BOOK PROJECTS 2018-2020
CYCLE OF THE VOID
ESSAYS IN EMPTINESS
The Desert. Essays in Emptiness
In this volume, the crucial metaphor of the Desert that I take as an axis of my reflection on negativity is referred to creative activity. The main question is how, under which conditions originality is possible. The metaphor of the Desert sums up the state of creative openness, the field of potentiality in which the creation may begin.
The world we live in is overcrowded with the results of human works. The Desert if full, as much as the Desert of Flaubert's Anthony was full of material qualities, images, voices. The crucial question is thus the (re)creation of the Desert as emptiness. The gesture of Rauchenberg, a young artist coming into the world already saturated by an excess of art, is paradigmatic: he simply erased one of De Koonings' drawings. Not in order to fill the cleaned space with his own production, but in order to leave it in this state of potentiality, resuming all the possible drawings that might come to be.
EROTICISM OF TRACE
Eroticism of trace
An application of the concept of the void to a particular domain: the eroticism. In search of its origins, I give special relevance to the Arabic tradition. The trace of Su'ad's foot in the sand opens a story that, everything taken into account, may tell us less about love and more about writing and reading. A tradition of conceptualizing love essentially as absence opens, long before Barthes and Bataille, the interstice of eroticism as a lapse of time between the desire and its fulfillment. Fulfillment that is not to come, because the temporal chiasm of "not yet" and "too late" abolishes the object. It opens a space of creation, a Desert - in the idiomatic meaning I give to this concept - where the creation, any creation may begin.
THE COMING HUMANITIES:
Turris Nova. Intellectuals as universalists
Starting with Ibn Bajja's Rule of the Solitary, this book speaks about the community of intellectuals as anchorets that withdraw from culture to inhabit the emergent dimension of Eremos. The utmost stake is nonetheless the salvation of the City.
The tradition that is recuperated here looks back to Rudolf Otto, Titus Burckhardt and those perennialists (after Philosophia perennis of Aldous Huxley) who searched for a third path between East and West.
The promise of the desert is treated here not as an encounter with the divine, but as an utmost encounter of man with his own humanity. The stake of askesis consists in the depletion of culture. The mystical encounter of the absolute is conditioned by the non-cultural becoming of man, the possibility of conceive other than the cultured God of institutional religions.
Anti-Babel. In search of the universal language
This book collects several essays turning around the question of the universal language of the mankind. The first part is dedicated to the study of this idea in the early modernity, with special relevance given to the Portuguese idea of reconstruction of the pre-Babelian tongue as the result of the discoveries and maritime expansion. The main part, on the other hand, is dedicated to the Modernist translingualism - understood here as a search for the meanings emerging at the cross-section of different linguistic systems - in Joyce and Pessoa. Finally, the last part presents the formation of the complex idiom of transcultural humanities, enriched by the introduction of indigenous words and concepts, issued from the heritage of world's oral cultures and recent literacies.
INTRUSIVE SPIRIT OF THE DESERT
Intrusive Spirit of the Desert. Islamic intellectuals and Europe, (in preparation), 2018.
The reflection on transcultural space taken at the highest pic of abstraction can be taken back to the current challenges of the European future. The emergent space of transdiscursivity has a very special value in the current situation, if we apply the concepts I try to define to the creation of new conditions for the intellectuals representing two different traditions, i.e. the European (post)modernity and the Islamic world.
ILLISIBILITY OF MOROCCO
Illisibility of Morocco, (in preparation), 2018.
The aim of this book is to pin down the complexity of the contemporary Moroccan literary space: its translingualism oscillating between Arabic, French and emergent Amazigh "neo-literature", its multiple embeddedness in the local and translocal conditions. An extensive foreword presents the cultural conditions all along the postcolonial period, yet the chapters focus on literature created already in the 21st century. In the first chapter I analyse the essential evolution leading from the discontinuous topology of the Mediterranean space in Un monde a cote by Driss Chraibi to the unified vision of the Afro-European world. The subsequent chapters present such problems as the emergence of the autonomous Amazigh literary project, the Moroccan feminism, and other aspects.
Tesserae. In search of a synergistic formula for the Mediterranean, (in preparation), 2019.
This is yet another book that testifies of my implication in the Islamic sphere and my laborious penetration into medieval and early modern area of studies. The main scope in this case is on the Mediterranean past and the precedents of transcultural condition that can be found, first of all, in the heritage of Al-Andalus and in those of Christian authors that attempted to establish a sphere of interaction with the Andalusian circle. This is thus a project that brings me back to Ibn Tufail and many other authors that may become reference in transcultural humanities.
PORTUGUESE & LUSOPHONE STUDIES
SEDUCTOR'S OLD AGE
Result of the research project supported by
the National Science Centre, Poland;
Seductor's Old Age. José Saramago at the end of life, Warszawa, DiG, 2018.
This book is a collection of essays presenting the late works, as well as the participation of José Saramago as an old man, distinguished with his Nobel prize, in the public sphere of discourse. The concept of intellectual, defined by Gramsci, Adorno and Said, is one of the crucial notions of this approach. The expression "end of life" that appears in the title should be taken not only as a reference to the writer's individual old age, but also in more general terms: the problem of being old, as well as the consciousness of the specific duties of the intellectual as an old man appear both in the literary and extra-literary interventions of Saramago. Nonetheless, I also speak about the "old age" of the civilization that Saramago leaves behind, situating our times "in the last chapter of the history of the world".
PORTUGUESE LITERATURE FROM ROMANTICISM TO THE PRESENT
Literatura portugalska od romantyzmu do współczesności. Wykłady i interludia [Portuguese literature from the Romanticism to the present. Lectures and interludes], Wrocław, Ossolineum, 2018; (coming soon).
The book is an extensive presentation of the Portuguese literary history, going from 1826 to 2017. The content is divided into eight "lectures" and eight "interludes". While the former offer a synthetic narration involving currents and their major figures, the latter focus on some chosen aspects of the Portuguese culture, offering a personal appreciation and insight in such key matters as love, travel, translatability of the term saudade, the Portuguese relations with Europe and Africa, modernity, literary success and illustrated books.
EMPIRE AND NOSTALGIA
Result of the research project supported by the National Science Centre, Poland; DEC2012/05/B/HS2/03986.
Imperium i nostalgia. "Styl późny" w kulturze portugalskiej [Empire and Nostalgia. "Late style" in the Portuguese culture], Warszawa, DiG, 2015, 180 pp.
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TABLE OF CONTENT >>>
The main conceptual framework of this book is given by my search for the definition of transcultural condition that the Portuguese never managed to achieve, in spite of their incessant search for universalism. The essays included in it form a chain of ideas recounting the Portuguese cultural history, passing through such key figures as Camões, Vieira, Pessoa and Saramago, to whom this research project has been officially dedicated.
In the Foreword, after some preliminary remarks, I give a working definition of transcultural and transcolonial, as well as situate the Portuguese case in the context of global studies. The first chapter, "Light at dusk" is dedicated to the concept of "late style" that appears in the title, as well as other ideas taken from Edward Said. I return to his evocation of Batinist and Zahirite schools in The Word, the Text and the Critic to search for an analogous dichotomy in the Portuguese literature, namely opposing Vieira and Pessoa on the one hand, and Saramago on the other.
In the second essay, "On the path of hyper-culture", I propose this neologism to grasp the premises and implications of the Portuguese idea concerning the special place of their culture as an "essence of unification", idea that appears in the vision of the "Fifth Empire" in the 17th century and is still present nowadays in the discourse of Lusophony. The main bulk of this chapter is dedicated to Vieira, as I try to confront my concept of transculture and his writings, such as História do Futuro and Clavis Prophetarum. Agamben's seminar on the Letter to Romans, as well as the whole discussion involving Paul and the origins of universalism, appear in the background. Finally, Vieira is confronted with Pessoa and what I call the "virtualization" of the Portuguese universalism.
The third chapter, "In the cycle of catastrophe" parts from the essay Shipwreck with spectator by Hans Blumenberg. The metaphor used by the German philosopher obviously invites a confrontation with the Portuguese maritime destiny. I try to go deeper than this superficial association, taking the dawn of the hyper-culture for the moment of transgression launching the European on the one-way path of progress, identified here with the fulfillment of the globalization. As Blumenberg suggests, the cyclic dynamics of the modern catastrophe, rebuilding the ships with the shipwrecked material, is caused by the incessant temptation of wholeness -- of which the early-modern vision of Vasco da Gama in The Lusiads is a premonition. Going back to the idea of crusade, I speak about the cycle of Portuguese catastrophes, situated quite close to the native shores, in Morocco. On the other hand, the longue durée of the crusade forms a cataclysmic pattern that I call the globalization of the Mediterranean.
The title of the next essay, "Conversation with a skull", is taken from Rushdie's short story included in East, West and refers to the skull of the dead jester Yorick that appears in Hamlet. Since the first moments of their presence in the New World, the Portuguese humanists, such as Pêro Vaz de Caminha and Damião de Góis, appropriate the alien voice, realizing the early-modern pattern of intercession, once again shown through the Shakespearean reference to the figure of Desdemona, causing the tragedy by her obsession of interceding in defense of a plain soldier. The stranger is silenced as the humanists speak loud in his name. The burden of hegemonic situation, of which I spoke in the chapter dedicated to Vieira, creates a longing for otherness' voice and the supposed re-creative potential of genus angelicum. Nonetheless, the eventuality of a native Yorick answering Hamlet causes a thrill that ultimately blocks any attempt at a genuine communication. On the other hand, the simile of the bottom and surface of Narcissus' spring subsumes the search for an alien mirror permitting a glance at the European condition. The chapter on Cannibals in Montaigne's Essays doesn't actually offer this insight; it is found very late, when a Portuguese colonizer discovers his own portrait in the African sculpture of Yaka.
In the next chapter, I return to the messianic imagination contributing to the imperial utopia that survives the decolonization and is to be found in the post-modern constructs of lusophony. I read both the defenders and the adversaries of the new project, seeking to understand the peculiar Portuguese understanding of the notion of spiritual empire that arguably survived unscathed the postcolonial negotiations.
Finally, the last part of the book is dedicated to the contemporary Portuguese culture, featuring Jorge de Sena, Eduardo Lourenço and Saramago. They are seen as "dispatriants" breaking through the limiting patterns of their homeland, reflected in the claustrophobic simile of an island of the leprous. Once again, they search for a new form of intellectual universalism beyond the limitations of the "insular" mentality of the Portuguese. The final remarks on Saramago are placed under the sign of the "victory of Erros". I employ the erotic-erratic concept proposed by the Polish philosopher Agata Bielik-Robson to highlight the earthly liberation achieved after the breakdown of the Portuguese hyper-cultural narration.
The book closes with a "Moral of the story", adopting an external view of the Portuguese culture and evoking its place in non-European memory. Panglima Awang, a short novel by a Malay writer Harun Aminurashid is evoked, leading to a de-centered vision of the global history.
THE TERRITORY AND THE WORLD
Terytorium a świat. Wyobrażeniowe konfiguracje przestrzeni w literaturze portugalskiej od schyłku średniowiecza do współczesności [The Territory and the World. Imaginary configurations of space in Portuguese literature since the end of the Middle Ages till the contemporary period], Kraków, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2003, 290 pp.
The book presents an analysis of space categories in Portuguese literature across the "imperial cycle", i.e. an extensive epoch that goes from the passage from Middle Ages to early modernity till the contemporary period. The main aim is to put in the limelight the evolution of spatial conceptualization, built up around two crucial notions: that of the "territory" and that of the "world". These two crucial concepts are in constant interaction along the Portuguese history, leading to their paradoxical identification in the concept of the "Fifth Empire" introduced by a 17th century Jesuit, António Vieira, who dreamed about a universal state unifying all humanity.
The five extensive chapters of this book show different aspects or stages in the development of the Portuguese spatial imagination. The first chapter, "Crossing the borders, seeing and reorganizing the world" starts with the teophanic root of the Portuguese identity, based on the narration of "milagre do Ourique". The maritime expansion is thus inscribed in the context of the "sacred mission" determining and justifying the existence of the nation. The legitimizing narration given by Camões in The Lusitans is one of the main points of this chapter. As a consequence, the paradigm of homo viator is conceptualized as the ideal realization of the human potential.
With the second chapter, "Unification of the world", we enter in the full blossom of the Portuguese idealistic project of the universal spiritual empire. I show the interplay of two apparently heterogeneous aspects: the vision of universalism elaborated by the humanists and the "Fifth Empire" of António Vieira. These two aspects contribute to the crystallized vision of humanity unified by the Portuguese in a new, at the same time political and mystic reality. Breaking the chronological order of the book, this chapters brings about Fernando Pessoa as the 20th century culmination of the vision of the Portuguese spiritual empire.
The beginning of the third chapter, "Unified world falling apart" takes the reader back to the early modern history, dealing with the negative aspects of the expansion. It presents the testimonies of being lost in the hostile world that make an important part of the Portuguese experience. A highlight in the presented material is given to the narrations of shipwrecks collected in História Trágico-Marítima. The analysis continues across the Portuguese literary history, culminating once again in the narrations of the African colonial war.
The last two chapters deal with modernity, marked by the destruction of the sacralised vision of the Portuguese destiny. This degradation of the consciousness of sacred mission that legitimised the very existence of the nation in earlier centuries is translated by visions of illness and degeneration of the national space, mainly in the literature created in the second half of the 19th century. What emerges during this century is the painful consciousness of contradiction between the supposed hegemonic and messianic mission in the world and the actual insignificance and poverty of the continental territory. Nonetheless, the generation of saudosistas brings back the idealised images of Portuguese homeland. Across this period, the negotiation of status between Portugal and Europe requires a new spatial category, that of periphery. Finally, the survey of the Portuguese spatial imagination culminates in Saramago's understanding of nomadism that obliterates both the hyperbolic notion of empire and the painful consciousness of periphery.
Review of this book
Teresa Jaromin, "E. Łukaszyk, Terytorium a świat...", Estudios hispánicos, XII, 2004, pp. 291-293.
HISTORY OF IBEROAMERICAN LITERATURES
(with Nina Pluta) Historia literatur iberoamerykańskich [History of Iberoamerican Literatures], Wrocław, Ossolineum, 2010, 768 pp.
The book is an extensive presentation of the Latin American literature written in Spanish and Portuguese. My part in it (pp. 591-738) is the presentation of the Brazilian literary history, since its colonial beginnings till the dawn of the 21st century. The approach is divided in five chapters, going from the European discovery, the colonial period and the dawn of Brazilian identity till the idiosyncratic conceptualization of post-modernity in Brazil. The main axis of this narration in literary history is given by the search for a definition of "Brazilianness", the concept "verde-amarelo" in permanent de/re-construction.
TEMPTATION OF THE DESERT
Pokusa pustyni. Nomadyzm jako wyjście z kryzysu współczesności w pisarstwie José Saramago [Temptation of the Desert. Nomadism as a solution for the contemporary crisis in the novelistic works of Jose Saramago], Kraków, Universitas, 2005, 360 pp.
ISBN e-book: ISBN 97883-242-1163-0
The aim of this book is to offer a synthetic vision of the complex theologico-anthropological and political position formulated by José Saramago in his novels, from Manual de Pintura e Caligrafia till O Homem Duplicado.
As a novelist, José Saramago gives a complex picture of the human condition in the world. It is determined by agonistic relations: on the one hand, a conflict between human beings and the tyrannical deity who strives to crush them, on the other – a feud among human beings themselves. History, therefore, appears to be a cyclical pattern of recurring tragedies and injustice.
A point of departure for the reflection is the impossibility to formulate a theodicy. The evil experienced by human beings is shown to be an outrage, a source of unassuaged horror. There is, however, a recipe for solving the dual conflict with the Other (another man or the deity): abandonment of the settled way of life, of manufacturing and accumulating material goods. Only extreme ascetism could remedy the human condition, eliminating the rivalry between the manufacturer and the Maker and disrupting the network of relations which entangle man in the historical human world. The way to avoid being enmeshed in relationship which, in Saramago’s opinion, always threatens with conflict, is nomadism: averting of the gaze, no longer meeting the gaze of the Other – either a rival human being or the jealous Eye of Providence. While looking at the Other, man sees an opponent, which gives rise to the agonistic relation. It is better, then, to view the world disinterestedly during an endless journey.
The first part of the book presents the situation of man facing the deity, tragically determined by disproportion between the heavenly power and the insignificant human world on the one hand and, on the other, by similarity between the participants of the conflict – similarity which incites God’s jealousy of human beings, for they, on their diminutive scale, may be achieving something unattainable to God in all his might. Human beings rebel and overcome their mortality, fulfilling themselves in parenthood and material, literary or musical achievement. The jealous Maker never stops trying to thwart their creative plans, to destroy the order they strive to establish, to stifle their words and their music which is not a reflection of harmony of the spheres but a revolt against the silence of God’s universe. The deity disrupts their work, uproots them, forces them on their way. The ultimate advice that can be given to the tormented human beings crushed in their struggle against the invincible enemy is to accept the necessity, to relinquish the hubris of manufacturing and to undertake the imposed journey.
The second part presents Saramago’s battle against politics and history. It appears that here too, one cannot trust promises. Neither religion nor political revolution leads to a better world. The Western world, based on individualism, is headed for collapse, since the individual identity does not provide a sufficiently stable foundation. Faith in reason is equally illusory and deceptive as faith in divine providence. Rational methods cannot prevent wrongs, and intellectual cognition not only fails to solve real problems but it also proves unable to strengthen morality or eliminate violence which is a basic modus of one human being meeting another. Democracy does not survive, either. This rational system of co-deciding is demonstrated to be a mere cover for ambitions of the most aggressive and an endorsement of the powerlessness and incapacitation of an individual in society. Voting gives only an illusion of responsibility, so the day comes when almost every voter casts an empty ballot into the box.
The nation as a system of solidarity also turns out to be a fiction aimed at concealing centuries-old inequity. Moreover, national history cannot be rectified; it is even impossible to do justice to victims of the past. Consequently, the national community is just another kind of relationship to be dissolved. A micro community, loose group of people, remains the only true form of social life. Only in such minimalist circumstances may the simplest kinds of responsibility be expected, though tentatively so, with no assurance.
History, then, is a problem to be solved. Recurring maladies cannot be remedied with historical methods, as history consists of ever returning, unchanging situations of violence. Permanent improvement can solely be attained in an messianic way, through an apocalyptic closing of history and establishment of an eternal kingdom of nomads who relinquish any rational or technological control over the world, who no longer appropriate anything nor enter relations with other people. Contrary to declarations made outside literature, therefore, the political recipe Saramago proposes is not Marxism as a strictly defined doctrine but going beyond the domain of politics.
The final part of the book elaborates on the metaphor of the desert appearing in the title. The desert is an area free from works of human hands and mind, a place of rest where the menacing deity, faced with human quietism, finds no grounds for rivalry. Thus, hell – that is, the world – becomes familiarized. Man stops fighting the lost battle against time and expanding chaos. Architecture changes into ruin, an indistinct sign. Meticulously organized archives fall apart. All archiving must be abandoned. The eye of the camera, which was supposed to serve as an extension of human sight and memory, proves to be completely useless. Human beings need to reject the instrument and undertake a journey, trying to see the world through their own eyes. They need to give up their passion for cartography and, instead of attempting to control and exploit the changing world, they need to wander without maps, accept the feeling of being lost, and rely on their instinct. Nomads are people without names, possessions or relationships with others, people without plans. They have liberated themselves from the burden of both past and future. Living in the constant now, they are free from history.
The minimalist solutions suggested by Saramago are a response to his radical assessment of Western culture. They arise from the state of utter helplessness, and it is only in such circumstances that they may be accepted. They constitute a call for betrayal, for rejection of one’s cultural heritage – a call made in hope that this radical act will give us the power to return to the auroral moment, to begin everything anew and thus to rebuild the world without its flaws. For those stuck at a dead end, the only course of action is to shift into reverse. This proposal, oscillating so dangerously between utopia and anti-utopia, between a promise and a threat, raises inevitable doubts and reservations. It is valid only in the context of powerlessness of literature, of a game without translation into reality which Saramago tries in vain to modify, searching, as the Neorealists did, for literature aimed at transforming the world. To cast literature in such an elevated role, however, means only another level of the cultural game, and the ultimate lesson to be learned from Saramago’s call for betrayal of Europe and, further, of Western culture, seems to be the affirmation of remaining faithful.
Review of this book
Agnieszka August-Zarębska, "Pokusa pustyni Ewy Łukaszyk (Kraków 2005)", Estudios hispánicos, XIV, 2006, pp. 212-215.
CONTEMPORARY PORTUGUESE NARRATIVE
Współczesna proza portugalska (1939-1999). Tematy, problemy, obsesje [Contemporary Portuguese Literature (1939-1999). Topics, problems, obsessions], Kraków, Universitas, 2000, 237 pp.
The book offers a comprehensive glance on Portuguese narrative literature (i.e. the history of such genres as novel and short story, as well as minor and experimental texts such as crónicas) since the neorealism till the end of the 20th century. The material is synthetically divided in three parts: "Ideas and manifestos. The age of certitudes, convictions and attitudes", "Fight against history. The age of questions without answers", and "After the Apocalypse. Tame history, entanglement in texts". The aim is to offer the reader an insight into the evolution of the main currents, ideological stances and aesthetic choices of the 20th century narrative in Portugal.
Review of this book
Agnieszka August-Zarębska, "Współczesna proza portugalska Ewy Łukaszyk (Kraków 2000)", Estudios hispánicos, X, 2002, pp. 153-155.