Filed under: Books, Literature, Mexico, Philosophy | Tags: Add new tag, Agamben, Books, Charlatanism, Cover Art, Guilt, Liminal, Literature, Nancy, Solitude, Villoro
“La soledad te vuelva charlatán.”
Roughly translated, it means, “Solitude turns you into a charlatan.” Taken alone, the quote uttered by the narrator of Villoro’s title story efficiently sheds light on the work of Octavio Paz, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Giorgio Agamben. With Villoro as an heir to Paz’s cultural project in El Laberinto de la Soledad, his narrator’s thought expresses the non-knowledge gained at the very limits of social and ontological isolation. It is the point where Paz notes that solitude renders human existence to getting on day by day with little but one’s wits and no pre-existing knowledge, “al dia”.
Paz’s post-revolutionary Mexico is an ur-post-modern space from which Mexico can contribute to a universal philosophy acutely attuned to a situation that persists in varied forms. This situation is marked by heightened social alienation and the evacuation of meaning in the face of devastating traumatic encounters that influence the trajectories of our moods and thoughts inwards, and our disposition to the existence of others problematic at best. Agamben refers to this situation in various forms in The Coming Community, Means Without End, Homo Sacer, and Profanations. In The Coming Community he introduces us to the characters in the limbic* world where politics, culture, and religion can only react against and unsuccessfully make its own: ‘toons, fakes, assistants, tricksters. Charlatans, thugs, con-men**, swindlers, and similar figures dwell in this area at the borders of identity, nationality, language, culture, and class. They are left to themselves, abandoned to one another (an idea that Nancy pursues in Being Singular Plural under the term co-appearance or compearance, which Agamben uses in his discussion of the sovereign ban in Homo Sacer.) Which is all to say, we are all charlatans of a sort or another, most especially when we are at our most earnest or seeking out the authenticity’s perverse thrills.
As to how tricksterism and solitude come into play in Nancy’s philosophy, I can only pose the question. Though a discussion devoted to solitude in a portion of Being Singular Plural entitled ”The Measure of the ‘With’” may offer some clue.
Admittedly, in light of this pochista musing concerning things Mexican I’m much more partial to the more colorful and morbid cover art for the book’s Argentine edition over the domestic version in Mexico. But a bright, a lime-green silouhette of an iguana set against a black background on the cover of the Mexican edition shouldn’t deter a good translator from making the book available to an Anglophone reading public.
*Interestingly enough, the brain’s limbic system plays a key role in non-verbal communication, including the generation and regulation of gestures, a topic that Agamben attends to in Means Without End.
**Having started Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade a couple of days ago has got me on an uncanny path asking about the significance of these figures and types in philosophy and politics more than usual.
Photo credit: Juan Villoro at a reading and book signing in Puebla, MX, 2007; Source: Colorpardo on Flickr.