While cleaning-up my digital archives yesterday I “ran into” a letter I wrote to James Graham Ballard two and half years ago, then (shamelessly) hoping to start an epistolary exchange with him. What I did not know when I sent this letter to him on April 14th 2009 was that he was going to die five days later! This letter probably never reached him… Although I am clearly embarrassed by some parts of this text, I wanted to share it here in an unedited version (my written English was even worse than now back then!):
Bombay on Tuesday 14th April 2009
Dear Mr Ballard,
I have some difficulties to find my words for you, facing the fact that yours already reached me long time ago, allowing me to discover imaginaries which helps me to comprehend the real’s complexity. Therefore, I would like to help me by quoting somebody you might know, Emil Cioran in his Histoire et Utopie. In fact, Cioran has a way to consider the world in its whole ambiguity, that is why it seems expedient to quote him in order to penetrate into the topic I am interested in:
Our dreams about the future can not be unlinked anymore from what scares us. Utopic litterature’s beginnings fought against Middle Age, against how this period was highly considering Hell and how it was presenting visions of the end of the world. It is likely that those systems so comforting, by Campanella or More have been conceived for the only goal of discrediting Saint Hildegarde’s hallucinations. Nowadays, we are reconciled with the notion of “terrible”, we assist to a contamination of utopia by the apocalypse: the “new land” that has been announced is affecting more and more the figuration of a new Hell. However, we are waiting for this Hell, we even make of a duty to accelerate its arrival. The two types, utopic and apocalyptic which use to appear to us as very different, are actually penetrating each others, influence one on another to create a third one, marvellously able to reflect the kind of reality which is threatening us et to which we will say whatsoever, yes, a correct and without illusion, yes. It shall be our way of being uncorrectable in front of fatality.
You may contradict me, but I readily associate this brief and genius extract from the philosopher to the spirit invigorating the ensemble of your work. The ambiguity you succeed to create as an essence of the relationship between human and technology emanates of this interpretation of reality, surviving in the folds of this one. In this regard, what seems to be a denial of a temporality or a territoriality within your narration is considerably contributing to the construction of this new imaginary. Absence of territoriality reflects actually an omni-territoriality where the Homo-technologicus lives; and as far as the absence of temporality is concerned, it seems like it allows you to blur the conceptual limits of the interpretation of the real, the fiction and the prospective. This alchemy makes us moving towards reality as Cioran would say, suffering this one in some kind of perceptive jubilation that I would like to tackle.
What fascinates me in your novels, is the passionate relationship that the characters are developing with the loss of control on technology. Loss of control. That is the core of the issue. It seems that the human jubilates to be able to exist in an environment where his presence is not indispensable. Is it for him, an alleviating irresponsibility? Or, a quasi-hypnotic fascination in front of spectacle too formidable for him? Or even, is it his unnecessary existence which provides him an sensation of freedom? Ambiguity is without any doubt created from the fact that himself can not succeed to identify the origin of such a jubilation. That may be how he gradually reach what we simplistically call madness. To some extents, the Homo-technologicus is constantly searching for a limit. Until where can he goes in the loss of control he was supposed to exercise on technology?
This loss of control actually corresponds with the condition sine qua non of emotion. By giving up his command, the Human allows the machine to make him feel the vital intensity. Control was dooming the world to technocracy; its loss brings a new form of orgasm. However, there is probably no orgasm without the mean of a violence whatever it is; and just like any drug, its danger can not be evacuated and its existence even increases fascination. Loss of control constitutes therefore a risk, because it gives up certitudes which was preventing notions of surprise and event.
That is how, I reach the domain I am truly interested in, the city; and therefore conservation of not of a technocratic control at its scale. What would be like a psychotropic city to use the same word than houses of your short story, The thousand dreams of Stellavista? Urban globalising dimension would be interesting in the fact that it would imply a systemic logic as much as anomalies and resistances. Urban biology newly created would only become fascinating by its behaviour disturbances and its faults used by several acts of marginality which would be hijacks and loss of control of a totalitarianist technocratic system.
In a certain way, what I would be extremely interested in consists of your vision of such a psychotropic city. How do you visualize this techno-ubiquity not only a system but as fascinating field of potentials for anomalies and resistances? My question is obviously conjugated with the present on purpose, as long as your vision of new imaginaries is probably inseparable from your interpretation of the reality.
Thank you very very much for reading me