Posthumous Life: Translation, Politics, and Spaces of Deception
Ackbar Abbas (University of California, Irvine, CA/USA)

part of: »Biographies & the Production of Space - Between Life and Places«
May 19, 2016, 7:30pm - 8:30pm
art, science & business, Akademie Schloss Solitude

Solitude 3
Stuttgart 70197
Germany

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»To have lived is not enough…« Beckett makes his characters say, »…we have to talk about it.« Why is there this need to talk about our own lives or the lives of others? This is a question that every biography or autobiography implicitly asks. In a sense, all such writing can use Pessoa’s title for his great unclassifiable text The Book of Disquiet as its subtitle. It is a disquiet that comes from a feeling of incompleteness when a life is being translated into a text: quite obviously when the writing is inadequate; more subtly when it is too successful, in which event—to take a famous example—Samuel Johnson’s life becomes inseparable from Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Is biography then, in spite of the best intentions, always a form of betrayal, as has often been asserted of translation? Or, is it the duplicity of space—the folds of writing and temporality on one hand and the conflicting layers of socio-political life on the other—that makes it so? Is it the case that what biography demonstrates is the monstrous reality of »posthumous life« and its multiple contradictions? (»Do you believe in the life to come?« one Beckett character asks; and another answers: »Mine has always been that«.) In addressing these issues, biography brings us face to face with some of the most paradoxical questions surrounding writing and politics in the spaces of deception.

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