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by Renato Leduc

Noises from the street. The window trembles,
like a window trembles, as it often does.
I, a part-time poet, wonder
“à moi même,”
could it be Death’s calling? or perhaps be Love’s…
But the window, trembling, quite plainly provided
the terrible truth:
                                         Sir, it was a bus…

Renato Leduc (1897–1986). Fragment of Ruidos. Translated from Spanish by Alex Adame Basilio


Avenida 20 de Noviembre, with the Metropolitan Cathedral in the background, Mexico City (1948)

My aunt Nellie (yet again) counsels Socrates on not confusing the Unexamined with the Unworthy

Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living!

My aunt Nellie: Speak for yourself, dear. Alright, alright. That which is worth-living might perhaps be worth for indulging in a little examination too. Well, why not? But to me it just isn’t clear how the unexamined is equal to the unworthy. If that were as obviously the case as you seem to think, archaeologists, psychoanalysts and their friends would rather spend their time more profitably than digging for only god knows what that lies unexamined beneath the surfaces. But look at them!

Me: Ah, if only they would!


by Nellie Campobello

I went to him
the doctor
I was ill

Here inside
doctor, in my

Noise, lots
of noise
Sounds of musics
Vivid colours
Smiles that
I can’t repress
Joy all over
my body

They say it’s
an illness
doctor, and that’s
why I’ve come

of sadness
he prescribed

We don’t have it
They said everywhere
and I’d say to myself
very softly:
are ill as well

Where can I
find it, doctor?
                I’ve got it.
I saw him so pale
almost a spectre
                No, doctor,
                mine’s better.

Nellie Campobello (1900–1986). Original title: Irresponsabilidad. Translated from Spanish by Alex A. Basilio.


Nellie and Gloria Campobello, circa 1932. Photo: Archivo Alberto Dallal


Freud, Ghostbusters, and the Past

Many viewers of the original Ghostbusters film (1984) have been quick to spot an element of homoerotic anxiety behind Egon’s admonition not to cross the streams of their protonic weapons (“Don’t cross the streams… It would be bad”), and various internet memes to that effect have circulated in recent years. Indeed, the climactic scene towards the end of the film when, in a desperate ruse to save New York and civilization itself, the four (male) ghostbusters bring together their streams while aiming at a transdimensional door that — as Egon puts it — “swings both ways” seems to confirm this impression, which is then further emphasized by the discharge of white viscous matter from the roof of the building, following the success of the quartet’s collaborative effort.

When an undercurrent of concerns about sex is as close to the surface as it is in this film, it may seem as if Freud’s theories about unconscious sexual drives could hardly do anything beyond restating the obvious. Nevertheless, if I resort to Freud in what follows is, first of all, to consider the rich historical — perhaps, prehistorical — echoes of some of these drives and their prohibitions, and also to highlight the spectacular way in which the plot of Ghostbusters proceeds from confirming to then subverting Freud.

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Tinker, Tailor, Boxer, Water-Carrier

“Just as breath emerges with a brighter voice from the narrow bore of a trumpet, the thought that carves its way through the rigours and the rhythms of poetry must come to surface with a livelier force and light.” Words to that effect were said by Cleanthes, who some 23 centuries ago was a boxer, philosopher, and water-carrier.

The Civilizational Problem

Considering Emmanuel Macron’s know-how on technology (for two years he was Minister of the Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs) and high fashion (in 2016, his response to a worker on strike against the new employment law was, ‘You won’t scare me with your t-shirt, the best way of buying a suit is to work’), it is plausible to imagine that his views on the ‘African civilizational problem’ were informed by the following facts:

  1.  Africa has a large population (because women there are having ‘seven or eight children’);
  2. Africa has too many of the resources that make up our tablets and smartphones (for the sake of argument, let’s ignore for a moment the transcontinental complicities that put them there);
  3. When compared to the proportion of European, American, Australian and Japanese men who wear suits, the amount of African men wearing suits might seem rather small. (I say ‘might seem’ since I’m lacking any verifiable means for making this a more authoritative statement.)

And stretching my guess only a tiny bit further, it is also possible to imagine him elaborating these facts into the following conclusion:

  • Africa has too many people and too few of them are wearing enough suits to make the whole continent look civilizational enough. And that is a big problem.

Now, you may wonder, whatever happened then to the fact about tablets and smartphones? But mild mannered gentle folk (not entirely unlike David Attenborough) will observe that nonetheless the numbers are right, continents like Africa (and Asia, and Latin America) have too many people, and will agree that that is a big problem. Nevermind other numbers, like the number of phones, tablets, and other profitable articles made from the exploitation of those numerous peoples.