— for Kate Zambreno
On January 6th, 2015, Nightboat Books published a set of notes – rough,
overlapping arcs – that constituted: Ban. A durational or smashed work,
something resembling a crumpled-up bit of aluminium foil. A novel in
another form: Ban en Banlieue. And if the novel is the cosmopolitan
unit, the thing that can be bought and sold, then what was this and what
was it for? What I noticed, when the book arrived one morning and I
held it in my grubby paws, was that 97% of it remained: dormant/real:
unseen but felt: felt but never seen. On the blog. Or in the wire cages.
Of the butcher’s block. In the Portuguese alcove. Of my home. What is a
home? I thought I should make a list of the sentences I did not write. Or
that were written. But, unhomed, as they say: did not – could not – be
written down. In that other real form. What the book turned out to be.
What the book was in those final moments. Before the wall came down.
Or the glass came down. Or the sky came down. And someone I never
met before. Said click.
Notes for a novel never written.
A novel of the race riot: BAN:
1. I glimpse Ban through a dense indigo London fog.
2. Even as I attempt the next stage of writing — which is not a stage — a line comes right down — and that is Ban — and it shatters — the founding materials — of the stage.
I assess the line.
It is a meteor in the form of a human being.
Something alien and cobalt, like a vector, about Ban.
The soot crystallizes and that is the cobalt. It is like hard, shiny glue that has a weight you would not have predicted it to have.
I studied physics until I was 18.
The word for that is — atomic mass?
Gold, cadmium, vanadium, argon, carbon, silver, europium.
Ban goes right through and out the other side, with the force and animal “grace” of lava.
Meteorite Ban. Is not interested in the new book.
In bodywork, in the space where the table is set up, there is a moment when the energies that accompany or hold a person’s life make eye contact with you, the person holding that person’s — feet — let’s say — or shoulder, or arm. And you continue to work with a sense of being in agreement, of working together.
Something like this happens in writing.
A way that the energies orient to the person writing them.
Ban’s orbital is like a cobra, rearing up — and swaying — as I type.
But it’s time to go to sleep now, so let us put aside the bassoon/sex novel of the mid nineties — and agree — that tomorrow — we will continue with our — particular work.
Were we charnel ground attendants in — a previous — life?
Were we loved? Did we die next to the water?
3. Copies of cells.
Objects are attracted to a secret, central place in the roadside reliquary — bits of cloth, a collage of feathers. Sometimes, the reliquary is re-built in a room lit with Danish modern lamps. I liked lying down on that dank, non-violent sofa: Ban. I tried to learn from that part of life, its triangular formations and bleak dark avenue beyond the pale white net curtains. Was it that obvious? The light-dark contrasts that resembled an airport, airport culture?
Today I saw a white horse and in the mud beneath it was a sentence written in gold ink.
4. Having exhausted Ban.
Having completed Ban.
Having made the animal in Ban.
Before cutting Ban up.
On the butcher’s table that a desk always is.
That the butcher’s table is.
I have never written at a desk.
And as the rhythms of life unfold.
And as unguents are released.
And as the days increase in their sensitivity to each other.
A newborn in my arms. Or other arms. Other human factors. This is life. Stop complaining about life.
As life unfolds.
I write anyway.
That I can only write here.
When I am faced with my notebook, I am like a baby myself.
Holding the pen like a fork.
How can it be that this is my notebook now?
And that only here.
Can I think.
I must become Cesar Aira with creamy paper and ink pen in cafe in Argentina.
Very hard to become a South American man when you are a British-Indian woman with spikes.
Trans-global life is spiky.
When Laynie wrote with her questions about Ban, the poet’s novel — and so on — I would normally — have taken myself off.
To the cafe.
As I did that.
To write myself out of one life.
And into another.
But this time.
I could only do it here and save it as “Draft.”
I notice that a lot of writing is happening like this, that I never publish — but which.
Holds the valence of.
That writing life.
And so, only here.
Can I write to Laynie.
Then cut and paste my response.
Into an email.
I wanted to cut and paste it here.
But I have written.
And want to.
Now that it is morning.
And I have my tea.
To return to bed.
In my notebook.
It is time to begin.
The day with all its.
And company. Define: company.
Having exhausted Ban.
As a topic.
As the thing that can be written.
I wanted this.
So that I.
The real work.
No, what happens next.
Is as yet.
Unknown to me.
In the after-life of the scene.
That is always the body.
I will never win a prize.
I will never eat turkey drumsticks in Switzerland.
But I can tell you.
That I will always.
Find my way back.
No matter what happens.
As I said to my students.
And which I say to myself.
To be alone.
As an artist. To have the courage.
This kind of courage.
Bhanu Kapil is a post-colonial writer who holds to the maxim: “Shame may be fatal.” Nevertheless, her books enact a not-writing or never-writing as much as they do: an arrival of monstrous form. Her most recent book is centered upon the riot and how the body receives [emits] the energy of the riot: “Ban en Banlieue” (Nightboat Books, 2015).