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I philosophise only in terror, but in the confessed terror of going mad.[1]

 Jacques Derrida.

The circle of the eternal return is a circle which is always excentric in relation to an always decentered center.[2]

Gilles Deleuze.

 1. Architecture of The White Hotel  

Published in 1981, D.M. Thomas’ The White Hotel is a post-structuralist novel which employs parody to expose the absences of meaning inherent in itself. In Prologue D.M. Thomas gives the impression that he is publishing the real letters written by Freud and his friends. Written in the form of a documentary this part is followed by a surrealist poem giving voice to Lisa Erdman’s dreams and fantasies. Here we look at the world with the eyes of a young man and a young woman. They have no identities, their world is not separated from themselves, and nothing is categorized. There everything can turn into something else including its opposite, everything is replaceable with another thing, and everything is intermingled, no distinction is made between internal and external objects: Stars fall from the sky like rain, trees mix with the sea, young woman turns into Magdalene, and drinks the wind. The consciousness and the body of the man and the woman become one with the universe in this Surrealist poem. In this first chapter the gap between what is real and what is not is filled, the boundary between the fictional and social reality is erased, and a fantastic vision of the world is presented. In the part following this poetic part the same events are narrated in prose employing the techniques of the symbolists and abstract expressionists.

The third chapter is the case study of Lisa Erdman, aka Frau Anna. Frau Anna’s illness and the therapeutic process are narrated in such a way as to give the impression that we are reading Freud’s notebook. The language of this chapter is scientific and conforms to the norms of scientific objectivity. There are occasional footnotes and scientific documents. It is only through a footnote that the reader is given hint that all this is actually fictional and has nothing to do with what has actually happened. In this footnote it said that Freud’s notebook containing the case studies was burnt in 1933. If the text is based on facts so too must the footnote be based on facts; so what we have been reading cannot be Freud’s own writing. In other words the text is not taking itself seriously, the text is deconstructing itself, shifting the ground beneath his feet and eventually collapsing in on itself. The text negates what it claims to be the truth and turns into a parody of itself.

In the fourth chapter all the forms and contents of narrative in the previous chapter are brought together under the roof of a traditional and realistic forms of writing. Events are situated in their proper historical contexts and are presented linearly with all the cause-effect relationships in order. The characters are presented in accordance with the symbolic order and show signs of progress in time. In this context science, art, and life seem to be interconnected and the reader is given the impression that rational discourse on them and their relationship with each other is possible.

The fifth chapter is almost exactly the opposite of the second chapter. The subject who had become one with the universe and was continually changing in harmony with nature in the second chapter, becomes the subject of death, alienation, trauma, and separation. This chapter is about the Ukrainian Jews who thought they were being taken to Jerusalem by train, but soon found themselves naked and about to be killed. Lisa is among these Ukrainian Jews. Alienation, detachment, instability, human destroying human, fear and violence are all analyzed in terms of their relations to death and nothingness. The narrative form is mostly naturalistic, and yet touched by a little bit of symbolism here and there.

The sixth and the last chapter of The White Hotel resembles the second chapter in that it is composed of dream-visions. Here all events and all sensations are accepted without questioning, and even without comprehension. This unmediated knowledge is articulated through a surrealistic narrative.

As a whole The White Hotel is an attempt to find a way of expressing the trauma of the Holocaust. In his The Holocaust and The Literary Imagination, Lawrence Langer investigates the representability of the traumatic experiences and their effects.

How should art – how can art? – represent the inexpressibly inhuman suffering of the victims, without doing an injustice to that suffering? If art, as Adorno concedes, is perhaps the last remaining sanctuary where that suffering can be paid honest homage, enshrining it permanently in the imagination of the living as the essential horror that it was, the danger also exists of this noble intention sliding into the abyss of its opposite.[3]

For Langer, trying to represent the Holocaust invites the negation of the real situation by tranquilizing the reader with a kind of aesthetic sublimation resulting in temporary satisfaction. So the writer should find a suitably disturbing form to be able to make the reader feel the pain of the suffering. The writer should aim at such a way of expression as to disturb the reader, rather than provide him/her with fetish objects to stand in for the Real of the Holocaust. The Real may be unattainable, it may be that which is non-symbolizable, the unnamable truth of what really happened, and yet splitting the narrative, interrupting the continuity, dissolving the structure, may themselves turn out to be the very qualities that renders it possible for the reader to touch the Real without really touching it.

In The White Hotel we only glimpse at the extent of loss and get a sense of the inordinate measure of suffering involved in traumatic experiences.

The mind resists what it feels to be imaginatively valid but wants to disbelieve; and the task of the artist is to find a style and a form to present the atmosphere or landscape of atrocity, to make it compelling, to coax the reader into credulity – and ultimately, complicity. The fundamental task of the critic is not to ask whether it should or can be done, since it already has been, but to evaluate how it has been done, judge its effectiveness, and analyse its implications for literature and society.[4]

How can you make someone feel the other’s pain through language, especially when this pain is unnamable? For Langer identification is necessary for ethical action. So the writer should find the proper way of saying what he means to say, in such a way as to create the conditions of possibility for the reader’s identification with the character. Langer thinks that making the reader identify with the holocaust victims invites ethical questioning of the situation. Langer seems to be blind to what is really at work in an identification process.

The Real, the traumatic kernel resists signification, it is an irruption which exists in the form of an absence. Creating gaps within the text itself helps to create the effects of absence and loss on the reader. But there is also a negative aspect of producing absence of meaning and presence of obscurity in the text. The writer may find himself/herself inviting projective identification with his/her characters. Creating absences of meaning within the text does not always alienate the reader from the text, quite the opposite may be the case; it leaves spaces within the text onto which the reader can project his/her Narcissistic image of self.

It is only in the shape of such novels as The White Hotel that we can reconcile ourselves to being caught up in an irresolvable conflict-situation between the life drive and the death drive. It is this antagonism inherent in human-condition itself that fascism exploited, and has not ceased to exploit in the way not only of murdering masses, but also of making the masses murder themselves and one another.

At a first glance The White Hotel looks like a poetic novel about the Jewish Holocaust feeding on the mythological imagery of psychoanalysis. In the Author’s Note, D.M. Thomas says,

One could not travel far in the landscape of hysteria – the terrain of this novel – without meeting the majestic figure of Sigmund Freud. Freud becomes one of the dramatis personae, in fact, as discoverer of the great and beautiful modern myth of psychoanalysis. By myth, I mean a poetic, dramatic expression of a hidden truth; and in placing this emphasis, I do not intend to put into question the scientific validity of psychoanalysis.[5]

The Prologue of The White Hotel is composed of five letters written by Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, his lover Gisela, and Sachs. The first letter is written by Ferenczi to his lover Gisela on 8th September 1909. In this letter Ferenczi talks about his feelings and fantasies and as he does this he mentions the disagreement between Freud and Jung. According to Ferenczi, Jung has interpreted one of Freud’s dreams in such a way as to cause anxiety in Freud. And upon this Freud said to Jung that he would never ever give any information to him about his personal life. What Thomas does in the third chapter to criticize Freud becomes relevant here. Thomas tells of the basic principles and techniques of psychoanalysis using the discourse of psychoanalysis in a dramatic way, that is, by dramatizing psychoanalysis and parodying Freud. The relationship between the Id, the ego, and the super-ego, together with the external factors influencing this relationship are narrated through Freud’s notes on a case study. Frau Anna, who is in fact Lisa Erdman, is the object of study. Freud interprets Lisa’s writings and speeches, and the reader reads this interpretation as part of the novel. From what Freud writes about Lisa the reader gets the message that Freud is a human, as you see he is in error about Lisa, his interpretations are misinterpretations and are limited by his desires, anxieties, and obsessions; he cannot be objective, he can never know the truth of Lisa’s words, which Thomas will tell us later in his novel.

At the beginning of his career Freud did think that the cause of mental illnesses is the return of the repressed contents of a personal unconscious, which were mostly of a sexual nature. Jung, on the other hand, linked the cause of mental illnesses to what he called a collective unconscious which was the accumulation of the experience of humanity throughout history as a whole. For Freud the cause of illness had something to do with a past personal event, whereas for Jung mental illness had something to do with the present and its relation to the future. Jung concentrated on the present moment in which the past and the future dissolved into one another, but Freud insisted on looking for the cause of illness in the personal history of the patient. Throughout the novel Freud links Lisa’s mental and physical problems to some traumatizing sexual experiences she had when she was a young girl. According to Freud every metaphorical image Lisa uses in her surreal poems is a translation of Lisa’s unconscious desires, they are the returned forms of a repressed memory, symptoms of a traumatic event. For instance Freud interprets the imagery of white hotel in Lisa’s dreams as a manifestation of her will to unite with the maternal body, and perhaps a will to go back into the secure environment of the womb in which nothing is required of the organism. Nietzsche would have said that Lisa’s will is a will to nothingness, rather than willing nothing. Lisa does get better after Freud’s therapy, she returns to music, she even gets married. But Lisa soon realizes that this is only a temporary period of happiness. Lisa thinks that her mental problems have something to do with the future, rather than the past. The reference to Jung is obvious. In a letter she writes to Freud she confesses that she told lies to Freud about her past. As for the reason behind her lies Lisa says,

Is there any family without a skeleton in the cupboard? Frankly I didn’t always wish to talk about the past; I was more interested in what was happening to me then, and what might happen in the future. In a way you made me become fascinated by my mother’s sin, and I am forever grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to delve into it. But I don’t believe for one moment that had anything to do with my being crippled with pain. It made me unhappy, but not ill.[6]

            The difference between Jung and Freud is a difference in method. Freud asks why this dream, why has the patient had this particular dream rather than any other? But Jung says that his own aim is the purpose of the dream, what the dream introduces to the patient’s world. Although Thomas doesn’t bring Jung and Lisa together at this stage of the novel, he implies that Jung’s attitude is more convenient for Lisa’s therapy. That Lisa’s symptoms, rather than being the manifestations of a sexually oriented neurosis as Freud assumed,  are related to the Holocaust to come, that his symptoms are themselves the emotional response she gives to the aggressive impulses haunting Europe is very similar to what Jung experienced in 1910’s. In 1910’s, Jung, just like Lisa, was having hallucinations and was relating these to his personal life. But later it became clear to Jung that these hallucinations were a result of the approaching violence on a massive scale. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes that following the death of some of his friends he suffered from mental and physical problems similar to those of Lisa.

            The couples Eros/Thanatos, Heaven/Hell, love/hate, Venus/Medusa in Lisa’s poem are references to Jung’s theories. For Jung the archetypes in the collective unconscious of humanity is made of a series of oppositions. Among these good and evil are the most important ones and are the two inseparable absolutes. In the novel Lisa says,  

What torments me is whether life is good or evil. I think often of that scene I stumbled into on my father’s yacht. The woman I thought was praying had a fierce, frightening expression; but her ‘reflection’ was peaceful and smiling. The smiling woman (I think it must have been my aunt) was resting her hand on my mother’s breast (as if to reassure her it was all right, she didn’t mind0. But the faces – at least to me now – were so contradictory. And must have been contradictory in themselves too: the grimacing woman, joyful; and the smiling woman, sad. Medusa and Ceres, as you so brilliantly say! It may sound crazy, but I think the idea of the incest troubles me far more profoundly as a symbol than as a real event. Good and evil coupling, to make the world. No, forgive me, I am writing wildly. The ravings of a lonely spinster![7]

            Jung’s answer to Lisa’s question is in his Psychology and Alchemy. According to Jung,

[…] in the self good and evil are indeed closer than identical twins! […] Hence the truth about the self – the unfathomable union of good and evil – comes out concretely in the paradox that although sin is the gravest and most pernicious thing there is, it is still not so serious that it cannot be disposed of with probabilist arguments.[8]

            From Ferenczi’s letter to Freud at the beginning of the novel we learn that Jung offends Freud by interpreting imagery of “peat-bog corpses” as the “bodies of prehistoric men mummified by the effect of the humic acid in the bog water.”[9] Jung connects these “peat-bog corpses” to the primitive “pre-historic monster” running free in the unconscious. Freud almost faints upon hearing Jung’s interpretation and furiously accuses Jung of being full of envious feelings toward him.

            At the end of the novel, however, the “peat-bog corpses” turn out to be something completely other than what Freud and Jung thought they were. Thomas questions not only Freud’s but also Jung’s theories of the unconscious. The “peat-bog corpses” are neither symptoms of neurosis, as Freud says, nor are they signifiers of the primitive side of man as Jung says. The “peat-bog corpses” refer to the traumatic kernel of what happened during the holocaust, the thousands of holocaust victims massacred at Babi Yar. Neither Freud’s nor Jung’s theories can interpret and cure Lisa’s illness, because they both impose a symbolic meaning upon the Real of Lisa’s experiences.

            Just like psychoanalysis, literature too tries to symbolize the Real and translate the unconscious drives into conscious and desirable forms. The forms, however, are false representations of the unconscious, and usually give false forms to percepts and affects; literature is a falsification of the Real. In accordance with this, Thomas often refers to other literary and non-literary texts, makes connections between them to expose their self-contradictions, his meaning itself dissolves in this web of relations; meaning proliferates. Finding himself/herself in this hubris  of intertextuality, in this abundance of meaning, the reader thinks that he/she has understood the novel, when in fact he/she is drowning in the meaninglessness overflowing the text. All this illusions collapse with the chapter about Babi Yar. It becomes clear to the reader that it was all an illusion, and behind this illusion there is nothing but a big, black, hungry spider waiting for him/her. Where there should have been a void, death, there is this black spider to stand in for it. This black spider is the Lacanian objet petit a par excellence. In The White Hotel the objet petit a is a life consuming monster projected onto the Real.

Lisa sighed. “Why is it like this, Richard? We were made to be happy and to enjoy life. What’s happened?” He shook his head in bafflement, and breathed out smoke. “Were we made to be happy? You’re an incurable optimist, old girl!”[10]

2. Is Everyman an Island?

Islands are either from before or after humankind.[11]

Gilles Deleuze

 William Golding’s Lord of The Flies is an allegory of the death-drive inherent in human nature. It is a reversal of Ballantyne’s The Coral Island. In direct opposition to The Coral Island in which three young men establish the British culture on an island after their ship sinks in the Pacific Ocean, in Lord of The Flies we have children who become deranged and lose control of their aggressive impulses on a deserted island. In the absence of an external authority they become more and more violent. Golding is implying that humankind is violent by nature and the absence of symbolic order initiates a regressive process governed by the unconscious drives leading to violence and destruction.

            People prefer security and certainty to truth, they want an unshakable, stable order in which they can feel secure. They want object relations that sustain the conditions of impossibility for dispersal and death. Their will is a will not to truth but to security of the womb. And yet this striving for security itself brings calamities on the subject. For being in pursuit of the past is a product of will to nothingness and will to nothingness is nothing but the desire for death disguised as desire for the mother’s womb. Science attempts to construct the relationship between the subject and its objects in such a way as to serve the ideology, which subjects the individual to certain rules and regulations in the way of manufacturing an illusory sense of security. This is the definition of ideology in a nutshell. For Socrates, as Nietzsche points out in The Birth of Tragedy, one has to be judged before the courts of Logos, become namable, become an object of knowledge, to be able to become nice and good.

How can the good principle win over the bad principle? To answer this question I turn back to Lord of The Flies and Deleuze’s definition of an island as it appears in Desert Islands. An island is the proper place for horror fiction. An island is detached from the external world; it is surrounded by water and is closed in on itself. On an island the subject is alone and this aloneness in the absence of a symbolic order brings the subject closer to its primordial form which is the state of being governed by the death-drive. On an island everything starts anew and progresses in time. A generic singularity is like an island to be sown with the seeds of new forms of life. The concept of island has for a long time been an object standing in for either the dark side or the brighter side of civilization. In Thomas More’s Utopia for instance, we see a better world contrasted with the dark world of the dominant symbolic order in More’s day. Likewise, in Aldous Huxley’s Island we see all the social problems of humanity solved on an Island called Pala. In Pala, family structure, habits of consumption-production, relation to body, healthy living, etc. all take a new form. In Brave New World Huxley had portrayed an exact opposite situation in which a knowledge based on the principles of totalitarianism was the regime governing life, love, and truth.

The island in Lord of The Flies becomes the stage on which the children regress to a primitive state and all their aggressive impulses come to the fore as a result of the absence of certain governing principles imposed on them. Golding’s attitude can easily be considered conservative, or even as advocating the goodness of totalitarianism.

            Golding’s pessimism is divided within itself. It is his intellect that is pessimistic, as for his will it’s highly optimistic. With the pessimism of his intellect he controls his will and keeps optimism at bay. When the intellect is pessimistic it strives to make things better and if the will is ill then this striving to make things better turns into a will to nothingness. Although the intellect seems to be the uniting force, the life-drive, represented by Eros, reverse is the case, for it is will that is the uniting force and the intellect is the splitting force. Intellect splits objects surrounding the subject in the way of attaining an indivisible remainder. Atomization of thought stops when one reaches that indivisible remainder, which is the unsymbolizable traumatic kernel, the real of one’s desire, which is the death-drive. It is only through entry into the symbolic order that the death-drive turns into the life-drive. In this context, we can say that the life-drive belongs to the depressive position and the death-drive belongs to the paranoid-schizoid position. On a deserted island the subject regresses to paranoid-schizoid position and in its detachment becomes aggressive towards the objects surrounding it. Since there is no object at which the subject can direct its aggressiveness the subject turns against itself. On an island there is no object at which the subject can project his bad objects. The bad objects explode like shit and poison the subject which increases the rapidity of deterioration and regress to a state before birth, which is the same state as that of after death. It is on an island that the conflict between the life drive and the death drive emerges on the surface in the form of conflict-events. These conflict-events give birth to symptoms. In the process of turning these symptoms into objects of knowledge the psychoanalyst, philosopher, artist, or scientist, all translate it into acceptable forms, that is, they give forms to affects, percepts, and concepts in the way of making the subject get rid of this fundamental antagonism. All life is conflict and on a deserted island this conflict and the suffering it causes are magnified by inordinate measures. An island is a microscopic setting for the exposition of the other within, the evil, the tyrant, the fascist in everyone of us, to which, according to Nietzsche, not only the intellect but also the will submit.

Perhaps Nietzsche’s most important contribution to philosophy is not only the distinction he makes between knowledge and truth, but also the asymmetrical relationship he establishes between will and intellect, a reversal of Scopenhauer’s symmetrical model in which the will is portrayed as the exact opposite of intellect. When Nietzsche says “man would much rather will nothingness than not will,” what he wants to say is that man would prefer to want to contain nothingness, that is, introject the emptiness opened by the death of God, rather than prefer not to have anything, which would mean projecting everything in him onto the object cause of desire, hence disqualifying it as bad-object. This also means that the subject ceases to be a subject, but becomes an object of the life-drive. Life-drive, with its unificatory and binding force, constitutes not the subject but the absence of the subject. By imposing a unity on the infinity of the subject as death-drive, Eros subjectivizes the subject in process and turns it into a static entity, an object of desire. It is from then onwards that the subject is shaped as an object of desire under the rule of the symbolic order. To escape from the condition of being caught up in this system which the subject reproduces even when he thinks he is negating it consists in surviving the conflict between the life-drive and the death-drive, in other words, passing across the gap separating knowledge and truth, and fill a space in time as a symbolically self-identical subject, while the Real subject is oppressed and strives to signify the gap inherent in the symbolic order. It is only through splitting the given unities and continuities that the Real subject can manifest itself. This Real can only manifest itself in the form of absences, gaps, splits, which are themselves the openings to the Real of the subject as the death-drive.

It is the vicious cycle of the life and death drives that is being produced and exploited by global capitalism today. Through a manipulation of the healthy conflict, the relationship between the life and death drives is turned into antagonism. Undecidability, absence of foundational truth procedures, loss of principles, and declarations of the end of history are all manifestations of a discursive disease which is very rapidly contaminating the relationship between humans and their own health. In a world where a normal person must have a therapist, where having a therapist is a sign of normalcy, there can be no other choice but to shake the foundations of the illusions on which the health of many generations to come depends.

 3. The Projection-Introjection Mechanism in Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans

 The consequences of projection of fantasies onto the Real can be clearly observed in Kerouac’s The Subterraneans, which was quite a subversive book in its time, carrying Kerouac quite high up the cultural ladder, and in Burroughsian “causing thousands of Levi’s sold.”

In The Subterraneans we see Jack Kerouac’s persona Leo oscillating between attraction to and repulsion by Mardou who is a Cherokee American. One half of Leo loves Mardou and the other half is afraid of this love. If in one chapter Leo declares his love for Mardou, in the next chapter we see him resenting her. Leo’s oscillation between the life drive and the death drive constitute a movement between negation and the transcendence of this negation. Affirmation always remains at bay for Kerouac and his character Leo. Perhaps only at the beginning of the novel he gets a bit closer to affirmation, but this affirmation is in no way an affirmation of Mardou as she is. Rather, it is the affirmation of what has happened throughout the novel, an affirmation of that which has lead to the break-up of Mardou and Leo, as if what has taken place was what actually happened, rather than a projection of Leo’s paranoid fantasy on what has actually happened. At the end of the novel it becomes clear that all that has been lived had been lived for this novel to be written, rather than for its own sake.

[…] this was my three week thought and really the energy behind or the surface one behind the creation of the Jealousy Phantasy in the Grey Guilt dream of the World Around Our Bed.)—now I saw Mardou pushing Yuri with a OH YOU and I shuddered to think something maybe was going on behind my back – felt warned too by the quick and immediate manner Yuri heard me coming and rolled off but as if guiltily as I say after some kind of goose or feel up some illegal touch of Mardou which made her purse little love loff lips at him and push at him and like kids.[12]

Upon having the dream Leo begins to see everything through the keyhole of his obsession that one day Mardou will sleep with Yuri if she hasn’t already done so. I would like to read this story with the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from Heaven to Earth in mind, or the passage from the old Earth to the new Earth. What’s at stake here is the conflict between what’s going on in Leo’s mind as to what’s going on in Mardou’s mind and what’s really going on in Mardou’s mind. There is, in reality, nothing going on in Mardou’s mind. It is Leo projecting what he read in the Bible onto Mardou’s mind, what he read in the Bible being that it was Eve who caused the fall, for it was her who tempted Adam to eat the apple. So Leo is projecting what he has introjected from the Bible. And the Bible was the representation of women in general and his mother in particular for Kerouac. The preconception in Leo’s mind that women are evil, sinful, and guilty by nature both attracts and repels Leo. This state of being caught in a movement between repulsion/attraction ties the subject with an endless chain of negative associations to his own fear of being betrayed, pushing him further towards madness and death. The final words of the book bring the end which Leo was from the beginning of the relationship more than willing to reach: separation and through writing it down reunification with the lost object. For as we know from Freud, “writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person.”

And I go home having lost her love.

And write this book.[13]

  Leo believes that he has had the dream and that if he has the dream of it the sexual intercourse in real life has either taken place or will take place in the future. Kerouac/Leo is, “at present,” writing The Subterraneans. And everything has already taken place; the sequence of events follows this way: Leo has the dream, Mardou engages in sexual intercourse with Yuri, Mardou and Leo break up, Leo continues the daydream, laughs to retain sanity in the face of this tragedy, and goes home and writes this book. In it there is no true story; and it doesn’t matter whether there is or not a true story other than the story of an unhappy consciousness running towards its death in and through a story of love, affection, resentment, guilt, and compassion, which exposes the symptoms of a life as it unceasingly wills its subject’s end.

[…]still making no impression on my eager impressionable ready-to-create construct destroy and die brain – as will be seen in the great construction of jealousy which I later from a dream and for reasons of self-laceration recreated…[14]

Now, Leo sees Mardou in bed with Yuri and obsessively believes that his dream will come true. Leo believes himself to be a clairvoyant, that he has the ability to know things prior to seeing them actually taking place before his eyes. This he has introjected from Mardou herself, who, in a Nietzschean fashion, believes, does, and says things which simultaneously repel and attract Leo. There is no linear narrative in Mardou’s story about her adventures with the subterraneans of San Francisco and Leo likes it because there remains lots of gaps for him to fill with his fantasies later on when he is writing his story. Say what she may,

I got nervous and had some kind of idea about Mike, he kept looking at me like he wanted to kill me – he has such a funny look anyway – I got out of the house and walked along and didn’t know which way to go, my mind kept turning into the several directions that I was thinking of going but my body kept walking straight along Columbus altho’ I felt the sensation of each of the directions I mentally and emotionally turned into, amazed at all the possible directions you can take with different motives that come in, like it can make you a different person – I’ve often thought of this since childhood, of suppose instead of going up Columbus as I usually did I’d turn into Filbert would something happen that at the time is insignificant enough but would be like enough to influence my whole life in the end? – What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take? – and all that, so if this had not been such a constant preoccupation that accompanied me in my solitude which I played upon in as many different ways as possible I wouldn’t bother now except but seeing the horrible roads this pure supposing goes to it took me to frights, if I wasn’t so damned persistent –’ and so on deep into the day, a long confusing story only pieces of which and imperfectly I remember, just the mass of the misery in connective form –[15]

What then, is this “connective form”? Who then, is the subject of this “mass of misery pieces of which are imperfectly remembered”? There is a different way of remembering in action here, a different way of being in relation to time and language in this “imperfect remembrance” of the lived experiences. The problem with Kerouac’s writing is that he is not separating his introjected object from the projecting subject. Kerouac wants to represent Mardou as she is and yet he at the same time wants to prove that Leo was the one pulling the strings from the beginning. What Mardou is actually trying to convey is veiled by Kerouac who makes it impossible for the reader to distinguish between fiction and reality, self and other, subject and object, projected and introjected. His voice dissolves into the voice of Mardou and Mardou’s story remains unheard. Rather than unveiling, Kerouac’s writing not only veils but also manipulates the truth of the other for his abusive purposes. All his life Kerouac struggled to traverse this field of partial representations of the other, but being an innocent fascist he repeatedly fell into his own traps and failed in affirming the real as it is. If he could have loved the real as it is, he could have “delivered himself from his automatic reactions,” and thus he could have become “a body without organs.”[16]

While most of us live by the time of good sense, the Nietzschean subject is able to defy such sense and experience the creative evolution of self in exploration of a deeper memory – the virtual memory of the pure past as the event of events of the eternal return. Rather than a self-identical self, the self of the third synthesis of time is a creatively evolving self who is able to genuinely affirm life as metamorphosis.[17]

Leo chooses to become partially mad, for Mardou is the other half of his madness. The internal theatre of Leo stages a sexual intercourse between Mardou and Yuri and/but although this intercourse has not yet taken place, Leo is assured that one day it will. Leo had started plotting ways of getting rid of Mardou three weeks prior to their split. Is this will a will to end the relationship that makes Leo see this dream? In other words, is the source of this dream a will-to-nothingness-oriented-hope, a wish that Mardou will engage in sexual intercourse with Yuri and the relationship will end that way? Or is the dream based on a will-to-nothingness-oriented-fear that Mardou does not, and has never loved Leo? These questions can be asked if one wants to know what the dream means, in other words these questions are interpretation oriented questions and my aim here is not to interpret Leo’s dream and understand what it means but rather to make use of this dream in understanding why this dream matters not only for The Subterraneans, but also for twentieth century philosophy, literature, cultural and critical theory, and psychoanalysis.

 Both Oedipus and Leo see themselves as innocent victims “caught in a trap set by the God.” Fiction and reality give birth to one another in each case. In Oedipus’ case the prophecy turns into truth, in Leo’s case a dream turns into reality. Leo believes in what he sees in his dream and he sees Mardou in bed with Yuri. And his strong belief, almost an obsession, that one day Mardou will sleep with Yuri gives birth to the actualisation of this event at the end of the novel. Leo tells everyone about his dream. He tells Mardou almost every day following his dream that he is worried about the future of their relationship. Leo’s paranoid-schizoid attitude prepares the grounds for the actualization of what he was afraid of. At the end of the story, the only thing left at hand for Leo to make the best of is to write his experiences down and turn his loss into a gain in and through language. Leo is such a tragic character that in order to remain sane he has to laugh at himself by considering the “whole host and foolish illusion and entire rigmarole and madness we erect in the place of one love, in our sadness…”[18] to be a joke. When Leo learns that Mardou has actually slept with Yuri, when the truth is finally established, when fiction turns into reality, he addresses the reader:

[…]but I continue the daydream and I look into his eyes and I see suddenly the glare of a jester angel who made his presence on earth all a joke and I realize that this too with Mardou was a joke and I think, ‘Funny Angel, elevated amongst the subterraneans.’

‘Baby its up to you,’ is what she’s actually saying, ‘ about how many times you wanta see me and all that – but I want to be independent like I say.’

And I go home having lost her love.

And write this book.[19]

Kerouac writes through love, but through a love that Leo is afraid of falling in. And his writing is the product of a sick desire, it is driven by a love of love, a desire to be desired. Kerouac exposes himself through Leo in such a way as to show why it is necessary to create something without becoming destructive of either the self or the other. Something that he himself doesn’t know how to do. It is an ill will that drives Kerouac towards manic-depressive, self-destructive alcoholism. His consciousness of the absence of “eternal love” in this finite life together with his immortal longing for an eternal love turn him into “a shipwreck on the shores of lust.” What Kerouac lacks in life is what is necessary to operate the war-machine in Kerouac. Love is the force that drives the war-machine and Kerouac is afraid of loving with a greater love, without projective identification. He is a paranoid love-machine because his love is in the form of a spark given birth by the struggle between the superiority and the inferiority complexes he simultaneously harbors within himself.

In the absence of a war–machine, war dominates the world. And when war dominates the world there is nothing left for one to write but that although his books are among the most important examples of a different way of being in relation to time, language, and life, Kerouac is “locked into an attenuating endgame, playing himself, with each move, further into a corner and into defeat.”[20] He, suffering inordinately from an irrecoverable loss, an irreparable deterioration of psychic and somatic health, pays a high price to render us the witnesses of his fantastic experiences.

Kerouac died in 1969 and/but long ago, in 1951, eighteen years before ceasing to exist among the living, in On the Road, he writes this:

And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiances shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething soar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transition from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like that action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment.[21]

What Kerouac enjoys is death from pleasure, what he desires is suffering. In Kerouac’s writing there is a multiplication of the directions towards which it becomes possible for the subject to head as the subject goes along the way creating new life forces out of his Dionysiac regress. In time, however, Kerouac’s revolutionary becoming takes such a direction that his desire turns against itself turning him into a reactive force drowning in his own resentment. The Kerouac image represented by the media (newspapers, TV, radio), is in conflict with Kerouac’s image of himself, and this relation to himself of Kerouac through a media, through an external force, through a panoptic eye, locks Kerouac into the projection-introjection mechanism through which he constantly breaks and is beaten by as he beats. This operation is more than Kerouac can actively handle, and turns him into a reactive and anti-social person making him “rather will nothingness than not will,” destroying him in the process.

 Conclusion of Part III

 In Julio Cortazar’s short story Axolot, we read the main character realizing that the type of fish called Axolot stand still in water with no movement at all, a kind of motionless flight. With this realization the character commits himself to becoming like those fish himself. At the end of the story he sees everyone outside of himself as an Axolot fish. He has become an axolot himself. He has gone beyond the finitude of his existence. He becomes altogether immobile, merely an observer, watching people, life, opportunities, and time pass by. Eventually he becomes imperceptible. Here and now everything is continually changing towards becoming-imperceptible. Time turns something into nothing. Everything is in time only for a short period of time. Then everything disappears in a neutral light.

To have dismantled one’s self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line. A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody. To paint oneself gray on gray.[22]

It is the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive that is being manipulated by global capitalism (contemporary nihilism) today. Undecidability, absence of foundational truth procedures, loss of principles, and declarations of the end of history and the subject are all manifestations of a discursive disease which is very rapidly contaminating the relationship between humans and their own health. In a world where a normal person must have a therapist, where having a therapist is a sign of normalcy, there can be no other choice but to shake the foundations of the illusions on which the health of many generations to come depends.

Carrying out an intervention in the course of events, introducing a split into the continuity of things requires learning how not to be produced by the image factory which captures desire in a certain order of signification mechanism so as to turn the subject into a copy of the products of the image factory, or into the object of the other’s interpretation  and identification processes. To become capable at least to subvert the codes of the capitalist axiomatics which produces desire as the desire of nothingness and death, this subject should come to a realization that he/she is already caught up in the projection-introjection mechanism. So the subject has to learn to use the projection-introjection mechanism in such a way as to sustain the conditions for the impossibility of wickedness in the form of exclusive and illusory constructions of the Real. Surviving the absence of a transcendental signified in a “time out of joint” requires learning to love the object of desire for what it is rather than for what it resembles. This is to love and live without projective identification, without paranoid reactions to the other, without possessing the other, or without confining the other within the boundaries of the self. One has to cease to be somebody and learn to become nobody so as to create a difference in and for itself and affirm this difference by affirming the difference of that which is “not I.”


[1] Jacques Derrida, Cogito and the History of Madness, from Writing and Difference,” trans. Alan Bass (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 76

[2] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale, ed. Constantin V. Boundas (London and New York: Continuum, 2003), 264

[3] Lawrence Langer, The Holocaust and The Literary Imagination (London: Yale University Press, 1975), 1

[4]Langer, 22

[5] D.M. Thomas, The White Hotel (London: Victor Gollancz, 1981), 6

[6] Thomas, 171

[7] Thomas, 171

[8] Carl G. Jung, Problems of Alchemy, “Selected Writings,” ed. Anthony Storr (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983), 270-1

[9] Thomas, 10

[10] Thomas, 239-40

[11] Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), 9

[12] Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 69

[13] Kerouac, 93

[14] Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 39

[15] Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 20

[16]Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (University of California: Berkeley, 1975), 570-1 “When you will have made him a body without organs,

then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom

then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out

as in the frenzy of dancehalls

and this wrong side out will be his real place.”

[17] Tamsin Lorraine, Living a Time Out of Joint, “Between Deleuze and Derrida,” eds. Paul Patton and John Protevi (Continuum: London and NY, 2003), 39

[18] Kerouac, 77

[19] Kerouac, 93

[20] J.M. Coetzee, Youth (Secker and Warburg: London, 2002), 169

[21] Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: The Viking Press, 1957), 173

[22] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (University of Minnesota Press: Minnesota, 1988), 197

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