Prokrastinatorn: United States of Banana, the graphic novel

USoB_stor-945x664.jpg”Fursten drömmer att han styr / offer för sin föreställning / härskar han ifrån sin tron. / Men vår makt är bara lån / inte mer än skrift i vinden” (Ur Livet en dröm av Pedro Calderón de la Barca, 1635)

Så talar den polske prinsen Sigismund, inspärrad av sin far efter ett kort men katastrofalt inhopp på tronen och därefter itutad att han bara drömt alltihop, i den spanske 1600-talsdramatikern Pedro Calderón de la Barcas pjäs Livet en dröm (La vida es sueño). Versdramat är mest känt för sina metafysiska funderingar om tillvarons drömlika natur, men det är lika mycket en meditation över makt och ansvar och förmågan att ta kommandot över sitt eget öde i stället för att kapitulera för defaitismen och bara leva upp till omvärldens (lågt ställda) förväntningar.

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Det är tidlösa teman, och sisådär 375 år senare dyker Sigismund upp på nytt, nu under sitt spanska namn Segismundo, i den puertoricanska författaren Giannina Braschis postmoderna, postkoloniala och punkpoetiska roman United States of Banana från 2011. Här framträder han som en analog för Puerto Rico, fängslad inte i ett torn utan under Frihetsgudinnans kjolar – en slående bild för ett land fast i ett politiskt limbo som lydstat under USA. Han eftersöks av Braschis litterära alter ego Giannina tillsammans med övermänniskoprästen Zarathustra och Hamlet (en annan tronarvinge med svårt dysfunktionella familjerelationer) som under letandet grälar om söndervittrande imperier, frihetens natur och poetens roll i samhället efter elfte september-attackerna. Det är en halsbrytande mix av personligt poetiskt manifest och politisk kommentar, där Braschi gisslar USA:s relationer med Latinamerika i allmänhet och Puerto Rico i synnerhet, samtidigt som hon formulerar ett stridsrop för kreativiteten i en sönderkommersialiserad konsumtionskultur.

Braschis bångstyriga prosa är färgstark nog i sig själv, men frågan är om inte United States of Banana fått sin definitiva uttolkning i den nyligen utgivna serieversionen, kongenialt illustrerad av svenska serienestorn Joakim Lindengren. Vad som på pappret ser ut som ett ganska omaka par – vad har Braschis anarkistiska agitationer gemensamt med Lindengrens nostalgiska vurm? – visar sig vara oväntat lyckat. Det är som som om Braschis kombination av rättfärdig vrede och absurdistisk fars har inspirerat Lindengren att hitta ett nytt uttrycksmedel efter den antiauktoritära rebellattityden och den skatologiska humorn från tidiga verk som som Krystmarodören och Brun utan tvål och den reaktionärt färgade referenshumorn i Kapten Stofil. Här har han bytt ut tuschet mot kolet, och de mättade, stämningsfulla blyertsteckningarna är rika på detaljer och atmosfär utan att för den skull göra avkall på hans känsla för fysisk komedi. Han har aldrig tecknat bättre. Lindengrens ambitioner sträcker sig dock längre än att bara göra en illustrerad översättning av boken, och han ger Braschis kritik av västerländsk kulturimperialism djup och vitalitet genom att frambesvärja ett inferno av popkulturella och konsthistoriska gestalter som befolkar serierutorna: Här ses David Bowie och bröderna Marx sida vid sida med Socker-Conny och Pablo Picasso, medan Han Solo, Mister T och Toshiro Mifune slåss om grindslanten. Och så vidare. Det är ett hisnande bildfyrverkeri, fullt av drastiska associationer och kombinationer. Att på det viset gestalta en tummelplats för karaktärer ur vårt kollektiva undermedvetna hade lätt kunnat bli en en ytligt tillfredsställande postmodernistisk meta-fest, men Lindengren gör ofta smarta och oväntade kopplingar som ger nya dimensioner åt Braschis teman. Det gör United States of Banana till en frustande vital läsupplevelse, rasande, rasande rolig och relevant.

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”Det är som som om Braschis kombination av rättfärdig vrede och absurdistisk fars har inspirerat Lindengren att hitta ett nytt uttrycksmedel efter den antiauktoritära rebellattityden och den skatologiska humorn från tidiga verk som som Krystmarodören och Brun utan tvål och den reaktionärt färgade referenshumorn i Kapten Stofil. […] Han har aldrig tecknat bättre.”
”Jag var ett monument över invandringen. Nu är jag en gränspolis” beklagar sig Frihetsgudinnan, en gåva från Frankrike för att fira hundraårsminnet av USA:s självständighet. ”De förvandlade mig till frihetens mausoleum”, tillägger hon senare. United States of Banana är – bland mycket annat – en betraktelse över hur ideal eroderar, förvrängs och förkalkas och blir byggstenar i imperiebyggen. Braschi ställer frihet mot ”frihet”; otyglad kreativitet kontra vackra men tomma koncept som kan paketeras, varumärkesskyddas och marknadsföras globalt. Inte konstigt att statyn ser sin spegelbild förvrängas till Munchs Skriet i Coca Cola-flaskans välvda yta. Man kan förtvivla för mindre. Konsumtionssamhället drar sig inte ens för att slå mynt av nationella trauman: I ett iskallt visuellt skämt förvandlar Lindengren 7-Eleven till 9-Eleven för att visa hur WTC-attacken tagit plats i den nationella mytbildningen. När Braschi beklagar sig över hur folket hålls liknöjt och jämnmodigt med ett bombardemang av massmediala sedativ sätter Lindengren Alex från A Clockwork Orange bakom taxiratten, med ögonen uppspärrade av metallklämmor, den rebelliska ådran stävjad.

Frihetsgudinnan är inte helt utan skuld. Hennes sympatier skiftar (hon bärs upp av ”en ondskans axel” som gör skillnad på folk, raser och kön, förklarar Giannina). Ibland blir hon ställföreträdande språkrör för amerikansk ideologi. ”Hur hindrade jag din själsliga utveckling?” frågar hon Giannina, som svarar: ”Genom att få mig att längta efter det jag inte vill ha eller behöver”. Tydligare än så kan knappast kapitalismens idéer formuleras. Den intalar oss att själslig utveckling kommer ur materiell tillväxt. Giannina hävdar envist motsatsen. Konsumtionshysterin kan även den bli en sorts fångenskap. Frihet är också att vara fri från begär.

Men alla imperier krackelerar, förr eller senare. ”Den anglosaxiska dominansen är dömd” säger statyn uppgivet, och serien är full av olycksbådande omen som styrker utlåtandet. Joakim Lindengren tecknar Barack Obama som moppar ett golv utan att ta notis om det Niagarafall som dränker rummet i vatten. Han drar ett inspirerat likhetstecken mellan Donald ”kvack kvack” Duck och Donald ”tweet tweet” Trump, båda kverulanta typer med bristande impulskontroll och sällsynt talang för självsabotage. Onkel Sam förvandlas till Batman-skurken Two-Face, en bipolär lögnare. ”Det är något ruttet i Amerika”, som Hamlet skulle ha uttryckt det. Hans närvaro i dramat förebådar för övrigt inga lyckliga slut.
”Han drar ett inspirerat likhetstecken mellan Donald ”kvack kvack” Duck och Donald ”tweet tweet” Trump, båda kverulanta typer med bristande impulskontroll och sällsynt talang för självsabotage.”

Det är inte bara i toppen som det är skakigt. Under frihetsgudinnans kjolar sjuder missnöjet, bland de brokiga skaror som vistas bland Escher-lika labyrinter och scenografier från Busby Berkeley-dansnummer. (Det finns ingen anledning att räkna upp alla Lindengrens referenser här, men att se pinup-ikonen Bettie Page dela ruta med både en Tom of Finland-hunk och den svenska porrparodi-agenten James Fjong beredde åtminstone den här recensenten lite extra glädje.) Här sitter Segismundo, prins av Polen och alter ego för Puerto Rico, som misströstar över sin möjlighet att göra fria val. Puerto Rico slits i dag mellan fraktioner som antingen vill förbli amerikanskt territorium, fullvärdig 51:a stat i USA eller självständig nation. Men för Segismundo är detta inte mycket till val: Slidder, slidder-sladder och sladder, suckar han medan det inrikespolitiska käbblet tar fysisk form som Knatte, Fnatte och Tjatte som huvudlöst springer omkring på hans cellgolv. Han vägrar också vara projektionsyta för andras drömmar: Zarathustra ser en överman, Giannina en frihetsslav och hetsporren Hamlet en erövrare. Själv drömmer han om upplösta gränser, mellan nationer, raser och kön.

Segismundos lojalitet sätts på prov i bokens avslutande tredjedel, där ett bröllop blir spelplatsen för en slutgiltig uppgörelse. Fadern Basilio ska gifta om sig med Hamlets mor Gertrud och erbjuder Segismundo att göra Puerto Rico till fullvärdig stat som gåva. Här börjar de litterära allusionerna dessvärre att svaja. Giftermålet är menat som en metaforisk allians mellan Sydamerika och Nordamerika, men exakt vad Gertrud har med amerikansk imperialism att göra blir aldrig riktigt klarlagt – i synnerhet som Lindengren tecknar henne med en Wagnerskt teutonisk majestät. Mest av allt verkar det vara för att ro hem analogierna till Hamlet, men det ringer lite falskt. Men även om den yttre handlingen blir luddig i kanterna så tappar aldrig systemkritiken och frihetsbudskapet udden. Boken avslutas med en triumfatorisk trotshandling, en personlig självständighetsförklaring som Lindengren badar i hoppingivande gryningsljus. Det är svårt att ha några invändningar mot den bilden. För att vara tecknad i svartvitt är United States of Banana ett synnerligen färgstarkt försvarstal.

https://www.prokrastinatorn.se/joakim-lindengren-united-states-of-banana/

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“United States of Banana (2011), Elizabeth Costello (2003) and Fury (2001): Portrait of the Writer as the ‘Bad Subject’ of Globalisation”

etudes

Madelena Gonzalez
http://ebc.revues.org/1279

With the rise of globalisation studies in academia, notably in the social sciences and economics, Postcolonialism and its reliance on alterity and hybridity is starting to seem out of synch with the generalised cultural homogenisation that results from the global expansion of capital. For some, the current state of affairs is merely a continuation of colonialism by other means, thus allowing for the continuation of the postcolonial paradigm, while for others, the necessity for a ‘new cartography’ is palpable and urgent (Hardt and Negri 92). Postcolonialism, as its name suggests, constructed itself in relation to colonisation and on the back of the disillusionment with the failure of nationalism, hence its fear of essentialism and the Enlightenment project, but the globalised era has ushered in new, more insidious and ambivalent forms of economic imperialism as well as a new epoch of post-nationalism, which may be couched in the form of the reinvigorated internationalism of a traditional Marxist cast or be closer to Hardt and Negri’s utopian vision of ‘global citizenship’ (92). Even if both phenomena are situated historically, neither can be glibly assimilated to the postcolonial as we know it to date.

Rushdie

2In the field of literary criticism and the study of fiction, there is a time lag in relation to this new state of affairs. The postcolonial label is still persistently and systematically applied to certain writers seen as representative of its main tropes, for both ethnic and aesthetic reasons, although a clear definition of the postcolonial aesthetic has yet to arise. Rushdie’s work is celebrated, above all, for its hybridity and migrant sensibility, thanks to Homi Bhabha’s now canonical essay, The Location of Culture (1994). As for Coetzee, he is grouped with writers such as Margaret Atwood and Peter Carey, who are members of white settler communities within colonised countries and thus apparently constituted by the conflicting relations between coloniser and colonised that obtain within those colonies. The work of Braschi, a Porto-Rican living in New York, would seem to fulfil the necessary criteria of biculturalism, bilingualism, migrancy, hybridity, required for gaining entry into the postcolonial canon. Indeed the recent panel session dedicated to her latest novel at the MLA in January 2013 had recourse to this familiar paradigm.

Braschi

3It is only a short step from appellation to interpellation and Braschi, Coetzee and Rushdie appear to inhabit a space hotly contested by both high Postcolonial Studies and the world book industry which exists within the new paradigm of global culture or what Wallerstein and other analysts have classed as the world capitalist system. This double interpellation affects their performance as writers but also that of readers of their work. These three novels are seemingly ideally poised for analysis within existing critical parameters, but obstinately refuse to conform to the protocols laid out for them.

4I will focus briefly on three different aspects of the novels, which seem particularly relevant to my hypothesis of a poetics of resistance and refusal: first the return to form and style as a way of reasserting control over the novel as artefact, secondly the artist figure as ‘bad subject’ declining to occupy the role assigned to him within globalisation and, finally, the emphasis on the creative imagination, as a source of agency and transformative power, locked in battle with the hyperreal simulacrum of the technoverse and obliged to seek out a compromise with mimesis and rationality in order to reaffirm real emotion via the expression of an ethical universal.

The Return to Form and the Potency of Style
5One of the ways out of a circular hermeneutics which tends to collapse everything into culture is to focus clearly on the aesthetic. For these novelists, concentrating on the centrality of the artist as a vehicle for the imagination and on the question of artistic originality and literary craftsmanship may be useful strategies with which to challenge homogenisation. In all three texts literariness is excessively foregrounded, thanks in large measure, to a multitude of postmodern tropes such as auto-reflexivity, metatextuality, parody, intertextuality, the problematization of realist representation and, in the case of Elizabeth Costello, and United States of Banana, the refusal to tell a story, unless, of course, it be the story of metafiction itself; the first chapter of Elizabeth Costello is entitled, significantly, ‘Realism’. This works against the temptation to which Postcolonial Studies is subject, that of: ‘making literary texts into allegories for non-literary processes (imperialism, nation-building, and so on)’ (O’Connor 298) and in favour of the opposition to either/or labelling or thinking, characteristic of the postmodern (see Torres-Padilla 300). However, I am not suggesting necessarily that they use Postmodernism as an antidote or mode of resistance to their possible postcolonial and/or global condition. Furthermore, if possible, I should like to bypass the familiar binary of Postmodernism as an aestheticizing of the political and Postcolonialism as a politicising of the aesthetic. These texts certainly encourage and resist a certain type of referential illusionist reading in familiar postmodern fashion and deal in some measure with postcolonial themes such as migration and identity, but seek to situate themselves above and beyond such totalities in an unidentifiable elsewhere which makes it difficult to pin them down to any one location on the literary-critical map.

6It will be remembered that Fury, to the disappointment of many critics, discards the familiar magic realist mode, considered up until then to be the default genre for the celebrated writer of postcolonial fiction and replaces it with a narrative voice that is closer to that of the Balzacian secretary of society, while at the same time employing formal conceits reminiscent of the montage used by Dos Passos in the ‘Newsreel’ and ‘Camera Eye’ sections of his USA Trilogy. Elizabeth Costello and United States of Banana both refuse conventional storytelling modes and propose philosophical disquisitions on our contemporary globalised condition that interpellate or critically address the phenomenon as much as they are interpellated or critically addressed by it, an impulse that is latent in Fury’s detailed description of contemporary New York, the very epicentre of globalisation, where Braschi also chooses to set most of her novel. Like Rushdie, she ‘outsources’ the second part to a recognizably postcolonial location, Porto Rico. However the theme addressed is not so much the oppressive legacy of colonialism, as the challenge to independence and self-determination constituted by the hegemony of world capitalism on which the narrator, a writer/poet/artist tries to persuade her fellow travellers to declare war.

7I will give a few specific examples of how the return to formalist concerns and the potency of style can be used as a tool to question accepted values and interpretative strategies, as encapsulated in the shocking reaction of Braschi’s eponymous writer figure, Giannina, one of the multiple narrators of the novel, to the events of 9/11. The startling pronouncement, ‘Inspiration made an installation that day’ (86), occurs in part two of the novel, itself entitled, ‘United States of Banana’. It comes near the beginning of a chapter named, ‘Burial of the Sardine’, which charts the progress of Giannina, a sort of duenna, and her unlikely companions, Hamlet and Zarathustra, through a surreal post-9/11 New York on their way to bury the aforementioned ‘rigorous but retarded sardine’ (72) at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. It is part of a seemingly absurdist philosophical dialogue she holds with her comrades and the recently deceased ‘salaried sardine’, which mocks the enslavement of contemporary Americans to capitalism: ‘Every two weeks—it brought me a salary—the stinky sardine—and I brought home all I could with that salary—confinement, imprisonment. Depending on a salary made me salivate’ (72). Braschi’s word play, linguistic patterning and literalisation of metaphor give her poetic licence for her critical intent and are reminiscent of the satirical incipit of Fury which intones with dead-pan irony the litany of empty materialism at the heart of the new empire.

8Rushdie’s exaggerated Roman conceit, which acts as an extended metaphor throughout his novel, is particularly prescient in the face of recent analyses of globalisation as something more than simply the continuation of Western imperialism by other means: ‘the United States is closer to ancient Rome—with its expansionist republicanism, networked power, and syncretic, englobing culture—than to the territorial sovereignty, linear ambitions, and differentialist logic of the modern imperial European nation-state’ (Coopan 83). As in United States of Banana, the triumph of commodification is portrayed as total and the difficulty consists in finding a position outside the market from which to combat its mechanisms; both novels lament the fact that art has long ago lost its aura to a logic of mechanical and now virtual, reproduction. If, as Deleuze avers, ‘Le marketing est maintenant l’instrument du contrôle social’ (Deleuze 1990), Rushdie’s cinematographic close-up of the intimate workings of the system at its focal point, makes visible this unpleasant reality. For all his Indianness, Solanka’s alienation is not a result of his race, and, like Giannina, his exile is self-enforced and eminently desired. His anxiety concerns instead his status as individual and artist within the accelerated flows of an information society, drained of real human emotion, in short, the loss of individuality attendant on the fragmentation of the human as modernisation extends into globalisation via information highways and the omnipresent digiverse, described by Deleuze in ‘Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle’ (1990).

9Like Rushdie’s protagonist, born in Bombay, the Porto Rican Giannina could be construed ethnically as postcolonial outsider, but her interest is in dismantling the global empire from within by making its workings visible to the naked eye or baring the device, thanks to a self-conscious and defamiliarising poetics. Rather than assume the mantle of the exoticised postcolonial Other, she, like the narrator of Fury and, indeed, Elizabeth Costello, affirms the superiority of the elite cosmopolitan radical, exploring the new empire from a position of intellectual and economic privilege which allows her the luxury of informed dissent. It is from this vantage point that she proceeds to demolish the American dream and its myths with the undiplomatic immunity of her poetry:

I used to hear the voices of the people in taxi drivers—but now their voices are hooked up to cell phones, iPods, or Blackberries. If you talk to them—they disconnect only for a second—and return to their gadgets. Human beings can’t bear very much reality … And now they use electronics to formalize the fact that they’re busy with the dread of daily living that produces nothing creative but the monotony that they call pragmatism … they’re fire-breathing dragons at the office of their mouths. What would happen if we snipped the wires of their busyness. Progress would happen—as it did to us on September 11. Inspiration made an installation that day. (86)

10The stylistic flourishes, syllepsis, alliteration, the internal rhyme of the last sentence, the reference to literary Modernism via the application to our contemporary networked existence of a line from part one of Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, ‘human kind/Cannot bear very much reality’, are the marks of a sophisticated and elitist aesthetics which challenge the banality of contemporary cultural clichés and allow her to rewrite radical politics as high art. Poetic mastery creates a defamiliarised alternative to what Solanka terms ‘the death of the heart’ (202), that is to say, the symbolic poverty of consumer society. Artistic inspiration is reinstated as resistance to the oppression of the North American business model and enables the writer, empowered by her craft, to create an oppositional model of poetic progress, condensed in the epiphany of 9/11, seen as a work of art.

11Such manifestations of stylistic potency underline the importance of art as ideological intervention, thanks to the artist-figure’s special status as antagonist as well as protagonist. According to Deleuze, the pervasive structures of our current ‘societies of control’ are more dangerous than those of more traditional models because less immediately visible, an analysis which is reminiscent of Baudrillard’s theory of the viral stage of capitalism, instituting a fourth order of simulacra (13–18). However, unlike Baudrillard, and like Deleuze who encourages us to look for new forms of resistance, the writers under study here suggest that art may be used as a weapon of delegitimation of these ubiquitous structures of control and their universalising tendencies. They move beyond the postmodern and the postcolonial to envisage the reinstatement of a different (ethical?) type of universal, based on love, feeling, the human heart that can only be mediated through the romantic imagination of the artist, thus reasserting his uniqueness and importance as exceptional individual.

The Artist as ‘Bad Subject’
12Within the sticky web of the contemporary mediaverse the author is in danger of losing control of his creation, as is the case for Solanka and his Little Brain doll. He too may become a product, celebrity or icon, in short be subjected to the process of reification in the same way that his art is doomed to become a consumer object. The obsessive centrality of the artist figure in these novels is thus a symptom of a malaise which extends from the personal to the political, as Sarah Brouillette cogently explains in her analysis of Fury: ‘the novel’s significant solipsism is its paranoia about the way mass media make cultural products available for highly politicized forms of appropriation or interpretation that betray the controlling intentions of the author’ (140). Each of these texts is engaged in the refiguring of an ideal artist. In order to reaffirm artistic agency, they propose imagination and inspiration as an antidote to the bromide of contemporary pop culture, and construct counter narratives that gesture towards an elsewhere outside the immanence of the information order. The American dream, actually being experienced by Fury’s protagonist in his incarnation as complicit multi-millionaire web artist, is thus recast in the form of an Internet saga where the myth of success is metamorphosed into a tragic dystopia. In this imaginary space, revolt becomes a reality. The destruction of an oppressive empire in the twilight of its hegemony is staged via the interpolation of an excerpt from the saga which constitutes chapter 12 in its entirety and prefigures the ‘intervention of the living dolls from the imaginary planet Galileo-1 in the public affairs of the actually existing Earth’ (226) when the web saga becomes the inspiration behind the revolution on the South Sea island of Lilliput Blefuscu and metaphor is literalised into radical political change.

13In the same way that Fury disrupts its generic coherence with the intrusion of a rogue element that challenges the status quo, Elizabeth Costello runs strikingly counter to common expectations of the novel conceived of in its current incarnation as market-oriented, mass-produced consumer object. Neither does the South African author’s discursive set of eight ‘lessons’, mostly reworked from earlier essays and followed by a perplexing postscript, conform to the received wisdom of Coetzeean poetics as postmodern allegory about South African postcolonial reality. Like his protagonist, Elizabeth, an Australian who travels the world as celebrity author giving prize-acceptance speeches, only very tenuously related to the work for which she is being honoured, Coetzee, the Nobel laureate, seems to have turned a deaf ear to the possible demands of the very public who deemed him worthy of recognition.

14Within the new totality of globalisation, one possible role available to the artist is that of the ‘idiot savant’ who, as Giannina puts it, ‘is taught but doesn’t learn’ (USB 173), the ‘bad subject’ in the Althusserian sense who refuses to submit to the dictates of authority and uses poetic licence to reinvent the world. The incipit of Braschi’s novel, for example, sees the poet-narrator creatively stimulated by the tragedy of 9/11: ‘It’s the end of the world. I was excited by the whole situation. Well, if everybody is going to die, die hard’ (3) which is presented as a solution to her fellows’ subjugation to the capitalist model. Not only does 9/11 become the vehicle for a bizarre romantic transcendence but it is also rewritten as a shockingly un-politically correct corrective to the prevailing narrative of sentimentality about the disaster. Instead of the recognition of the immensity of the event as unprecedented personal and collective tragedy which has appeared unfailingly in the majority of post 9/11 novels, Braschi’s narrator restages the catastrophe around a single grotesque synedochic snapshot: ‘The Death of a Businessman’ where the exploded body parts of the victim signify the ultimate comic reification of humanity consonant with the logic of materialism.

15The ‘Mickey-Mouse postcolonial writer’ (EC 9) is openly mocked by Coetzee’s heroine as one of the many personas on offer to the writer within the culture industry and, like both Solanka and Giannina, Elizabeth is a quixotic aesthete, an unattractive, but inspired anti-heroine, who rewrites society’s expectations of the artist in bizarrely challenging, if not to say shocking ways. The formal challenge of the novel that refuses the consensual narrative options on offer is replicated in its content: is it an ironic allegory of Coetzee’s own success, of the fate of the postcolonial writer as celebrity, a series of object lessons in how to read or not to read a novel? Its resistance to assimilation into available paradigms complicates its status within the literary marketplace and suggests resistance to the pervasive mechanics of commodity production in a world order where labelling and brand status are of paramount importance. Coetzee’s perverse refusal to heed the sirens of global literary celebrity is equal to Elizabeth’s perverse refusal to talk coherently about her work in public and her unfashionable obsession with ethics as a form of aesthetics.

Coetzee

16However, it is the final lesson, ‘At the Gate’, where Elizabeth is seen waiting in an unspecified location to enter paradise, which best sums up the novel’s resistance to interpellation. This transparently comic false ending, a parodical rewriting of Kafka’s short story ‘Before the Law’, illustrates Elizabeth’s unwillingness to subject herself to the dictates of the imaginary court which will vouchsafe her passage over to the other side and to salvation. As an artist, she sees herself as ‘a secretary of the invisible’ (199), with a higher vocation, that of the transcendent, and the ‘summons’ for which she is waiting, comes to her from the mysterious powers beyond. Her obstinate and peremptory assertion of artistic freedom in the face of the demonstrably ubiquitous power of the court borders on insanity or, at least, contumacious recklessness.

17As unable as she is unwilling to learn her lesson, she condemns herself to the limbo of the permanent threshold, rather than be safe in the certainty of the absolutes guaranteed by the law which insists on the unconditional belief necessary for its continued existence: ‘When I claim to be a secretary clean of belief I refer to my ideal self, a self capable of holding opinions and prejudices at bay while the word which it is her function to conduct passes through her’ (200). As one of Elizabeth’s judges points out, this resembles a form of negative capability, the familiar refuge of the Romantic poet who can dwell in ‘uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’ (Keats 92). Like both Giannina and Solanka, she pits imaginative self-creation against social construction with the self, perceived as ‘pure transformative energy . . . simultaneously terrifying and wonderful’ (F 178). If, as Emerson stated, ‘The true romance, which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power’ (Emerson 142), how can this be realised in a world where art is subsumed into global popular culture and what Elizabeth calls ‘the irrepressible human spirit’ (207) is enslaved to commodity production? Just as Solanka is trapped within the theatre of masks on the island, she remains prisoner in a ‘purgatory of clichés’ (206), the literary theme park which reflects the death of artistic creativity within the culture of globalisation where transcendence is collapsed into an inescapable immanent totality. Can the mystical Romantic intuition of the artist redeem and renew the affectless real and provide the consolation of authentic experience within a spiritually empty cosmos?

Disconsolate Utopias and Rational Delirium
18These embattled Künstlerromans offer us portraits of the artist in a permanent state of disquietude, the ‘furia’, described in Rushdie’s novel as the natural condition of the inspired creator, striving to reconnect with real emotion, to reinstate the language of the heart through recourse to the myth of the Romantic imagination, negative capability and the creative energy or special madness of poetry. Thanks to what she terms her ‘Hierarchy of Inspiration’, ‘the demon, the duende, the angel and the muses’ (63), Braschi’s narrator affirms the unique status of the artist whose function is to reconnect with truth and authenticity through the aesthetic: ‘But the nature of the poet is to see through the mud. To throw dirt in people’s faces without distinguishing a king from a beggar . . . All of them should feel the mud—and smell it—and find a sapphire in a pig’s shit’ (64). The potent poetic image of Eliot’s ‘garlic and sapphires in the mud’, is plucked from part two of ‘Burnt Norton’ and rewritten with a certain alliterative crudity to emphasise the artist’s special role as seer and visionary whose poetry can be the source of a powerful transformation that turns the base into the beautiful, in short, the alchemical art which Solanka so frequently evokes. The term ‘duende’ signifies both master and demon in Spanish, the primitive power, fire, soul, which Costello strains to communicate to her judges and audience and which Lady Chandos expresses in the epistolary epilogue of Coetzee’s novel as the rapture and rhapsody of romantic love.

19This imaginary letter, addressed to the renowned scientist, Lord Bacon, suggests a disturbing coda to the romantic myth, as expressed in the quote reproduced from Hofmannstahl’s original fictional letter from Lord Chandos to Bacon, and placed immediately before Lady Chandos’s missive (see EC 226). The spirituality of the ideal self, accomplished through revelation, is subject to a double dissolution, firstly in the abyssal sublime of Lady Chandos’s creative madness, Solanka’s fury and Giannina’s frenzy and, secondly, in the alienating aphasia of the global totality which has no use for the artist within its economy of representation. The passion of the ‘extreme soul’ (EC 228) is untenable within the new order of dehumanisation and standardisation. The Romantic posture demands the sublime despite the writer’s difficulty in communicating it, and humanity’s inability to comprehend it, the realisation of an impossible ideal which cannot be easily expressed in words, as Lady Chandos laments. In order to be attained, the ineffable must be harnessed to representation, the ideal must be made material. This is the challenge faced by these artists if they wish to clear a significant space for the truth of an ethical universal to combat the ersatz of globalisation.

20If, as Lady Chandos avers, ‘We are not made for revelation’ (229; italics in the original), the writer must reinvent a form of creative mimesis that will make this ethical universal a tangible reality, he must rediscover the link between art and life, between the poet and the multitude, find a compromise between his aspiration to the sublime and the constraints of representation, in short reinstate authentic experience within the simulated or coded structures which have superseded direct experience. Giannina offers her audience a rogue aesthetic that reconnects them to the real and contests the dominant ideology enshrined in the state, thanks to a ‘Declaration of Independence’, the title of chapter four of the second part of the novel. Linking the material and the transcendent, thanks to the aesthetic, enables the poet to make room for an alternative ideology. Thus, the first part of the book, entitled, ‘Ground Zero’ with its images of apocalypse and destruction, prepares the terrain for the reversal of the balance of power that occurs in the second and that is reflected in the name of the novel itself. By ascribing the status of banana republic to the United States and redefining its former satellites as the new seat of power, an enlightened universalism, what the narrator terms, ‘a United Nations—without nations’ (118), can come to the fore.

21Giannina’s rational delirium suggests a possible mode of existence for the artist within globalisation that rests on the paradoxical coupling of the Romantic sublime with Enlightenment rationality. In the final chapter of the novel, which takes the form of a Socratic dialogue between the narrator and an immigrant taxi-driver in Central Park, philosophical reasoning interweaves with a Molly Bloomish rhapsody on artistic intuition and love. Lady Chandos’s impassioned appeal to the humanistic materialism of Bacon at the end of Coetzee’s novel can also be read in this light. Solanka, too, weds rationality to romanticism in his rewriting of the Keatsian credo of ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ as the ‘Galileo moment’ (249). All three suggest the utopian potential of the aesthetic as an ethical alternative to the dominant ideology.

22Although, rational delirium may confer on the artist the superior energy of rebellion, it also withholds the promise of ultimate recognition and artistic fulfilment. In his study of ‘The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism’, Neil Lazarus proposes the term ‘disconsolation’ (431) to describe a certain type of literature in which he includes the work of Coetzee, but which could also apply to the other novels in our corpus: ‘writing which . . . says “no”; refuses integration, resolution, consolation, comfort; protests and criticizes’ (431). Elizabeth Costello’s posture of doubt in the final lesson of Coetzee’s novel places her outside the remit of the law, but consigns her to a disconsolate utopia which she shares with Giannina, the poet trying to rhyme her way into the Republic, and Solanka cavorting on a bouncy castle on Hampstead Heath in the final pages of Fury. Perpetual rebellion condemns the artist to perpetual adolescence. Instead of attaining the maturity which is the habitual trajectory of the Künstlerroman whose protagonist is poised to fulfil his artistic destiny, Solanka, Elizabeth and Giannina do not seem equipped, like Stephen Dedalus ‘to forge in the smithy of their souls the uncreated conscience of their race’, but reduced to the kynic clowning of naughty gifted children. Their petulant postures may be no match for the cynical mechanisms of global capitalism, but do at least enable them as artists to thumb their noses at the unacknowledged ideological universalism of official culture and its intangible strategies of control, as Solanka’s farcical restaging of Gatsby’s American dream in the final lines of the novel may suggest.

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BIBLIOGRAPHIE

Baudrillard, Jean, La Transparence du mal, Paris: Galilée, 1990.

Bhabha, Homi, The Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

Braschi, Giannina, United States of Banana, Las Vegas: AmazonCrossing, 2011.

Brouillette, Sarah, ‘Authorship as crisis in Salman Rushdie’s Fury’, Sage Publications 40.1 (2005): 137-156.

Coetzee, J. M., Elizabeth Costello, London: Random House, 2003.

Cooppan, Vilashini, ‘The Ruins of Empire: The National and Global Politics of America’s Return to Rome’, Postcolonial Studies and Beyond, eds. Ania Loomba, Survir Kaul, Matti Bunzi, Antoinette Burton and Jed Esty, Durham, GA: Duke UP, 2005, 80-100.

Deleuze, Gilles, ‘Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle’, L’autre journal 1 (mai 1990), http://infokiosques.net/imprimersans2.php3?id_article=214, retrieved on May 4, 2014.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, ‘Self-Reliance’, Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Richard Poirier, Oxford: OUP, 1990.

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, ‘The Multitude against Empire’, Literature and Globalisation. A Reader, eds. Liam Connell and Nicky Marsh, Abingdon, New York: Routledge, 2011, 87–92.

Keats, John, The Selected Letters of John Keats, ed. Lionel Trilling, New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1951.

Lazarus, Neil, ‘The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism’, Postcolonial Studies and Beyond, eds. Ania Loomba, Survir Kaul, Matti Bunzi, Antoinette Burton and Jed Esty, Durham, GA: Duke UP, 2005, 423–438.

O’Connor, Erin, ‘Preface for a Post-Postcolonial Criticism’, Theory’s Empire: An Anthology of Dissent, eds. Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral, New York: Columbia UP, 2005, 297–312.

Rushdie, Salman, Fury, London: Jonathan Cape, 2001.

Torres-Padilla, José L., ‘When Hybridity Doesn’t Resist: Giannina Braschi’s Yo-Yo Boing’, Complicating Constructions: Race, Ethnicity, and Hybridity in American Texts, ed. David S. Goldstein, Seattle: U of Washington P, 2007, 290–307.

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POUR CITER CET ARTICLE

Référence électronique
Madelena Gonzalez, « United States of Banana (2011), Elizabeth Costello (2003) and Fury (2001): Portrait of the Writer as the ‘Bad Subject’ of Globalisation », Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 46 | 2014, mis en ligne le 03 juin 2014, consulté le 20 juillet 2014. URL : http://ebc.revues.org/1279
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AUTEUR

Madelena Gonzalez
Madelena Gonzalez is Professor of Anglophone Literature at the University of Avignon. Her recent publications include Generic Instability and Identity in the Contemporary Novel (2010), Authenticity and Legitimacy in Minority Theatre: Constructing Identity (2010) and Minority Theatre on the Global Stage: Challenging Paradigms from the Margins (2012). She has published widely on contemporary literature and culture and is currently in charge of the Avignon-based, interdisciplinary research team, ‘Cultural Identity, Texts, and Theatricality’ (ICTT, ÉA 4277).

Articles du même auteur
20th—21st Century ‘British’ Literature: Recent Critical Trends [Texte intégral]
Concluding panel of the SEAC workshop (2013 SAES conference)
Paru dans Études britanniques contemporaines, 46 | 2014

Études britanniques contemporaines is the journal of the Société d’Études Anglaises Contemporaines. Its field of study is the literature and, more broadly, the culture of the British Isles, from 1914 to the present. It publishes contributions on British fiction, drama and poetry, but also on British art of the Modernist and contemporary periods. It welcomes articles in French and in English.

New Release: A Swedish Comic Book of United States of Banana

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The Swedish Comic Book publisher COBOLT will release Joakim Lindengren‘s illustrated version of United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi in Swedish translation by the poet Helena Erikkson.  The graphic dramatic novel will be released at The Stockholm International Comics Festival, taking place in May 19–21st, 2017.

 

Joakim Lindengren är tillbaka med en seriebok olik allt han gjort tidigare. United States of Banana, efter den puertoricanska författaren Giannina Braschis bok med samma titel, är en politisk, poetisk och humoristisk allegori över Latinamerikas och dess emigranters roll i USA, i dag och i framtiden läs mer

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JOAKIM LINDENGREN


Illustration: Joakim Lindengren

 

Joakim Lindengren har en rik produktion bakom sig, ett flertal seriealbum utgivna på förlag som Epix, Galago och Optimal. Hans “bizarra” bajs- och könshumor blev något av ett signum för honom på 80- och 90-talen. Därefter gav han tillsammans med kollegan David Nessle ut serietidningen Kapten Stofil vars paradnummer var den bakåtsträvande superhjälten med samma namn.
Nu har Lindengren lämnat både bajshumor och stofilism bakom sig för att presentera något helt annorlunda – en serieversion av författaren, poeten och dramatikern Giannina Braschis märkliga roman United States of Banana, vilken nu ges ut på svenska av Cobolt Förlag. Både Lindengren och Braschi gästar årets seriefestival och deltar i ett gemensamt scensamtal under helgen.

Presenteras i samarbete med Cobolt Förlag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information contact: gbraschi@icloud.com
https://www.sfbok.se/forfattare/joakim-lindengren-giannina-braschi-17976
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joakim_Lindengrenhttp://kulturhusetstadsteatern.se/Bibliotek/Serieteket/Evenemang/2017/SIS17-Svenska-gaster/
http://kulturhusetstadsteatern.se/Bibliotek/Serieteket/Evenemang/2017/SIS17-Svenska-gaster/
Besöksadress / Visiting adress: Beridarbansgatan 5
Box 16412, SE 103 57 Stockholm, Sweden
+46 8 506 20 100
www.serieteket.se
www.kulturhusetstadsteatern.se
 https://seriewikin.serieframjandet.se/index.php/Cobolt_förlag

http://www.smakprov.se/bok/drömmarnas-imperium/giannina-braschi/isbn/9789186307936

 

PEN World Voices Festival: May 6, 2017

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ART, GENDER, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

Panel Discussion: Saturday, May 6th, 2017
6:00 pm-7:30 pm
THE COOPER UNION,The Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, 41 Cooper Square (Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets), New York, NY 10003

Artists provoke and enlighten by giving voice to perspectives in our world that might otherwise remain unseen. Artistic investigations of contemporary attitudes and norms have been embedded in the forefront of movements for social justice, civil rights, and equity for marginalized voices throughout history. What roles do art and gender play in creating social justice locally and globally? What can we do to bring more marginalized women’s voices to the forefront where they can speak for themselves?

With Jessica Greer Morris, Hafizah Geter, and Giannina Braschi. Moderated by Ana Oliveira.

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Co-presented with New York Women’s Foundation & hosted by the Cooper Union Office of Continuing Education and Public Programs.

 

 

 

PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL: May 3, 2017

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Giannina Braschi, one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin America today, writes in Spanish, Spanglish, and English. Her work explores the enculturation process of millions of Hispanic immigrants to the USA and dramatizes the three political options of her native Puerto Rico — nation, colony, or state. Her books include Empire of Dreams, Yo-Yo Boing!, and United States of Banana.

PUSHING PAST GLASS CEILINGS

PANEL DISCUSSION

WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2017 @ 7:00 pm-8:30 pm
Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St, New York, NY, 10002

Join these brilliant, internationally acclaimed writers. For the first time in the history of the World Voices Festival, we will be featuring twice as many women as men in our Festival line-up. These authors, poets, translators, artists, and critics will join us as we examine the relationship between gender, power, and more.

Pioneers in the fields of theater, music, finance and advertising discuss new methods of fighting inequality.

With Valerie Graves, Rita Mae Brown, Giannina Braschi and Theresa Rebeck. 

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Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Bookwitty

 

CILE 2016: Royal Academy of the Spanish Language

Spanish is the Language of the Future

The Royal Academy of the Spanish Language is hosting an international conference on the future of the Spanish language

By LatinoLA
The Spanish Royal Academy and Cervantes Institute will present the 7th International Congress on the Spanish Language (CILE 2016) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 15-18th, 2016.

The focus of the grand event is how alive, versatile, and ever expanding Spanish is. Did you know that Spanish is second most spoken language in the world with 490 million speakers? That is why it is called the language of the future with an anticipated 530 million speakers by 2030. It is the third most widely used language on the internet, and 20 million people around the world study Spanish as a second language.

Nobel prize winning novelist JEAN-MARIE LE CLÉZIO will give a keynote address at CILE 2016 on the impact of Cervantes on world culture. Nobel prize winning chemist MARIO MOLINA will give opening remarks on science, thought and communication. The program features panels by the most celebrated Puerto Rican authors LUIS RAFAEL SANCHEZ and GIANNINA BRASCHI.

The conference is dedicated Nicaraguan poet RUBEN DARIO, Puerto Rican poet LUIS PALES MATOS, and Spanish poet PEDRO SALINAS.

There will be representatives from 22 academies of the Spanish language throughout the Americas and Europe, and more than 50 journalists.

Amazon Crossing, the publishing division of the largest internet retailer Amazon, has launched a editorial program that publishes translations of world classics, popular and historical novels, and high-art books as well in Spanish translations. Amazon Crossing has pledged to translate literature by Nobel Laureates into Spanish and make them available for the mass market on Kindle and paper back. Puerto Rican author Giannina Braschi’s dramatic novel “Estados Unidos de Banana” will be published on March 15th, 2016 to celebrate the opening of CILE in Puerto Rico. Professor Braschi will participate in a panel with Spanish publishers on the subject of creativity, the book, and the market. She will also give a poetry reading as part of the cultural program.

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Other CILE guests include Edmundo Paz Soldan, Jorge Edwards, Jorge Volpi, Myra Montero, Leonardo Padura, Antonio Skármeta, and Sergio Ramírez.

The event will feature concerts, book salons, and tours throughout Old San Juan.

To register, click here: http://www.eventbrite.es/e/entradas-vii-congreso-internacional-de-la-lengua-espanola-cile-en-san-juan-de-puerto-rico-20147471630

 

http://www.cervantes.es/imagenes/File/prensa/programa-academico-VII-CILE.pdf

United States of Banana @ Columbia Stages

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Here are photos by Carol Rosegg of the theater production of United States of Banana, directed and adapted by Juan Pablo Felix and produced by Grace Denoncourt for Columbia Stages, June 2015.

The Cast:  Giannina was played by Angela Sperazza, Hamlet by Raphael Corkhill, Zarathustra by Tauriq Jenkins, Gertrude by Hadley Boyd, Segismundo by Juan Arturo Villar-Ojito, Statue of Liberty by Alicia Giangrisotomi, Prisoners by George Hider, Charles Young, Ethan Nguyen, and Kristoffer Infante. Set design by You-Shen Chen.

Act I: Burial of the Sardine (at the Fulton Market post 911)

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Act II: American Passport (in the dungeon under the skirt of the Statue of Liberty)

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Act III:  The Wedding of the Century gertrude3

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Act IV: The Coronation (In the Crown of the Statue of Liberty)

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Curtain Call (Hamlet played by Raphael Corkhill invites Giannina Braschi to the stage)

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