The 'someone' of this title is suggestive in the context of my recent posts. Certainly the
thoughts and feelings articulated there form a framewok for some of what follows, but the question,
it seems to me, is one which haunts us all: what does it mean to
speak of someone in their absence, to write of them, to seek to make
reference to them? It is no mere citationality, no 'simple'
To conjure someone up is to refuse citation's limpid omnidirectionality, to refute the mobility of the intertext; to conjure here would be to make flesh of the word, to transmute that brutal fixity of media that has dogged late Western modernity in a return to a kind of fitful tracing, a melancholy dance of meanings, traces, marks, humours. What are the traces and humours that we seek to intensify, to underline, mark out when we, to put it rather blandly, 'miss' someone? Voice certainly, but also the tiny metonyms of the blessed habitus in absentia: a smell, a fabric, a scarf, a handbag. The colour of the hair, a simple gesture, a posture – they can all take on an extraordinary intensity and stand in for the whole, or for other missing pieces of the habitus. These details, poised precariously, then, between metonym and synechdoche, are the stuff of melancholy recollection.
This is in some sense about a melancholy materialism, the yearning for the matter that has dissipated, but which holds impressive and palpable sway over the symbolic universie it has abandoned. In a certain sense, it becomes more vivid for a while, operates wih more efficiency precisiely for for being absent. To conjure in this sense, so antithetical to citation, so at odds with that comfortable textuality of citation, is to bypass the logic of symbolisation altogether. It is as if one were able to suspend the symbolic universe, crack it open with a supreme effort of will and MAKE IT SO, make it that you never left, never died, never abandoned.
This melancholy materialism is thus also constituted around a strangely comforting atavism, a deliberate weakening of the the division that seems to separate presence and absence, perhaps our primary means of ordering our world and also the primary means by which symbolisation is put to work.
It is the angry and whistful anguish at that order's brutal division of absence and presence that drives the grief one feels at loss and which makes conjuring so important. To remember in this way, in this melancholy materialism of absence, is, in a very important and palpable sense, to experience the truth of leftism: it is born of a mourning, of sadness and melancholy, of wanting things to be as they were or as they might be.
This melancholy is the curse of the left but it is what feeds it, powers it, gives it life.