Thursday, September 29, 2016

say yes today

Speaking of Jelinek reminded me of Eric’s comment on Lust, here. (“Think of what a strange work of art she has produced.” True.) Lust (more than Wonderful Wonderful) exists at angles to, or in defiance of, all books that progress through a series of events and end in a logical culmination of those events – it does not progress and not-progressing is one of its points (here’s life: repetition then death) – instead it establishes a set of more or less static situations and repeats them: the son is needy, first one way, then another; the man and the woman have sex and then they have it again, and sometimes it happens in the bath, another time in the kitchen, and each time Jelinek explains it with some different cohesion of context (“Blindly the woman cashes in her security from the man’s spitting dispenser,” “It wants to dwell within thy hallowed halls,” “His rain comes pouring from the cloudburst”) but the act itself occurs potentially endlessly, with the inevitably of genre, since in genre certain things are always going to happen. The nature of the individual genre establishes the type of thing that will happen but genre itself is the presence of them happening. Richardson’s Clarissa is noteworthy because it has both the forward progress and also the repetition with intensities.

The woman in Lust breaks from her home, finds another man, goes through sex with him and cycles back again to her husband. Breaking away does not make anything fundamentally different. Here the possibility of the progress that other books love, is teased. Sex is a pleasure for her husband and she wants a repetition of one pleasure with the other man. “She wants to hear that young man say yes today, having heard him yesterday.” (“Yes/today” and “yesterday” must be the translator Michael Hulse giving you a lick of Jelinek’s musical-clotted style.) But the young man is brutal and contemptuous. The woman does not have pleasure, she has a brief mastery of difference in repetition. The escape and discovery are like a parody of the idea of a quest. The treasure is supposed to transform things. This is pathetic.

The woman causes a rupture that ends the book but she has not attacked the repetition of sex. She has not removed herself, she has not deleted her husband. Even if she had, we have been told that Austria is full of the same mentality: erasing two people would not dissolve it. When Pausanius (c. AD 110 – c. 180) describes the oracle of Trophonius in his Description of Greece, he outlines a series of ritual acts that the petitioner has to undergo before their request is fulfilled, when they are allowed to descend into the rock and come out disoriented, with a revelation if they are lucky. (Sensory deprivation or exposure to volcanic gas, theory says: one or the other.) That visit to the cave is the end of their personal repetitions but the next person will have to undergo them too: the repetitions continue to exist. You could make a strip of patterned wallpaper long enough to wrap around the globe and it would still be exactly the same pattern at the beginning and end, without entropy, a piece of artificiality or art, not biological, although biology is present in the commission of the acts or marks themselves. (Genre is also resistance against entropy.) So the end of Lust has to be an explosion, which is the only way to calm down for a moment and have a straight line without patterns. “But now rest a while.”

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