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I have been reading mid-century novels for teaching this past month. For studies of state formations, citizenship, dispossession, and slavery I have just re-read The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier and Khirbet Khizeh, by S. Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky) both of which were first published in 1949, the former originally in Spanish and the latter in Hebrew. The former concerns the Haitian revolution and neocolonialism. Khirbet Khizeh, an autobiographical/historical novel recently brought out by Ibis Editions in English narrates, from the point of view of an Israeli soldier, the Nakba of 1948 in which thousands of Palestinian people were expelled and hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed by the Israeli army. I have also just re-read Nathalie Sarraute’s The Planetarium in tandem with “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof,” and other sections of Capital, for a unit on commodity fetishism. This week I am revisiting Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940), the sorrowful tale of Rubashov in which the old Bolshevik, imprisoned by his own regime, comes to realize that, after all, history does not have a telos, and therefore the ends cannot justify the means. By my bedside lies Simone Weil’s Gravity & Grace (1952). Weil tells us “We must ask that all the evil we do may fall solely and directly on ourselves. That is the cross.” I am struck by that we must ask; if we do not ask to metabolize it ourselves, our evil passes on to others. “That is the cross,” she writes. Contradiction is another “cross” for Weil. It is “…the criterion of the real.” The most contemporary book I’m reading just now is Globalectics (2012), Ngugi wa Thiong’o epistemological intervention into how literature is read and taught, in which he shows how way-ahead-of-politics, in already being post-national, is literature’s desire and scope: “Works of imagination refuse to be bound within national geographies; they leap out of nationalist prisons and find welcoming fans outside the geographic walls.”

 

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Published Dec 04, 2013 - Comments Off

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