intimate-stranger

Writing is a conscious attempt by the human to participate in his fate, that ‘story’ written from birth to death. Casting spells, exorcizing, whistling in the dark, inventing the textures and the structures of consciousness, keeping a backdoor open to memory, getting to know who and what we are, both reflecting what is and shaping the new. Memory is nothing but dead time, but death seeds the soil: from forgetting new shapes sprout.
For writing is a means to transformation: using words and their interacting combinations — the meanings, the feel, the sounds and the shadows — to broaden our scope of apprehending and understanding ourselves and others, and in the process creating new spaces and references. Sometimes looking down into hell.
—  Breyten Breytenbach, from “I Sit Here,” Intimate Stranger (Archipelago Books, 2009)
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First time I saw this scene, I was like “whoa, totally looks like Xena is going for a kiss there”. Then I was like “wait, Xena doesn’t really do the face-to-face hugs.”

Then I figured that this is Hudson playing Xena. So she probably played the hug the way she thought Xena would hug Gabrielle. 

I suggest that you have to let this fire of beauty run through you. What’s left is the ash of the poet’s craft in which all fire will be remembered embers to be recalled and read like runes and stones and bones still smoldering in the streets of wind and water, so beautiful and so bleak. These are the poet’s remains we hope to return to; that, and the grace of his continuing without certainties but with the writing ear ever alert to the profound echoes of human commerce.
—  Breyten Breytenbach, from “Poetry Is the Breath of Awareness,” Intimate Stranger ( Archipelago Books, 2009)

Algorithm of the transference

In a paper delivered on 9 October 1967, Lacan boils down the start of a psychoanalysis into a single formula - the formula above.

The top line shows a subject (S) placing a demand on another subject (Sq).  The other subject is called Sq, because q = quelque chose, which means that from the beginning she is supposed to hold something, some knowledge.  Put crudely, the patient seeks out the analyst because he wants to be happy and he believes she knows something about getting happy and he wants to find out what it is.

Actually, she doesn’t know much at all.  She may know a lot about psychoanalysis, but she knows nothing about him, nothing about his happiness.  He tells her about his pain, but she doesn’t understand it at all, because it is not her pain.  She is without knowledge, and shouldn’t pretend otherwise - and yet she must occupy the position of holding something hidden, because it is this that keeps his desire alive.

The bottom line of the formula is what, having established the transference, the analyst must point the patient towards - a signifier, another signifer, speech, more speech, an infinity of speech.  This is the difficult, stodgy, unmagical terrain of analysis, which we can express via slightly different Lacanian algebra, which amounts to the same thing: it is the movement from S1 (the assumption that the analyst is the master signifier, the oracle from whom enigmatic prophecies flow) to A (the barred Other, or the Other who - like the subject - is fundamentally lacking).

The second picture above is of Sandrine Bonnaire in the film Intimate Strangers - her character, Anna, goes to see an analyst in Paris.  She knocks on his door, walks in, sits down and starts talking about the problems with her marriage.  The man listens, says little, does not confess that she has knocked on the wrong door and that he is, in fact, an accountant. 

Later on, Anna finds out that William is not really an analyst and that the real analyst works next door.  But the next week, she returns to William.  Like it or not, William is her analyst - he has (unwittingly) occupied that symbolic position which gets her talking.  Between them has emerged a transference, and transference is borne out of the very supposition - which was, and always is, based on a fiction, an illusion, a desire - that Anna had when she walked in, sat down and started talking.

[the thoughts that were spinning round my head this afternoon at CFAR whilst listening to Alastair Black talk about the beginning of analytic treatment]

Writing is fishing for memory in time. Viscous. Time black. Sometimes you see it flitting just below surface — memory — miming time. Memory takes on the blackness of time. Memory will be time surfacing. Use word as bait. Beat the water. Beat the weird beat of baited words. Boated. Wounds. The bleeding words like wounded boats on a black sea. Let the fleet wash up. The coast is the beginning of the sea’s wisdom. It comes with the territory.
Words have their own territory, they return home as in a song.
—  Breyten Breytenbach, from “Writing Is Fishing,” Intimate Stranger (Archipelago Books, 2009)
Writing remains the surfacing of a sense of being alive, of living and experiencing the only ‘world’ we know — which is life. Wanting to change it too. Being petrified, sometimes, by the cracks in the sidewalk and the slips and slopes of the mind. Frustrated by the restrictions and exhilarated by the challenges and the unforeseen discoveries of ‘surfacing.’ In that sense then, writing is always against death, obliteration, extinction and non-writing. But writing is also a way of situating yourself in the one world we inhabit.
—  Breyten Breytenbach, from “Writing Summer,” Intimate Stranger (Archipelago Books, 2009)

the thought of being romantically intimate with anybody is frightening and the thought of being sexually intimate with a fucking stranger makes me physically ill. i know i dont exactly have a choice but i cant see myself dating in the foreseeable future, its just, hoo boy, too much to ask of this one