The language of desire as cannibalistic language

A for Armin Meiwes, B for Bernd Brandes. A and B form the two parts of the novel Bøvs (hunger) – literally : Red (hungry) -, two parts that weave two stories together: the one of the year that followed the end of a romantic relationship between a narrator named Senthuran like the author, and the one of 9. March 2001, when Armin Meiwes met Bernd Brandes to dissect him and consume it as they had agreed. This affair has already inspired many heavy metal titles, plays and other stories, but Senthuran Varatharajah’s book presents it from a new angle: a “love story” animated by a familiar language and a topicality that, taken to the extreme, becomes “cannibalistic” . I like you to eat (“I love you to die”, eat means to consume) or (sich) consume (to consume, (to) consume, to burn out of love for someone) are some examples. But expressions in Arabic, Tamil (her mother tongue), Kurdish and Turkish (the languages ​​spoken by the narrator’s former friend) are also encouraged each time to the desire to unite with the other, to acquire it, to make it his own. own is to eat it. For this “love story” is, above all, an erotic and destructive language, precisely what constitutes the vector of the novel.

Senthuran Varatharajah has apparently inquired into the smallest details of Rotenburg’s affair. The narrator of this autofiction goes to the scene, tells of his failed attempt to start a correspondence with A, sentenced to life imprisonment. But what matters first and foremost here is that he devoted himself to a careful reading of the written exchanges between the cannibal and his future victim on the Nullo forum, as well as the statements of the first after his arrest. His story is thus largely based on their own words: they reveal each other’s feelings, emotions and intentions, the way they intended to continue during their only meeting, their desire to absorb the other first, disappear completely. in the other for the second. These words are italicized, then repeated, and varied like a litany, giving this troublesome story a particularly disturbing poetic dimension.

Disturbing too, because some verbs – like consume, disappear (disappear), merge (melt), unite (to unite) and their different meanings suggested in the text – may as well belong to the story of A and B as to what the narrator is in the process of mourning. Life instinct and death instinct intertwine in the quoted words, and know new insights depending on whether they are pronounced by one or the other: “you will be fully in me”, “a part of me remains in you”. A and B, the narrator and his past and present interlocutors formulate and reformulate their hunger one after the other, each interpreting it in their own way: “Because hunger is a direction. Because every hunger finds us. How far do words that arouse desire go? From when do they spill over into a reality that goes beyond understanding? “I do not know this language”, writes the narrator, but maybe it is also a word of A or B, yet everyone knows “that they must go through this language”. And takes a sentence from his first novel Before the increase of the sign (2016, literally: Faced with the multiplication of characters), the author writes several times here too: “We must go to the end of meaning. Crossing this taboo language of desire and annihilation without fearing its contradictions – “we have to destroy the names to reach the names”, “we have to destroy the memories to reach the memories” – is a challenge in this text.

To go to the end also means to break words, break them down, dissect them. Thus, some of them are cut at the end of the line in an improbable way, suggesting both the fragility of the words that threaten to break at any moment, as their effective cesura, their breaking, their neighborhood. The dislocated words and the strangeness they evoke, to which we can add the unexpected layout that mixes verse with prose, or even the whole novel’s pure cut in two symmetrical parts: everything indicates the extent to which the language -even bears the action committed by A, to which also language always and again refers the first story to the second and vice versa: “one day is divided into two; as a year that is large, as a year that was placed in the two hands, the months: r / distributed according to their weight, left and right. Until they no longer hold. »

Senthuran Varatharajah also exploits the ambiguities of the language, especially those that come to him from his past – born in Sri Lanka, he finds in the story of his migration to Germany as a child the most important source of inspiration for his first novel. These ambiguities again serve his purpose, for for him who learned German, high (“today”) was spelled high (from the verb height“to cut up”), high ab (“release”) meant High ab (“remove skin”). The language is insidious and consists of misunderstandings that the author never ceases to point out, staging their excesses in fear of a cannibalistic crime that is described as carefully as it was committed.

Readers of Senthuran Varatharajah will recognize the poetry and sensitivity of his language, his reflections on the transience of meaning and the impossibility of saying: “There must be a language that shows nothing, a language that hides nothing”, “a name is only a name if it retains what it breaks.The many bibliographical references that the narrator mentions in the shift to certain sections are also reminiscent of the interest in philosophy and religion (the two topics that the author himself studied), very present in the first work I Bøvs (hunger)Senthuran Varatharajah examines both the philosophical and religious questions of a cannibalistic act and the titles that the narrator quotes to better understand the history of A and B, giving a glimpse of the research conducted upstream of the book. He thus draws on European thinking to think about this unthinkable, which nevertheless took place in Germany at the beginning of the 21st century.and century: i.a. gravity and grace by Simone Weil, den religious theory by Georges Bataille We are all cannibals by Claude Lévi-Strauss, the studio of Sexual cannibalism by Klaus M. Beier or other volume of it Dogmatic by Karl Barth entitled “The Incarnation of the Word”. The religious aspect turns out to be of great importance, and the sacrifice of B is celebrated by A in accordance with the precise movements of a mournful Eucharist: “you will eat my body, you will drink my blood”.

It is the color of the blood that gives the novel its title. An intense red sheet is inserted between the first and the second part, which in its shades evokes a clear separation on the front, a connection on the back, thus reminiscent of the two incompatible facets of any union. Both inside and out, the red color is both the light from A’s camera, which filmed part of the scene – “in this light the blood is sweet” – and what is found in A, “buried deep and red, somewhere deep in his chest . Senthuran Varatharajah explores the nuances of this inner red and searches tirelessly for the roots of unheard of experiences in an attempt to tell them “to the end of the meaning” in full awareness of the impossibility of the task:

“in the cup

of my name,

I’m asking

two lies


one over the other “.

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