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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

entry arrow10:20 AM | A Trip to Triantywoppitygong

Many years ago in Graduate School, I read Hélène Cixous's "The Laugh of the Medusa." This is her influential essay of post-structuralist feminism where she lays down her description of ecriture feminine, that style -- or form? -- of writing that is distinctively female (although not "owned" exclusively by women), libidinal, freedom-seeking, non-linear, idiosyncratic, the Dark Continent that taunts and devours the linearity of phallocentric literature -- chapters, beginnings, middles, and ends -- which is scared of it and has confined it, like Jane Eyre's madwoman in the attic, in history. As Farhan in The Greatest Literary Works blog, in this wonderful short post on Cixous, writes: "This writing is a political act, a writing through the body that would sweep away syntax... The literary text of the libidinal feminine must tolerate freedom from self-limitation and from neat borders, from beginnings, middles, and ends, from chapters. Such texts will be disquieting." I like that word, disquieting, because this is exactly how I feel reading Marguerite Duras's Yann Andréa Steiner [Gallimard, 1992]. Ostensibly a memoir of Duras' love affair with a much-younger man, it hopscotches with narrative, bending time and location at will, like how one deals with recollection, and suddenly she immerses us in parallel storylines that seem to rise out of nowhere -- there's Duras and Steiner, first of all, and then perhaps to make sense of that unconventional relationship, she writes suddenly of a boy and a baseball cap-wearing shark and a singing fountain, and a boy and his sister murdered in the Holocaust, and the "romance" of a six-year-old boy and an 18-year-old female camp counselor in the disquieting end of World War II. It was a bewildering read, a perfect example of ecriture feminine if I may say so. No chapters, just a loose connecting thread where people weep a lot. But I read on, intent on finishing the slim volume, and perhaps fueled by what I can appreciate about Duras' prose: her lyricism. And yet, I couldn't even pretend to know what's going on. The text baffled me. There's a passage in the book where the camp counselor tells the young boy a story about that other young boy and a shark, who takes the boy away to an island called Triantywoppitygong -- and the storyteller does not pretend this is something she has completely made up. Of course, we realize that she is telling both truth-seeking myth and nonsensical narrative at the same time -- but I was ready to take the book as a perfect example of such a trip to nonsense land. But only in the end did I realize I've been reading it the wrong way. This book, like poetry, is meant to be read out loud. Only when I did so did the full force of her story take hold of me, the drama of it, the beauty of it, the cruelty of it, the sheer passionate confoundment of it.

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