Identities of Sand Ch. 2

On the Discourse of Sand, Identity and Language – to Re-tell a Story that Pieces Together the Earth and the Language which Describes it

If my reputation would miss me
What they see from me
Would trickle down generations in time
What they hear from me
Would make ’em highlight my simplest lines

“FEAR.”, DAMN., Kendrick Lamar[1]

           In a documentary by Agnès Varda, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, viewers can see a deliberate action to recuperate and retrace pieces of the world which were forgotten or left behind by others who do not search for particular things. With each person wading through her documented scenes in France, picking and piecing bountiful elements, the contents of the environment changes. The overall imagery and physical actions involved in Varda’s filmed depiction of gleaning is evocative for the piecing together of subjectivity and storytelling present in becomings. Particularly, her prolific illustration of gleaning exists as an avenue which allows me to look at the coming-of-age genre knowing that within it, I would be able to find characteristics that were worth animating in a more critical lens.  

           One scene in Agnès Varda’s film is particularly striking as it depicts the gleaning subjects at the beach looking to gather various shellfish. Between the grains of sand, algae, salt, and other materials that have been hit again and again by waves, wind storms, and rain, a large amount of the shells in their complete unbroken form continue to exist. As long as they are there, they can be gleaned and used so long as someone has the courage to search for them – such a process demands a great attention to detail. Between the rising and the descending of the tide, the forces of weather, as well as the apparent rules of gleaning in authorized zones on the beach where Varda films, the geological time and geographic positions proposed act as a guide for gleaning.

           All of these aspects such as the tide, laws, and rules, positions and layouts of the beach as well as the hours of access, are all subjected to change whether it be from grave ecological shifts such as land or water recessions, or from national regulations and restrictions. In the documentary scene, various discussions ensued on the maximum amount of shellfish that is authorized for gleaning and recuperating for those who wish to take home mussels, clams, or other findings.  But each participant’s response shows that they interpreted the system a little bit differently and that the rules are not concrete; it’s a discourse in flux depending solely on what they’ve formerly been told, or what they have encountered others carrying out in the past.

           Varda’s depiction of this scene of searching and gleaning on the beach is useful and unique situation for my argument on space and identity formation as it moves with proposed regularities as well as the subversion of such regulations. I enhance her work on gleaning in order to examine both the ecology and construction of auto fictive becoming-of-age as it specifically pertains to the queering of narrations which I put forth. Encountering changing terrain of the beach with rules that are interpreted and challenged shows no desire for imitation. Instead, opportunity for experiences that reanimate and reopen formerly downtrodden stories and materials are ignited with the gleaning of stories and history.

           The becoming and queering of a setting put forth here is greatly entangled with the intersection of the solid earth and the continually changing sea. I argue for a possibility of finding significance at this geographic junction and further suggest that to glean at the beach is quite exemplary for finding an environment of becoming-of-age, storytelling and identity for future works. Moving outward from the desert of Marrakesh to the sandy coast of Algiers will have us turn from Ben Jelloun’s L’enfant de sable and spin towards several scenes and rising actions in Kamel Daoud’s novel Meursault, contre-enquête. Philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin’s chronotope, as it renders literally to mean time-space, is important for the implications of the sandy coast of Daoud’s novel as I argue for the ecocritical and queer readings which emerge from it.

           Why, as we have moved to this novel’s setting, are the scenes at the coast in Varda’s film the most interesting for an argument in understanding the discourse of becoming-of-age and identity? And in what ways, with the engagements of temporality does it open a discussion and encounters for the future of literary works, in this case autofiction, and truth in art? In order to respond to these questions, one must look beyond the documentary’s engagements with gleaning and consult the concepts evoked in Earthworks, most specifically Spiral Jetty a piece by Robert Smithson, and the ideas of Haitian artist Ernst Prophète which Edwidge Danticat describes as inspiration for certain themes in her novel The Farming of Bones. Finally, the various scenes for becoming and queering analysis in the novel Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud are where the main character Haroun returns to the beach where his brother was killed. There, he strives to know more than he has previously read. Extracts from Frantz Fanon in L’expérience vécue du Noir a chapter in Peau Noire Masques Blancs and José Muñoz in his book Cruising Utopia, alongside Sara Ahmed’s Orientations: Towards a Queer Phenomenology, advance my argument for the ways the character of Haroun and his story are becoming-of-age.

           Bringing an analysis of Earthworks into our discussion on becoming and queering seeks to bridge an explanation on how certain natural materials and locations on Earth are able to be manipulated to retell a larger story and pursue a new understanding. Like certain gleaners Varda spent time filming, and bricoleurs in the way Claude Levi-Strauss coins the term, Earth-artists work with certain geological materials so that they can be reused in human methods for both art and expression. Specifically, Robert Smithson’s Earthwork piece, titled Spiral Jetty extends towards the lake in Utah yet remains attached to the coast by the materials of sand, clay, rocks and stones.

Figure 1: Spiral Jetty

The Earth-art piece is vulnerable to the possibility of decomposition and change whenever the water level, salt content, or weather fluctuates. Therefore, there is no guarantee of stasis or ability to replicate the experience from viewer to viewer. In walking the path, Smithson describes Spiral Jetty as a piece of art for experiencing; one is meant to walk its entirety following the long extension through to each time it spins inward.[2] Through its pathway, it paints how someone or something can remain connected and at the same time isolated and far. The natural art materials form a spiral and when one follows the path its movement provokes an idea of returning to things at the center of the location and the center of self—a development with change but also with return. Writer and academic Christopher Johnson, on writing of bricolage and the bricoleur, as he moves to bring the Levi-Strauss term from a metaphor to a more universally present concept, writes that “if there is a project: it has double movement of projection-retrospection (362). For the case of Robert Smithson’s project, when one walks from the coast and crosses through the spiral, the path unravels in a counterclockwise formation. The direction of the spiral is a link to a non-linear, non-cyclical temporality, or a reversal. This reversal and return are integral elements to the storytelling which encapsulates our becoming and queering of age characters—both retrospective and projective in nature. The motion of returning posits an additional opportunity to reach a truth, to march against hegemonic structures inhabiting language and nation which gatekeep queer identities and stories from being told in full or with unlimited interpretation the first time around.

           In the motion of return enacted by Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, one can glean and search for things that were lost, unnamed, or would have been invisible without the interactive walking experience and junction of geographic coast; sand and water. In considering this opportunity for recuperation in such a setting I present the character Haroun in the novel Meursault, contre-enquête as a man who wants, as he walks again and again on the beach where his brother was killed, to extend towards a liberation from his history of tragedy whilst finally narrating his own story. I pair him with the image of Spiral Jetty that Robert Smithson created in order to explain the condition of Haroun being both connected to his past on the earth yet extending towards anew by the coastal area of the murder; a bricoleur through his combinational methodology and building investigation.

           The changing terrain of the coastal beach area makes it a particular queer setting for analysis especially when one considers the complications of climate-change and ecocriticism involved in ecojustice. Writer and academic Whitney A. Bauman, in her piece Climate Weirding and Queering Nature: Getting Beyond the Anthropocene, argues for the use of more queer modalities in order to understand affairs of climate weirding and the distribution of human agency in the changes or weirding occurring on Earth.[3]  Her position is interesting as we consider the complications Haroun and characters becoming-of-age experience when their worlds are in constant change and are not equal in culpability to their constituents varying in class, power, and race. Bauman writes, “Chaos and uncertainty, from within this type of reality, are the grounds for new creations and new ways of being” (747).

           From the details Haroun grew up discovering from newspaper articles as well as the details his mother fabricated and instilled in him, and to his narrations of current actions, returning the coast just like the tide could be Haroun’s chance to pursue a becoming-of-age all the way through to an investigation at the granular level. Writer and academic Lia Brozgal, upon analyzing the disjointed way that Haroun gains his knowledge and refers to the preceding text, implicates Daoud’s choice in writing the protagonist as unfolding a constant interrogation of literature. She describes

“By inventing a younger brother for the deceased, Daoud proffers a solution that is as elegant as it is narratively efficient: Haroun could have witnessed the crime, confronted Meursault, attended the trial, and then recounted it all from his own point of view… Instead, however, Haroun frustrates these expectations through his insistence not on the story of Moussa’s entanglements with Meursault or the killer’s motivations (information that would explain and contextualize the absurd act), but rather on the story of how he and his mother came to learn of Moussa’s murder…Haroun is less interested in representing the “facts” of Moussa’s death and more concerned with the meta-story, or the conventions of the story’s narration: when it is recounted, by whom, and to what effect” (Brozgal 41).

Such an approach arms Haroun with the tools of becoming-of-age; he pursues no imitation nor does he progress the story in a linear matter for simple clarification and pursuit of a goal. At the geological space of the beach, in the space of a text, and through the power of a story, he can glean and enacts traits of a bricoleur with “indirect roundabout means, de moyens détournés” (Johnson 358).

           But what difficulties are posed for the act of gleaning and combinational activities with the time that has passed in a geographic location like the beach? Are there limitations in turning to these spaces with the same tools some have used in the past to both reclaim and liberate their story of growth and exploration? Joseph Roach in his introduction to his piece “Cities of the Dead” implements thoughts on this spatial exploration and identification from Michel de Certeau’s “Walking in the City”.[4] While de Certeau posits that to walk is to lack a place, Roach builds that walking is to also gain an experience whether or not the place is lacking, or possessed. He writes that this is an experience that “is conductive to mapping the emphases and contradictions of its spatial memory” (Roach 13). Haroun and the movements evocated by bricoleurs and gleaners creating Earthworks contribute to the extensive dialogue available for a tradition of walking and spatial exploration. The cartography created as a result participates in moving a becoming-of-age.

           Before continuing any further, I’d like to build on the context for using this novel while examining temporal engagements, the ecology of the coast, sand, and the construction of autofiction in becoming-of-age. Meursault, contre-enquête is of course an example of a novel that constructs self-hood, autofiction, and becoming-of-age as Haroun professes everything that he experiences in his own opinion and retells the events of his childhood; he already possesses a unique history as he approaches adulthood and independence. During his retellings, he experiences colonial schooling, the Algerian war of independence, supporting his mother, and the murder of his brother. The novel also emerges as a depiction of how a book itself can be understood as an ecology or a space for genre, canon and identity. Most particularly Daoud’s novel emerges as an ecology through the way that it is read in a context of post-colonialism as a period of study and thought. But it is also an explanation of how language, too, is like an ecology, a place in which one lives, learns, and grows. Haroun focuses in on this as he contemplates his own becoming-of-age living in the French language, « une langue se boit et se parle, et un jour elle vous possède » (Daoud 17) “a language is drank and spoken, and one day it possesses you”. Returning to Lia Brozgal’s piece, she cites the ecology of literature and language as integral during Daoud’s construction of the novel and the ways in which it emerges in the grand context of the Maghreb. In an article she writes, “Meursault, contre-enquête incarnates a praxis that has been a mainstay of the North African novel for as long as it has existed in French, that is, the relentless interrogation of literature itself” (Brozgal 44). In the interrogation of language in addition to literature Daoud writes Haroun as a character who exists to simply reposition the analysis of the plot and interrogates the former “hero” namely Meursault but also remains as a new hero to continue to be interrogated.[5] Whether solutions or clarity emerge one would have to argue further, but new potentialities and becomings nonetheless emerge with the platform for the relentless praxis taking place in the Maghreb.

           During Haroun’s experiences from school through to the moment he discovers the novel of our hero Meursault, the French language is continually at the center of his existential crisis taking part in the grand interrogation. He describes this phenomenon, « la langue franҫaise me fascinait comme une énigme au-delà de laquelle résidait la solution aux dissonances de mon monde » (Daoud 129) “the French language fascinates me like an enigma beyond which resides the solution to all the dissonances of my world.” His world and the world of the French language coincide, but they are not in agreement or aligned in conjugation. He concedes plenty of opportunities in the spaces that the French language has always occupied in his life. Finally, as this book stands as a response to L’Étranger by Albert Camus where Haroun’s brother Moussa was killed, Haroun now emerges to add to the words of the famous book which are hit again and again by interpretations and translations. Moussa, lived and died as the Arab without a first name in the troubled ecology of existential consequence which Camus writes.[6] Therefore, the meditation between autofiction and ecology/placement that follows in Meursault, contre-enquête is Haroun’s effort to recuperate and to rise above the disorientation placed upon his family in the preceding novel. If successful, his truth and his brother’s truth would come through as both becoming and queering in their attempts to grapple with the power of retelling a story. For Daoud, the meditation exists to recuperate but to keep in motion any becoming-of-age aspects to Haroun and literature of the Maghreb.

           For all the sources that I evoke for this analysis, the scenes at coastal or shore-like areas are the most critical because they appear to me as extremely liminal and complex locations to glean. In Meursault, contre-enquête, the murder of Haroun’s brother Moussa took place at the beach. But like the grains of sand that made up Ben Jelloun’s enfant and those that are forever trampled underfoot on the beach, one cannot reconstruct what has been ground up into pieces over time. So, Haroun’s narrative does not start in the past. In talking about the complexity of the beach, Haroun admits, « oui, le lieu du crime était en réalité affreusement décevant » (65, italics mine) “yes, the place of the crime was in reality terrible disappointing/deceptive”.[7] The passing of geological time did not help in constructing his understanding of a difficult past. The sea, as he returns to it appears normal. It did not reveal any capacity of human memory or sourcing of evidence to his self and his brother.

Figure 2: Cover photo ACTES SUD edition

           The return that Haroun makes to the beach is similar to the discovery author Edwidge Danticat discusses in the afterword of her novel The Farming of Bones. She references a Haitian painter Ernst Prophète citing one particular painting of his many colorful and vivid pieces. Danticat says his work particularly influenced the line she wrote in the book, “nature has no memory” (Danticat 307). While Prophète’s painting portrays a woman trailing with blood into the river after the events of the Haitian massacre, Danticat remarks that she found no such evidence in her own travels to Haiti. Instead, she saw children playing in the river, and people living, or people suffering with the realities of their world today disabling them from looking to tragedies of the past. For this same reason, returning to the river could not offer the main character of Danticat’s novel, Amabelle, the things she was still seeking at the end of her life in the Dajabon river. There were no markers of the massacre. She simply is left to lay in the warm currents of the river floating amidst the artificial boundary where the bones of her loved ones must be. This is not a reason to simplify the immensely complicated methods of coping and healing as something that the people have forgotten. Instead, it is a reason to ask what is it that can be gleaned from this scene in an ever-flowing river allowing still the painting of details of Amabelle’s arrival to this point? What truth is still told in Prophète’s depiction despite the main subject’s blood being washed away and her presence no longer consistent at the river?

Figure 3: Ernst Prophète painting

[8]

           From Prophète’s Dajabon, where the river has trails of blood and bodies moving through its currents (or at times called Rivière du Massacre), to examining Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, one can see that there is not simply a link with the lake or the sea but an equally important link with the Earth’s coast as it continues to be the solid land where our characters have their experiences. And, in examining Meursault, contre-enquête one can see our main character Haroun is not simply searching for a liberation towards a future or independent growth but also for answers of his past tragedy and of his childhood development as he is continually returning to its events. He turns in circles and is tortured by the information that he doesn’t know, by the way in which the story of his brother was told the first time in French, and finally, he is tortured by pressure from his mother—a figure “vivant” whom he cites throughout his telling of childhood through to the present. Like the spiral in the counterclockwise motion and the gleaning indicated in his return to a past story, Haroun proclaims that « c’est simple : cette histoire devrait donc être réécrite, dans la même langue, mais de droite à gauche » (Daoud 16) “this story has to be rewritten in the same language, but from right to left”. One must ask from his declaration, what emerges as a possibility when you write from right to left? Such as beginning from recent to ancient instead of chronologically, or telling a story with the knowledge one possesses now, even though it was not known when it was lived. He does not indicate that there is no sense in the story, for the story was already told and that cannot be undone. But it can be redesigned as the assemblage already exists. Instead, one must reconstruct and glean contre the typical formation.

           All of Haroun’s fluctuations develop his own account of the murder of his brother and his life from a point of view in which he returns to the past. Despite his reporting of details and accounts, the novel leaves its audience realizing that the writing alone does not suffice, but it is the start of possibilities which can be gleaned by returning to the preceding novel L’Étranger. Just as those who gathered in the market square to listen to the story of l’enfant and end up extending the telling of it themselves through numerous adaptations, Haroun and those following Meursault, contre-enquête must turn to analyze the narration asking who had depicted his story before, what is their place and where is their positioning arriving from?

“So, I was taking a walk the other day…”

– “BLOOD.”/ “DUCKWORTH.” from DAMN., Lamar [9]

           In the formulations of Haroun’s existential misery, a link with Frantz Fanon L’expérience vécue du Noir can allow for a deciphering on how exactly Haroun’s self-understanding and development unravels in his own ecology and lived experience. Just as our character Haroun problematizes the renditions and knowing one’s own story and language in talking about themselves, Frantz Fanon presents similar theoretical workings for the problem with the knowledge of one’s body in Peau Noire Masques Blancs.  Fanon renders corporeal knowledge as « une activité uniquement négatrice. C’est une connaissance en troisième personne », “an activity that is solely negative. It is a knowledge in third person”. In coming into contact with others, one occupies an « atmosphère d’incertitude certaine » (Fanon 658) “an atmosphere of certain uncertainty”. With these descriptions, one can see a sense of anxiety specifically in the idea that there is not a space in which one belongs but nonetheless a development of recognition from an outsider, an other. With insight into corporeality and its predicaments stemming from race and carnal characteristics the recognition functions as an anxiety-inducing exposure. The space is not certain nor is it controlled and viewed through first person. Without a certain construction of self in a space there is not a lot of control. The limits and the authorized or prohibited zones of being posed here are created by various hegemonic structures such as colonialism, racism, and the confinements of linear time. Continuing to follow these structures without any theoretical reasoning and action against misrepresentation keeps stories like Haroun or Moussa’s and l’enfant’s from flourishing or undulating over time. Instead they would remain shattered, fractured, and unmoving.

           In Fanon’s proposition of anxiety in the limitations of self-certitude, I wish to glean for further opportunity for the becoming subjects within the works of writer and theoretician Jose Muñoz. In his book Cruising Utopia he discusses the considerations of temporality as it pertains to queer theory. He suggests that the present is a prison and that it is the force of hetero-time, as well as other normativities that come along with it, that limits the self to a conscience only of a “here and now” (Muñoz 22). In this prison, all is limited. Muñoz poses that it is “the state refurbishing its ranks through overt and subsidized acts of reproduction” (Muñoz 22). These subsidized acts of reproduction can be found in normative renderings of gender, education, patriarchal societal confines, as well as childhood development. Additionally, this is found in the normative assertion of coming-of-age definitions where maturity, recognition, and respectability are attained—though who awards it? In this program of the present, one cannot glean for the truth or extend oneself far enough to think extensively for the future. Haroun’s mother in looking for the body of her son yells to the world « la mer vous mangera tous! »  (Daoud 54) “the sea will swallow you all!” In this moment her distressing cry comes from within the prison. She is without opportunity to walk outside of the colonial structures that took away other trajectories for her sons’ upbringings. In this scene, she sees that there is nothing but sand remaining to carry on a presence at the space of the crime.

           Frantz Fanon continues his presentation of corporeal knowledge in L’expérience vécue du noir. He paints a scene in the metro which unravels like the mirror stage. Through his exchange at this moment, his alienation is caused by the look of another as it actively changes the understanding that he has of himself. Fanon describes « il [le stimulus exterieur/le schema corporel] ne s’agissait plus d’une connaissance de mon corps en troisieme personne, mais en triple personne » (Fanon 659) “it was no longer a knowledge of my body in the third person, but in triple”. He continues, « …j’existais en triple : j’occupais de la place. J’allais à l’autre…et l’autre évanescent, hostile, main non opaque, transparent, absent, disparaissait. La nausée…j’étais toute la fois responsable de mon corps, responsable de ma race, de mes ancêtres » (659) “I existed in threefold ; I was taking up room. I approached the Other…and the Other, evasive, hostile, but not opaque, transparent and absent, vanished. Nausea…I was responsible not only for my body, but also for my race, and for my ancestors.” This experience shows immense complications in existence and expression for those developing their identities.

           How can someone respond to a written story and language in the context where their existence is already codified in the preoccupations of hierarchy and history? And when it represents more than one’s body, where then, can identity expression manifest? Haroun, when he reads the murder of an unnamed Arab in French admits that his story and his named-brother Moussa’s story and past is also transparent, absent, and disappearing. Confronted with the limited spaces of words and language he sees that they will not be as successful as he imagined. The dissonances become more complex; he is responsible for an image of himself that doesn’t exist singularly but in threefold: of his mother, of his brother, and of language. How is it possible to represent and recuperate more than the self in an always fluctuating location like the beach? Our character describes the difficulty of his disalienation, « j’ai tant de fois souhaité tuer Moussa après sa mort, pour me débarrasser de son cadavre, pour retrouver la tendresse perdue de M’ma, pour récupérer mon corps et mes sens… » (Daoud 57) “I have, often times, wished to kill Moussa after his death …to recuperate my body and my sense”. In saying this, he expresses a desire for control, to recuperate something tangible and gain an immaterial clarity from the material body and flesh. Bakhtin’s chronotope offers a connection to both Fanon and Haroun’s difficulties in grappling with the body in space as he outlines the temporal and spatial relationships of literature. “Time…” he writes, “thickens…takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history” (Bakhtin 84). In the timeframe proposed on Haroun from his brother’s death to the trips to the beach he has gained the weight of his body, as well as the charge of the plot and his story in an alternate way.

           One cannot revoke the gaze or revoke the naming conducted by the rules of language and storytelling when it is portrayed by strong powers of institution and administration. Instead, readers must listen to what Haroun arrives at next, « dans ma tête, la carte du monde est un triangle » (Daoud 64) “in my head, the map of the world is a triangle…”. He names the point place as Bab-el-Oued, where Moussa was born, next is « le balcon de la mer d’Alger, c’est ce lieu sans adresse où le meurtrier n’est jamais venu au monde » (64) “the balcony at the Algiers sea, it’s this place without an address where the murderer never appeared to the world”. And finally, the triangle ends with the beach indicated as the third point. One must turn their gaze towards this orientation as he declares the beach as the most impressionable yet equally banal. « Il y a la plage. La plage, bien sûr ! Elle n’existe plus aujourd’hui ou s’est lentement déplacée ailleurs » (64) “there is the beach. The beach, of course! it no longer exists today or has slowly moved elsewhere”. The cartography of these positions continuously unfurls to Haroun. Deleuze and Guattari paint their own triangle of thought in describing minor literature as the three necessary components emerge as their points. In emphasizing that all in minor literature is political, they portray the ways in which individual transactions and encounters evolve towards larger portions of history. « C’est en ce sens que le triangle familial se connecte aux autres triangles, commerciaux, économiques, bureaucratiques, juridiques, qui en déterminant les valeurs » (Deleuze 30). These orientations, such as Sara Ahmed posits in sexual orientations and positioning writing, loom as commanding placements where all action, such as telling Moussa’s story as well as Haroun’s own, are dependent on the proximity and reach of the body’s horizon (Ahmed 562). But perhaps at Haroun’s third point of the map in his mind, he risks a departure from orientations facing the present, and leans to becoming queer (Ahmed 554). Looking to the littoral space of the beach summons various interactive opportunities and experiences as it functions as a liminal theoretical space and concept. 

           In declaring the place of the crime as “deceptive/disappointing” in the aforementioned citation, Haroun is referring to the characteristics of continual change and inhuman geological temporality. He describes, « la plage a disparu sous les traces de pas ou les constructions de béton ; il n’y a pas eu de témoin sauf un astre—le Soleil » (Daoud 58) “the beach disappeared beneath footprints and construction sites … ; there weren’t any witnesses except one star—the Sun”.  The disappearance derives from the passage of time and the lack of witnesses indicates disinterest or disregard in one story from another leaving Haroun without any testimonies except that which the sun could offer.[10] The audience reading in the prison of the present is left with this realization wondering what else could be possible or even why it is necessary to glean and revisit the beach if there is nothing remaining. With Muñoz’s theorizing, there is hope indicated—perhaps that answers will reveal themselves one grand day under the guise of “le quotidien” but with a charge of transformation (Muñoz 25). The idea of possibilities hidden under such a guise allows for a presentation of the beach as an exclusively queer location for a crime and even more so for gleaning after a crime. Returning to Bauman’s reasoning with climate weirding she too posits a similar idea when she writes “unknowing is not blind mystery but recognition of the ground of relationality in which impossible possibilities emerge along with the becoming of the entire planetary community”.

           Like our subjects in Varda’s documentary who gather seashells and discuss their own testimonies on how much one’s allotted to glean, we can see that the planetary community of which we all reside is an immensely delicate and interpretive terrain. Even more, for Varda’s gleaners, their explanations of an authorization of limits are a discourse of interpretation of the law in face of geological changes and timeframes. Yes—when the waves crash onto the shore again and again there is the potential for them to absorb all that exists on the sand erasing the details and testimonies of the past. But, at the same time, the waves can wash up old and new in the moments that they crash upon the sandy shoreline. Within their chapter on becoming by Deleuze and Guattari they indicate that “waves are vibrations,[11] shifting borderlines are inscribed on the plane of consistency as so many abstractions” (252). And in the sand is the past of the coast—the grains that were once rocks and a space that was once a place of resources, a habitat, and above all—the location of a formative crime.

           It’s in the shock of the waves crashing that a “queer” action reveals itself as certain things can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future as an act of gleaning for tools and moments of quasi-euphoria. The coastal land’s past, as well as other typical events at such an ecology, continue to reinvent themselves in a similar sense; a spiral jetty of becoming-of-age. The contradictions that Roach mentioned in the experience of walking in a space of memory reserves are activated here in the waves crashing upon the sand as Haroun returns to place with rich mnemonic reserves (Roach 26). Haroun describes,

« je me souviens du jour où enfin, nous avons abouti à la mer, ce dernier témoin a interrogé…qu’est-ce que j’ai ressenti ? rien, sauf le vent sur ma peau–…j’ai senti le sel, j’ai vu le gris dense des vagues. C’est tout. La mer c’était comme un mur avec des bordures molles mouvantes » (56)

 “I remember one day finally we arrived at the sea, the last witness to interrogate, what was it that I felt? Nothing, except the wind on my skin–…I sensed the salt, I saw the dense grayness of the waves. That’s all. The sea was like a wall with soft, moving borders”.

In brief, the salt and the wind are typical quotidian elements of the beach. But the quotidian elements remain integral and performative in becoming. Haroun also said that he was facing the immensity of the crime at the horizon. The immensity of the horizon is certain. The opportunity for the light to change at and around the horizon arrives daily as well as the illusion of the terrain to bend and curve towards an enveloping immensity.

           In the quotidian elements of an environment alongside the interpretation of Muñoz lies a terrain of possibilities, “where subjects can act in the present in the service of a new futurity” (Muñoz 16). The beach brings about elements stimulating the senses. And Haroun knows, as a true character becoming in “queerness” in Muñoz’s definition that it doesn’t suffice; pieces are still missing. Yet, the stimulation brought about to the senses by the elements of salty wind can perhaps be maintained by the gleaning subject—an engraining of the ecological setting to tap into for further growth and immaterial evidence of a story and identity. Muñoz speaks of a necessity of a true action in doing things and to refute the definitions and histories that render themselves static. He distinguishes the need of an absolute rejection, “…rejections of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world” (Muñoz 1). In this other world, under the guise of quotidian, there exists a realm of euphoria where the borders are soft and moving, and where one can improve them.

           Like the turning of the spiral and the complete experience evoked through Earthworks, one must prepare to see typical items in the construction of such experimental art. The sand, the water, the salty atmosphere, or a fishy smell are all characteristic of the space of a lake where Spiral Jetty remains, where the gleaners find their treasures of clams and mussels, and where Haroun walks through his life for clarity of his tragedy. But not only is it the materials that turn in the spiral, the experience of walking on its own brings one back to the center of themselves. Here in the formation of a productive return lies possibilities to becomings definition of being representative without simply reproduction and imitation.[12]

           To have patience with temporal formations, to understand necessary manifestations for recuperating the sentiments and the knowledge of self as well as for the future is a complex operation. By guarding the opportunities of a space and a temporality as “queer”, the understanding of our character as well as our reading of a novel and of art, now and in the future, must continue to be in movement for Meursault, contre-enquête to be read as a becoming-of-age. Because despite what one investigates, interrogates or claims, the waves continue to crash and express without a word.


[1]As cited in the introduction, FEAR. consists of Lamar’s narrations of his fears at age 7, 17, and 27 showing that this feeling has not developed linearly but is always existing and enfolding in different experiences and interactions with others. In this quote he cites how judgements form and questions what will come of his story and reputation as it is told, refuted, interpreted, and conflated in time. I find that these lyrics are interesting as we move from a story that worked closely with oral storytelling and journaling to a story that works closely with a pre-written text.

[2] At the site, visitors are asked and encouraged to leave the environment as they found it so as to not disturb it or change the experiences for others still to come but the same advice and warning cannot be given to increasingly changing weather fluctuations nor the changing balances of materials available.

[3] Bauman’s reasoning for naming it climate-weirding is that referring to it as change imposes too much human knowledge and control when in fact, she believes there is a complete lack. The control exists only in what she dubs the “capitaloscene” instead of Anthropocene.

[4] Roach specifies that this is an essay included in the “Spatial Practices” section of de Certeau’s Practices of Everyday Life (1984).

[5] Using the word hero for both Meursault and Haroun is a reference to the fact that Haroun speaks to the audience that he assumes/knows are “fans” of “notre/our” character Meursault since he is in the spotlight in the canon novel.

[6] Haroun tells the audience that the word Arabe is used multiple times Camus’s book by Meursault but Moussa’s name appears zero times in the novel’s entirety. Lia Brozgal pays attention to Haroun’s descriptions of this and isn’t so sure that the ‘naming’ is the largest concern for Daoud in his portrayal of Haroun, but instead that it’s the continual swirl of interrogation of literature: “While the remake has no fixed codes, its conceit typically involves giving a minor (and often, minority) character a backstory and a voice (see, for example, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea), or delocalizing a European story from the center to the periphery and racially recoding its characters (Aime Cesaire’s Une tempete). Yet Daoud’s remake seems to flaunt the conceit: Moussa still has no stable name, no voice, and only the thinnest of backstories.” (Brozgal 41)

[7] As I am translating the quotations myself, instead of referring to the published versions in English, I am keeping the double-play of this word in motion. I find that the beach being both deceptive and disappointing frames the overall sentiment that Haroun actually ends up evoking. In addition to décevant, Haroun refers to the beach as possessing a certain banalité.

[8] Sourcing of this image comes from Border of Lights, https://www.borderoflights.org/edwidge-danticat

[9] Whether the album is played from front to back (the regular studio version) or from back to front (the collector’s edition) the line cited in this epigraph is recited in both the first and last track. The song titled BLOOD. as well as the song titled DUCKWORTH. both represent sections of the journey one partakes in while listening to the story. For me, this opening line of the track evokes the traditions of the flaneur or one who gains their consciousness and philosophy while walking. Placing this walk at both the beginning and end of the album as it deals with many conflicting aspects of the self-evokes the idea of a spiral in continuous-turning motion and movements of becoming. Haroun’s storytelling, as it is nonlinear, utilizes similar tools of this auto-fictive walk.

[10] The complications of the Sun as the only source for testifying evokes ideas in Derrida’s Demeure. How could there be a reproducible aspect of a testimony from nature?

[11] Although Deleuze and Guattari do not render such a literal version of “waves” to indicate a beach, I was unable to deny the imagery this citation gave me. Their waves perhaps operate more within a machinic realm creating vibrations of different planes of existence/consistency. For my analysis, that plane is the beach.

[12] A return to Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of becoming in A Thousand Plateaus but additionally, this idea is aided by Joseph Roach’s concept of the circum-atlantic world and circum-atlantic memory.

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