Renga Signatures

Autour de l'affaire Yasusada

Those who cry foul over the Yasusada seem to feel that his imaginary life toys with historical veracity and authenticity of a profoundly painful event [...] But in the stress given to the empirical they seem to forget that empathy, commemoration, and memory are not reducible to the positivistic "accuracies" of history — for these aspects of human response are often nourished by the mythic indirectness of imagination and its elaborations. These, in turn, also become history, and add [...]

Double Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada
... l'être du language n'apparaît pour lui-même, que dans la disparition du sujet.

Michel Foucault. "La Pensée du dehors" Critique No. 229 (June 1966)
The Yasusada affair, in the end, throws the politics of identity into question: the cherished liberal image of one marginalized group after another stepping from darkness into light, the parade of celebratory self-identification ("I am woman, hear me roar"; "Say it loud — I'm black and I'm proud"; "We're here, we're queer, get used to it"). Yasusada makes you wonder whether the twentieth-century radicals were really radical enough — whether the power to name oneself affirmatively, authentically, is enough to deliver a gender, race, or sexuality from subjugation. Whether, at the philosophical root, there's sufficient distance between minority pride movements and hegemonic self-celebration. Whether authenticity might be the sickness instead of the cure.

Alex Verdolini "Desert Music, Hiroshima: The Poetics and Politics of Pseudonymity" in Scubadivers and Chrysanthemums
"Radical empathy" seems not to include carrying the Yasusada part to its logical conclusion and, for example, purchasing a couple grams of plutonium from some renegade Soviet scientists in order to more authentically method-act the effects of Yasusada's radiation sickness. This is radical empathy without the hair loss and diarrhea, radical empathy as a problem of technique, as just one more aspect of "author function." But here I am launching an ad hominem attack against [...]

Dave Wojahn "Illegible Due to Blotching: Poetic Authenticity and Its Discontents" in Scubadivers and Chrysanthemums
The dream: to know a foreign (alien) language and yet not to understand it: to perceive the difference in it without that difference ever being recuperated by the superficial sociality of discourse, communication or vulgarity; to know, positively refracted in a new language, the impossibilities of our own; to learn the systematics of the inconceivable, to undo our own "reality" under the effect of other formulations, other syntaxes; to discover certain unsuspected positions of the subject in utterance, to displace the subject's topology; in a word, to descend into the untranslatable, to experience its shock without ever muffling it, until everything Occidental in us totters and the rights of the "father tongue" vacillate — that tongue which comes to us from our fathers and which makes us, in our turn, fathers and proprietors of a culture which, precisely, history transforms into "nature".

Roland Barthes translated by Richard Howard "The Unknown Language" Empire of Signs
At the end of the exhibit was a long, carpeted hall with a few televisions, each programmed to play an hour-long video of survivors' testaments. The survivors spoke Japanese, and their statements were translated below in English and French. For the entire hour, I sat and watched the videos. Person after person spoke, some with horrible disfigurements, some with a legacy of cancer, some looking untouched but deeply haunted. Here was horror and fear, grief, resignation, forgiveness, rage. I will never forgive America, one older gentleman said, practically spitting into the camera. I will never forgive a country that could commit such evil. His face contorted as he spoke. The glass windows behind me filled with sun, making it difficult to read the translation. I flinched and squinted. The video had captured a variety of responses to preserve some idea of what Hiroshima meant to the people who had experienced it: there was no one reaction, and though I knew each person speaking was a singular identity, I also understood that the collection of responses was meant to suggest that all of them together did compose a single identity, the identity of the Hiroshima survivor, a concept that did and did not exist. I forgive them. I despise them. I am suffering. I have made peace with it. They are evil. I was embarrassed, chagrined, stunned. I could not stop watching. There was nothing coy or elliptical in the phrases the speakers used. One after the other spoke: man, woman, man. They blended together, enraged and pained and haunted, a voice full or ruin. The video spooled and spooled. The effect of listening, even for a single hour, was agonizing.

Paisley Rekdal "Doubled Flowering: Charles Yu, Araki Yasusada and the Politics of Faking Race" in Scubadivers and Chrysanthemums
See also Hiroshima Mon Amour and the "cultural errors" identified by Donald Richie: the Japanese-language arrival and departure time announcements in the train scenes bear no relation to the time of day in which the scenes are set. Also, people pass through noren curtains into shops which are supposedly closed. The noren is a traditional sign that a shop is open for business and is invariably taken down at closing time. These are "errors" but also in one reading formal devices countering cinematic realism. Closed/open. Out of phase. Consider the ending of the 1978 film Coming Home where the Jane Fonda character goes in by the out door. Error is often a treasure.

And so for day 1203