Madness Cannot Be Thought

by Saadi Nikro

© Saadi Nikro 1999 -2021

How do all these words live?
How do they increase? How grow up?
We will nourish them with memories' tears
With metaphors -- and sugar!

Mahmoud Darwish, "The Rose and the Dictionary" [1]

 

 

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I

A few years after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish writes a long prose poem in disjointed and overlapping fragments. Together, the fragments compose a day in the life of the Beirut siege, forming a composite picture at once descriptive, reflexive, and interpretive. Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982 is part commentary, part conversation, part polemic - never supposing a fixed point of address that would reflect the interest or intention of a singular, unitary voice. Its writing treads a difficult path between the political and the aesthetic, challenging the tendency to regard them and their relationship as unmediated forms of experience. To presuppose, in terms of a totalising assimilation or directive, the significance of one or the other is to assume what Darwish calls "the fallacy of ready-made intent" [2], whereby the complexity and variable tonality of both is sacrificed to a uniform, possessive, all-encompassing form of understanding.

The writing of Memory for Forgetfulness engages the reader with questions concerning poetic form, the possibility of poetry in a time of war, and the role of the poet as an intellectual. While no doubt preoccupied with a specific Palestinian history and circumstance, Darwish relates such concerns to an exploration of language as a transgressive experience of writing and reading, whereby language is creatively and critically experienced as a dense texture of conflictual impulses and developing residues. This exploration never leads Darwish to an abstract level of argument, but relates concretely to an experience of how language renews itself in terms of a confrontation with the new and unfamiliar. The madness of language - the many incoherencies, impossible silences, paradoxical over-determinations, seeming oxymorons, excessive gestures, discontinuities and ruptures - does not form the basis of an exchange between ideas, but impels writing to appreciate how it transpires as an always abridged form of the sounds it evokes; impels language to both discover and form a site of historical awareness and participation, so that unanticipated otherness is given the space to express itself.

With an acute awareness of the interconnections between language and landscape, Memory for Forgetfulness encourages an approach to language that would come to accept its irredeemable lack of purity, that would accept its contingency as an always developing terrain yielding certain forms of knowledge and understanding, within certain cultural and intellectual horizons. As a complex pattern of variable and conflictual impulses woven into the fabric of social and cultural life, language relates to landscape in much the same way that a tree marks and enriches the earth. The only way in which the tree can survive is by developing itself in a repetitive cycle of seasonal change and renewal. With Darwish, this sense of language as a site of experience is attuned to the potential of its undeniable lack, and must be constantly drawn through the terrain of its absence. Language itself becomes an event, an ambivalent movement always encroaching a threshold of discovery. Neither that which conforms to intention, nor a self-referential play of signification, language is informed by the event of its actualisation.

Language transports the self across various borders and boundaries, into such circumstances that it itself seems to have been exiled into an alienating sense of foreignness. As a Palestinian, Darwish is intimately acquainted with an experience of exile that is doubly cruel: not only has the homeland been left behind, but its memory is subject to a sophisticated form of forgetfulness. And yet the distinctiveness and potential of being Palestinian - the actualisation of song, poetry, conversation, literature, political debate, theatre - is not only delimited by this forgetfulness, but also dissolved into the symbolic logic of a pure, unadorned presence. "For the first time in our history", Darwish writes with an ironical turn of phrase, "our absence is conditional upon our total presence" [3].

This absence, inscribed by an institutionalised form of language identical to itself, must be exposed, must be given voice within the texture of an alternative language that has the capacity to listen to the chattering noise of that which enfolds its significance. In this sense, poetry develops as the death of language identical to itself; whereby the language of absence perishes amidst a silence that comes to write and have itself heard, assisted by "the poet who dares to announce he is writing his silence" [4]. The poet writes his silence by not writing, by allowing the war to write him. Later, after a period of consideration, the poet gives himself to language, to an un-writing that develops from his silence. When a Pakistani friend suggests that the artists should "draw this war on the walls of the city", the poet responds: "What's come over you? Don't you see the walls tumbling" [5]. A time to write, a time to remain silent, and a time to write or unwrite the silence. Poetry is possible only as an exposure and development of a perishable language whose verbal chiaroscuro works as a denial of immediacy. The poem as fragment asks that language constantly give birth to itself, to language as a site of fragments and ruins, to language as an event of their speech.

Memory for Forgetfulness collects these shards of experience in a style of writing acutely aware of itself as a developing scene of dialogue, hardly containing the many voices clamoring to have themselves heard. While the brief fragments often begin and leave off in a sudden and abrupt fashion, their resonance maintain an insistent murmur that seems unwilling to declare its sense or purpose. The reader is given the impression that this peculiar, unsettled, and undeniably baroque language can express itself only as a hint or trace of that which eventually sets itself in relief from surrounding murmurs; a certain realisation that soon perishes, itself becoming a trace of further evocations of sense. The many voices cannot be calmed or appeased. And the reader's best approach is to dive headlong into the turbulent stream of these overlapping and disjointed dialogues.

Reading itself becomes an event, a transsubjective experience of language as it exposes and develops its residual longings and potential forms of transgression. This is not to reduce "the" meaning of a work to its reading, but to appreciate how reading participates as a configuration of voices contributing to the work's eventual significance. As an open site of an experience of language, the work unfolds as a perpetual movement across the terrain of its reading, its writing - in terms of an always developing form of dialogical contact, investment, and implication. It is for this reason, perhaps, that the writing of Memory for Forgetfulness fashions itself as a series of beginnings and endings: a "circling song" [6] for which each moment and almost every word is forced to perish as its experience gives birth to the next; so that language does not set itself up above flux and change, but whose significance always remains close to the earth.

Notes

[1] Mahmoud Darwish The Music of Human Flesh. Trans by Denys Johnson-Davies (Three Continents Press, Washington, p.18).
[2] Darwish Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982. Trans by Ibrahim Muhawi (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1995). Quoted by the translator in his Introduction, p.xxvii.
[3] ibid, p.149.
[4] ibid, p.64.
[5] ibid, p.65.
[6] The title of Nawal El Saadawi's short story The Circling Song, in which she writes: "there is no beginning, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the beginning and the end are adjoined in a single, looping strand; where that thread starts and where it ends can be discerned only with great difficulty". (Zed Books, London, 1989), p.8.

 

 

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II

...language gone mad simply inasmuch as it is language.

Maurice Blanchot [7]

Language implicates and invests an experience of time and space, in terms of a conflictual relationship between memory and forgetfulness. Here, it is necessary to distinguish memory from remembrance, so that it is not a mere exercise in remembering (as in a putting-back-together) or representing the past, but more importantly a recovery of the past as a site of contentious debate and dialogical contact. Where remembrance relies on a strict epistemology of reference and representation, the work of memory develops within a dialogical play of past and present, so that neither can ever be fixed and exhaustively accounted for. It is for this reason that these terms - memory and forgetfulness - should be approached as complex sites of eventual experience that neither begin nor end with the subject (however they may involve some responsibility and obligation on the part of the subject). Both terms inscribe a peculiar, conjunctural relationship between past and present, in respect to how the madness of language has the potential to overcome or work-through narrow or restrictive forms of knowledge and understanding.

In other words, by writing, Darwish develops his memories within the texture of a language that realises itself as a restless site of experience. For the poet (who had himself lived through the Beirut siege) this language must not merely bear historical witness, but must itself become an event in respect to the development of its significance, both actual and potential. The document can never speak for itself, but remains an open site of excavation and dialogical interchange as language addresses its silence. Darwish's fragments explore not merely that which language signifies, but how language becomes an invigorating, contextual form of signification. Between memory and forgetfulness - between the work of language and its masked transparency - unanticipated otherness is recalled from the abyss: "If only one of us would forget the other so that forgetfulness itself might be stricken with memory!". This comes about as madness is led to a confrontation with itself: "And may one of us die before the other so that madness might be stricken with madness" [8].

A mad language; a language not about but of madness; a language that has never ceased to be mad: in terms of an opening onto the margins where the self-present difference between madness and sanity frays. Hence we must draw a distinction between a madness as the inscribed other of sanity, and a madness that cannot be thought, a madness whose significance can never be named, and yet is a necessary condition by which naming as an event is possible. As an event, language cannot be located as either an instinctual or signifying force beyond the form of its variable experience. In other words, madness can never be the other, the other of reason, but only that experience which leads reason to discover and renew itself. To put it another way, whereas the early Foucault had tried to write an "archaeology" of "that silence" within which madness took the form of an unadorned referent [9], Darwish demonstrates how an innovative, transgressive language is only possible on the basis of its potential incoherence, its madness [10].

This language understands itself as a translation of the silence that conditions its lack. A language made possible by the loss of the self as a stable, fixed point of reference. A language emerging from the sea's restless assault on a craggy shore; a repetitive refrain attuned to the erasure of foundations. A language, moreover, that can never forget itself in a transparent, self-present indifference, but is the very material in which memory becomes the transient substance of a work - that which is called a book, but rather lays waste on distant horizons. Darwish asks us to marvel at the seeming fixity of the horizon, its mobility betrayed by our desperate attempts to escape madness, the madness of language discovering itself. Yet the poet's task is not about revealing the madness of language, but to immerse the self within an experience of language for which madness is infinitely present as the opening leading to a path of recovery. A murmur, without hope, and without despair; only the actuality of, to quote Adorno, "the experience of language itself speaking" [11].

The writing of Memory for Forgetfulness demonstrates how language can never exhaust itself as a statement of truth, but must perform an opening of horizons so that truth may be experienced as the precarious traversal of its lack. Language turns in on itself, so as to discover the potential of its othering, whereby unanticipated voices speak the resonance of their silence, their imposed absence in an economy of the habitual and familiar. Madness becomes an event of the unfamiliar shedding its burden, calling into question not merely language's habit of forgetting itself - in terms of how it is assumed as an instrument of reference and representation - but more recent attempts to reduce language to the force of the signifier, whereby emphasis is placed on the regulative attributes of certain forms of signification; whereby the subject is dissolved into the logic of the self-referential sign.

Besides referentialist and constructivist assumptions of its character, language speaks its potential madness precisely when it is approached as a scene; an event enveloped by various afflictions and conflictual impulses. Language becomes a site of developing experience. Madness or language - the madness of language, language of madness - becomes an approachable place:

 

- Good-bye, sir.
- Where to?
- Madness.
- Which Madness?
- Any madness, for I have turned into words [12].

 

By challenging referential and constructivist assumptions of the value or economy of language, the poet draws out the implications of forgetfulness. The scene of language involves an unraveling of that which can be heard as a murmur. It can be identified only on the basis of an accommodation, in the sense that the subject of language (the twin epistemological subjects of expression and representation, of enunciation and statement) does not presuppose itself as fixed and unchanging, but appreciates itself as a complex form always in transit.

Hence the language of madness does not concern itself with a form of interpretation as a revealing or uncovering of underlying truth contents. Rather, its practice allows "the other" a certain degree of self-expression and self-development; in the form of a dialogue between a transpositional self and unanticipated otherness. Meaning takes form - is dressed-up, rendered coherent - within a scene of transference : transference as an experience of conflictual impulses lying within the folds of language [13]; transference as a speaking or writing experience of the unfolding or unraveling of those impulses, dissimulating them within a framework of intelligibility so that they may transpire as a form of address. It is not, then, a matter of opposing referential and constructivist forms of understanding by disqualifying them out of hand, but appreciating the work of transference that conditions their possibility.

Notes

[7] "Madness par excellence ", in The Blanchot Reader, trans by Ann Smock (Blackwell, Oxford, 1995), p.126.
[8] Darwish, Memory..., p.121.
[9] Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans by R. Howard (Tavistock, London, 1967). In the Preface to the French edition, Foucault boldly writes that he is concerned with a "history, not of psychiatry, but of madness itself, before it has been captured by knowledge". Quoted in Shoshana Felman Writing and Madness, trans by M. Evans and the author (Cornell University Press, New York, 1985), p.41. Derrida has described Foucault's book (a little unfairly) as a "Cartesian gesture for the twentieth century". See his essay 'Cogito and the History of Madness', in Writing and Difference, trans by A. Bass (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1978), p.55. Foucault acknowledges such limitations in a later work. See his The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans by A. M. Sheridan Smith (Pantheon Books, New York, 1972), especially pp.16 and 47.
[10] In this, Darwish is much closer to what Maurice Blanchot writes in a belated postscript to his essay on Hölderlin: "To say: Hölderlin is mad, is to say: is he mad? But, right from there, it is to make madness so utterly foreign to all affirmation that it could never find any language in which to affirm itself without putting this language under the threat of madness: language gone mad simply inasmuch as it is language". Blanchot, Op. Cit.
[11] Theodor W. Adorno, "Charmed Language: On the Poetry of Rudolf Borchardt". In Notes to Literature Vol 2, trans by S. Nicholsen (Columbia University Press, New York, 1992), p.193.
[12] Darwish, Memory..., p.51.
[13] This is suggested by Freud, for whom the potential of memory is transcribed within what he calls "the sphere of the transference", never located as a pure content or referent of interpretation. See his essay "Beyond the Pleasure Principle", in The Essentials of Psychoanalysis, trans by J. Strachey (Penguin Books, London, 1986), p.228.

 

 

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III

"If only we could enjoy our void", writes Antonin Artaud, "if we could be properly relaxed in our void, if this void were not some sort of being, but not quite death either" [14]. Encompassed by a referential framework that presupposes a dualistic logic of being and death, the language of forgetfulness committed the madman to its particular form of madness. The madman responds not by declaring himself sane, but by driving madness to its limits so as to redirect its significance into avenues of dispersion; so as to transpose its potential meaning into a way of writing, reading, speaking and listening. Experiencing the void as an event of many voices, truth transpires as a form of adornment or masking. That which is known can never be fully present to itself, never emerges completely from the void:

 

Fallen, the mask covering the mask
That covers the mask
Has fallen, and there's no one.

None but you in this stretch of space
Open to enemies and forgetfulness [15].

 

To forget is to allow the past to direct and determine the future, whereas by way of an exposure of memory the future may be born from the scene of the present; the mobile present driven by an incitement to write, to participate, to contribute, to break the mute bonds of forgetfulness. To forget is to fore-get, enclosing the self within a narrow set of standards determining thought and action - often in the name of some obscure origin and a pathological sense of an unchanging past. Yet critical dialogue is not to be seduced: "the future will be born -- and only to the extent that we help in the delivery - from the present, not from the past, which in times of crisis is elevated to unquestioned authority" [16]. Between the absent and the present the self must inscribe (write or speak) its silence into a becoming of events, recovering the potential of lost and forgotten trails. The past is that which lies before us, as a complex set of forces whose potential significance can never be accounted for.

Whereas - in a one-dimensional, purely referential mode - language forgets itself and thus works as a sort of hiding place (all the more insidious because of its seeming transparency), as a site of transference language develops the potential of memory as that which is always yet to come. Memory (in french language, souvenir - venir, to come) provokes a seeking and exploring of hiding places, provokes their uncanny emergence in those odd moments when forgetfulness forgets itself [17]. Souvenirs bear perpetual witness to an experience of foreignness (foreignness: the reign of foreness, a constant deferment of realising the self in terms of self-presence and identity without any trace of remainder or excess), of strangeness, of unanticipated otherness. They mark an experience of an intermediate terrain in which identity flows into the stream of a restless journey away and beyond itself; a series of departures proving the impossibility of any return to the same. As Perniola suggests, "between memory and forgetting...there remains an intermediate space, a threshold, a site of historical situations that hang suspended, latent" [18]. A threshold by which an experience of strangeness leads the self to discover the murmuring impulses of other voices arising from the void.

The souvenir - its very materiality as an impractical, sublimated object caught between the workings of memory and forgetfulness - recalls not the strangeness of "the other", but the strangeness of the very self. "The aliens", Darwish perceptively writes, "are those who point to our exile with an accusing finger because they're strangers to their own history and the meaning of their existence, strangers in a passing wave" [19]. Strangers, because of a denial of their very strangeness - that intermediate realm in which language turns back on itself, amazed that it could ever for(e)get itself. Thus the poet bears witness not in terms of a recording of events, but by helping language to discover the potential significance of its incoherencies and misunderstandings, its failure to work as a tool of reference and representation: in short, its madness. It is precisely when language "fails" that it becomes a form of transgression, enlarging the framework in which dialogical interchange may take place.

Memory, memory for forgetfulness - when the many voices that have been excluded, written out of history, suddenly emerge from the wastelands of time. An impatient cacophony. Discordant screams. Incomprehensible sounds of an inconsolable discontent. Language turned in on itself, giving birth to itself; discovering the potential of its incoherencies, its imposed absences, its madness. Language becomes the stranger, the exile, the wanderer, constantly crossing borders and checkpoints. Driven by its lack to develop itself, expose itself, express itself, announce itself; discovering itself within the folds of an experience of memory that can no longer be contained or denied, but must become the terrain of a renewed dialogue that would never presuppose a fixed or singular point of address. A mad language, an inescapable Autumn when the earth becomes strewn with fallen words, perishing so as to give birth to their emerging otherness. Darwish captures this in profound images: "Don't forget not to die. I still want you. And when you come back to life, I want you to call me" [20].

And we begin to hear the repetitive refrain of mad language: "I didn't know that I had the power to unsheathe one of my ribs and uncover a script for the dialogue of this absolute silence. What is my name? Who gave me my name? Who is going to call me Adam?" [21]. The first man? Or the first name? Perhaps. But also a series of beginnings. Or, to borrow further from Said, a series of displacements - whereby language's forgetfulness works as a form of erasure so that the word may take the place of what it ostensibly refers to. A precarious substitution based on an obscure madness unwilling to declare itself: "Words, therefore, stand at the beginning, are the beginning, of a series of substitutions. Words signify a movement away from and around the fragment of reality. This is another way of characterizing the human capacity for language" [22]. There is no origin, but only a becoming sense of its repetitive refrain. The name Adam, the story of Adam, is told again and again - aligning its eventual significance to the mobile present. A story of exile, an experience of exile by which language must continually discover itself.

A language of exile that has always already begun, and is always on its way. Language as an impossible denial, as an impossible affirmation. Language as memory, memory for forgetfulness, whereby it discovers the aural resonance of its absence, the many unanticipated trails branching off the main course. Where along the wavering journey language begins to experience itself as a scene of dialogue, realising the sense of certain sounds that otherwise remain subdued by the imperious design of a form of language identical to itself. A mad language appreciates the impermanence of truth and knowledge, is attuned to an experience of cultural form as a precarious voyage across a sea of variable and challenging voices - all willing to listen to both the other and their own emerging otherness. This language is yet to arrive, and in a sense will never arrive. It lives only as a series of departures.

Notes

[14] A. Artaud, "Nerve Scales". In Collected Works Volume One, trans by V. Corti (Calder and Boyars, London, 1968), p.73.
[15] Darwish, Memory..., p.58.
[16] ibid, p.137.
[17] Freud begins his essay "The Uncanny" ( das Unheimliche ; literally, unhomely) -- in Standard Edition, trans by J. Strachey (The Hogarth Press, London, 1955) -- by remarking upon how, over time, the term heimlich (secretive, homely) comes to evoke a seemingly opposite signification: from friendly and comfortable to barely concealed intimations of unease and even terror. "Thus heimlich ", Freud finds, "is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich " (p.226). But is this not precisely an example of the madness of language? How is it possible for a souvenir to bear an evocation of the past when souvenir suggests that which is yet to come? Or, how is forgetting about the past when fore-getting is just as much concerned with the future? One begins to suspect that language has always been secretly laughing at the ultimately futile attempt to make it answer or directly express the subject's will.
[18] Mario Perniola, Enigmas: The Egyptian Moment in Society and Art, trans by C. Woodall (Verso, New York, 1995), p.148. Souvenirs, of course, play a major role in the exotic commodification of "the other". But here I am more concerned with the potential of their experience, in terms of how they lead the self away from assumptions of identity, by provoking uncanny intimations of that which remains forgotten.
[19] Darwish, Memory..., pp.138-39.
[20] ibid, p.4.
[21] ibid, pp.41-42.
[22] Edward Said, Beginnings: Intention and Method (Columbia University Press, New York, 1985), p.65.

 

 

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IV

The immediacy of the war in Beirut; the war in its immediacy. Where the poet can have no role, if by role is evoked an existential initiation bearing a direct relationship between the sound of a word and its sense. The poet reduced to silence, his words drowned out by the thunder of jets and their bombs. Reduced to silence by the odour of burning flesh, that same odour pervading another time and place. In such circumstances language loses its capacity to work as a form of transparent covering, becomes conscious of itself and its failure to subdue the terror. Writing comes to a standstill, giving itself to a silence that nevertheless can hardly be contained:

 

- And when will you go back to writing poetry?
- When the guns quiet down a little. When I explode my silence, which is full of all these voices. When I find the appropriate language.[23]

 

Amidst the bombs, the guns, the tanks - the lack of food (especially coffee), water, medical supplies - poetry has no role to play. The poet realises that words, when used carelessly (that is to say, when merely used ), tend to work as a form of normalisation. And so he silently gives himself to the chaos of the city's disintegration, despite the many demands that he should answer the "war cry" with "stirring verse".

By this silence language loses its semblance of rationality, and tunes in to its debris, refuse, and fragments that can no longer be denied or excluded. Memory lies scattered across the ruins of the city. It "assumes the shape of the city's chaos and takes up a speech that makes you forget words that went before" [24]. Thus forgetting forgets itself, unraveling sedimented norms and value-expectations; allowing alternative, stuttering voices to articulate their silence, their emerging otherness [25]. Rather than speak and run the risk of allowing his work to assimilate and normalise the chaos - dissolving potential exchanges of otherness into the logic of some ideology of liberation - the poet decides to listen to the people of Beirut. For "they are the genuine founders of a writing that for a long, long time will have to search for a linguistic equivalent to their heroism and amazing lives" [26]. Writing becomes a search, a search for a developing form of significance realising itself as a fugitive passage towards an ever receding horizon.

This brings us to a threshold of a particular complex that Memory for Forgetfulness poses and explores along the way of its oblique and fragmentary writing. This relates to the destitution of language, a language of forgetfulness that has become identical with its statements and pronouncements; a language that refuses to listen to the wavering impulses of its silence; a language, that is to say, that has become too precious, too at ease with dominant forms of representation. Poetry answers this destitution by approaching language as an apprehended form of strangeness and otherness. It involves an experience of language as a task towards listening to the many voices of "the past", not merely an uncovering and preservation.

Poetic language not only appreciates but also demonstrates the perishable quality of words. As I've been trying to suggest, it draws language to its limits so that it may discover the potential of its incoherencies and absences, the potential of its madness. Memory, Darwish says and yet does not say, is not about remembering and preserving a particular past ("the past" represented by the symbol), for that would only consist of another form of forgetfulness. Memory must become a site or scene of thought, inquiry, and dialogue - a polyphonic, aural terrain of emerging voices.

Poetry - that mad exploration and discovery of the potential of language - provokes the silence of forgetfulness. It thus remains committed to memory, sweeping up and collecting fallen words so that they may not be fore-gotten; so that identity will always lie ahead as that which is yet to come - the becoming of a dialogue in which unanticipated voices are allowed to speak the language of their madness; the potential writing and reading of Memory for Forgetfulness ; writing itself as a work of transposing or transferring forgetfulness into memory. The "sea" comes to be the rhythmic material from and in which the poet develops a sense of form, relating this concretely to a Palestinian-Arabic identity that would be just as potential as it is actual. A sea of shipwrecks, where language has foundered on craggy reefs of uncertainty: "The sea glides closer to us. Autumn approaches the sea. August gives us over to Autumn. Where then will the sea take us?" [27].

The sea is not to be merely contemplated, brought within proximity of a vision that sets itself apart, unwilling or afraid to enter into its field of play. The sea - as a scene in which language undergoes the actuality of its experience (its learning ) - must be approached by participating in its turbulent movement: "He who watches the sea doesn't know the sea. He who sits by the shore doesn't know the sea. Only he who dives knows the sea. He takes risks. He forgets the sea in the sea" [28]. The poet is not a visionary, does not merely see, but is immersed in the labour of poetic language. For what does the sea reveal when it withdraws from the shore, gathering momentum for a further assault? Does it not inscribe an obscure trace of its transitory presence, its infinite absence?

Between memory and forgetfulness the madness of language works as a translation of the latter into the former, without ever exhausting the becoming significance of either. Consequently we can say that language develops as that which gives voice to the forgotten, the excluded, and the marginalised. The exile, the stranger, impatient to speak, though in stuttering words that have no immediate sense, only an intimation of that which is yet to come, that which may never come, and yet has never ceased to begin.

Notes

[23] Darwish, Memory..., p.62.
[24] ibid, pp.90-91.
[25] Miriam Cooke, in her work War's other voices: Women writers on the lebanese Civil war (Cambridge University press, London, 1988), also appreciates how language is actively experienced as a giving voice to the self's emerging otherness. As she comments on Hanan al-Shaikh's protagonist Zahra, the war allowed her to experience "her madness, the accommodation of her otherness", p.54.
[26] Darwish, Memory..., p.64.
[27] ibid, p.163.
[28] ibid, p.165.

Saadi Nikro was born in Sydney with a Lebanese background - both his parents are from North Lebanon. After finishishing his studies in Critical Theory and Sociology he travelled as an Australian Volunteer Abroad, working for a small NGO in a developing country. He has lived in Lebanon for the past four years, and is currently writing a book on the novels of Elias Khoury. Structuring this are themes of memory and forgetfulness, the relationship of writing to history, patriarchy and masculinity, the Arabic novel in the twentieth-century, as well as the spatial implications of narrative.
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