The Bridge Between The Foreign and The Self

On page 33 of The Ravickians, Renee Gladman’s narrator, Luswage Amini, discusses her relationship with Anna Patova as being on a bridge: “Meeting a person on a bridge and standing there with her, not progressing to either end, but staying put or at most drifting conscientiously over to the side, imprints upon you the sense that you are hovering with the person” (Gladman 33). This is an interesting analogy of friendship inside Ravicka based on my earlier post about Event Factory‘s narrator coming upon the bridge that says “forget where you have been.” This analogy also brings to mind the idea of the foreign as it relates to the self and the other, and in the case of The Ravickians, it plays out as an exploration of each other. This movement not to either end, but merely to the sides of the bridge, gets at the way in which people interact with others – the two selfs, both belonging to themselves and being foreign to the other simultaneously, encounter each other on this bridge where it is not that they don’t desire to reach either end, but that they cannot reach either end of the bridge. Not truly becoming the self with the other.

This idea of the self, and the body, in relation to others as foreign is also brought up a little later in the novel when Amini states: “I would discover, my name did not need my body” (Gladman 39). While reading, I found this passage to contain much of what we’ve begun discussing with this books, and what we did discuss in regards to Steinberg’s text, in that the signifier becomes detached from the signified. I haven’t begun to fully flesh out this notion, but it appears to me that Amini is pondering over the unnecessity of her body to perform the actions that her name can evoke, when uttered by those not around her. This creates a foreignness between the true self and the concept of the self in others – this concept of the self becoming foreign to the self, which creates some problematic thinking to occur in how this failure to know the concept of one’s self interacts with the actual performing of one’s self. Later in the text she discusses the notion of the self as being only what has happened and never being able to be what is happening. Exemplified possibly by saying that whatever the body, the actual, physical body of the self, is doing the concept of that self will not be conceptualized at that same moment in that same way, but in a former way that was. Again, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this thinking, but I find it interesting to think about and to think of in terms of the world of Ravicka and what this sort of philosophy is doing inside the text. Is the ultimate failure of Ravickian translation a comment on the inability of the signified to truly be evoked in the sign? Are the events in Event Factory meant to display this foreignness two-fold by presenting this untranslatable city-state through the eyes of a foreigner? Along with many other questions that are currently untranslatable within my own mind.

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