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  • Mónica Ramón Ríos

A Tongue Tied to Spanish

I am reading books left in pieces. I started Merleau-Ponty The Visible and the Invisible to write an article about a another book that was also published posthumously and the archive left by its author for us to decipher: Gabriela Mistral’s archive, a theory of the spectral emerging from her Poem of Chile, and a documentary that tried to reveal the ghost. In the hype of the philosophers of postmodernity, the fragment was interpreted as many things, among them the possibility of representing a mode of apprehension and understanding of a mind that was losing its course in a real then (and now) unreliable, some suggested maybe even unreal. But today as I read Merleau Ponty's fragments––as another time I did with Benjamin’s notes gathered as ouvre––I find that fragments have an element of surprise that compells me to read on. It is not exactly misunderstanding, which can easily happen in any philosophical work achevé. It is how the brewing of ideas anew exhudes via words.

I wrote to the editors of the volume who had commissioned the article to say that I can’t write it. It is a failure of sorts. I become their disappointment. But such a disappointment allows for something else to happen. A reading, an experience of reading, that is not attached to someone else’s will, the way I read as a teenager or in my early twenties before becoming unknowingly what I am today. Leave behind the fact that I had become almost a pen for hire, ready to write according to the standards imposed by the profession. The disciplining of the discipline. And my rebellious pen incapable of finding the drive to write for a book that as a reader would make me yawn in dispair, capable maybe of producing a bunch of fancy lines that another academic might cite and which would justify all the work around such amalgamation of words. Would it, though?

I think this as I am about to give up on the idea of applying to a higher paying job that I might not really want. Do I want a career in academia? Not in one that can’t accept that I write novels and short stories and texts of no real use such as this one in the effort of making another sense to recreate the present and shape another future. Or is it that I have been thinking too much about pleasure and the ways in which it can point us to a place which we actually would like to inhabit instead of patear la perra, pateando piedras, pasar el rato? And I wonder if such a road that I am taking will lead me to leave this road I has set for myself, including, materializing the fact that I can’t stand authority. Not the authority of someone I do not respect, but of someone of whom I can't see their vulnerabilities and their strengths mingled into something called a choice and that others call it life. I see through that. And I can’t become a subject to someone who does not see this in others and does not accept equality in that difference.

After leaving the article, I will go to Gabriela Mistral’s house in Bridgehampton, still impressed by the line in that documentary where the niece of Mistral’s lover said her aunt never spoke about the poet, despite the fact she lived with Mistral for ten years until her death and kept all the papers and recordings with her. Despite the various love letters and words of love and sex shared between them. And recorded for us to hear. I will go to that house asking who really dwells in that archive. For the specter. Nothing of that was meant to be seen but in fragments.

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