Beyond telepathy. At long last, after centuries if not millennia, and perhaps only if conditions will have it such that the voice may reach its fullest expression and height, we may foresee it finally passing; into the imperceptible. In this future beyond the future, the noontide of vocal expressivity; the death, or at least becoming invisible, through an unrecognizable transformation, of speech. At the outer limit of writing, beyond telepathy, an opening onto new luminous substrates of expressivity.
“Always the same. This history could make a rock cry from boredom and death. How sad that history seems when faced with the crystalline and floral diversity of things; how often human history seems monotonous in comparison to the enchanting adventures of the world.” (Michel Serres, Biogea)
The presses at Univocal have caught fire lately. This first English translation (thanks to Randolph Burks) of a major work of Michel Serres, the Biogea, thunders with the authors’ fierce ingenuity and glows with his gentle wisdom. Michel Serres always versifies, but in the rhapsodic Biogea, this spontaneous musicality becomes symphonic: stories and theories slowly develop their singular contours in high-tension counterpoint. Fabulations and memories pass into theories and critique; celestial and rapturous encomia to the Biogea flow from the most severe of warnings about a biosphere on the verge of irreversible catastrophe.
The essence of the work is profoundly multiple; the Biogea hums and resonates with both intimate and radically alien languages. In prose that openly fabulates and mythologizes, Serres gives immersive voice to a series of critical memories — cautiously re-entering the serpentine fluidity of the waters of his youth on the sea or rehearsing a terrible symphony of wind, wolves and human cries on a dangerous trek up Mount Everest — enveloping these delicate arias within elegant theoretical formulae.
Biogea is an animated, joyous, spiritual work; a new sculpture of Venus rising from chaotic seas. Serres becomes a many-tongued artist of pure mutation; our Joyce, prophet of fire for the hypertext era, here close in spirit to Deleuze. Artaud said the violent blows of Van Gogh’s brush knocked even rivers off their course; suffice perhaps to say the joyous ellipses traced in this work could not help but shift time, life, the world around us from their former trajectory. Biogea is joy: hence a future and untimely book, even a dangerous book, written in vigorous defiance of a melancholy history.
The text is highly recommended to readers of Serres, who will undoubtedly luxuriate in the glowing pages of this powerful and delicate work. For those not yet familiar with Michel Serres, it may serve as a whirlwind introduction to the most urgent themes in his later work; and since to some degree it also provides a personal-critical intellectual history of the author, it might even be recommended before other major works such as the Parasite or Troubadour of Knowledge.
On Guattari. The first ecosopher has arisen — but how to read his writings? There is not a single answer, everyone disagrees. To read Guattari without Deleuze seems like violence to the polyphonous fury of their mutually-authored works; yet to read Deleuze and Guattari seems like according primacy to the philosopher, to the authority of philosophy over psychoanalysis — asserting the traditional prerogative of philosophy over science, with the usual absent-minded condescension, a perverse kind of triumphant naivete. Our new ecosopher shrinks into the background of the literary uproar he is unleashing.
The strange power of Guattari’s writings is such that his works are less collections than whirlwinds, less toolboxes than roaring vortexes one is apt to be drawn violently towards: to study Guattari is neither a coincidence nor an accident (for an English academic) but rather a symptom, even a political symptom. Perhaps simply an indication of the self-destructive desire inherent to global capitalism in which the dissemination of essentially “anti-capitalist” literature is not simply allowed but in fact widely promoted — the faint glimmer of global Renaissance. But I think Guattari might remind us of something else.
Political struggle is more than a linguistic struggle, a struggle with texts and pure concepts. It is of course involved with these things, but even more than these signifying systems, political resistance connects with the a-signifying as well, an order of reality more primordial than human meaning, where the distinctions imposed upon reality by our signifying regimes are rendered irrelevant and secondary. Where the cosmos as a process of production becomes perceptible, where the inhuman asignifying order of reality emerges, we may perhaps catch a glimpse of the future dreamed by our first ecosopher.
To have to emphasize that the asignifying isn’t the insignificant, but the non-signifying, we realize that already, we have hit the white wall. Misunderstanding is a symptom both of the origin and the impossibility of meaning. The gap between us here is not simply an aspect of the mobile wall of obstacles Guattari has prepared for his students, but already of the even more intransigent obstacles of history, society, economy — in short, the entire political “problem” of desire. A history of desire is difficult yet not impossible, but it does not begin by asking what desire is, pretending some kind of perfect and external objective viewpoint.