The Quechua language does not have words for the future. They have a active (not passive) future imperfect tense that allows syllables to be added to verbs that suggest an individual will (I will be, I will desire, I will love) and the “sunchi” suffix that suggests a collective action in the immediate future “Let’s eat.”
Lyn Hejinian’s “The Fatalist” ends with the lines:
That’s what fate is: whatever’s happened
One way to read this book is to graph it in relation to its verb tenses, as there would seem to be a statement about fate and tense that can only be aptly elaborated by the text itself.
Like the ‘fate-texts’ I have listed on the previous post, Hejinian’s work throughout her career has tended to have a narrative component. ‘My Life’ sought to make parataxic phrases rigorous by using them to express a personal history. The structure of the work is tied indelibly to time, because just as every year one lives is of equal duration, each year of Hejinian’s life is given equal space.
Bob Perelman’s analysis (Marginalization) of the relation between parataxis and capitalism suggests a kind of Road Runner - Coyote relation between langpo and the economic base. A critic makes the assertion that Ronald Reagan (or W) is a language poet because of his use of parataxis, or that the ‘many walks of life’ montages of TV commercials are also so juxtaposed, following what had been an attempt on the part of Langpoets to develop a linguistic method that escapes the capitalist determinations of the fate of the Victorian narrative.
The determination of poets to escape the influence of the economic base relates to my comment two months ago (before I read “The Fatalist“), reprinted in a post below, that Langpo “dealt with fate at the level of the surface of the work,” in a way that creates an Althusserian critique of caste and karma without spiritualist affectations. Hejinian’s book “Oxota: A Short Russian Novel” was written during her trip to Leningrad where she was told by a USSR native that it was natural for them to see language as commodities.
Looking at another excerpt that addresses fate directly:
The upended woman on her head on a potato
is exactly what is needed to devise
an elegant argument in which the limiting condition
known as “fate” and the limiting condition
known as “beginning” merge to create
an unfated ongoing incipience into which fate can accumulate
without determining anything, not even my mother’s name
and intellectual curiosity
which explains my presence, Samuel Johnson’s fear
of ceaseless useless motion, and the characteristic heterogeneity
of Language writing, the mark of its relationship to knowledge.
Those eleven lines light a maze of interpretive alleyways, but I want to focus on “unfated ongoing incipience into which fate can accumulate” and “fear of ceaseless useless motion.”
“unfated ongoing incipience into which fate can accumulate”:
Jain teachings, considered the most complex and self-determining treatment of fate in the Indian tradition, conceive of karma as an influx, “asrava,” which fills and empties within the “karmana-shahira,” the innermost of the five bodies of the human being. The emptying of fate is experienced by the siddhas, who are without spatial location, similar to not “determining anything.” The history of existentialism can be viewed as an independent realization of Jain philosophy.
“fear of ceaseless useless motion”
It has been proven that Mallarmé and Nietzsche were not influenced by each other, but as exemplars of poetry and philosophy they have each constructed the image of the eternal dice roll.
Gilles Deleuze in ‘Nietzsche and Philosophy’ charts the similarities and differences between A Throw of the Dice Does Not Abolish Chance and the texts of the Eternal Return. Where the two agree is that (1) thought is a dice roll; (2) man does not know how to think; (3) the act of thinking is infinitely irrational, absurd, tragic, and superhuman, (4) the totality of dice throws constitutes the outcome and justification of art and the world.
The difference Deleuze notes is a key one, that Mallarmé wishes for chance to be abolished, in a gesture that abolishes subjectivity, absurdity, and tragedy, while Nietzsche affirms the dice throw, believing life to be an aspect of a finite but countless Dionysian series of ‘throws’ which constitutes the totality of existence. So the “fear of ceaseless useless motion” Hejinian attributes to Samuel Johnson could be viewed as the Mallarméan fear of subjectivity in deference to justice and pure essence.
More to come…