"People, as they go about their pleasures, do not normally stop to think, if certain moderating and weakening influences should happen to be suspended, the proliferation of infusoria would attain its maximum theoretical rate and after a very few days the organisms that might have been contained in a cubic millimetre would take a leap of many millions of miles and become a mass a million times greater than the sun, having in the process destroyed all our oxygen and all the substances on which we live, so that there would exist neither humanity nor animals on earth, nor do they reflect that an irremediable and by no means improbable catastrophe may one day be generated in the ether by the incessant and frenzied activity which lies behind the apparent immutability of the sun; they busy themselves with their own affairs without thinking about these two worlds, the one too small, the other too large for us to be aware of the cosmic menaces with which they envelop us..."

- Marcel Proust, p. 796, Time Regained


"Now within a nation the individual, if he is truly part of the nation, is simply a cell of the nation individual. It is ridiculous to talk about the power of propaganda. Had the Frenchman been told that they were going to be beaten [in the great war], no single Frenchman would have given way to despair any more than he would if he had been told that he was going to be killed by the Berthas. The real propaganda is what- if we are genuinely a living member of a nation- we tell ourselves because we have hope, hope being a symbol of a nation's instinct of self- prerservation. To remain blind to the unjustnes of the cause of the individual 'Germany,' to recognise at every moment the justness of the cause of the individual 'France,' the surest way was not for a German to be without judgment, or for a Frenchman to possess it, it was, both for the one and for the other, to be possessed of patriotism..."

- Marcel Proust, p. 798, Time Regained



To avoid that dreaded categorization of "mediocre woman," I find myself compelled (I wish I could say by some inertia completely exterior to myself, but I know for a fact that that is altogether untrue) to endeavor an elucidation upon the ambiguously symbolic title of my log... Ego Nego. Why, hello there!

"Ego Nego," as I understand it, is a term that refers generally to artistic creation. Specifically, I believe, it refers to Joyce's aesthetic notion, as it is presented in the first chapter of Stephen Hero and Portrait of the Artist, that the artistic ego postures delusions of grandeur, righteousness, and elitism. While he may be offensive in posturing such delusions of righteousness and "ownership," the artist's ego does redeem him or herself (or Stephen's self, in the case of Joyce) by being unable, ultimately, to resist giving away all that he has been given, or has created, himself... be it translated into the form of art, words, or music.

Thus you have the ego, or the "spendthrift," who selfishly believes in his own capacities and individuality as something important. And thus you also have the nego, or "saint," who, in nurturing what is important in his character or talent, ultimately seeks to create, and in doing so, can't help but give everything of himself away. We needn't get carried away and extend the metaphor to "martyrdom," and, albeit the hegemonic Christianity of the reference, I think the point still holds.

If we break down the notion of the "spendthrift saint" into the two basic parts of "Saint" and "Spendthrift," I can't help but notice that it is almost like an addition equation of Lacanian and Miltonian notions of artistic creation. Rabaté talks about Lacan's sinthomme-- the ascetic saint who is able to "own, condense, and redeem the essential value of the world by excluding himself from it." Stuart Curran has written much on John Milton's Economy of Sin-"pernicious casuistry," or "felix culpa"-- Adam and Eve's "happy fall" from Paradise-- that fall from grace that established mankind's vulnerability to Sin and Death, while simultaneously offering man the opportunity to work, to create, to show the true extent of his capacity and dedication to God. Even Joyce's atheistic equation of negation can't escape it- religion and God, in literature, as the ultimate, emblematic signified and signifiers of artistic creation. At least Joyce, in his own ironic syllogism, sets Milton's piety in equilibrium to Lacan's perversion: Spendthrift=saint.

Spendthrift saint. Sinthomme. Cycles of creation and negation. Cycles of Sainthood. Cycles of Sin. Economic Cycles. Perhaps you can imagine the question that finds itself, at this moment, inevitably, on the tip of my tongue... how is it possible that Lacan, Milton, and Joyce forget about the most important cycle of all?

OK... I lost myself in that argument. I won't even pretend like I'm going to go back to it later to untangle those woven threads. "Oh, what tangled webs we weave/ When first we practice to deceive." (Sidenote: I've found this quote to be oftentimes mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare, when it was in fact written by good ol Sir Walter Scott.)

Oh well, what do I expect when I write at 12:30 on a Saturday night but a plateful of lameness. Lame is the new early, as someone nondescript once said.




Love. Violence. Mysterious Signs. Deception and Wasted time. No, it isn't the new Steven Spielberg movie. It's the book by Gilles Deleuze that I have been reading non-stop recently: Proust and Signs, the complete text.

The book takes a close look, or "reading" of ... yep, you got it, signs and semiotics in Proust's À la Recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time). There's a lot of talk about love, time, memories, sleep, and above all, how all these things relate to the interpretation of signs.

Love and Signs. How the two are interrelated. Take a look at what Deleuze says on the topic:

"... what a profound and intelligent man says has value in itself, by its manifest content, by its explicit, objective, and elaborated signification ; but we shall derive little enough for it, nothing but abstract possibilities, if we have not been able to reach other truths by other paths. These paths are precisely those of the sign. Now a mediocre or stupid person, once we love that person, is richer in signs than the most profound intelligence. The more limited a woman is, the more she compensates by signs, which sometimes betray her and give away a lie, her incapacity to formulate intelligent judgments or sustain coherent thoughts."

Proust says on intellectuals: "The mediocre woman one was amazed to find them loving, enriched their universe much more than any intelligent woman could have done."

Deleuze again: "With the beloved mediocre woman, we return to the origins of humanity, that is, to the moments when signs prevailed over explicit content and hieroglyphs over letter: this woman 'communicates' nothing to us, but unceasingly produces signs that must be deciphered."

Who knew that love, the origins of humanity, and the history of interpretation of signs could all be unified within the brackets of one individual: the mediocre woman.

As a beloved, mediocre woman in my own right, I shall leave this post as a sign to be interpreted by those who, perhaps, won't betray me for my simple lies.



Sentence structure: try as you may, you can't run from it.



Robin and Sofie have decided to start a literary magazine. They asked me to write something on Joyce for them... and maybe some other random musings that relate to the printed word. Ah. The printed word. I'm excited at the prospect of this project, and will be posting some potential submissions for the journal in the meantime. They've also asked me to contribute my extensive SPELLING skills (abc 123) to the journal's editing cause. I can't remember what they called it, but it's something akin to "Special Sauce," without sounding quite so "American Pie."

Anywhoos, in the meantime, I shall reflect on other printed words in my life. I have just started Proust's "A remembrance of things past" for Jean- Michel Rabatés graduate seminar. Last night I tried to read it when I got home, even though I rarely have much luck reading at 2 in the morning. I woke up, unsurprisingly, this morning, with the book lying on my stomach open to page one. I didn't achieve much except managing to bend the cover already, which is a new record for me. The amazing part, though, (and yeah- there is one) is that Proust's overture to the novel is a kind of dream sequence itself that weaves together memories the narrator has of falling asleep, reading, at a young age. Jonny mentioned in passing today that when he opened to the first page of a Remembrance, what struck him most was the incredible sentence structure the Proust uses. The first page is basically two sentences, but it doesn't feel heavy or breathless. Instead it reaffirms the airy, dreamlike quality that the narrator initially proposes.... Words oftentimes can seem heavy, exuding weight naturally, even mass. Long, elaborate sentence structures, much of the time, can appear confusing and convoluted, thereby emphasizing this characteristic. Cheers to you, Proust, and your ability to use vocabulary and syntax to weave a fine and dreamy veil before our very eyes.

More on this later when I have actually read more than just one page.




Most of you are aware about two profound events that have occurred here in Nepal in the recent years – the royal massacre and the Maoist conflict- a conflict which has changed Nepal from being a very peaceful country to one of marked conflict- more so in some parts of the country than others.

Last year in June, for the first time in the country’s history, formal meetings took place in Kathmandu between Maoist leader Prachandra and Prime Minsteer Girija. King Gyanendra’s role was effectively reduced to a ceremonial one and an interim government was set up to include Maoists as an 8th party. Under this agreement, the Maoists agreed to dismantle their “People’s government”. Between them, they drew up plans for elections to a constituent assembly that aims to decide the country’s future – the elections were meant to occur on 20th June this year but have now been postponed until (tentatively) November.

The question remains whether this move to include the Maoists as an official party is the beginning of the end of Nepal’s decade-long violent insurgency, which has killed up to 13,000 people. The Maoists (the ultra-leftist Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist) first launched their “People’s war” in the hills of Mid-Western Nepal in February 1996, very near to where we are working with BASE, CES and Abhilasha. The conflict has intensified over the last five years during which the Maoists, who are fighting for a socialist Nepal, have twice pulled out of peace talks. On many levels this, coupled with the performance of previously elected governments, offers little real hope about what is to come. However, there is one striking difference: in the run up to King Gyanendra’s capitulation on April 24th 2006, as well as since then, protests and demonstrations by ordinary Nepalis, especially the youth, demonstrate a brand new, and extremely powerful form of pressure from the people for peace and change. The masses, who have since then taken to the streets on a regular basis, are fighting for democracy as well as an end to the abject poverty that affects the vast majority of the country- a country that is acknowledged as being the poorest country in the world outside of Africa.

To put things in perspective, the Maoists are in control of most of rural Nepal and when out West in the field, we are often stopped by Maoist youth who have set up informal road blocks and seek to demonstrate their power at all times. It is thought that the movement’s “core” consists of up to 15,000 well-trained rebel fighters with approximately 50,000 “militia” fighting alongside them. They have frequently bombed government related buildings and enforced blockades of major towns, showing that they have the strength and power to paralyze the economy. The Asian Development Bank has estimated that economic growth slowed to an average of 1.9% over the FY2002-4 period compared with 4.9% in the decade preceding that. Some of this can be attributed to the Maoists. Physical infrastructure has been destroyed, 400,000 rural families have been internally displaced, thousands have fled to India and development expenditures, which Nepal heavily depends on, have declined sharply even though this is now changing again. The slow down in development aid is particularly crucial to Nepal since the country remains one of the poorest in the world with a per capita income GNI of $260 per annum (compare that to a per capita GNI of apprx $3500 in the US- World Bank stats from 2002). Many suffer from poor access to basic social services, especially in rural areas.

It is the rural families who are therefore most affected by the conflict, as I have described in my emails, yet at the same time they are the most removed from the decision making process. Most have heard through radio and word of mouth that the situation has recently improved, yet formerly vibrant villages and towns are now completely inactive at dusk, and there are regular demonstrations and “bandhs” (strikes). Many have been forced into joining the rebels and others do not know what the Maoists are fighting for or why their families were targeted victims.

The protests and strikes last year that culminated in King Gyanendra stepping down and the formation of an interim government did show “people power” but leaders must now include these ordinary people in policies at a national and local level for the situation to really improve. With a ceasefire still (largely) in place and elections (probably) happening in November, both the Nepali people and the international community do have reason for some optimism-- but is this real democracy when the majority of people, the rural poor, remain the least politically engaged and the most affected by the decade long conflict?

The elections are certainly something to watch, if and when they happen, and it will be interesting to see what happens when the Maoists, as the 8th party, are incorporated into the formal system of political power.

One striking element is the Maoists attitude towards the Americans which well- informed locals often impress on me - something which has been impressed upon us as interns this summer, as three of us are American. The Maoists are not out to target or injure foreigners – they know too well that much of the country’s income relies heavily on tourism. However, they also believe that the American government funds the Nepali government and army- a fact that is not helped by the American Embassy referring to them as “terrorists.” The Maoists genuinely believe they are fighting for a socialist Nepal – if the army use force against them, they will certainly retaliate with force.

**NB: My sources for this piece, stats and all, are: my well-informed (&surreptitious) bosses, as well as the DFID Nepal Website (plethora of interesting info tidbits there for you adventurous types to check out: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/countries/asia/nepal.asp).