Wednesday, August 09, 2017

On Rayuela

Every novel is philosophical, in that it consciously or (more usually) unconsciously embodies a theory of being. We know that this is true because novels are, by definition, fictive, that is, false. The rules by which a novel elaborates its false world (the "true" one being, in all likelihood, unknowable in any case) constitute its theory of how things are.

Interesting novels embody interesting theories of being, banal ones banal theories. Rayuela, as an antinovel, is antiphilosophical; it questions (by first thoroughly exploring) the very possibility of understanding, the possibility that any theory of being capable of expression in words (and how would it be a theory if it were not?), could ever be valid or even meaningful. Language is seen as self-refuting by nature. The real nature of being — if such a thing even exists — is irredeemably contaminated by the act of referring to it. A lemon may be adequately named by the word "lemon," at least for utilitarian purposes, but "love" (to choose just one example) is an idea whose referent is fatally entangled with its linguistic sign. To grasp what love is without taking into account how it has been named would require us to revert to a prelinguistic state. Such a project would, naturally, be self-defeating.

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