Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven - EXCERPT
When the last surviving member on the list of the dead—and, this time, it was Bassmann—stammered his final syllable, then, on this side of the story as well as beyond it, only the enemy would keep strutting straight ahead, undefeated, invincible, and, among the victims of the enemy, no spokesperson would now dare come to interpret or reinterpret any of our voices, or to love us. Lucid despite the split personalities corrupting his agony, Bassmann sought only to communicate with the deceased. He no longer tapped on the washbasin pipes or on the door, saying, for example, “Calling cell 546,” or on the sealed siphon behind the toilet bowl, asking for cell 1157, or on the bars of the window, saying “Bassmann here . . . please respond . . . Bassmann is listening . . . please respond . . .” Now he knocked nowhere. He concentrated his gaze on us, the photographs of those who had preceded him in disappearing, and he made the smallest of murmurs pass through his lips, pretending not to be dead and reproducing a whispering technique that the most tantric among us had many a time used in their romånces: with an audible exhalation, the narrator prolongs, not his or her own existence, but the existence of those who are going to dwindle into nothing, whose memory can only be preserved by the narrator. Word by word, moan after moan, Lutz Bassmann struggled to make last the mental edifice that would eventually become dust once again. His breath merged with the putrid sewers that wandered through the prison. He still tenuously held on to reality and he managed to keep together fragments. He managed to keep his voice from giving out again. So that for one hour more, two and a half hours, one more night, the worlds that we had built with swift carpentry and defended would persist. Mental edifice . . . Worlds . . . Swift carpentry . . . What is . . . Huh? I will respond. That is what we had called post-exoticism. It was a construction connected to revolutionary shamanism and literature, literature that was either written by hand or learned by heart and recited, as the administration through the years would sometimes forbid us any paper material; it was an interior construction, a withdrawal, a secret welcoming land, but also something offensive that participated in the plot of certain unarmed individuals against the capitalist world and its countless ignominies. This fight was now confined solely to Bassmann’s lips. It was suspended in a breath. As thirty years of incarceration had left his mind feeble, and reduced his creative spirit to scraps, his final murmurs no longer obeyed the logics of pioneers, combatants, oneiric footprints, or enthusiasm, without which the post-exoticist project had produced no more than two or three works. During his death throes, Lutz Bassmann’s only wish was to stir the embers that he had guarded, and not be absorbed too quickly along with them by the nothingness. But even before, at the beginning of the ten years, maybe because he estimated that the confidants were already unattainable or no longer existed, it seemed that he had lost his creative spark. His latest works, his final romanesque jolts, took shelter under rather unattractive and uninspired titles, such as To Know How to Rot, To Know How Not to Rot, or Structure of Deconstructed Obscurity, or Walk Through Childhood. These are narrative poems and Shaggås, supposedly compact pieces diluted into vast arrière-garde logorrheas that one can take no pleasure in reading. There are also romånces, such as About-Face Vandals, One Thousand Nine Hundred Seventy-Seven Years Before the World Revolution, and even The Mantis, but the brooding that inspired them has devolved into nothing communicable. Their encryption is vain, their undeniable beauty is vain, maybe simply because no one—no one is listening. No living being other than Lutz Bassmann is paying attention. In such works, the idea of connivance with the reader, so oily and so generously spread onto the clockwork of official literature, has been disregarded to even the smallest details. Here we have the terminal rumblings, the ultimate punctuated throaty rasps of post-exoticism . . . POST-EXOTICISM. That word again. Here again this heavy term. Around it we have circled, from the beginning, like vultures around a carcass. WHAT IS POST-EXOTICISM? An insolent question, very unwelcome on the day of Bassmann’s death, but its appearance here demonstrates that a half-century after Minor Angels, by Maria Clementi, sympathizers, on the outside, have not . . . Demonstrates that the incarcerated have been left alone. A symposium on post-exoticism was organized with Lutz Bassmann’s involvement before the ’00s of the twenty-first century, eighteen or nineteen years ago. It lived more or less in 1997. Beyond the walls of the prison, this must have been an age of hollow editorials, or of reflux toward what official literature itself considered the worst. Two popular chroniclers had been sent to us by a cultural magazine in general circulation, subsidized, I believe, by mafia industrialists in meat and construction. I say “I,” and “I believe,” but this is again just a matter of pure convention. The first-person singular serves to accompany the voice of others, it signifies nothing more. Without damage to the understanding of this poem, one can consider that I have been dead for ages, and not take the “I” into account . . . For a post-exotic narrator, anyway, there is not the thickness of a piece of cigarette paper between the first-person and others, and hardly any difference between life and death.