The Book is the Weapon Part II

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Five years ago I wrote an essay about one of my favorite books, Uwe Wandrey’s Kampfreime,  which in 1968 was designed and published as a weapon for self-defense following the death of Benne Ohnesorg in the ’68 protests. In the years since I’ve not been able to find any more references to books designed as weapons, until a few months ago I opened a package from Berlin and to discover a second book that is a weapon – this one also German.

50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte appears to be an artists’ book by Künstlergruppe AV`88, consisting of a shredded xerox copy of Johan Most’s Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften” (1875) – the famed German anarchists rare instruction manual for the manufacture of bombs. According to the printed title sheet, the shredded book has been censured in advance by the group, which also notes that smoking the material within could be dangerous for health of the state. Presumably, the strips are to be used as tinder, metaphorically or physically.

Most’s work has become largely obscured these days, and I admire the inventive way that it references a work published more than 100 years earlier. I don’t know much about other works by the group, if there are any, and welcome any information.

Neither OCLC nor KVK locate any holdings.

Künstlergruppe AV’88. 50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte. Ein Projekt der Künstlergruppe AV`88. [Frankfurt]: Verlag Edition AV 88, [1988]. Sealed plastic bag filled with xeroxed and shredded strips from Johann Most’s book “Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften”, with printed red title sheet sealed within.

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Telepathy, Power, and Lonko Kilapan in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

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The first and only edition of this obscure and strange work concerning telepathy and the proposed Araucanian heritage of Bernardo O’Higgins. The book plays a significant part in the unfolding of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano, who had been given it as a joke, reads it. In his reading Amalfitano – with reference to Julio Cortazar’s concept of the active reader – begins to suspect that Lonko Kilapan may be a pseudonym for an unnamed Chilean politician, or perhaps even Pinochet. Moreover, Amalfitano decides that telepathy may have been what allowed the Mapuche to resist the Spaniards, and concludes that he himself may be a telepath – a conclusion which reassures him in the face of the voices that have been following him in the previous pages of the novel, and will play an important role in the narrative.

On first reading 2666 we were certain that this book must be fictitious, but it is the second book which plays a pivotal role in the novel which actually does exist – see the previous DL post on Rafael Dieste’s Testamento Geometrico.  To the best of our knowledge, there’s not yet been a study of this strange sort of intertextuality in the novel or Bolaño’s work. Here’s hoping somebody takes up the challenge.

Kilapan, Lonko. O’Higgins es Araucano: 17 Pruebas, Tomadas de la Historia Secreta de la Araucania. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 191978. First edition. 8vo, 61 pp, perfect bound in wraps. Inscribed by the author at the first blank. With the rubberstamp of the Instituto O’Higginiano de Chile at the first blank and index page, and with the business card of Sergio E. Lopez Rubio laid in, with a holograph message at verso.

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète Series: Germany

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète series, which he founded for Editions Seuil and which he directed for the first 19 books, have received a lot attention lately, with articles and exhibitions drawing attention to them. The attention is well-deserved. It is hard to think of a more profound déternoument of a by-then moribund literary format, the travel guide. With their inventive layout, playful irony, and mixture of found images with original photography – by Marker himself, as well as friends such as Agnes Varda – they rank among the most interesting publications of the 20th century. The anecdotes are well-known – the fictional guide to Mars in the Resnais and Marker documentary Toute le Mémoire du Monde, the influence on William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You in New York – but what is less known is that English translations of some of the volumes exist, published by Vista Books in London in 50’s and early 60’s. The English editions largely preserve the format and layout of the French originals, giving the English readers a chance to enjoy them. In the coming days we’ll be profiling several of these, beginning with one of the best – Joseph Rovan’s Germany, which was originally published by Editions Seuil as the 7th book in the Petite Planète series. Marker also contributes 11 of his own photographs to the book.

 

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This was likely an important volume for Marker in the series, as it was written by his close friend Joseph Rovan, who was Marker’s employer at the Centre national de documentation de la culture populaire, and was also involved with Travail et Culture and Esprit, the magazine in which Marker published his first stories, poems and travelogues.

 

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Rovan spent his youth in Germany, and during the war was imprisoned at Dachua by the Nazi’s for his activities in the Resistance. After the war he spent time in French-occupied Germany engaged in educational activities, part of an effort at postwar reconciliation between the two nations which was a passionate cause for Rovan. Marker sometimes accompanied him on these trips, which he recounted in an essay in Esprit. Rovan’s autobiography, Mémoires d’un Français qui se souvient d’avoir été Allemand, contains some beautiful reminscences of Marker, playing piano one of these German trips, and also sleeping on the table at the DOC offices in the 50’s when he was young and had no place to sleep. Rovan’s book is an amazing work in its own right, and deserves a translation into English. I am very grateful to Catherine Lupton’s excellent study of Chris Marker, Memories of the Future, which is where I first read of the passages about Marker in Rovan’s book.

 

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Rovan, Joseph [Chris Marker]. Germany. London: Edward Hulton, 1959. First edition thus. 12mo, 192 pp, photographically illustrated wraps. Translated into English by Margaret Crosland.

Books related to Chris Marker available to purchase from Division Leap.

Agnes Varda and la côte d’azur

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Lately I’ve been making a systematic effort to read through the volumes of Chris Marker’s Petite Plànete series, and marveling all over again at what a profound détournement of the by-then moribund travel guide format they are. With the exception of William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You, there seems to have been very little that has been influenced by them, or bears much an affinity with them, at least that I’ve been able to discover. A notable exception is this remarkable travelogue as photobook by Chris Marker’s friend, Agnes Varda.

The inventive layout, sly humor and mixture of Varda’s own photographs with found imagery from advertising and historical ephemera is remarkable. There is even a Giradoux quote in the foreward.

One reason for the obscurity of the title might be the fragility of the binding. Most copies seem to have detached pages. Perhaps someday someone will reissue the book. In the meanwhile, track down a copy to put on that lonely shelf with all of your little planets.

 

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Contact us for availability.

The Strange Geometry of Roberto Bolaño, 2666, and Rafael Dieste

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Reader’s of 2666 will understand

This is the first and only edition of this obscure and beautiful work on geometric theory, written by the Galician poet Rafael Dieste. The book plays a pivotal in Roberto Bolano’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano discovers it in his library in Mexico, despite having no memory of ever purchasing it.

Bolaño takes advantage of this absence of memory as to the book’s origins to include a beautiful reminiscence of bookstores in Barcelona where Amalfitano may have accidentally purchased it – perhaps at Laie, or La Central, Amalfitano thinks, with passing reference to the writers Pere Gimferrer, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, and Jaun Villoro. I like to think this reveals that Bolaño was a haunter of bookstores, and that perhaps this passage is a sort of tribute.

Amalfitano becomes obsessed with the book and it’s appearance, and, in an homage to an obscure Latin American readymade by Marcel Duchamp, hangs the book on a clothesline in his backyard so that the the book can be read by the wind and the strange diagrams within be exposed to the elements.

I suspect that the strange diagrams arranging the names of philosophers, which Amalfitano inscribes into the text of 2666, may have been influenced by the diagrams in Testamento Geometrico.

“And then he looked at Dieste’s book, the Testamento Geometrico, hanging impassively from the line, held there by two clothespins, and he felt the urge to take it down and wipe off the ocher dust that had begun to clung to it here and there, but he didn’t dare. . . “ [p. 196]

This book was not the poet’s only foray into geometry. I’ve also come across a much earlier work published in Buenos Aires in 1956, with the suggstive title ‘Nuevo Tratado de Paralelismo’, pictured below.

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Dieste, Rafael. Testamento Geometrico. La Coruña: Ediciones de Castro, 1975. First edition. 8vo, 145 [1] pp. [index], bound in printed French wraps. Text in Spanish.

A near fine copy, which appears to never have been hung from a clothesline.

Dieste, Rafael. Nuevo Tratado del Paralelismo. Buenos Aires: Atlantida, 1956. First edition. 12mo, 186 pp. + index. Bound in illustrated paper over boards. Text in Spanish. Illustrated with diagrams.