21 septiembre 2009
Books I Liked
Por "la famosa escritora norteamericana"
EDEN EDEN EDEN. Pierre Guyotat
176 pgs. The Tears Corporation/Creation. 1996
A new landmark and a starting point for new writing. -- Roland Barthes
Guyotat has written a book in a language of startling innovation; I have never read anything like it in any stream of literature. No-one has ever spoken as he speaks here. -- Michel Foucault
Pierre Guyotat is violent, transgressive and inspired. He is the last great avan-garde visionary of our century. -- Edmund White
"Or, one should take the advice of the preeminent French critic Roland Barthes in the introduction when he writes that *Eden Eden Eden* must be "entered, not by believing it, becoming party to an illusion, participating in a fantasy, but by writing the language in [Guyotat's] place, signing it along with him." I might also suggest *singing* along with Guyotat because *Eden Eden Eden* has a uniquely intoxicating incantatory quality whose power is as much viscerally musical as it is appallingly visual. Read aloud, *Eden* has the rhythm of a monologue wired directly to the heart of darkness. You'll just want to make certain you're alone in a soundproof room if you dare to read these words outside your own mind. For that matter, you might even want to shield this text from the eyes of your casually curious over-the-shoulder reader on the morning train. In this case, there's no really good way to answer the question, "Whatcha reading there?"
What's this book about?--again, in Barthes words, it's a "free text," by which he means it's pointless to look for "meaning" in terms of the conventional paradigms of character, plot, theme, symbolism, etc. The situation, however, seems to be this: a sort of camp town in the desert, a brothel of male prostitutes, and the soldiers (of an unnamed conflict) drillers (of oil or ore; it's unspecified) and assorted nomads and shepherds who wander in from the surrounding wastelands to use them. The text consists of a single uninterrupted paragraph of 181 pages describing in excruciatingly minute mechanical detail an unending series of copulatory acts without any seeming point but to emphasize the slime, stench, and excretions of living bodies.
Guyotat's text overpowers and oppresses us with the most elementary fact: life is disgusting. Snot, farts, blood, spit, urine, greasy pubic hairs, sweat, pimples--he forces us to see what we ordinarily soft-focus out of the picture. There are some things you just don't want to know even if they're true; some things you don't want to see even if they're happening right in front of your nose. Guyotat looks directly at these things. Sex isn't a matter of psychology, intimacy, emotion, or even pleasure--it's a physical fact--and need--no different than eating. One copulates as one devours--out of hunger and need--and often at the same time as more than one character illustrates by greedily sucking the scraps of meat from between the teeth of his/her sex mate.
If there is a "meaning" or organizing metaphor in *Eden* it's that everything screws everything, everything eats everything--life is rape; life is cannibalization. And in *Eden* that's just about what happens--men, women, goats, infants, monkeys: they're all in on the act. It's a feast, an orgy, a battlefield, a birthing room at the same time. You can almost hear Kurtz's raspy whisper, "The horror, the horror."
Indeed. The horror. That's precisely what you find in *Eden.*
Guyotat's writing style isn't entirely without analogues, at least in this English translation. Think the cut-ups of Wm. S. Burroughs if they were confined to violent acts of homosexuality. Think of the more impersonal monologues of Samuel Beckett--or the meticulously detailed descriptive passages of Robbe-Grillet. You get the idea. This isn't an easy text to read--in fact, it's hard work, but once you get going it's unexpectedly difficult to stop. The dark pulse of the text pulls you helplessly along, numbing you, overwhelming you. You aren't reading *Eden* to enjoy it or to be entertained by it. You aren't reading it to be educated or informed. You're reading it to experience it and, in the end, to endure and survive it, like living through a typhoon. When it's over, you know you've been through something few would dare if they had any choice in the matter. It's the kind of ordeal far more enjoyable to talk about in retrospect than it was to eyewitness in the first place.
So why read *Eden*? Why do people ride nauseating roller coasters or sky dive or swim with sharks? Why do they risk losing toes and freezing to death climbing inaccessibly inhuman mountain peaks? The answer is more than simply "because they're there." It has something to do with the fact that such experiences offer a glimpse onto perspectives and dimensions that can't be gained unless we risk something of ourselves, our comfort, our safety. To quote Barthes a last time, *Eden* is a "new landmark and a starting point for new writing"--a simultaneously terrifying and thrilling prospect indeed. That's why we read it. Did I say "read it?" No. That's why we allow it to assault us. "