In Utero Nostalgia

Andrew Hodgson, “Why the Silence?”, 3:AM Magazine 23 July 2013

…The body here is an object suspended in concrete space. Our selves are not our own; in so much as its phenomenal projection is objectified by so many other selves, the body is a profane golem for the sacred word. In this Topor attacks the idea of the independent cogito: as he writes in the avant-propos of his untranslated novel Erika: “my main literary activity consisted of removing the words from all the books I could lay my hands on. It is perhaps significant that one of these books was The Discourse on the Method”. He does not erase the words, or copy them; he blots them out with pen and ink until the pages of the book run as a series of black non-signifying smears, including the phrase cogito ergo sum. He writes of words on a page as a “mob” or a “rabble” that “bully” one another, that “on each unit is exerted huge pressure, to bring them under the auspices of the public cause”. A word, like a narrated character, like an individual within a social system, is too trapped in its relation to others. It is caught in a rabble of objectification, its meaning extrapolated to this or that dictated by its neighbours, relatives and acquaintances, its enemies. Topor fantasises about being Robinson on his beach, alone, outside of society, and applies this premise to Erika. He isolates a single word on each page which free of its relation evokes its myriad meanings, implications, it is a free and open sign.

The novel, again a hollow receptacle, is driven once more by something borrowed from Bataille, the idea of carnal love. Away from divine love, carnal love is, according to Bataille and Topor, “hidden from the vicissitudes” of the exterior; it is something that is wholly individual: a beloved can be separate in a crowd in the perception of its corresponding beloved. Thus in employing love Topor finds a fragile individualism, an isolation, a silence. And the silence of Erika is striking, as each blank page fills with free expression and myriad interpretation, it is not nervous, desperate, screaming like the prison narratives of The Tenant and Joko’s Anniversary. Like the rivers that in these texts represent in utero nostalgia; a flowing dreamlike peace, Erika flows silently from page to page in its vague ambiguity: unquantified; unquantifiable. The text stands as an example of the silence Topor saw in being marooned alone and stands far apart from the terrifying inertia of the objectified commodity the individual becomes in his other texts. It is a flowing free association, bookended by the pages “Even after all this time, I still remember Erika”, and “I never saw Erika again”. The love affair remembered begins as always with a cigarette, a coffee, and silently flows on to disappear again back into the vague shadows of memory—for Topor it is a tiny internal refuge cut off on the distant beach of disappearing possibility from the use-value of the productive unit of self and body.

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