Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

12

Bad Atrocity Writing

Years later ...

1
terms
4
notes

by Bruce Robbins. unexpectedly good

, n. (None). Bad Atrocity Writing. In , n. n+1 Issue 32: Bad Faith. n+1 Foundation, Inc, pp. 12-24

12

More broadly, our task is now to make a single, simple point. There is no humane border regime, just as there is no humane abortion ban. The border will always tear parents from children, caregivers from charges, longtime residents from the only communities they’ve ever known. It may do it faster or slower, with ostentatious brutality or bureaucratic drag, but it will always do it. The liberal or apolitical masses who are prepared to analogize migrant concentration camps to the Holocaust have accepted, not always consciously, the moral dignity of immigrants, the impossibility of negotiation or compromise with the system that detains them, and the inadequacy of voting alone as a means to destroy it. [...]

—p.12 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago

More broadly, our task is now to make a single, simple point. There is no humane border regime, just as there is no humane abortion ban. The border will always tear parents from children, caregivers from charges, longtime residents from the only communities they’ve ever known. It may do it faster or slower, with ostentatious brutality or bureaucratic drag, but it will always do it. The liberal or apolitical masses who are prepared to analogize migrant concentration camps to the Holocaust have accepted, not always consciously, the moral dignity of immigrants, the impossibility of negotiation or compromise with the system that detains them, and the inadequacy of voting alone as a means to destroy it. [...]

—p.12 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago
18

[...] To make atrocity into a random, meaningless spectacle is to argue against any taking of sides and indeed against political involvement as such. Any attempt to find meaning by assigning causes, by generalizing about those causes, and by organizing politically so as to do something about those causes, is defeated in advance by the balance as well as by the sheer scale and incomprehensibility of human awfulness. If atrocity seems beyond human understanding, well, it must be allowed to stay that way. When the subject comes up, you will of course adopt the proper facial expression. But to pretend you could do anything about it would be to show yourself prepared to commit atrocities of your own. It’s morally safer to stay home, feet up, heads bent over our devices.

—p.18 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] To make atrocity into a random, meaningless spectacle is to argue against any taking of sides and indeed against political involvement as such. Any attempt to find meaning by assigning causes, by generalizing about those causes, and by organizing politically so as to do something about those causes, is defeated in advance by the balance as well as by the sheer scale and incomprehensibility of human awfulness. If atrocity seems beyond human understanding, well, it must be allowed to stay that way. When the subject comes up, you will of course adopt the proper facial expression. But to pretend you could do anything about it would be to show yourself prepared to commit atrocities of your own. It’s morally safer to stay home, feet up, heads bent over our devices.

—p.18 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago

(adj) anticipatory; a figure of speech in which the speaker raises an objection to their own argument and then immediately answers it; also called procatalepsis

18

the signature prolepsis in Garcia Marquez's first sentence

—p.18 by n+1
notable
1 year, 2 months ago

the signature prolepsis in Garcia Marquez's first sentence

—p.18 by n+1
notable
1 year, 2 months ago
19

In short, prolepsis looks like evasiveness. Compared with the simplifications of melodrama, however, prolepsis has its virtues. Consider again Shamsie’s first sentence. The sentence does some unexpected negotiating: the cloud of smoke from the munitions factories that ends the sentence may foreshadow the mushroom cloud that is shortly to cover the city, but it is also a reminder that this peaceful-looking city is manufacturing munitions, hence is part of a war effort, hence in the eyes of some is not entirely distinguishable from the war’s more active battlefields. In other words, it contains the elements of an unpredictable conversation about whether, remembered by the survivor as gray, the day’s event should in fact be seen as gray and not, melodramatically, as black and white.

This impulse toward moral qualification may seem almost indecent, given what is being alluded to. And yet moral qualification is something we get again and again, and the examples suggest that we should not be sorry to get it. Go back to Rushdie’s account of the Amritsar massacre in Midnight’s Children. The announcement of the grandfather’s death “years later” doesn’t just reassure us that he is not killed here and now. Why are two place names given for the site of the grandfather’s later death, one of them Hindu and the other Muslim? And why are they separated by an “or”? At the moment of the massacre, the conflict between the British and the Indians seems the only meaningful conflict. Even at this moment of world-historical dreadfulness, however, Rushdie reminds the reader that in fact the confrontation of colonizers and colonized was never the only meaningful conflict. You cannot understand modern India, he suggests, without also thinking of the division between Hindus and Muslims, which began before the British came and continued after the British left. Even if the British deliberately made it worse, which by all accounts they did, the religious division cannot be attributed solely to colonial rule. Rushdie urges on to us this extra thought in the very act of describing an atrocity that is being committed by the British, which is to say at a moment when the temptation to locate absolute evil in the perpetrators is overwhelming. Prolepsis allows him to do this by stretching the temporality of the moment so as to include a future that will relativize even this world-historical evil, seemingly as absolute as evil can get.

oooh i like this a lot

—p.19 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago

In short, prolepsis looks like evasiveness. Compared with the simplifications of melodrama, however, prolepsis has its virtues. Consider again Shamsie’s first sentence. The sentence does some unexpected negotiating: the cloud of smoke from the munitions factories that ends the sentence may foreshadow the mushroom cloud that is shortly to cover the city, but it is also a reminder that this peaceful-looking city is manufacturing munitions, hence is part of a war effort, hence in the eyes of some is not entirely distinguishable from the war’s more active battlefields. In other words, it contains the elements of an unpredictable conversation about whether, remembered by the survivor as gray, the day’s event should in fact be seen as gray and not, melodramatically, as black and white.

This impulse toward moral qualification may seem almost indecent, given what is being alluded to. And yet moral qualification is something we get again and again, and the examples suggest that we should not be sorry to get it. Go back to Rushdie’s account of the Amritsar massacre in Midnight’s Children. The announcement of the grandfather’s death “years later” doesn’t just reassure us that he is not killed here and now. Why are two place names given for the site of the grandfather’s later death, one of them Hindu and the other Muslim? And why are they separated by an “or”? At the moment of the massacre, the conflict between the British and the Indians seems the only meaningful conflict. Even at this moment of world-historical dreadfulness, however, Rushdie reminds the reader that in fact the confrontation of colonizers and colonized was never the only meaningful conflict. You cannot understand modern India, he suggests, without also thinking of the division between Hindus and Muslims, which began before the British came and continued after the British left. Even if the British deliberately made it worse, which by all accounts they did, the religious division cannot be attributed solely to colonial rule. Rushdie urges on to us this extra thought in the very act of describing an atrocity that is being committed by the British, which is to say at a moment when the temptation to locate absolute evil in the perpetrators is overwhelming. Prolepsis allows him to do this by stretching the temporality of the moment so as to include a future that will relativize even this world-historical evil, seemingly as absolute as evil can get.

oooh i like this a lot

—p.19 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago
21

There is no recipe for good writing, it hardly needs to be said, and this is as true for writing about atrocity as about any other kind. That is why it is so odd that literary accounts of atrocity so often resort to prolepsis, as in the “years later” that Arundhati Roy makes use of in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017). Here prolepsis does, again, what seems to be its thing. It empties out the present, rejecting as inadequate the subjective judgments of the characters immediately embroiled in the event. If you want to say no to the horror that lies before you — as you must, reading about an atrocity — you have to think in the long, long term. [...]

—p.21 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago

There is no recipe for good writing, it hardly needs to be said, and this is as true for writing about atrocity as about any other kind. That is why it is so odd that literary accounts of atrocity so often resort to prolepsis, as in the “years later” that Arundhati Roy makes use of in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017). Here prolepsis does, again, what seems to be its thing. It empties out the present, rejecting as inadequate the subjective judgments of the characters immediately embroiled in the event. If you want to say no to the horror that lies before you — as you must, reading about an atrocity — you have to think in the long, long term. [...]

—p.21 by n+1 1 year, 2 months ago