by craigepplin

I’m reading Cristina Rivera Garza’s newest book, Los muertos indóciles (Tusquets, 2013). I’ve just begun, but I wanted to offer a few words about the book’s organizing concept, which I’m sure gets refined and expanded upon as the chapters advance.

Thus far, it seems to me that the aim is ambitious. Rivera Garza wants to connect necropolitics to necrowriting–and then to underscore the ways that the latter elaborates new forms of community. Thus the idea is to carry out a discussion, simultaneously, of a politics premised on the management of death and of an aesthetics premised on the death of the author. Necrowriting, we read early on, corresponds to “dialogic” and reader-centered forms of writing, and it acquires its name, at least partially, because it is “carried out in conditions of extreme loss of life [mortandad]” and also, at least partially, because it is “carried out in media [soportes] that go from paper to the digital screen…” Death as a foundation of contemporary politics is thus associated with other sorts of death–of the author, of the subject, of the book, of originality, etc.

Whether each of these last entities has in fact died, or is in the process of dying, is an open question. We might append to each of the items in this list a parenthetical phrase: “(in some sense),” as a caveat for its continued life or afterlife. Nevertheless, many forms of contemporary writing do indeed challenge traditional authorship, traditional subjectivity, the tradition of the printed page, and the traditional idea of originality. Hence Rivera Garza’s focus on conceptual and digitally inflected sorts of writing, refreshingly couched in a pan-American and trans-Atlantic context.

It is another open question, a more open one in fact, how to relate these forms of writing to necropolitics. I’m still in the opening chapters, so I won’t weigh in just yet on this, but I have an intuition of an idea in gestation: both sorts of death reflect a common reduction of something fundamental–life or language–to a common denominator: not its bareness or zero degree, but rather its disappearance.

I’ll write more when I’ve read more.