|Mirror in the room where I wrote the final draft of Schizophrene|
FLORE: Your reference to “revers[ing] speech” made me think of a question I asked myself about Schizophrene: I wondered if dis-writing or un-writing (or something else?) was taking place in the book. Care to say something about this work?
BK: Reversals present in Schizophrene: 1. [“Reverse migration….” Is psychotic.] How the diasporic vector has begun to reverse itself, West to East – as the initiating community ages, but also as a result of transglobal economics. I am interested in the branching that accompanies the non-linearity of migration. To track: this line. At the expense of the socialist model. I was raised with a picture of George Bernard Shaw on the dining room door, pinned there with tacks – a yellowing newspaper portrait. My father used to go to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park on a regular basis, a short alumunium ladder tucked beneath his arm like a newspaper. That he’d then unfold. And climb upon. To claim or state: something. In a loud voice. Mortified, I’d orient to the road or the tulips or my book -- and so I can’t recall. What was said. I know that it filled the day and the consciousness of others in an immediate, obliterating or noisy way. I think of my own flinching position – but also the curiosity, applause and jeers – attention – of the passers-by. The people who stopped to listen. Sympathetic listeners, racist listeners. Listeners [readers] of all kinds. But what does it mean to contract from oration, from the alternative telling of colonial [British Indian] history and politics: that my father and his friends, for example, were so compelled to: tell?
There’s a way that the study of recursive traits makes the deep structures of language – the phatic communion that underlies a sentence – for example – drop off. To complete a sentence is an act of reciprocity. Or domination. Perhaps not completing one – or destroying one – is psychotic in this regard; a marker of anhedonia – the lack of affect necessary to: continue, arise, begin. Here, I am making a parallel between childhood and schizophrenia that is non-identical, but perhaps it is okay to let the two things lie next to each other in the answer to your question. Microbial exchange is fundamental to horizontal evolution. Is this true? I want to un-write the question. I want to dis-write the answer, too. Why? Why do I want these things?
Why do I want to go as far, each time, as I can? I think of my early flights – hitch-hiking – to Scotland as a child. It was as far as I could get from London at that time. A child can easily slip onto the train. I read the ecstasies and lectures of John Donne in the carriage, glancing up every now and then at the farm-land and avoiding the gaze of sexual predators as they passed from the on-board café to the “can.”
2. [Anhedonia]: I want to dis-write the positive symptom of schizophrenia. Its hyper-verbal aspects. In studying migration and mental illness, I found that this was the hardest thing to treat in immigrant [Asian and Carribean “Brits”] – the negative symptom, that is. An “allele” – resists conventional treatment or responds at different rates to conventional treatment. What is an allele? What are the rates of misdiagnosis in [for] immigrants and refugees in metropolitan and non-metropolitan intake centers, prisons, clinics and surgeries? These were the things I wanted to think about in [for] the book, without making the book itself the repository of all my research. I was a delegate to the World Conference of Cultural Psychiatry (London, 2012); a gathering of psychiatrists, refugee workers, psychoanalysts, epidemiologists and medical biologists who work directly with the population I engage in Schizophrene. That is where I joined a larger conversation about the ways non-white subjects process medicines or therapies of different kinds. Un-writing takes you away, as per Kenneth Goldsmith perhaps, from what a book is [or could be] for.
I wanted to write into the bundle of forces – invisible things – that preceded the “break”: the way that even an initiating war, civil war, is no longer apparent in the city you live in now. And what if that war-time image was the thing you glimpsed, as you were fleeing a place? The image of the women tied to the trees, for example? Writing this book I understood [though perhaps not in the words I am using here, but rather through impatience, frustration, a kind of disgust with myself] that the reason I could not write it – the reason I finally flung it into the garden to die -- was because it was not founded on a scene or even an image in its fullest sense. What I wanted to write about was both, as I would say it now, too contracted, too swiftly processed [glimpsed] and never analyzed as a cultural scene until many, many years past the event – in literatures or forums perhaps not accessible to the people who have lived through that time. Except through stories, the re-telling that mutates each time – mixing its gametes with bedtime fairytales and oral epic forms. Thus, what are the technologies for writing into a broken down space, a space that loops with the intensity of a moment always? How do you de-loop, which is perhaps at odds to experimental aims?
*To make a book was like these things: migration and its corollary “sense.” A sense that did not appear in the contemporary British TV, film or literature that I grew up on, even in the nineties. In many ways, perhaps this kind of thing can only be written now; in a way that coincides, actually, with the cultural work happening in other fields. How do you turn a glimpse into something that the body can tolerate and thus discharge? In writing a traumatic text, what potential is there, for a writer, to reverse the traumatic effects they are writing about? To work – fifty years on from the event – with the trapped energies of war in the bodies of the descendants of those who lived through war? As the child of a refugee, of immigrants who arrived in the U.K. with a lack of resources in all senses of that word, I am back once again to questions of poverty, sexual violence, chronic forms of racism, urban housing and ethnic density – that also accompany these questions.
The trauma is not in the event; it’s in the nervous system. (Peter Levine: trauma therapist, founder of Somatic Experiencing: via Laura Campbell: visiting speaker, Naropa University: graduate seminar on Experimental Prose.)
I am not interested in disclosure. I am interested in discharge. (Petra Kuppers: disability activist, poet and professor of performance studies at the University of Michigan: at a cafe in Berkeley when we first met.)
If both disclosure and the event are fundamental to the novel, then I am, yes, dis-writing the novel. I think of the novel as shattered, just lying there, in the rich green grass next to the fountain – or perhaps it is the water of the fountain itself: disappearing and re-arranging itself [becoming-fountain] with such great force. Blue-bright. In an England I seek to recuperate. In an India that is an India that is never seen. Or toured. But also here, where I put my head beneath the streaming water – above the flooded river -- inverted -- every day.