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<eyebeam><blast> Adorno...Beauty's Wounds

        **** And why shouldn't I invent some way, however fantastic and
contrived of talking about something, without someone having to ask
whether I am qualified to talk like that?*** Deleuze/Negotiations.
Thanks to Eve Laramee for the quote.
*****   There are serious problems with Adorno. The first serious
problem with Adorno is his now famous statement about Beauty, poetry and
the Shoah.I will explain. In the early 50's Paul Celan published his
poem ** Death Fugue ** . This poem became very widely read and
universally accepted as a powerful statement 'about' the death camps of
Europe. The poem is exacting, intense  entrancing, and excruciating. It
pushes to an extreme an emotional response that the reader undergoes
while reading it. But I won't write about the poem which has already
been written about many many times. And better than I can do. Besides it
was written in German... so I read through the veil of
translation-betrayal. And that is fine. Celan himself was a translator
of many languages. There are also recordings of Celan reading the piece
which speaks volumes about its meaning and intent. Sadly by the early
60's the poem became so widely antholgized in Germany and had become a
standard part of the learning of German children in Western German
education. I say sadly because of this. The poem by sheer dint of
repetition had lost some of its intensity and had (through the abuse it
has been subjected to, and as the biographer of Celan infers, Guilt on
the part of the generation of teachers and educators 'teaching ' this
poem to their children) had become a standard' tool of analysis. This is
terrible language I realize that. But it is what happened. It got to the
point where school children in Germany used it to analyze metrics
effectively undermining its meaning and its impact. I repeat this was
the guilt of the German teachers focussing on technique instead of soul
and meaning. A way perhaps for them to placate their own uneasiness in
the face of such a poem. A slight variant repetition there, I realize
that. It has its place. -- But the Poem
        was diverted from its path. I mean as a human and living
  voice which spoke to and from the suffering of those who had lived 
        through the experience of the death camps.
By the mid sixties Paul Celan, whose parents had died in Eastern Europe
at the hands of the Nazis, forbade its publication and refused to read
this poem in public any longer. In fact on a visit to Israel in the 60's
Celan was asked to read the poem at a public gathering to hear his work
and he also refused. Okay, now about Adorno. When ** Death Fugue** was
published Adorno read it and said in a written statement. This is too
beautiful One cannot write Beautiful poems about the Holocaust. One can
only be silent in the face of what happened there. I do not think that
Adorno ever heard Celan read this poem. Nor do I think that Adorno meant
ill when he made that statement. The effect on Paul Celan from what I
have read was very strong, if not close to devastating. Many years later
Paul Celan (1970) jumped in the Seine and drowned himself. By then in
the late 60's Adorno had retracted his statement about Celan's poem, and
said He was wrong.. Celan and Adorno had corresponded from time to time
about this subject.  Adorno retracted his written statement in full, and
it took him, Adorno, all of 20 years to realize the mistake he had made.
Too late, perhaps for Celan. Perhaps.
        Such are philosophers. And their statements. Such was Plato
keeping poets out of his enlightened 'Republic.' And of course there is
the German philosopher Heidegger who Celan met and whose work about
language and being Celan was very interested in. Celan waited for a long
time for the German thinker to make some statement about the Nazi years
and the death camps. He waited in vain. They also corresponded. And
Celan went to visit the thinker. And he wrote a poem about this too: The
silence of the thinker in front of what the Germans had done to the
Jewish people. Later when Celan read in Germany Heidegger attended the
reading. Afterwards there was a series of photographs taken. At one
moment Heidegger had his picture taken with some notable people. He
tried to get Celan in the photo, but Celan did not let his photograph be
taken with the German thinker. Heidegger also revealed at the time that
he did not, or pretended not to know that Celan was Jewish. No wonder
Celan did not want his photograph with Heidegger.... Imagine pretending
to not know that Celan was Jewish. How convenient for Heidegger. He
wants to embrace a great poet, but deny who he is.  
*****   About Celan's Voice.
        If you ever hear the Celan recording of the poem you will hear a
voice speaking from a type of hell. His voice rises and falls
penetrating each syllable as it almost at moments seems to screech; but
cries instead but cries in pure articulation.
 "he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
  your ashen hair Shulamith we dig a grave in the breezes there one
                                                lines unconfined...
  Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
  we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
  we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink and we drink you
  death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
  he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
  a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
  he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in the air
  he plays with the serpents and daydreams death is a master from

  your golden hair Margarete
  your ashen hair Shulamith

  [trans. Michael Hamburger, from Poems of Paul Celan,1972 Persea Books]
        As one hears Celan reading one hears no anger. Just another
voice from somewhere else. Another kind of voice. I have not heard that
voice in Dante's words. Dante was too arrogant at moments when facing
the suffering of others.
I have also heard parts of a recording
and perhaps only recording of Artaud reading his last poetry and I
experienced a similar feeling. That I was hearing a ghost from another
world, and these
words are inadequate to describe what I am saying. After all this is
only a letter and not a poem itself.
        Back to Adorno. And his enlightened dialectic. Dialectic claims
to synethize two contradictions. And to created a higher synthesis. To
cancel out one false aspect of the problem and thereby create a
so-called resolution of the problem. Well. It does not work. We have
seen the results of the dialectic when it takes this form. The only
dialectic which can be safely employed is one which is controlled by
regulative principles. In that way one controls the all too dangerous
totalizations that result from the excesses of an uncontrolled
dialetical process no longer in touch with the real problems of every
day life and history as it is expereinced.  The dangers of totalization
can be only be guarded against by a process of de-totalizing and
retotalizing.  This is paralled in the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari
by what they call deterritorializing and reterritorializing. A similar
movement yet not identical. Adorno's work does not offer a methdology
which allows for the co-existence of impossible abnegation and
irreconciable difference.  It attempts to resolve what cannot be
resolved into a  'higher' unity. And which many people have No desire to
see resolved. Why would a slave want to resolve his servitude to his
'master?' If he did he would remain in slavery. A higher unity of
slavery and mastery. Which leads us back to Hegel who after is the
originator of the basics concepts which have formuated the modern idea
of dialectics.
        Adorno's ideas about technology and by extension the web have
also to be seen critically. HE ideas represent a typical looking
backward to the old dualities of machine verus the human of will verus
power of organic verus non-organic. He has no means of integrating such
sophisticaed ideas as desire-machine, or body without organs, or plane
of consistency. Nor has he the means of thinking (I mean this in exact
transitive sense of actually thinking the object at hand, and not
thinking about it) multiplicity as that which adds to the already made.
He has no methods which allow him to see the ethical in a world which no
longer even remotely thrives on the so-called classical verities. Adorno
is plagued by the nostalgia and malaise of old Europe. A period which
pre-dates the events and realites of the 20th. century. In that respect
he shares with Heidegger a false understanding of technology and
machines. It is one reason he was not able to understand the beauty and
importance of Celan's work. He had a pre-conceived model of what should
and should not be written about. Whereas plenty of poets and painters
who lived through the Holocaust did indeed write  about it. And their
writing was 'beautiful' but one can only conceive of that beauty in
terms of new ethical-aesthetic series of paradigms which allow one to
think subjects and objects for themselves and not via an exterior and
pre-imposed standard. That is precisely where the classical dialetic
fails. It does not address experience. This is was Kierkegaard's
critique of Hegel long ago. The individual with all her flaws and
contradictions cannot be resolved into a dialetical synthesis.

        In the beauty of Celan's poems one discovers as Yeats puts it in
another context 
                'A terrible beauty is born.'

        Or as Genet might say, Beauty is an Orgress.

        Or Rimbaud. One night I sat beauty on my knees and found her
repulsive. I fled O witches....

        Beauty cannot be calculated into the synthesis, because by
itself it has no ethical content. It simply is. At least at the level of
the (More precisely its ethical content is its beauty) so-called
'objective' gaze. But on the level of the shared gaze, and the creation
of borderlines [as in Bracha's ideas ] of negotiation there can be a
place of mutual work and sharing. As Bracha puts it, it is the
Impossibility of Not sharing. How can one not share  this deep death
which pervades the Art work which plunges our soul into pain. Beautiful
pain of the visionary - Beautiful Losers as Leonard Cohen put it in a
novel so long ago. Celan's poetry plunges the knife into our guts and we
say: A knife which cuts and makes blood.  What is this blood but the
blood the beautiful dead ones? Adorno's work has no room for such
extremes of death and life. His work is too caught up with the light of
the enlightenment and its old idealistic dualisms.
        Part of the artist's work is to insure this ethical blazon which
is built into the poetry or painting. It does this by living another
way. By seeing another way. No more sight which has not seen trauma. The
multiple wounds of the fissures which have killed us also become the
routes where by we can escape.
        About Theory. There are several types of theory. There is the
theory of the one who practices and the theory of those who theorize for
its own sake. They both have their place and there is no necessary
conflict between or among them. As Guattari puts it in one essay: poetry
can be like vitamins don't take too many. What he means is that poetry,
like art is functional, its functionality is connected to its ethical
value and its health value. Not a reified health object but at the
matter which one must work with everyday. How does one stay healthy
while working with sickness? Bracha Ettinger Lichtenberg's recent essay
- Trans-Subjective Transferential Borderspace [ in Canadian Review of
Comparative Literature, Vol.xxiv No.3 September 97] that the artist is
both the patient and the doctor. The poetry which cures us makes us
sick. It also heals. It is when the cure is worse than the disease that
we must be cautious. Cautious as we tread the dangerous lines of flight
and movement from psyche to the world and back. Each day walking back
and forth. Seeking a witness. Witnessing.

                Ashglory *** Paul Celan***

                Ashglory behind
                your shaken-knotted
                hands at the threeway.

                Pontic erstwhile:here,
                a drop
                the drowned rudder blade,
                in the petrified oath,
                it roars up.

                (On the vertical
                breathrope, in those days,
                higher than above,
                between two painknots, while
                the glossy
                Tartarmoon climbed up to us,
                I dug myself into you and into you.)

                glory behind
                you threeway

                The cast-in-front-of-you,from
                the East, terrible.

                bears witness for the

                [from BREATHTURN trans. Pierre Joris]

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