Andres Luco, English 111, 1999

Simon Birnbaum combats the immediate, ever-present threat of oblivion. He scribbles to salvage his temporality, or, his continuous sense of being from moment to moment. So far as Simon is concerned, death and reincarnation are part of the daily routine. His affliction is so severe that presence-to-himself is almost nonexistent, save for rare moments of remembrance that emerge in sporadic unconscious revivals. And what else besides writing could offer recourse into combating the amnesia's effects? Here we face head-on the effects of the pharmakon, or as Jacques Derrida put it, of the poison that heals--and conversely, the remedy that kills. Derrida uses this term to question the veracity of cultural oppositions (i.e., presence vs. absence, speech vs. writing, etc.). In allowing the written word to be taken up by this metaphor, it should be again noted that Simon must write or face the hopeless extinction of his temporality. Writing thus becomes prosthesis par excellence. At the same time, however, Simon's sense of being is shattered by the fractured sets of scribbles and images that cry out to him from various points in a past that he cannot verify. The notion of a time before is preserved but it lacks any trace of coherence. Thus, Simon cannot vest his full faith in these artifacts. Their lack of intelligibility even drives Simon to refuse himself as the object or originator of these things. In striving to restore his temporality, Simon inadvertently puts it out of reach.

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