I’m a kettle, I’m a kettle
you can call me black
I’m a kettle, I’m a kettle but I will fight back
I’m boiling with anger, hot fumes rising from my spout
so be afraid pot!
Watch out! Watch your mouth
or you will shatter –
Kettle lives matter
Welcome back professor Trompsky, how was your month, I think it has been a month since we have seen each other?
– How was yours? [chuckles and murmurs]
To be honest with you, sir, it has been terrible. I was terrified by all the suspicious packages addressed to the president’s opponents, the horrendous rhetoric of Bolsonaro in Brazil, the shooting in Pittsburgh?
– What we experience is the continuation of a process that has been set in motion, really, by the election of this current president. As a scholar I think the Bolsonaro election could be something of a final blow to global democracy, at least to the spirit of global democracy. That spirit is now in decline and, uhm, against ultra-nationalism we will have to fight an uphill battle.
Do you think the world will see more terror in 2019?
– I prefer not to engage in that kind of speculation, hope you understand. What I do see is a general shift in administration. From the nineties to the early 2010s the world has been governed by comparably capable people (remember how almost everybody currently sees George W. Bush in a favorable light), and now we are shifting to, uhm, the type of rulers that appear to be the lesser hypocrites. Yes, it is a politics of appearance, what we see in Brazil for example. Bolsonaro knows, using fake news, how to appear a tough crime fighter, how to appear the equal of the ‘normal man on the street’, how to appear an outsider of the elite, which clearly he is not. Appearance trumps political expertise and experience, we have seen this in 2016 in the US [chuckles].
Do you think leaders with a similar media strategy, a similar strongman style, will come to power in Europe and the rest of the world?
– Oh yes. This is to some extent a trial-and-error process. The few mistakes Bolsanaro has made, will not be repeated by the next Orbán or Duterte.
What is the proper leftist answer to this? Should they engage in, and could they win the battle of appearances?
– I don’t know. [shakes his head]. I think it will be very hard. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or also Andrew Yang are very authentic politicians. But the left is divided and for proper idealists it is, and I think this is an important point, it is much harder to appear the lesser hypocrite. Wasn’t the media reporting about Sanders’ tax report? It is the absurd paradox of the politics of appearance that Donald Trump, with all his blatant lies, appears as the lesser hypocrite.
And the same goes for Bolsonaro?
– Yes. Brazil is in a way what awaits the US in ten, twenty years. The people are looking for an alternative and this man is filling the empty space on the right. In the case of Bolsanoara, he doesn’t lie directly but his supporters claim that what he says about gays, blacks, activists, women, minorities, it shouldn’t be taken seriously. And the riddle is why that makes him appear to the electorate as the lesser hypocrite.
We thank you for your time, Mr. Trompsky.
– My pleasure. Please do come back.
If democracy hasn’t died in darkness.
– Yes, ahum [chuckles]
Because a writer is supposed to desire the award. He would be betraying everything if he plays indifference. The award is the highest attainable goal, the apex of any artist and it’s blasphemy not to want it with all our might. The award is the appraisal of the Big Other, the ultimate crown on our creative existence, the sweet reward of our hard intellectual labor. But do not dare to say you are writing “in order to” win the award. You have to feign authenticity, so your motivation appears to have invisible roots, deeper than the prospect of the Award.
What is going on here?
This is what Bratton would call “the luminescence of false opposites” [Bratton 1996:223]. When you write, your tool is language. You want to take the raw material of language, the same stuff we use for everyday communication, and use it as the raw material for art. Writing is always in the same situation as conceptual art: its status as art depends on the context, on the publishing house, the reviewers, the creation of the author’s public identity. It is not writing itself, but its transliteration into the public sphere, that is by necessity theatrical, as already observed by Swiftburn [Swiftburn 1974:112]. While the authentic voice is the holy grail of the literatary quest, it has to remain unattainable because, and here I follow Sztronsky et al., the very idea of authenticity depends on the universality of its polar opposite [Sztronsky et al, 2007:352]. The most authentic account is infected with the token of inauthenticity the moment it is introduced in the public sphere. A pure “horizontal” writing, as conceived by Rohpolt and Sauerkranz, among others, must remain an illusion ([Rohpolt et al, 2004:943].
What if we forget about literature? Forget about writing as art altogether? We’re simply expressing, however inadequately, the linguistic organization of “our world” ([Breitner 2009:244], and there are no criteria for its quality. Writing is the sharing of our linguistic space, the same way we share our physical space, according to the famous adage of Barosi in his magnum opus [Barosi 1994:1178]. The obsession with the Award had destroyed the aspirations to share their linguistic space of many a budding writer. They ask themselves the question if it’s “good” what they write, and in doing so, they have already infected their very own linguistic space with arbitrary criteria that stunt their originality and leaves us with a homogenous, uninteresting, and hopelessly inauthentic public literature.