museumification of reality aimed at altering the past, taming it to the current present will supersede vivid re-living-trough, the one and only, able to withstand the recurrence of the past, keeping it in a mode of fright and inexplicability.7 Theoretical researchers are faced with a danger of «taming» memory, getting liberated from it with the help of explanations. As it was noted by V. Podoroga, «Culture accustoms us to oblivion. Superseding the most shocking things, erasing their tracks, renewing memory, it thereby affirms its right to be what it was and what it always wants to be – a culture of oblivion».8 However, what cannot be experienced will become an obstacle to oblivion which, as it seems, was denoted by L. Cavani her film The Night Porter (1974).

4The plot of The Night Porter tells us a story of Max, a former Nazi SS officer and a concentration camp commandant, and now a night porter in Hotel zum Oper, one of Vienna hotels of lost glitter. It is 1957 and nothing reminds Max about the past but his constant meetings with his former comrades who arrange periodic «therapy» sessions. The main mission of such sessions resides not only in detecting all possible threads which could lead to their public exposure. Putting each other through fictitious, mock trials former killers and torturers try to get liberated from guilt and once again demonstrate their commitment to the Third Reich. The primary objective for members of this «initiative group» is to redeem their «good names», to destroy all evidence (documents, testimonies) and to eliminate existing witnesses in order to permanently erase from the memory of humanity the war crimes that they committed.

5However, soon Max’s hidden, «church mouse-like» existence comes to an end. One day a young couple, Lucia and her husband, a famous conductor, arrives at the hotel he worked in. Max and Lucia immediately recognize each other. She was one of his prisoners, and they had a long, cruel, yet romantic relationship. Max has much to worry about, because he was not the only one to recognize a former prisoner. One of his former Nazi comrades, Mario, could identify Lucia any moment. At the same time a turn for Max to «own up to his sins» at the next tragicomic meeting approaches. The unwillingness of a night porter to behave according to the rules and to follow the crowd becomes more alarming for Klaus who plays a part of the «devil’s advocate» at their meetings. Klaus and his comrades do not understand Max’s desire to live in constant fear of exposure and they naturally suspect that he is hiding something from them.

  • 9 Mallarmé (2006: 117).

6At the beginning of the film, we find the world after the war in a state of catalepsy. Everything seems orderly and quiet; the bourgeois regimen is celebrating its triumph in the Vienna of 1957. But the state of catalepsy forms a certain subject and this subject will be a product of escape from an intolerable situation of permanent disintegration of the world. There is a void forming inside the self, the void of oblivion. Thought comes upon something that turns out to be its own limit, the limit of the thought itself, thinking what it is impossible to think. From now on trauma itself conceives a subject, depriving victims of the past, making them incapable of a «full-fledged existence». The «temporal set» of a trauma turns time back, converting it into the time of the impossibility to live-onward. More precisely, it can be expressed in the words of Mallarmé, «The pause is measured by the time it takes me to decide»;9 a lingering, infinite time-pause.

  • 10 See, e.g., Fred Alford (2011).

7However, what could be meant by «trauma»? Trauma can be regarded as a single event which has actually occurred and has fundamentally changed the life of a person or society, has shifted self-perception that people had and greatly changed the potential future for these people. Trauma can also stand for some process that started to unfold after a catastrophic event and remains ongoing. Assuming a fact that that trauma can be regarded in various ways, it can also stand for some situation of deprivation, when people realize that they were deprived of something, trying to find or regain what was lost through the present. At the same time, trauma can be regarded as a story line, when we realize that something has happened and try to tell about it in different ways in various genres, using the same or very similar images. By trauma we can also mean something called a unifying event, i.e. that something which creates us. All of us, regardless of specifics of history of the nation we belong to, exist in a post-catastrophic time and bear the burden of responsibility of past yet not fully comprehended horrors.10 For the historical situation of twentieth century totalitarianism is the most important of such horrors. George Orwell once gave a metaphorical definition of the principle of totalitarianism, indicating it as, «All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others» (Animal Farm).

  • 11 Rozhdestvenskaja (2009: 109); Assmann (1999).

8Apparently, the interpretation of the concept of trauma has become extremely broad, which shows an increase in society’s sensitivity towards the topic of violence. Individual and collective memories have been becoming less sacred and more and more identified as social and cultural constructs gaining their own history.11

9Liliana Cavani, a director of The Night Porter, noted:

  • 12 Cavani (2008).

In 1965 working on a film Women of the Resistance for television, I interviewed two women, survivors of concentration camps. One of them comes from Cuneo. She spent three years in Dachau (she was eighteen when she got there). The story of this woman has puzzled me. After the end of the war when life went back to normal, every year she kept on returning to Dachau in order to stay there for two weeks. She used to take summer vacations to go there. I asked her why she kept on returning exactly to this place instead of going somewhere far away from there. She was not able to give a sufficiently clear answer.
Another woman, who comes from Milan, went to Auschwitz. And she has survived. I met her in her wretched dwelling on the outskirts of Milan. I was very surprised because her family was very well off. She explained it to me. After the war she tried to renew the ties with her family as well as with people she used to known, but after she failed to do so she started to live alone away from everybody else. Why has it happened? Because, as she said, she was shocked by the post-war life that went on as if nothing happened, frightened by the haste with which everything tragic and sad was forgotten. She went through hell and therefore believed that people seeing what they could be capable of would like to change many things radically. But it turned out the other way around. She felt guilty towards others for surviving hell, for becoming a living witness, a reproach, a burning reminder of something shameful, of something everyone wants to forget as soon as possible. Getting disappointed in the world, feeling that she was a hindrance to others, she decided to live among people she did not use to know formerly. I asked her about the memories which tormented her the most. She answered that it was not the memory of single episodes, one or another, that tormented her the most. It was the fact that a camp revealed the whole of her own nature, capable of doing both good and evil. She especially stressed «evil». And she added that she would never forgive the Nazis for making people realize what they are capable of. She did not give me any examples. She simply said that a victim should not always be considered innocent, because a victim also is a human being.12

  • 13 Delbo (1995).
  • 14 Assmann (2006a).

10The words of this woman represent a real personal tragedy. She is forced to live in accordance with a role which arose and was resolved at a completely different historical moment in a different historical setting, which became absolutely impossible presently. «That is why all witnesses I know are tragic», Cavani noted. This woman, like many other witnesses, has faced a situation of postwar ignorance, that allows to gain greater insight into ignorance which led to the war, led to a dictatorship. The woman from Milan is right to be ashamed of herself for today’s world does not want to know, does not want to observe closely the past and therefore it is capable of making new mistakes. This «reluctance to know» forms that special kind of collective memory which creates a collective narrative, which goes on functioning according to the laws of ideology: the fabricated past turns into a commodity easy to sell as an archive of images, destined to influence feelings, opinions, beliefs and to manage them.13 These archives of symbols have concepts of everything important, meaningful concentrated within thus generating a circulation of very predictable ideas and impressions in society.14

  • 15 The term introduced by V. Podoroga (2013: 46).
  • 16 In order to display not just of the sensation the totalitarian system produces in a human being but (...)

11However, such critical assessment of collective memory, revealing its destructive potential, also leads us to rethink the culture of oblivion and to rethink the catastrophe of totalitarianism. After all, the most important «merit» of the totalitarian system is its ability to deprive people of their national and cultural identity, make them unnecessary to themselves, and, lastly, and most importantly, which is to teach them the experience of non-existence. The totalitarian machinery exists only for the purpose of making a person superfluous. The very center of the «minus-reality»15 created by the totalitarian system has a superfluous person in it. It is exactly a superfluous person this woman from Milan regards herself as. Protagonists of the film also regard themselves as superfluous people, coming from a different reality.16

12The words of this woman contain one more message for us, i.e., evil should not be overemphasized. Due to the fact that no common sense is capable of explaining the behavior of the Nazis, that their actions are often defined as «incomprehensible», «unimaginable», «impossible», Evil gets sacralized. If we separate it from Good opposing one to another we endue it with a character of some absolute existence. But it is exactly where our mistake lies, the mistake denoted by the words of this woman. Evil is a purely human thing. Evil is trite, it always stays near a human being, and a human being is always ready to commit a crime, that is why the opposition of a victim and an executioner is always a matter of circumstances. It is something Hannah Arendt had to deal with working on Eichmann in Jerusalem. Eichmann attributed an impeccable execution of an order to the highest moral strength of an executioner, to a duty! «I was just following orders». But Arendt warns us not to demonize evil. Evil is trite. By separating from Good and not intermingling with it, Evil becomes the object of endless imitation, duplication and, after it becomes absolute; it proves to be the initial circumstance for the rejection of everything ethical. If we call a crime «unthinkable» and «inexplicable», we make Evil inexplicable as well.

13In 1946, Karl Jaspers, who was banished from the University of Heidelberg in 1936, resumed teaching, starting with the course «Guilt of Germany». His students, mainly former front-line soldiers, showed discontent with the professor. They reacted by stamping their feet or even leaving the audience. Through this course Jaspers wanted to make Germans consider the following idea. Only by letting their own guilt pass through their conscience, no matter how big or small it was, Germans will be able to embrace democracy. But his students’ reluctance to consider their own guilt made Jaspers lose popularity. They did not want to admit their own guilt, not just those who were innocent but also criminals who preferred to bury everything which happened in oblivion, using the notorious thesis «an order is an order». A superior is always the one to blame, thus, the blame gets shifted to an ever-higher superior and, ultimately, falls on Hitler. As a result, Hitler remains the only one to blame.

14Whereas democracy relies on the maturity of the citizens, dictatorship presupposes their immaturity. It results in the tiny-scale Nazism originating within ourselves in consequence of the duality of our nature.

  • 17 Adorno (2004: 363).

15Adorno in the last part of his Negative Dialectics (After Auschwitz) asked whether it is possible to write poetry after Auschwitz. He answered that, «it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living – especially whether one who escaped by accident, one who by rights should have been killed, may go on living».17

16Auschwitz is a fact of the total cultural catastrophe. So what does this time-after mean then? It is the time ongoing now, the time after an event, known as Auschwitz. But whom does this time-after, time-onward come to? It comes neither to victims, nor to those who are not capable of comprehending what happened. The time-after is not only the time of the unabated wound but it is also the time of oblivion. It is the time when much needs to be superseded, but it does not get superseded ... It is the time when it is necessary not to remember but to survive. But this survival does not open any time-onward. A disruptive trauma deprives a victim of protection from the past (as it happened to a protagonist of The Night Porter, Lucia), makes any full-fledged existence impossible, makes oblivion as such impossible. A need for oblivion and the impossibility of acquiring it is the wound of time.

17Let us recall the views of cozy, carefree Vienna the film begins with. The movie’s story is set in 1957, when Soviet troops had just withdrawn from Vienna and life in the city went back to normal as if nothing had happened. Small-time and petty criminals return to their former pursuits, though keeping their ears to the ground in order not to get caught in the meshes of the law and keep in touch with each other in order to defend themselves. All of them are well-off and respectable people, the very ones that sit next to you at the opera, eat the Sacher Torte at a nearby table, the very ones that love Mozart and the languorous charm of Vienna. Adorno rendered a following verdict:

  • 18 Ivi: 366.

That this has been forgotten, that we no longer know what we used to feel before the dogcatcher’s van, is both the triumph of culture and its failure. Culture, which keeps emulating the old Adam, cannot bear to be reminded of that zone, and precisely this is not to be reconciled with the conception that culture has of itself. It abhors stench because it stinks – because, as Brecht put it in a magnificent line, its mansion is built of dogshit. Years after that line was written, Auschwitz demonstrated irrefutably that culture has failed. That this could happen in the midst of the traditions of philosophy, of art, and of the enlightening sciences says more than that these traditions and their spirit lacked the power to take hold of men and work a change in them. There is untruth in those fields themselves, in the autarky that is emphatically claimed for them. All post-Auschwitz culture, including its urgent critique, is garbage. In restoring itself after the things that happened without resistance in its own countryside, culture has turned entirely into the ideology it had been potentially […].18

18Modern thought must not relive-through Auschwitz, but it should live as if it was happening here-and-now. It is a case of a shock, which occurred but was not lived through. It was just concealed, temporarily pushed aside, reserved. But it still resides within the present, in every «now» and, as it was noted by Lyotard, each of these «nows» makes it possible for that, which was not lived through, to return. Only the return of that which was not lived through will make it possible to expel the experience that was initially acknowledged as impossible, from the depths of consciousness. The Impossible reveals itself as an anesthetic effect, it abolishes the Possible (God, the future, the meaning, the integrity of human life).

  • 19 Ivi: 371.

19The formula of the time-after is «Forgotten is unforgettable». And it is exactly this forgotten event, which is impossible to live through, we get immersed into. It is this not lived through which cancels all other, possible events. «Since Auschwitz, fearing death means fearing worse than death»,19 stated Adorno. This Ur-Angst, the initial fear, means something that cannot be lived through. It can be superseded but not forgotten, superseded but not lived through. The Unforgettable does not get forgotten, because only what was lived through gets forgotten. The impossibility of oblivion and the strongest traumatic effect of what was not lived through: the memory is aching, it requires the relief, anesthesia, easing of pain, pushing the traumatic experience farther, pushing it to the back of memory, into the area of silence. Not to remember means not to be responsible, as it would be noted by Nietzsche. This post-traumatic subject, a subject of time-after, who gets crucified between the ever-lasting pain, i.e. something that never ceases to generate pain, something which remains in memory, and a power of oblivion, functioning as a defense mechanism. Inability to choose is exactly what makes this subject equal to a madman.

20«The investigation serves to liberate you from the past», Max’s associates said. But the paradox lies in a fact that there is no experience, even the experience of insanity, capable of liberating from it. They see liberating from the past as the only possible cure available in the present, which does not exist. The professor will tell Lucia when he finds her in Max’s apartment, chained: «Your mind is disturbed. That’s why you’re here, fishing up the past». But his mind is also disturbed in its attempt to get liberated from it. Neither one nor the other….

21Let us again call upon Liliana Cavani:

  • 20 Cavani (2008).

Another work for television (the first film I made in 1962) had an impact on my intention. It was an edited documentary film History of the Third Reich […]. I spent several months at an editing desk viewing materials from all round the world so I saw things which were absolutely incredible. Hitler and his entourage were passionate about cinema. Germans liked filming every event; they did it very well. We have watched the reels of films shot in camps and at the front in Russia. Once we even had to stop watching because we felt ill. As we realized, artists of the 13th century who tried to portray hell were just naive. There was apparent progress in a matter of cruelty, a real escalation of cruelty. Why did cameramen leave these takes? In order to demonstrate them? And the more I watched, the more I became convinced that it was impossible to speak only in terms of a specific chronicle in order to understand the plague of Europe, which lasted from 1920 to 1945. It was necessary to go depthward, conduct an extensive investigation to unravel the tangle of guilt. To talk of it in the words of the usual «history» would mean simplifying and simplifying in this case would mean aiding.20

  • 21 Mallarmé (1998).

22So why were these kilometers of film made? We would answer that they were made in order to exclude perceptual transfer. Perceiving oneself in an action of a film excludes oneself from reality, creates an impression of reality which seems to block any direct relation to it. Almost half a century prior to the events described, Mallarmé noted with remarkable accuracy, «When will our civilization ever be able to give us pleasure equal to the pleasures of dreams! Is it not surprising, for example, that every big city still doesn’t have its dream club build, the one which would publish its own newspaper giving coverage to events from the perspective of dreams? Reality is no more than contrivance, the fulcrum for the mediocre mind in mirages of a fact, but that is precisely why it rests on universal understanding».21

23Let us recall what Max’s acquaintance with Lucia begins with. Max is filming naked people ranged in a queue… The eye of a camera captures her face, the one among hundreds of others, and fixes it. This virtual image opens a dimension which a collision of «an executioner and a victim» will unfold in i.e. in the indistinguishability of reality from film reality. Max’s comrades will say about him: «Max had imagination. He had fun passing himself off as a doctor… to have a chance at making sensational photographic studies. Not one of Max’s “patients” survived». But Lucia was the only one to survive so upon seeing her at a hotel, Max would say that ghosts… took shape in the mind. The voice and the body. This part of one’s self. The virtual dimension of a camera blocks the persistent existence of the real, switches over to a fantasy mode, a dreaming mode.

24The daytime evokes a sense of shame within Max («I have a reason for working at night. It’s the light. I have a sense of shame in the light»), the smell of countess’s perfume gets associated with the smell of a burnt victim, a guilt complex leads to neurosis (Hans Folger, a psychiatrist in the film, insists on a guilt complex being a disturbance of the psyche, a neurosis and suggests a method of curing it). Max is unable to talk about his experience. At their gathering the members of this strange coterie are forcing him to confess in order to get liberated from this past, to get liberated from a guilt complex («Somebody speaks and the others listen», Max objects, «But in the end, something happens within one’s self»). But Max is unable to start speaking up.

25In a congress hall of Hotel zum Oper, former party comrades are practicing in order to develop resistance to fear of accusations at a trial they might face. And only Max, the weakest one, according to Dr. Folger, gives up. He understands that his conscience is not clean, so he is inclined to avow that he is a retired murderer. Due to his irony, cunning, but also in virtue of suffering of «ill conscience» Max becomes a tragic figure. He does not change his role. His former party comrades started playing a role of prudish law-abiding gentlemen (as the laws themselves have undergone changes). They feel well. «Max is ill», says Dr. Folger. It should be noted that every attempt they make to develop resistance to fear results only in instilling even greater fear in hearts of the participants of this underground. For them, as well as for victims, fear is worse than death. Auschwitz, like any other concentration camp, accustoms people to the fact that death is not the end and not the beginning, it is not something that happens and ends, but something that lasts. This division, lasting of death, mortality of a current life, calls into existence a new kind of consciousness – cataleptic consciousness.

26The victim does not want to forget, moreover, she returns to the scene of the crime, as if she does not want to get out of that underground, in which she fell and which permanently remains within her. An executioner, on the contrary, wants to get out into the light, to take on a worthy appearance. He seeks an excuse in the logic of the war and wants to close a door to a cellar (underground), from which he got out, forever. But his reunion with a former victim, what is more, a victim who is still alive became a detonator. The relationship between executioner and victim suddenly reveals a strange dynamics: an escalation begins in one of the sections and a personality is turning gradually into its opposite, until a complete change of roles is achieved and everything starts from the very beginning. It is a case of interchangeable roles. Suddenly it appears that they carry on living in a role which arose and was resolved at a completely different historical moment in a different historical setting. That time has not passed for them, it goes on, but in some other way that defies expressing … Dumbness, opened to us by an ongoing traumatic experience, an experience of an interrupted self-perception, a thought with crippled wings….

  • 22 Adorno (2004: 367).

27The impossibility to discuss what happened is the impossibility that generates a new kind of literature, i.e. the literature of impossible writing, impossible creating, non-creating. In Adorno’s work we find the following, «After Auschwitz there is no word tinged from on high […] that has any right unless it underwent a transformation».22

28If the world as a whole has disintegrated, the experience of writing has become an experience of insanity that cannot be expressed in the language of the senses. Experience doesn’t get suppressed, does not go into silence. It is a special form of silence which deals with an experience of oblivion. An experience of oblivion appears in silence as if the latter were a form of language. It is a manifestation of oblivion. Let us note that Mallarmé’s poetry in many ways has determined the vector of the elaboration of philosophy and art of the twentieth century in a direction of employing the technique of silence. Mallarmé transforms this technique into a meaning, resisting in such way the predeterminedly known meaning with dumbness. Silence as such, regardless of canons and prescripts, is understood as a special sense. Silence in nonclassical literature becomes screaming.

  • 23 Rojdestvenskaja (2009: 109).
  • 24 The important category for Mallarmé resides in pure repetition as in repetition of unrepeatable, co (...)

29If stories are left untold, there is an existing danger that those who were traumatized will remain prisoners of what they lived through, arrested by it. And then it becomes impossible to live through the past as something that differs from the present, «An act of reproduction puts the past in the story in a modernized distance to the present producing a temporal gap».23 The impossibility of a story being told leads Max and Lucia from traumatic events of the past to a secondary traumatization occurring chronologically after the time of suffering. They do not convert their experience into the story, increasing the effect of traumatization, providing conditions for the fragmentation of consciousness. This story of protagonists not lived through in a story (Max is not able to begin to speak at the sessions of this «underground», Lucia keeps silence about her experience throughout the film) tears apart their consciousness, fragmenting their personal experience, breaking the interrelation between various phases of life. At the same time this ineffability provides conditions for a silent metaphysical scream. For Mallarmé, who was aspiring to create a new «pure» language, the problem, for example, was to avoid the real (his characters practically do not speak to each other), which always captures and subjugates. People normally express themselves through properly articulated words, arranged in a certain order. But to name an object means to deprive oneself of three fourths of pleasure which lays in guessing it gradually and unhurriedly, in its showing through the veil of the real. The constantly changing boundary of tension goes between impossibility of direct indissoluble articulation of meaning and energy of silence, energy of a silent scream. It seems that the film director, L. Cavani, solves a problem of visible, plastic expressing of the pure silence in the same way Mallarmé does i.e., the one who is going to out-speak is trapped inside his own story, captured and enslaved by it. An influx of traumatic temporality denotes the closed nature of something remained unspoken, a story seems to repeat itself,24 and the protagonists have no choice but to let others «put the matter to rest». We hear a shot ringing.

  • 25 Jampol’skij (2016).

30Trauma always stops the flight of time. According to Susan Sontag, it precludes from studying the collective memory that produces the collective narrative. Modern people with their sharpened focus on the past need the collective memory constructed by the aid of collective learning. However, memory as such ceases to be produced by modern human beings. It started to be supplied to them in prefabricated form by the cultural industry.25 We live in the post-traumatic age, which implies close intertwining of memorial practices with a practice of museumification of reality. But this topic belongs to another research.

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Bibliografia

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– 1996, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, tr. eng. by S. Woolf, New York, Touchstone Books.

Mallarmé, S.

– 1998, Verlen. Rembo. Mallarme. Stihotvorenija. Proza [Verlaine. Rimbaud. Mallarmé. Poems. Prose], Moscow, Ripol Klassik.

– 2006, Collected Poems and Other Verse, tr. eng. by E.H. and A.M. Blackmore, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Pessoa, F.

– 2001, The Book of Disquiet, tr. eng. by R. Zenith, New York, Penguin.

Podoroga, V.

– 2013, Vremja posle. Osvencim i GULAG: myslit’ absoljutnoe Zlo [Time After. Auschwitz and the GULAG: Thinking Absolute Evil], Moscow, Logos.

Rozhdestvenskaja, E.

– 2009, Slovami i telom: Travma, narrativ, biografija, eng. trans., (With Words and Body: Trauma, Narrative, Biography), in Ushakin, C., Trubina, E. (eds), Travma: punkty: sbornik statej [Trauma: Points: Collected Articles], Moscow, New Literary Review: 108-132.

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Note

2 Adorno (2004: 362).

3 Podoroga (2013: 24).

4 See, e.g., Levi (1996).

5 Assmann (2006b).

6 Baraban (2009: 632).

7 Erll (2011).

8 Podoroga (2013: 56).

9 Mallarmé (2006: 117).

10 See, e.g., Fred Alford (2011).

11 Rozhdestvenskaja (2009: 109); Assmann (1999).

12 Cavani (2008).

13 Delbo (1995).

14 Assmann (2006a).

15 The term introduced by V. Podoroga (2013: 46).

16 In order to display not just of the sensation the totalitarian system produces in a human being but, through a broader lens, the human being’s sensation of the twentieth century as such, we would like to quote the following excerpt from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, fragment n. 262 (Pessoa 2001: 227), «Today I was struck by an absurd but valid sensation. I realized, in an inner flash, that I’m no one. Absolutely no one. In that flash, what I’d supposed was a city proved to be a barren plain, and the sinister light that showed me myself revealed no sky above. Before the world existed, I was deprived of the power to be. If I was reincarnated, it was without myself, without my I.

I’m the suburbs of a non-existent town, the long-winded commentary on a book never written. I’m no one, no one at all. I don’t know how to feel, how to think, how to want. I’m the character of an unwritten novel, wafting in the air, dispersed without ever having been, among the dreams of someone who didn’t know how to complete me.

I always think, I always feel, but there’s no logic in my thought, no emotions in my emotion. I’m falling from the trapdoor on high through all of infinite space in an aimless, infinitudinous, empty descent. My soul is a black whirlpool, a vast vertigo circling a void, the racing of an infinite ocean around a hole in nothing. And in these waters which are more a churning than actual waters float the images of all I’ve seen and heard in the world - houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and syllables of voices all moving in a sinister and bottomless swirl.

And amid all this confusion I, what’s truly I, am the center that exist only in the geometry of the abyss: I’m the nothing around which everything spins, existing only so that it can spin, being a center only because every circle has one. I, what’s truly I, am a well without walls but with the walls’ viscosity, the center of everything with nothing around it».

17 Adorno (2004: 363).

18 Ivi: 366.

19 Ivi: 371.

20 Cavani (2008).

21 Mallarmé (1998).

22 Adorno (2004: 367).

23 Rojdestvenskaja (2009: 109).

24 The important category for Mallarmé resides in pure repetition as in repetition of unrepeatable, continuous rhythm or rhythmatized void.

25 Jampol’skij (2016).

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Per citare questo articolo

Notizia bibliografica

Natalia Artemenko, « Cataleptic consciousness », Rivista di estetica, 67 | 2018, 136-149.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Natalia Artemenko, « Cataleptic consciousness », Rivista di estetica [Online], 67 | 2018, online dal 01 avril 2018, consultato il 16 juillet 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/estetica/2720 ; DOI : 10.4000/estetica.2720

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Autore

Natalia Artemenko

Institute of Philosophy, Saint Petersburg State University, 5 Mendeleevskaya Liniya, 199034, St. Petersburg, Russia
Research Center for Cultural Exclusion and Frontier Zones, Sociological Institute of FCTAS RAS, 25/14 7-ya Krasnoarmeyskaya str., 190005, St. Petersburg, Russia
n.a.artemenko@gmail.com

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Licenza Creative Commons
Rivista di Estetica è distribuita con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale.

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