Tuesday, July 06, 2004

‘Logic is the kingdom of the unexpected.’ --Mandelstam

For the Fourth, we decided to celebrate that most American value--freedom of speech--by going to see Fahrenheit 9/11. --Afterwards, the audience applauded.

“The decision to read a text as a fiction rather than a historical utterance neatly solves the problem of the Khlebnikov legend by setting it in its proper fictive domain, but the link between the legend and the biography can subvert this critical strategy. Consider, for example, the message Khlebnikov inscribed on a postcard and mailed to his friend Dmitry Petrovsky shortly after being drafted. He wrote, ‘The king is out of luck, the king is under lock and key. Infantry Regiment 93 will be the death of the child in me. Address: Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov, Co. 2, 93rd Inf. Reg. (Res.).’ If we choose to read those lines as a poem, we automatically activate a particular set of literary conventions: we mark out a quatrain by virtue of the meter and rhyme, ignore everything from the word ‘Address’ on, and posit a finished lyrical miniature replete with allusions to the imprisoned king of fairy tales and to a variety of literary texts. The poem is rich enough to create the contexts we need, not only to make sense of the poem but to make the poem satisfy us aesthetically. There is no need, in other
words, to identify the lyrical ‘I’ with the historical Khlebnikov outside the text. On the other hand, a nonfictive or ‘historical’ reading is equally plausible. Petrovsky writes in his memoirs
that when he received the postcard he gasped with surprse and ran off to his friends to see what could be done to get Khlebnikov discharged as soon as possible. Clearly he read the poem as nonfictive discourse, taking the poem’s lyrical subject to be a real person with a serious problem on his hands. His was undoubtedly an impoverished reading of the text, but not without merit.” --Paul Schmidt, pref. to Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov, v. III (1997)

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