aglimpseof 09 . THE CRACK-UP



SOURCE TEXT: Second Novella: “The Crack-up,”, F.Scott Fitzerald by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari


• the visual texts Nothing Can Happen Any Longer by Dimitra Ioannou are linked to the word “rupture”

• the sound work Molecular by Irini Karayannopoulou is linked to the word “molecular”

• the photo AF0278 by Giannis Drakoulidis is linked to the word “world”

• the sound work Time by Irini Karayannopoulou is linked to the word “time”

• the photo Untitled from the series Echoes by is linked to the word “blows”

• the video Rupture by Nance Davies is linked to the word “rupture”

Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work — the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside — the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within — that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. The first sort of breakage seems to happen quick — the second kind happens almost without your knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed.”

The Crack-Up” by Francis Scott Fitzgerald is an autobiographical text in three parts originally published in Esquire’s February, March and April 1936 issues. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari analyze it in the eighth chapter of “A Thousand Plateaus, volume 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1874: Three Novellas, or “What Happened?,” (1980).

In the beginning of this chapter they write: “Take Fitzgerald. He is a tale and novella writer of genius. He is a novella writer when he asks himself, Whatever could have happened for things to have come to this? He is the only one who has been able to carry this question to such a point of intensity. It is not a question of memory, reflection, old age, or fatigue, whereas the tale would deal with childhood, action, or impulse. Yet it is true that Fitzgerald only asks himself the question of the novella writer when he is personally worn-out, fatigued, sick, or even worse off. But once again, there is not necessarily a connection: it can also be a question of vigor, or love. It still is, even in desperate conditions. It is better to think of it as an affair of perception: you enter a room and perceive something as already there, as just having happened, even though it has not yet been done. Or you know that what is in the process of happening is happening for the last time, it’s already over with. You hear an “I love you” you know is the last one. Perceptual semiotics. God, whatever could have happened, even though everything is and remains imperceptible, and in order for everything to be and remain imperceptible forever?”

Issue 9 republishes the passage Second Novella: “The Crack-up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald from A Thousand Plateaus’ s english edition. The text is translated by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

Second Novella: “The Crack-up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald

by Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari

What happened? This is the question Fitzgerald keeps coming back to toward the end, having remarked that “of course all life is a process of breaking down.” How should we understand this “of course”? We can say, first of all, that life is always drawn into an increasingly rigid and desiccated segmentarity*. For the writer Fitzgerald, voyages, with their clear-cut segments, had lost their usefulness. There was also, from segment to segment, the depression, loss of wealth, fatigue and growing old, alcoholism, the failure of conjugality, the rise of the cinema, the advent of fascism and Stalinism, and the loss of success and talent—at the very moment Fitzgerald would find his genius. “The big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside” , and proceed by over significant breaks, moving us from one term to the other according to successive binary “choices”: rich/poor… Even when change runs in the other direction, there is nothing to compensate for the rigidification, the aging that overcodes everything that occurs. This is a line of rigid segmentarity bringing masses into play, even if it was supple to begin with.

But Fitzgerald says that there is another type of cracking, with an entirely different segmentarity. Instead of great breaks, these are micro-cracks, as in a dish; they are much more subtle and supple, and occur when things are going well on the other side. If there is aging on this line, it is not of the same kind: when you age on this line you don’t feel it on the other line, you don’t notice it on the other line until after “it” has already happened on this line. At such a moment, which does not correspond to any of the ages of the other line, you reach a degree, a quantum, an intensity beyond which you cannot go. (It’s a very delicate business, these intensities: the finest intensity becomes harmful if it overtaxes your strength at a given moment; you have to be able to take it, you have to be in shape.) But what exactly happened? In truth, nothing assignable or perceptible: molecular changes, redistributions of desire such that when something occurs, the self that awaited it is already dead, or the one that would await it has not yet arrived. This time, there are outbursts and crackings in the immanence of a rhizome, rather than great movements and breaks determined by the transcendence of a tree. The crack-up “happens almost without your knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed” (p. 69). This molecular line, more supple but no less disquieting, in fact, much more disquieting, is not simply internal or personal: it also brings everything into play, but on a different scale and in different forms, with segmentations of a different nature, rhizomatic instead of arborescent. A micropolitics.

There is, in addition, a third line, which is like a line of rupture or a “clean break” and marks the exploding of the other two, their shake-up… in favor of something else? “This led me to the idea that the ones who had survived had made some sort of clean break. This is a big word and is no parallel to a jailbreak when one is probably headed for a new jail or will be forced back to the old one”. Here, Fitzgerald contrasts rupture with structural pseudo-breaks in so-called signifying chains. But he also distinguishes it from more supple, more subterranean links or stems of the “voyage” type, or even from molecular conveyances. “The famous ‘Escape’ or ‘run away from it all’ is an excursion in a trap even if the trap includes the South Seas, which are only for those who want to paint them or sail them. A clean break is something you cannot come back from; that is irretrievable because it makes the past cease to exist” . Can it be that voyages are always a return to rigid segmentarity? Is it always your daddy and mommy that you meet when you travel, even as far away as the South Seas, like Melville? Hardened muscles? Must we say that supple segmentarity itself reconstructs the great figures it claimed to escape, but under the micro- scope, in miniature? Beckett’ s unforgettable line is an indictment of all voyages: “We don’t travel for the fun of it, as far as I know; we’re foolish, but not that foolish.

In rupture, not only has the matter of the past volitized; the form of what happened, of an imperceptible something that happened in a volatile matter, no longer even exists. One has become imperceptible and clandestine in motionless voyage. Nothing can happen, or can have happened, any longer. Nobody can do anything for or against me any longer. My territories are out of grasp, not because they are imaginary, but the opposite: because I am in the process of drawing them. Wars, big and little, are behind me. Voyages, always in tow to something else, are behind me. I no longer have any secrets, having lost my face, form, and matter. I am now no more than a line. I have become capable of loving, not with an abstract, universal love, but a love I shall choose, and that shall choose me, blindly, my double, just as selfless as I. One has been saved by and for love, by abandoning love and self. Now one is no more than an abstract line, void. Absolute deterritorialization. One has become like everybody/the whole world (tout le monde), but in a way that can become like everybody/ the whole world. One has painted the world on oneself, not oneself on the world. It should not be said that the genius is an extraordinary person, nor that everybody has genius. The genius is someone who knows how to make everybody/the whole world a becoming (Ulysses, perhaps: Joyce’s failed ambition, Pound’s near-success). One has entered becomings-animal, becomings-molecular, and finally becomings-imperceptible. “I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever. The heady villainous feeling continued. … I will try to be a correct animal though, and if you throw me a bone with enough meat on it I may even lick your hand.”  Why such a despairing tone? Does not the line of rupture or true flight have its own danger, one worse than the others? Time to die. In any case, Fitzgerald proposes a distinction between the three lines traversing us and composing “a life” (after Maupassant). Break line, crack line, rupture line. The line of rigid segmentarity with molar breaks; the line of supple segmentation with molecular cracks; the line of flight or rupture, abstract, deadly and alive, non segmentary.


Translation by Brian Massumi

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