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Collection: INTERAMER
Number: 55
Year: 1997
Author: Harry Beleván
Title: The Heirs of Ariadne


Reading provocation was the expression we coined for the set of symptoms of the fantastic that one gets from reading a text in which those particular signs that we have identified as the properties of the fantastic are revealed. (By way of illustration, after making one necessary concession to the notion of genre, we could say that we will know whether there are fantastic symptoms in, for example, a terror novel if we get a reading provocation of dereality—in the manner described—that moves us and makes us feel that we are transcending mere descriptive fear—or form—since, after all, not all terror novels are fantastic).

Earlier we  saw how the fantastic presents itself to us as an element that triggers alteration, that reveals itself as a kind of short circuit between the reader and the text; (we might recall here the reader-text, text-concept and other two-sided encounters). That encounter between the reader and the text material is a provocation that occurs in the reading and that causes the reader’s relationship to the text to waver, hesitate, vacillate. It is the reader-text hinge that demonstrates the temporal geometry of an absence (M. Brion). The fantastic filters into reality drop-by-drop and the sensation of suspended time and concrete space can never be pinned down.

“The very essence of literature... perceived in its pure state, when one senses the transformation of time in an imaginary space ... in that mobile absence...,” writes Blanchot apropos time in the writing of Marcel Proust, concepts of a reality (Proustian time) that apply equally to the fantastic symptomatic. “In such time [or in such a symptom, for our purposes]—everything becomes image, and the essence of the image is to be external, without intimacy, and yet more inaccessible and more mysterious than the thought of a conscience; with no meaning and yet appealing to the depths of all possible meaning; unrevealed and yet manifest, that presence/absence that made the Sirens so alluring and fascinating.”82  Marcel Proust himself proves to us that the fantastic is a symptom—isn’t his Remembrance of Things Past a “fantastic work”?—when, for example, he senses that a misstep on the patio of Guermantes is the false step on the uneven tiles of the Baptistery at San Marcos, not “a double, not an echo of a previous sensation... but the sensation itself,” the same split, the “presence-absence” (M. Blanchot) that is inherent to the fantastic. If, in an example taken at random, the fantastic episteme can be realized, then how many more possibilities there must be of the presence of the fantastic in works that, because of their particular textuality, are more predisposed toward it.

The process, then, can be summarized as follows: the textual slippage matches a particular “realistic” (realistic writing) with a “derealistic” (or derealistic description). That textual slippage triggers what we have called a dialectical opposition from whence comes, via the dislocation we described earlier, a new order (as text-concept). That new order or fantastic descripture in turn brings about the reading provocation whereby the fantastic manifests itself.

The circuit has been closed: without ever ceasing to be an episteme, as episteme the fantastic has been realized (real-ized) in full. (We must insist that, as the following diagram demonstrates, the entire process is one of indivisible simultaneity, a burst of immediacy that contemporizes all the mechanisms described earlier.)