Friday, October 31, 2008

Readings: Rumble in the Jungle

In J.M.G. le Clézio’s novel War (see below) we see everything through the overwrought eyes, or from within the chaotic psychic depths, of the central personage (not to say “character”), Bea B., who is perhaps insane, or, perhaps more accurately, hyper-sane. Bea B. seems to see everything, every item in the catalog of the ten thousand things, from multiple perspectives: everything is terrifying; everything is beautiful; all is a roaring city of huge towers of gleaming white stone, glittering metal, swift, dark rivers of asphalt, floors of colorful plastic, walls of windows like watchful eyes; or everything is a jungle, teeming with an awesome over-abundance of thrilling, terrifying, flora and fauna. Whether Bea B. sees a city or imagines a jungle, all that she sees, imagines, or projects is in constant motion, accompanied by an avalanche of sound. Everything that exists is presented to her as words. She feels that she must understand it all, and that time is running out. Her name – “Bea B.” – suggests, perhaps ironically, the French word “bébé”—“baby.” Her observations, musings, dreams, as words, which flow endlessly, and are sometimes jotted down in a little blue notebook, are directed to an occasional interlocutor, sometimes companion, named “Monsieur X”:

That’s what I am seeking, Monsieur X. I am seeking words and signs capable of helping me survive. In the matted forest I am seeking friendly plants, and boulders, and snakes, and friendly birds. I want to rediscover the ancient legends and tell them to you, so that you in turn can tell them to others.
For example: …


It is he who runs everything. He has armies of leather-jacketed cops patrolling the town, armies of cops who carry big rubber truncheons and keep fierce dogs on the leash. No-one knows precisely who MONOPOL is. He lives in fortress-palaces of a sort, by the side of the sea, or on the tops of mountains. He also lives in town centres, and he has huge glass and concrete structures built, and people are obliged to go there and buy. He has hordes of slaves, all dressed exactly alike; he has fleets of new ships and planes and cars that sparkle; he lives with a lot of very young and very beautiful women who have green eyes framed in black mascara, and long slim legs. No-one has ever seen MONOPOL, because he stays hidden behind his concrete walls, and then he is never in the same place twice. He simply spends his whole time putting up these palatial buildings, and handing out orders to his army of cops and slaves. He owns factories where millions of people work, but his riches never suffice. He loves gold and silver, hoarding it in great silent vaults guarded by cops. He loves war, too, because his slaves kill each other with the guns he manufactures. And he loves power, because he is the only one who knows what he wants and how to get it. There are people who want to slay MONOPOL, and so they hurl grenades through his shop windows and under the wheels of his cars. But MONOPOL is invincible. He has many bodies, many lives. He is everywhere at once, behind the plate-glass mirrors, listening in to telephone conversations, on the other side of the television screens. He knows everything that is going on. Maybe, one day, MONOPOL will cease to exist. But not until every stone, every window-pane of his gigantic warehouses has been ground to dust. Not until the whole earth has burned fiercely for a year on end, so that everything is destroyed, down to the very roots.

All such myths are there, around me. …

That is the “war.” And I—so I assume—am Monsieur X.