The Question of Awakening in Postdictatorship Times: Reading Walter Benjamin with Diamela Eltit

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Publication: Discourse
Author: Draper, Susana
Date published: January 1, 2010

How can we approach the title "Benjamin in Latin America" if we take the "in" to be the act of a translation, without implying the acritical fantasy of the imprinting of a conceptual form (in this case the authority of the name "Benjamin") into a somehow amorphous matter that receives it (Latin America)? How can we read the singularity of the proper name in connection with the possibility of a differential repetition, implied every time the name "Benjamin" is reinscribed in various places, fields of study, and historical times? How does the process of differential repetition create the possibility of analyzing multiple reading "acts," in which Benjamin's name becomes a stage for enacting, struggling with, and transforming different reading practices (as well as the traditions embodied within each of them)? We can say that an interest in Benjamin within Latin American studies is emblematic of the transition period from the military dictatorships to neoliberal dominance. Amidst the change in social order, his work provided a critical language that allowed for new perspectives from which to consider both the cultural and the political dimensions of the recent past.

Benjamin has thus become a key figure in recent decades, in the development of both cultural studies and postdictatorship studies, two prominent areas of Latin American studies. To provide a brief cartography of critical gestures demonstrative of Benjamin's relevance, I would like to cite Beatriz Sarlo's "Forgetting Benjamin,"1 Nelly Richard's "Homage to Walter Benjamin,"2 Alberto Moreiras's "Post-dictadura y reforma del pensamiento" (Postdictatorship and the reform of thought)3 and Idelber Avelar's Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning.4 All are critical interventions in which Benjamin became a strategic site for the problematization and/or opening of discursive fields. In this vein, it is important to understand the ways in which certain readings of Benjamin's work became dominant in the decade following the end of the military regime, and to raise a series of questions regarding other acts of reading that did not take place. This requires looking for the traces of what remains truncated, where the dramatization of other ways of reading Benjamin's work would depart from a certain consensus surrounding the dominant practices of reading his works.

Sarlo's "Forgetting Benjamin" reacts to the way in which Benjamin became "fashionable" in cultural studies, more specifically in the study of cities, arguing that his name was transformed into a mold "applied" acritically to the description of cities and their characters as an empty quotation.5 In addition, a problem of the "emptying" of the Benjaminian quotation is that he has been converted into a kind of measure, applied in order to describe a certain state of things (urban life, characters), without engaging the conditions of historicity for the figures in question. This aspect of cultural studies reduces any urban manifestation to the empirical data or to the form of a sociological fact.

Two Benjaminian tropes par excellence - citing and historicity - find a key role in Richard's homage to Benjamin, "Ruptures, Memory, and Discontinuities (Homage to Walter Benjamin)," published a year after Sarlo's call for forgetting. Her homage testifies to Benjamin's relevance in so-called postdictatorship studies and to the development of a postdictatorship cultural critique.6 Richard also references the relevance of the relation between historicity and citation to the Chilean avant-garde group GADA (Art Action Collective, which she nicknamed "Escena de Avanzada"),7 and perceives Benjamin's role in the formation of an artistic resistance to the military dictatorship as a "force for critical intervention."8 Within this context, the Chilean critic refers to the act of citing "Benjamin" as away of listening to the "echoes" of his work, effectively deemphasizing the idea of a proper and/or authorized reading and revealing the potential space for different acts of rereading his work.9

In "Post-dictadura y reforma del pensamiento," a formative article in the creation of a postdictatorship cultural critique, Moreiras connects the possibility of a transformation of critical thought to an insistence on the role of historicity. Inspired by Benjamin, historicity emerges as a perspective from which to engage in a critique of persisting forms of oppression, once camouflaged by the dominant discourses on postdictatorial neoliberal freedom (of/from the market). Moreiras states, "[I] ? its more radical Benjaminian sense, historicity is that which the oppressed try to save and what the oppressors erase."10 In this vein, he emphasizes the difficulty of creating alternative histories. This process would require an avoidance of two things: on the one hand, the trap of falling into a melancholic gaze that, finding no political alternatives, would end up "embracing misery" as the "only possible horizon"; and, on the other, the historicist attempt to reconstruct a strong epic of the Left that would transform the finite past into an atemporal, idealized figure.11 In this sense, the configuration of the task of a postdictatorial critical project used Benjamin's problematization of the writing of history both as its source of inspiration and as a promise for the creation of a different perspective from which to consider the relation between marginal languages and temporalities. The Benjaminian inspiration was, however, progressively reduced to a somehow exclusive focus on the figures of mourning and melancholy, which became a theoretical stereotype in any study of postdictatorship thought. In an attempt to avoid falling into either a historicist or a positivist account of the past, the possibility of articulating a sense of historicity connected to the history of oppressed struggles was reduced to the expression of a failure; that is, of an impossibility of engaging alternative ways of citing a historical past that could connect with current forms of oppression.

This occurs with the paradigmatic reading of Benjamin's allegory in Avelar's Untimely Present, the book that soon became, and still remains, a mandatory reference in the study of postdictatorial art and literature. Avelar proposes to follow Benjamin's study of allegory in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928), in order to analyze what he calls "mournful literature," a literature that in trying to "overcome the trauma" of the dictatorship, "remind [s] the present that it is the product of a past catastrophe."12 Presenting a thorough cartography of key literary texts, Avelar proposes to read mournful literature as a place that "can trigger the untimely eruption of the past."13 However - and here is where I encounter a problem - the author limits the study of the allegorical to what he calls the textual expression of a "truth of the defeat," a key idea, used as title in the Spanish translation of the book Alegorías de la derrota.14 To delimit the notion of the "defeat" that permeates his allegorical instance of reading, Avelar poses an opposition between what he calls a "factual truth" and a "truth of the defeat."15 The former works as a critique of testimonial narratives valued by Avelar only for their "factual truth," whereas the latter works as a key for "mournful literature" as allegorical configurations of the defeat. He states, "The factual truth, however, is not yet the truth of the defeat. The truth of the defeat cannot emerge in a language that still has not incorporated the experience of defeat and thought it through."16 The opposition between a "factual" truth that is "not yet" the allegorical "truth" (interpreted inevitably as the "truth of the defeat") on which the use of Benjamin depends assumes a certain teleological form of development, on which testimony shows a "delay" with respect to the more critical, self-reflective, textual form of mournful literature. Although Avelar's analysis cannot be reduced solely to this point, it limits the Benjaminian reflection on historicity to an opposition between the "factual" and the "allegorical," or the historical and historicity, treated as two uncontaminated poles; it thus runs the risk of establishing an opposition that the allegorical in Benjamin already tried to question.

Therefore, it is important to revise how the reduction of allegorical readings of the melancholic gaze produced an idea of historicity that, limited to the idea of a truth of the defeat, blocked other possible forms of configuring historicity (e.g., another style of thinking of past struggles). Avoiding a fall into the pure empiricism, the figure of historicity thus became limited to expression of its own loss. Here, I do not intend to argue against the relevance of mourning and melancholy to the analysis of postdictatorship literature. What I question is instead the reduction of the expression of a loss of historicity to the idea of a "truth of the defeat"; the very notion of "defeat" and the narrativization that it assumes requires further analysis.17

The problem that arises from this way of dividing the postdictatorship textual realm is that it creates an opposition between, on the one hand, a pure evocation of historicity (as the selfreferential gesture of mournful literature, reflecting on its own inability to imagine a space outside of its own loss); and, on the other, the possibility of a nonreflective instance of the purely historical, empirical realm, which the idea of "fact" evokes. Within and beyond this opposition, however, there remains a question: if there is a consolidated "Benjamin" employed in the decade that followed the end of the military regime, is it possible to look for that which did not take place within the very practice of reading Benjamin? My reading will try to answer this question by engaging the themes of citation, historicity, and awakening to facilitate a discussion of important elements that have remained marginalized in previous analyses of Benjamin's work. I attempt, specifically, to ascend the striking disjunction between the emphasis on pure historicity and the emphasis on historical-empirical analysis, posed as a key issue in the configuration of a postdictatorship critical thought. Instead of synthesizing this opposition, I propose an alternative way of reading based on two other textual events. I refer to Pablo Oyarzún's 1996 translation of Benjamin's "Convolut N"18 of The Arcades Project and Diamela Eltit's 2002 publication of the novel Mano de obra (referred to hereafter as MDO).19 Although both texts deal with the aforementioned essential issues, they suggest a different way of citing Benjamin that allows us to engage (maybe beyond a purely Benjaminian realm) in a rethinking of postdictatorship studies.

Citability and Historicability: Reading Benjamin Otherwise

In what follows, I analyze MDO as the dramatization of a different, possibly more irreverent, reading of the Benjaminian tropes of citability, historicity, and awakening. By analyzing Benjamin's idea that "writing history" means "to cite history," I highlight the relevance of emphasizing the coimplication between historicity and historical that the aforementioned opposition leaves unproblematized.^This allows for other ways of connecting with the impulse of postdictatorship critique, as an attempt to rethink the connection between historicity and different forms of rewriting past emancipatory struggles in complex and critical ways. Eltit dramatizes this through an intriguing use of quotations, which relates to a way of rereading the role of history's citability. In MDO, the act of citing a history of past struggles forges the problem of an "awakening" of the workers, which points toward the necessity of connecting past and present forms of oppression inspired by Benjamin. Eltit's novel can thus be read as a constellation of Benjaminian tropes (the writing of history as citation and awakening) essential to postdictatorship thought. We can use these tropes to dramatize the necessity of rethinking the connections among writing, literature, and politics, where the relation between historicity and the historical is more complex and therefore more intriguing. In short, I propose an alternative way of reinscribing the Benjaminian promise of historicity that, trying to avoid the opposition of historicity and the historical, would allow for other ways to think of the citability of truncated forms of past emancipatory struggles within the realm of literature.

Analyzing the way in which MDO dramatizes this problem in connection with the possibilities of imagining other ways of writing political histories from within the space of literature, I will approach the novel as staging a passage from the realm of "pure historicity" to what I call "historicability."21 This is inspired by Samuel Weber's reading of Benjamin's use of different "abilities" in notions like "translatability," "citability," and "recognizability."22 Weber points out that this ending (-abilities [-barkeiten]), emphasizes the iterability implied in any act of marking (here, connected to its citability). His reading of Benjamin's "abilities" relies on Derrida's treatment of iterability as a singular mode of thinking about a possibility that, pertaining to the structure of the mark, does not fit into the traditional categorical oppositions between the potential and the actual, the transcendental and the empirical, etc. Iterability is exemplified by Derrida as the citability of any mark (its "possibility" of being cited) in terms of a differential repetition that makes us reflect on the double movement of breaking and opening that the act of citation implies.

In what follows, I am interested in emphasizing the way in which the differential repetition implied in the form of quotation can engage a problematization of the Benjaminian historicity that would avoid the trap of the opposition between the "factual" and the "transcendental," in order to emphasize the impure contamination (complication) that the act of citing has for the revision and writing of erased political past(s). Citing then becomes an instance of reflection about the double movement that iterability implies in the de- and recontextualization of the text, as well as on the restance (the nonpresent remainder) that makes a structural opening of reading possible. Within this context, I propose the idea of a historicability in which the disjunction between historicity and the historical appears as both irreducible and coimplicated. An iterability marking "historicity" allows us neither to reduce the promise of historicity to the expression and exhibition of its own impossibility nor to transform it into a transcendental form. Historicity and historicability would differ from each other, as the latter implies the inscription of historicity within the historical, thus emphasizing an impurity that allows us to avoid the trap of making the figure of historicity a transcendental form. Therefore, historicability creates a space for reengaging the paradox between singularity and repetition that the idea of writing history as a form of "citing" implies.

The Question of Awakening in Postdictatorship Chile

In 1996, at the moment of Sarlo's call for "forgetting" and Richard's "homage," the Chilean publisher Arcis-Lom produced the first Spanish translation of parts of the "Convolut N" of The Arcades Project. This text (titled La Dialéctica en suspenso) is composed of an introductory essay by Chilean critic Pablo Oyarzún, some previously translated texts, and a section of the Convolut N.23 As Miguel Valderrama states, this translation has generated a series of ongoing debates in different fields (e.g., visual arts and cultural critique).24 Oyarzún proposes a critique of how the relation to the past is established within the context of the "end of history," defined as "a general tonality that permeates the discourses in which there is an attempt to measure the relation of our present with history itself. ... It does not signify, obviously, that nothing else can happen. It means that all that can happen could be administered, and, moreover (and this is the administrative postulate par excellence), that it is administrable beforehand."25 Oyarzún bases this fantasy of the end - what I would call the "administrative utopia" - on an equalization that he defines as the attempt to measure the present (the realm of the actual) with history itself. This measure requires active practices of homogenization that transform the past, as a whole, into a storage space where objects are placed as commodities stacked in the supermarket, or on a stage where the good deeds of the past are replayed repeatedly. Both tendencies rely on the same way of approaching the past; however, there is something else, which Oyarzún unearths when he emphasizes the role of that which is beyond (and I would add, within) this unit of measure. This is a "pasado trunco," a truncated past that refers to "that which muid not be in its present," the past of a possibility that did not occur.26 Pasado trunco, arousing the promise of that which could not take place, links us to historicity - understood by Moreiras as that which the oppressed try to save.

In this sense, Oyarzún's introduction to the dialectical image emphasizes "the liminal experience of awakening." He seems to suggest the necessity of engaging the possibility of "awakening" from the dream of the "end of history" - a dream about a particular idea of postdictatorship time. He approaches this in terms of a conception of the past as composed of competing forces, which the "strong force" wants to "bring" to "presence" - to connect it to the present in a legitimizing actofwiUin order to recognize itself within it: "To the extent that it brings the past to presence in this way, the 'strong force' is a present force" that expresses "an operation ... of domination." Oyarzún thus opposes the "weak force" that "offer (s) resistance to the 'strong force', the one that dominates (in) the present . . . from an affirmation of the past as past," again referencing the pasado trunco, that is, the past as it never was.27

Linked to this idea, I approach MDO as an attempt to configure the question of an awakening from the dream of the end of history as a dream about certain ways of dealing with the experience of historicity after the end of the dictatorship. The novel dramatizes the "liminal experience of awakening" by staging ways in which one can "write" (cite) a history of truncated emancipatory projects. This arouses the problem that Moreiras identified a decade prior to the publication of this novel, regarding the possibility of avoiding the trap of either the melancholic gaze or the festive celebration of the neoliberal market. Immersing the narrative within the Benjaminian tropes of citability and awakening, Eltit raises questions regarding how to write a history of postdictatorial society that could connect forms of oppression in the present to a longer history already erased from within the prose of the histories of Right and Left.

She poses this question of how to approach an awakening from the end of history (as an attempt to erase the promises of truncated pasts), from the realm of measurability of time par excellence: the supermarket. The novel thus engages the question of how to think about a constellation of awakening, which the author uses as the title of the first half of the novel ("The Awakening of the Workers"), without reproducing the temporal language of the end of history discussed by Oyarzún in the prologue of his translation. The use of "The Awakening of the Workers," both a quote and a title as I will explain later, engages the quandary of how to write a history of past struggles without falling either into an idealization of the past or into a dramatization of the impossibility of narrating it. It also insists on a certain re-creation of the ways in which citation can occur in a literary milieu whose "plot" and project is the neoliberal system left by pinochetismo. In the words of Eltit, "Nowadays, the real official Chilean narrative is the neoliberal project."28 This statement closely connects to the reorientation of her literary work, which I read as a literary response both to the euphoria of the politics of memory (museification of the Left's past as an idealized program) and to the total naturalization of a neoliberal market founded on the persistent work of destruction and massacre.29 Therefore, this "turn" in Eltit's work connects to a concern with rethinking and creating a space for the "literary writing" of a political history of the Left, with the Benjaminian spirit of writing history as "citing" at its core.

Eltit expanded on this issue in a talk called "Las dos caras de la moneda" (The two sides of the coin)30 (given while she was writing this novel), in which she posed a series of questions regarding language and history:

I ask myself: what would be the way in which we could refer to Chilean political history . . . when one does not come from the social sciences or politics or a specific discipline that examines sociopolitical events in detail, I think that, from within my literary place, it is perhaps in the word "golpe" (coup) that a key to approach the history marked by the events of September 11, 1973, in Chile could lie.31

The writer here poses a question of how literature (as a place [mi lugar literario]) can become the site for thought about historical imagination in an era defined as post-historical (whitewashing) while concurrently obsessed with the forms of the individual memoir and the testimonial (museification, memory boom). This question leads me to search for the ways in which the dramatization of concern, regarding how to cite certain fragments of twentiethcentury political history, embedded itself in the realm of literature. More specifically, I am interested in how it embedded itself within MDO, as interruption is problematized in citing and reposited through the coimplication of historicity and the historical.

In MDO, the narration of the history of the Left occurs through a double gesture: quotation and awakening, both connected to the word golpe (coup), at once absent within the text and contaminating the whole history. Two references are essential here: One is the way in which the writer finds the bombardment of the Palacio de la Moneda that inaugurated the Coup discursively legitimated by the military as "the extirpable part of a Marxist cancer."32 The other, the "hole" that the golpe generated in the presidential palace, becomes a nodal point that overdetermines any preceding historicization of the political history. Eltit states that the twentieth century in Chile "will remain prisoner in a narration that will be totally contaminated by the Coup of 1973. The Coup will be the visible event around which the century will be labyrinthically configured, a circular ordering that will allow us to see, with a certain clarity, the programmatic escalade of different types of violence that have taken place within the last hundred years."33 It is interesting to note that her description of the Coup's effects (imprisonment) on the whole narration of the twentieth century is also how MDO is spatially organized as a text (explained in further detail later in this essay).

In a way, the novel can be read as the answer to the question of "how to write" the political history of twentieth-century Chile from a literary view, connected to the Benjaminian idea of writing history as citing.34 The "answer" is dramatized in the novel through the opening of different levels, a series of spaces that connect the citability of history, the problem of style, the creation of another calendar, and the enigma of what Benjamin called "a constellation of awakening." In MDO, "awakening" engages us in a dual task, as it points both to a theoretical problem and to a form of quotation of a constellation of events related to a working-class historicization. It is here that I will suggest a different way of reading the exclusive disjunction between historicity and the historical that has permeated the readings of Benjamin in postdictatorship critique, and explore the possibility of another reading of Eltit's novel. I propose to seek the moments in which the novel dramatizes other possible ways of reading, and thus examining the way the novel configures a sense of historicability. This indirectly addresses the problem posed by Benjamin, in his Thesis XVI, with regard to the figure of the imagination of alternative calendars, which examine and reconfigure other zones of historical struggles according to the forms of recognizability posed by the "alerts" of a "now."

Titling and Citability

The novel is divided into two sections: the first is set in a supermarket, and the second in a house shared by a group of workers. Each half of the novel has an overarching title that divides the text in two: "El despertar de los trabajadores (Iquique, 1911)" ("The Awakening of the Workers") and "Puro Chile (Santiago, 1970)" ("Pure Chile"). I will focus on the first half of the novel, which concerns the narrator's work in a large supermarket, each subsection establishing an enigmatic relation between the title of a radical publication (with a specific place and date) and a precise experience of the worker in the exhausting routines of supermarket labor. Each chapter of "El despertar de los trabajadores" is thus split into subsections by the use of titles and dates culled from socialist, anarchist, and other radical newspapers/pamphlets from the first decades of the twentieth century. These assume a dual function as both subtitles and quotations, on the one hand, and dates and places, on the other, and can be read as pointing toward the possibility of building an alternative calendar marked by a history of struggles previously erased from the temporality of both the world of the neoliberal hypermarket and the dictatorship that made this world possible.

The first part of the novel transcribes the narrator's thoughts as he goes mad from the total exhaustion of his body through unceasing work. As the novel progresses, the worker falls deeper and deeper into his peculiar combination of madness and work until, in the last subsection, he begins to work twenty-four hours a day. His corporal exhaustion produces a delirium that disorganizes the connection among the different series that compose the text (body, time, space) and augments the ambivalence of the title of the section - the very idea of an "awakening" of the workers. Hence, the contrast between the progressive deterioration of the worker (who resembles a slave obliged to spend day and night in the workplace) and the title encourages the reader to try to imagine how an experience of "awakening" within the present of the supermarket could take place. The titles thus pose a question for the reader concerning how temporality is connected to problems of style, quotation, and readability. The textual terms of this dilemma are expressed in the way in which the past has here become "quotable." It is not immediately evident to the reader, however, how to understand these quotes.

The novel estranges the immediate sense of "citation," posing a question regarding the very act of reading and interpretation. That is, the act of citation that organizes this section can also be read as configuring a question that points to a force of imagination implied in the acts of remembrance, writing, and reading: how can one "cite" (write, remember) a past that has always been left out of the space of the dominant prose of (State) history? The quotes dramatize a dual instance, on the one hand, pointing to the constitutive outside of history and, on the other, forcing readers to face their lack of knowledge regarding these parts of history (marked in the text by the use of specific dates and places but otherwise unknown). According to Derrida, titles follow the structure of naming, enacting a violent and singular use of language that generates a topological separation (an interstice) between the space of the title and the text that follows.35 Working like a promise, the connection between the title and the entitled can be established by an act of reading not only along, but across, the border of both. However, how do the titles/quotes/dates connect with that which is en-titled? In other words, how can the interstice that separates titles and what is en-titled be crossed in an act of reading in which the question of an "awakening" connected to a history of the Left seems to lie? How does this "crossing" modify one's idea of an "awakening" of the workers when what one has before one's eyes is a schizoid monologue that narrates the fast deterioration of "one" worker?

The Awakening of the Workers: Reading the Title

The title of the first half of the novel, "El despertar de los trabajadores" ("The Awakening of the Workers") is followed by a parenthesis around a place and date: "Iquique, 1911." I propose to read this title, place, and date that organize the supermarket section as signaling to a constellation of multiple historic events. These include the founding of the most important newspaper in the creation of a working class, titled El despertar de los trabajadores (1912); the massacre of nitrate workers that preceded it (1907); and the foundation of the "Partido Obrero Socialista" (1912), which became the "Partido Comunista de Chile" a decade later. The newspaper El despertar began as a form of response to the Iquique massacre, which occurred when a large group of saltpeter miners gathered with their families in the school of Santa Maria de Iquique to organize a protest against the unlivable conditions of work in the mines. The workers (some having migrated from Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina with the hope of improved living conditions) spent all day in the mines, for which they received a voucher (ficha) instead of money, redeemable only at the company store. Iquique was the epicenter of the organizing effort; it was there that the miners met and proposed the terms for the amelioration of working conditions, asking for better safety measures in the mines, better pay, payment in money instead of vouchers, and the right to education and health care. The foreign and Chilean investors who owned the nitrate fields refused to recognize the miners' union, which started a general strike. The Chilean government declared a state of siege (so as to protect capital) in Iquique. The workers responded by taking over a public school, the Escuela Santa Maria de Iquique-refusing to leave until their demands were recognized.

At this point, the Ministry of the Interior "solved" the problem by ordering the massacre of the workers occupying the school as a "medida preventiva" (preemptive action).36 The legal state of siege became an actual siege when the military, stationed in the public square in front of the school, commenced machine gun fire (perhaps even using the gunpowder made with the nitrate extracted by the massacred miners) . That evening, the local governor issued a press release, clamping down on the printing and selling of any periodical or newspaper. Between two and three thousand miners and their family members were killed, while many others remained unaccounted for.37 Prior to the military coup of 1973, this was considered one of Chile's largest massacres of union members. As Isabel Jara states, although the massacre was one of the most emblematic repressive incidents in the country's working-class history, it had no place within the public and official memory. This incident was never mentioned in school textbooks, nor in official historiography, but mentioned only in the working-class press and in the oral history and canto popular of some leftist groups.38

After the massacre, the founding oí El despertarbecame a link between the massacre and the formation of the Workers Socialist Party.39 José Emilio Recabarren, known as the father of the leftist press and of the Chilean working-class movement, envisaged the publication as a means for "education";40 that is, a means by which the workers began forging an actual space of counterculture instead of just reacting against exploitation. The project embodied Recabarren's ideas concerning the key role that an alternative press could play in the creation of a working-class "consciousness," which implied the necessity of considering a leftist project that would not be reduced (as it was until that moment) to the mere act of going on strike. El despertar thus became a means to stage the making of a proletarian culture (and not just a group of protesters).41 We can see that the publication transformed the site of the massacre (the space of the school) into a project, which became the site for the construction of a potential proletarian culture.42

It is relevant to note that Eltit complicates the reference to the massacre by openly connecting it to the title El despertar. This suggests a different sense of protest, which emerged after the general strike of workers at Iquique, and is regarded by the scarce bibliography on working-class history as an attempt to connect modes of protesting with a complex process of thinking about the creation of a worker organization. The founding of El despertar is generally referenced in regard to other issues, the most relevant the discussions of measures of protest - specifically, the strike - and the organization of the Party as the space for the creation of an alternative political and cultural project. In this sense, El despertar implied a critique of the Sorelian visions dominant in the organization of workers, which not only led to the strike but forged a broader movement toward a more Leninist line.43 Instead of just recalling the massacre, which was the end point of the workers' general strike, the act of titling the first section of the novel with the constellation of El despertar suggests a reading that replaces the political action, reduced to a reaction, with a more complex and irreducible process of imagining a political building. In this suggested, alternative cultural and educational process, the political organization of the workers (the creation of a working "class") depended on the possible development of a formative instance.44 The title thereby works as a peculiar form of "gathering" of a process that was also multiple, complex, and chaotic. This is shown by the different subtitles that reference publications not subsumed into the voice of the Communist Party (that is, publication by anarchists, socialists, etc.) and that are composing the section under the form of an irreducible multiplicity subsumed in the title El despertar de los trabajadores.45 The secondary bibliography of MDO does not mention anything regarding the relevance of this constellation (of awakening) within the structure of the novel; however, it is implied by both the title of the first section and the key role that the publication played in Chilean working-class history.

The punctuation of the text with the aftermath of the biggest massacre of workers in twentieth-century Chile before the Coup of 1975 connects to the problem of awakening in the present of the supermarket, a reference to the aftermath of the dictatorship. Through this, another dramatization takes place: one that speaks of a duality regarding a critical writing about the formation of a working-class "consciousness," never "transparent" or "unified," but still a space in which exploited workers gathered in their multiplicity and complexity. In a way, bringing the present into the schizoid monologue of the supermarket worker facilitates another way of critically approaching the history of that "consciousness." It can be read in the interplay between the polyphony that the different titles unveil in their disagreement (the different political lines that the titles suggest: the socialists, anarchists, communists) and the role of the title in performing a certain form of gathering (replicated, as an enigma, by the schizoid monologue of a single supermarket worker at the end of the twentieth century). This makes the reading of the novel an act of thinking of ways in which to recreate other zones of the past that have been erased from the printed world of the dominant historiography. In this sense, the subtitles trigger questions regarding how little one knows of these histories, thus forcing readers to imagine ways to connect erased and lost past(s) with a present in which the "awakening" becomes enigmatic. The novel thereby links the problematization of the writing of history to the act of reading these quotes: the historicity of past struggles posed in relation to an act of imagination that reconfigures historical events of the present.

The figure of the awakening acts as an alert that we, as readers, have to make legible within the time and space of MDCFs writing, and the events that take place in relation to the cheap labor force that characterizes the novel, placing us within the postdictatorship site par excellence: el super.46 We may ask ourselves how this "awakening" is connected to that which it supposedly entitles - that is, the process of the supermarket worker's deterioration. From this position the whole series develops, and we could easily find that a juxtaposition occurs when we see el super, the neoliberal site par excellence, becoming a utopia of absolute exploitation. Through the play on deterioration of the worker's body, Eltit forces us to see, as in a succession of flashes, the ways in which the paradise of the so-called Chilean miracle is a nightmare that we have before us in the text.47 The question that remains is how we can read (make legible), in the space of the monologue, the connection between the temporal series and the events (the beginning and the end of the century, both marked by a massacre of workers), which implies a connection between the past (enacted by the "titles" that refer to the space of the printed word) and the present (enacted by the progressive destruction of the life of one supermarket worker). In a sense, the titles act in two ways, referring both to singular dated events (marked by the use of precise places and names) and to the structure of a promise (implied by the relation that a title poses to what is to be entitled). This demonstrates the problem of titling versus en-titling.

Retener: Temporality in the Supermarket

The space of the titles contrasts with the corpus of the text, which dramatizes the worker's sense of impossibility in relation to both recalling names and registering time, enacted by Eltit through the "whitened" space of the supermarket where everything is clean and deodorized. The counterpoint between titles and the entitled stages a questioning of the citability of the past that is replicated within the space of the monologue in the form of a reflection on different ideas regarding remembrance and time-marking. The contrast between past and present relates to the tension posed between the subtitles (names/dated events) and the material reproduction of the life of the supermarket worker, who resembles an encadenado (prisoner or slave). At the same time, the literary configuration of the supermarket resembles the form of a prison, something that is emphasized by the regime of surveillance and supervision installed throughout the place. The question is, how does the spatial structure of the super configured as prison (and of the worker as prisoner) become translated into a problematization of the experience of temporality? This exposes two different issues that I will now explore: one is the dramatization of the form that temporality acquires within the space of the supermarket (configured as an open prison); the other is the relation that the spatial configuration establishes regarding the problem of the awakening - something that Benjamin poses in a peculiar connection between spatial structures (awakening from what is closest to us) and temporal experience (awakening as a Copernican turn in the technique of remembrance).

By playing with the figure of the imprisonment within the monologue of the worker, Eltit replicates the idea that she posed when stating that the political history of the twentieth century "would remain imprisoned" in modes of narration forged in the aftermath of the 1973 coup.48 Enslaved in the world of the free neoliberal market and trapped within calculated forms of remembrance, Eltit dramatizes the problem of awakening in the form of a monologue in which temporality emerges as both an obsession and an illness for the worker. This creates a counterpoint between the impossibility of the worker to remember things, as he spends more and more time in the supermarket, and the idea of a possible calendar of past struggles (suggested by the titles). In the meditations about time that recur in the monologue, as he confesses to being "obsessed" with time, an interesting series of ideas of temporality emerges, which pose a counterpoint between different ways of marking time in the supermarket.

As the worker spends both his days and nights at work, his organs cease to function to the extent that the narrator's discourse itself enters a form of delirium, punctuated by flashes of panic associated with a temporal illness. This unveils what I consider to be the key issue in this text: the problem of marking, registering, and recalling connected to both the issue of citing the past and the notion of awakening. In the section entitled "Acción directa (Santiago, 1920)," the narrator explicates his illness many times: "I am possessed, I affirm it, from head to toe, by a symptom that is entirely laboral, a temporal illness, that has not yet been included in the medical annals. Although I touch the products, I cannot recall the order and place that they should occupy on each shelf. I am a victim of a disease which, even though not strictly organic, compromises each of my organs."49 The correlate of the spatiotemporal disorder expressed as a "laboral symptom" (the failure to coordinate sight and touch - the seeing and touching of the products) is a fault of language. The beginning of the chapter exposes this in detail, as the narrator posits a relationship between his temporal illness and the emptying of a certain language that connects different temporalities (time of work, time of the body, time of the commodity); his disease corresponds with his problems in recalling and recollecting, locating, naming and reading, as follows:

From an incommensurable distance of myself, I order the apples. The geometrical contours in which metals acquire their incisive destiny, are already de-drawing themselves. I am infected, I am traversed by weakness. This huge drowsiness keeps me exhausted and vanquished before the impenetrable linearity of the shelves. . . . Although I stare, attentively at . . . the commodities, I cannot retain [retenerlas] them nor recollect them [recuperate them] so as to annex them within the professional memory that I need to exercise with the products. Now, at this precise and disgraceful instant, I do not know for sure what they are, what name they have, and what site has been assigned to them in the supermarket. . . . Amidst fragments of uncertain images and delivered into an absolute chaos, I think, as I already said, about the legibility of the products. In an instant, they all crowd my mind, but, immediately, they all fall downhill, slipping and falling from the abyss of my disabled internal eye.50

It is interesting that the word used by Eltit to describe the worker's "laboral symptom" as a "temporal illness" is retener (to retain), something that one can connect directly to the problems that the two spaces pose to the readers (the past in the form of titles and the present in the form of the supermarket). The word retener exposes different possible meanings that relate to forms of thinking about the act of remembrance. On the one hand, to retain can be understood as an idea of remembering, which follows the fantasy of a metaphysics of presence - that is, of bringing the past forward as a present that was and that can be recuperated as such. This is the idea that Oyarzún associates with the strong force of the neoliberal dominant discourse of history, with the past treated as a form of presence that can be managed. On the other hand, retener, in Spanish, has a second meaning, defined as the act of temporary detention/imprisonment by the police.

After mentioning his inability to recall names and dates, the worker associates retention with the past, in which he used to spend hours memorizing the supermarket catalogue. This retrospective fantasy of an act of remembrance, like a catalog in which commodities were "legible" and "locatable" in his mental mapping of the supermarket, can also be understood as a (metaliterary) questioning of the way in which one can read the names and dates in the titles. That is, on the one hand, retention as relating to the fantasy the exploited supermarket worker builds, as he becomes less able to recall even the things closest to him, about the "good old days" in which he was a perfect clog in the machine, faithfully memorizing supermarket catalogs. On the other hand, the use of "retener" can be read in tandem with the series of titles, placing before us the problem of transforming the past of the Left into a catalog of "deeds" (fetishizing the history of working-class struggles as if it were a unified and homogeneous consciousness).

In both cases, the word retention makes us think of the historicist dream of remembering as cataloging (objects, deeds) through a process of adding up names and places - what Benjamin criticizes as the historicist attempt of recognizing the past "the way it was."51 By engaging the problem of how to relate remembrance to dates and names, the text can be read in a dual fashion, which replicates the problematization of temporality in the present of the supermarket and the ways of connecting it with a past of working-class struggles. Here, "retention" disregards how every act of remembrance is mediated by recreation through language. However, another line of possible reading also emerges from within this problematization of retention and loss that appears, in flashes, when the worker confesses that he only feels able to retain his own misery. This transports the problem of exploitation and expropriation to the stage of remembrance, thus forging another connection with the titles.

Pages later, after repeating that he is sick and in need of medical attention (although he does not have health care), the worker expresses a desire that synthesizes the overarching problem of labor: "In fact, I am very exhausted (to say it, to say it and to repeat it'm order to deepen to paroxysm the echo of my tiredness). My desire (my last desire) is to fall down in the middle of an irreverent racket so as to drag an endless row of shelves with me and make the commodities be the ones that bury me. But it is an absurd dream . . ."52 This death wish to be buried by the commodity system that he protects reveals another duality: on one side, the desire to die (to fall into an abyss that would end his misery) and, on the other, a certain imperceptible act in which this end (a "fall") becomes ambiguous.

The idea is emphasized in a previous chapter, titled "The Proletarian" ("El proletario [Tocopilla, 1904])," where we read, "More hours. . . . Hours are a (dead) weight [peso muerto] in my wrist, and I don't bother to confess that time plays in a perverse way with me because it does not really inscribe itself in anyplace [parte] of my being. It is only stored in the supermarket, it takes place in the supermarket."0* In this passage, the worker's inability to register time refers to a temporality as something stored, another commodity characterized by duality, in connection with money, as the hours are both a peso muerto, which means a peso as currency peso chileno), and peso muerto, a dead weight, a corpse. This numbness to the experience of time becomes an increasingly heightened inability to synthesize the unit of measure that organizes the temporality of his life in the market, reaching a climax at the end of the "Awakening" section. Here, the problems of time, money, and labor are transmitted through a polyvocal series that emphasizes a history of capital accumulation in terms of the history of forms of robbery and massacring of bodies. This emerges when the worker is asked (forced) to work twenty-four hours nonstop without overtime. It is the end of the year, which means the supermarket features an end-of-year sale. At this moment, he says,

The new year is coming. I count the minutes with my fingers. . . . The guards, fully armed, enter into the supermarket and withdraw the large amounts of money, and move themselves towards the armored vehicle carrying out a beautiful war operation. The arms, the stature, the decided gesture, and the loot in the big sacks of money. The year withdraws full of signs. Prosperous year, and me, here I am, standing in the supermarket, guarding the strict circulation of money.54

This quote unites the various series of polyvocal signs that have traversed the narrative and evokes thought of many different situations in the reader: war zone, scene of crime, circulation of money. The moment in which the worker perceives all of these different layers of space by means of specific situations (war scene, robbery, prison) coincides with spending twenty-four hours on the job; that is, his being "retained" in the sense of a prisoner (retenido) and with the act of witnessing the withdrawal of the money, which can be also read as the withdrawal of his expropriated time, finally materialized in this volatile moment. As already noted, this final image of the supermarket section evokes many different situations in the mind of the reader (war zone, scene of crime, circulation of money) that, while relating to the present of the marketplace (through the continuous series of massacred bodies but accommodating different forms of killing), connect through a dissonant description with the series of past. The last words are symptomatic: 'The bells ring, and an impressive beam of fireworks is unleashed. Twenty four hours. Twenty four (hours). Who cares about the imminence of the dismissal. There is a need to put an end [hay que poner fin] to this chapter."55 The dismissal closes the chapter: but what chapter? The ambiguity left open by "end" and "chapter" by the novel at once suggests the relevance of the textual space, as the whole temporality (the readability of history) relates to the practice of reading and writing in which the problem of "awakening" is configured typographically.

Having the idea of withdrawal (of the gains) and expropriation (of the laborer's life-time) at its heart, this last image can be connected to an ambivalent play with the idea of "robbery" as being crucial in Benjamin's definition of citation in One-Way Street: "Quotations in my work are like wayside robbers who leap out, armed, and relieve the idle stroller of his condition."56 Following this idea, the last scene can be read as another form of assault, this time of the titles, as voices from the past (titles) that resonate in this last image as the sound of an alarm clock that makes the present appear, finally, as the nightmare to which the "awakening" refers. The figure of the robbery that engages the Benjaminian definition of citation allows me to explore another reading hypothesis, connected to the way in which Benjamin defines awakening as a "Copernican turn" in "remembrance" and historical perception: "Formerly it was thought that a fixed point had been found in 'what has been,' and one saw the present engaged in tentatively concentrating the forces of knowledge on this ground. Now this relation is to be overturned, and what has been is to become the dialectical reversal - the flash of awakened consciousness. Politics attain primacy over history."57

Here, the analysis of the architecture of the textual space can again be of help once we consider the role of another quote, which appears in the beginning of the text: the epigraph, a quotation from Sandra Cornejo, is inserted in the space between the title of the novel Mano de obra and the title of the supermarket section, "The Awakening of the Workers." This reads, "Sometimes, for an instant, history should feel compassion and alert us."58 Can we read this quotation as a hint to the problematization of awakening, in terms of how to think of the arrival of these spectral voices of/ from the past (as part of Eltit's re-creation of a certain calendar made of the remnants of that which was always left outside the prose of History)? The figure of how to connect awakening with this possible arrival evokes a dual meaning of the word robbery. It points toward the expropriation of historicity mentioned at the beginning of the text (that which the dates-places try to re-create as a necessary rethinking of emancipatory struggles in critical ways), as well as toward the figure of the quotation itself as it emerges in Benjamin. This second meaning evokes the form robbing, which interrupts the narration to create a singular form of fissure within the monologue - one that the "peso" muerto suggested as a continued double expropriation (of money and time). Hence, the scene of the robbery that emerges as the "end" of the chapter becomes ambiguous in a rich sense that allows the reader to see a zone of indistinction between the neoliberal paradise (the "miracle" of postdictatorial Chile) and the form of an open-air prison where the worker is retained, like a slave, twenty-four hours. It therefore transports us back to the connection between the constellation of awakening and the question of how to read the quotations (the different pasts and presents).

If the titles can become a signal and work as a sort of enigmatic instant of an "awakening" in the past that comes, textually and figuratively, to interrupt the thoughts of one worker in the present, then the act of reading becomes a form of crossing past(s) and present (s) of expropriation. That is, it brings the involuntary arrival of the past that can be read as the flash of a peculiar, "awakened" figure that the titles imply gathered under the overarching title, The Awakening of the Workers. No analysis of the figure of "awakening" appears in the secondary bibliography of the text, where most critics insist on reading MDOin terms of the contrast between the past, represented by the heroic language of the radical titles (as full of meaning), and the narrator's present (as empty language).59 If, however, as Patrick Dove suggests, we observe the way Eltit problematizes the dichotomy between full and empty language, and if the novel creates a questioning that the crossing between past and present can be performed within and as an act of reading, then how should the connection between the different series, between the quotes of the past (which seem to have lost their descriptive function) and the present, be read differently?60 If we read the titles as quotations in terms of a strong sense of epic, as a full essential language, we merely transfer to the past the strong (active and actual) force of the fantasy of the end of history as the "administrative ideal." In this instance, we read the past as a mere actuality that we "retain," as in a catalog, repeating the fantasy posed in the monologue, as if working-class history were the expression of a homogeneous, coherent and nonproblematic "consciousness." On the other hand, if one insists only on the impossibility of connecting the past and the present, then the act of reading becomes an empty evocation of its own impossibility reflecting the exact problem that the worker dramatized: being retenido (retained, as prisoner) within the marketplace, which undermines any dream of emancipation.

The idea of robbery that the last image of the chapter suggests acts as a closure of the section "El despertar" while it also embodies a possible opening in an act of reading that engages us with the political history of the twentieth century. The withdrawal of the gains of the day can be read in relation to the reiterated act of robbery of labor and destruction of workers' bodies. With this, Eltit establishes a parallel between the daily destruction of the increasingly exhausted body of the worker and the body of certain parts of history, stripped of any possible critique of this process of destruction. This produces a question regarding the way in which we can approach and interpret the dialectical (dis) connect at stake in the style of the text that stages the history from a literary site that, just like the body of the worker, has been subsumed to the supervision of neoliberalism and progressively deprived of its critical work. At this point, the very architecture of the text, that is, its spatial organization, can be indicating possible ways of engaging the problematization of history as an act of reading. This is another mode of approaching the role of the mysteriously quoted titles of the working-class press - as an insistence on the necessity of reinventing ways in which the word could become the site of a critical project.

Awakening: ... to remember what is closest, tritest, most obvious . . .

The idea of a space of awakening that Benjamin develops in convolutes K and N is permeated by a rich duality in which awakening is seen as the act of remembrance that not only takes place in reading and writing, but also finds the body and architecture to be essential, thus leading to different senses of space. On the one hand, it refers to the space of history ("here the concern is to find the constellation of awakening ... it is a question of the dissolution of mythology into the space of history [Geschichtsraum]"61) that implies a textual realm and project: "Just as Proust begins the story of his life with an awakening, so must every presentation of history begin with awakening; in fact, it should treat of nothing else."62 On the other hand, it leads to the space in which the endless process of awakening occurs. Weber emphasizes this by stating that "awakening is essentially spatial," adding that "the person awakening never wakes up in general, but always in and with respect to a determinate place. The locality in turn is never closed upon itself or self-contained, but opened to further relationships by the iterations that take place 'in' it."63 This connects us to the way in which awakening is posed in relation to the space in which the text is written; that is, the space in which the space of history, as a textual event, occurs as well as to the act of reading as the possibility of crossing borders instead of being "retained" by the fantasies of "retention" analyzed earlier. Thus, awakening opens a double play between the possibility of remembering "what has [never] been," which refers to the truncated past as that which never was in an actual state (i.e., a promise related to the act of reading that which was never written, never "retained" as a full presence in the catalog), and also as a process of learning to remember what is closest to us in a more physical, material way: "[A] wakening is the great exemplar of memory: the occasion on which it is given to us to remember what is closest, tritest, most obvious."64

The constellation of awakening as a dialectical image (shock) places before us another way to think of history and space, established between the "advancement"65 of "what has been" (as a promise of that which never took place) and the space of a certain staging of the writing of history itself. This is demonstrated through a style that allows us to see the passage from the deterritorialized quotation to its always inevitable process of reinsertion within a different context in which the singular is reiterated or re-marked. This makes us think of ways in which we could see in spatial terms the coimplication between the waking body and the impossible (fissured) space of truncated past. Both senses are coimplicated/ inseparable in a way similar to El despertar, as the title of the publication (referring to a constellation of events), in relation to "El despertar," as the title of the supermarket section.

It is in his studies of Brecht's epic theater that Benjamin problematizes citation in relation to modes of dealing with the space of textuality and the space in which actions (acting) occurs. Within the realm of "acting," citation emerges as a peculiar form of interruption that is identified with the production of gestures that open different senses of space and of a sense of transformation connected to them: "[T] he more frequently we interrupt someone engaged in an action, the more gestures we obtain."66 Gestures emerge as the interruption of an action that makes possible the revelation of the conditions in which the action takes place, thus opening a multilayered sense of space characterized by Benjamin as Riemannian.67

As Weber states, at stake here is an interruption of action (strongly corresponding to Aristotle's sense of epic) that does not imply the negation of it but the opening of a sense of "acting" that relates to a sense of seeing differently that which is closest. In other words, the interruption of action by means of acting "ex-poses the present not just to the future, but to its finitude," thus making us see, as in a flash, "that everything can happen differently, that what is, is not necessarily what mustbe or what wiUbe eternally."68 Translated to the textual realm, gestures are in the realm of action what quotes are in that of the textual, both connected to the idea of an interruption that works as a mode of spacing. In this sense, the act of citing implies both a deterritorialization of that which is cited and that which is, simultaneously, reterritorialized in a new context where it produces an estrangement exposing textuality and temporality to finitude. Through this process, change, singularity, and repetition interact.

It is this "re" (as a re-location of the citation/quote) that MDO makes us consider through the peculiar use of citing the titles of radical publications. At this point, the novel emerges as a text that dramatizes not only this crossroad, left by the military dictatorships, but also the necessity of thinking of other forms of "citing" the history of emancipatory projects. This is why, from within her literary work of dramatizing the limits of a certain possibility of imagining the ways of "reading" and "writing" that "extirpated" parts of twentieth-century history (as an act of citation), Eltit's text makes readers think in other ways. One must consider how to read not just the revelation of a pure historicity where language shows itself as pure mediality, nor search solely for the unrepeatable singularity of a glorious event of the past. Eltit dramatizes the problem of how to think of the different processes of marking (of bodies, spaces, texts), and the ways in which one can relate the marks without being only "retained" (as retenes, prisoners) by the impossibility of thinking about that promise, once and again "extirpated" from Chilean bodies and histories.

MDO brings to the forefront the issue of awakening as a question connected to the promise and necessary rethinking of the different sides that remain unwritten in a history of emancipatory projects. Eltit stages this problematic through the history of working-class press that places before us the "Awakening" as a publication that existed in the past as a process (in a historical sense) and as a duality that forces us to rethink the role of the quotes in terms of the quotability (iterability) of history. This is shown by the dual meaning of El despertar and "El despertar," the historical past (as a constellation formed by the Iquique massacre, the publication, the foundation of the Party, the making of a proletarian culture) and the promise of an endless project of emancipation that would need to re-mark that which never occurred in the past.

That is to say, this is a possibility of a critical act of reading that arouses the relation between repetition and promise as a problem of thinking up other ways to connect the "uncovering" of an "oppressed past" and "oppression in the present."69 The problem of this "uncovering" that refers to different processes and means of destroying and exploiting the workers is something that Eltit's novel engages through style and (as) content within the dramatization of a repetition of the ever-same destruction and the different means of massacring the bodies of workers throughout history. Connected to the act of reading, awakening suggests the idea of a never-ending process of interpretation of the past as a promise because, as Eduardo Cadava writes, "the moment of awakening must be repeated endlessly because no one is ever fully awakened" and implies a "spacing that prevents the now from being awake to itself."70 That is, the repetition of the act of awakening, where reading works as a mode of crossing the borders between past(s) and present(s), dramatizes the promise of emancipation in a present that becomes "writable" and "readable." This results in a tension between singularity and repetition, which any promise carries within itself. I therefore believe the novel poses a necessary rethinking of the literary as a horizon where the problem of interruption that the quotation suggests needs also to be approached as a problem of "re-connection" (reterritorialization in all of its ambiguous possibilities and dangers).

The need to put an "end" to the chapter may also be connected to making us think about the possibility of a different idea of an "end(ing)" connected to the "awakening." I see that the "end" of the first section leaves unanswered a question regarding the ways we could read the last words of the monologue: "Hay que poner fin a este capítulo" [There is a need to put an end to this chapter]71 We can read this in many ways: the end as a suicidal act (the worker's desire to fall down that I analyzed earlier); the end as the period that is needed in order to finish the section of El despertar (the textual space); or the end as a question concerning the idea of a project-to-come that remains open to the reader, as though it were making us ask ourselves, What kind of "end(ings)" can "this end" imply? How would this end be placed in this logic of cyclical expropriation? What kind of "end" can we imagine, as readers, as an alternative end to this open-ended chapter of the novel Alano de obraì Is there another way of considering the end that would not just involve the stereotyped repetition of the critique made by Benjamin of the teleology of progress that characterized the discourse of the victors and that of a stratified historical materialism? Is there another idea of an "end(ing)" for our times, one that could be related to the promise to which the titles refer (as they signal the role of the word as a possible site and cultural project) , but that was interrupted once and again by different ways of massacring? Can this end be thought of as a way of producing a "Copernican turn" (of awakening) that never occurred within that which took place? This would mean to take inspiration from the Copernican turn that awakening implies, but transformed into a turn toward the ways in which we think of the promise of a different end for this chapter. The play of titling and subtitling therefore dramatizes, as in a theatrical fashion, the very structure of a promise that remains to be thought.


1 Beatriz Sarlo, "Forgetting Benjamin," trans. Francisco González, Cultural Critique 49 (2001): 84-92.

2 Nelly Richard, "Ruptures, Memory, and Discontinuities (Homage to Walter Benjamin)," in The Insubordination of Signs: Political Change, Cultural Transformation, and Poetics of the Crisis, trans. Alice A. Nelson and Silvia R. Tanderciarz, Latin America in Translation series (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 1-22.

3 Alberto Moreiras, "Postdictadura y reforma del pensamiento," Revista de crítica culturali (1993): 26-35 (my translation).

4 Idelber Avelar, The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).

5 Sarlo, "Forgetting Benjamin," 79-80.

6 I refer here to Richard's Residuos y metáforas: Ensayos de crítica cultural sobre el Chile de la Transición (Santiago, Chile: Cuarto Propio, 1998), where she elaborates on the idea of a postdictatorship cultural critique that opened an impure discursive area resistant to the institutional division of knowledge in the universities (141-42). I also refer to Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott for a cartography of the challenges that remained to be addressed by the aforementioned critique; that is, the problem of how to rethink social class in the neoliberal "consensus" that was based on the fantasy of a now classless society; and the problem of gender and different ethnicities ("Critical Thought in Postdictatorship," fournal of Latin American Cultural Studies 9, no. 3 [2000]: 229-34). In relation to these challenges, I also refer to Gareth Williams's The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

7 Nelly Richard, Márgenes e instituciones: Arte en Chile desde 1973 (Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Metales Pesados, 2007) .

8 Richard, "Ruptures, Memory," 3.

9 Paradoxically, this text will then generate a series of debates regarding the act of reading Benjamin. On the one hand, there is Pablo Oyarzún's "Lectura de Escena" (El rabo del ojo: Ejercicios y conatos de crítica [Santiago: Universidad ARCIS, Escuela de Bellas Artes, 2003], 243-51), which questions Nelly Richard's (mis)use of Benjamin, and, on the other, there is Willy Thayer's dual critique of the way in which Richard interprets CADA as an art of interruption ("Crítica, nihilismo e interrupción: La avanzada después de Márgenes e instituciones," articulos/critica.pdf; and "El golpe como consumación de la vanguardia," Revista Extremooccidentel, no. 2 [2003]: 54-58).

10 Moreiras, "Postdictadura y reforma," 29.

11 Ibid., 27-28.

12 Avelar, Untimely Present, 3.

13 Ibid.

14 Idelber Avelar's Alegorías de la derrota: La ficción postdictatorial y el trabajo de duelo (Santiago, Chile: Arcis-LOM, 2000).

15 Avelar, Untimely Present, 68.

16 Ibid.

17 What happens with the figure of mourning, reduced to the defeat, when we engage other areas in which the very notion of the post- of the postdictatorship (like the category of the "transition" itself) becomes problematic, with the continuation of the forms of exceptionality that characterized the dictatorial past (lack of rights, police abuse, etc.)? In short, a question that one still needs to address within postdictatorship critique is, who are the subjects of that specific form of narrating mourning as the truth of the defeat? In addition, what are the zones that this truth leaves aside, without meaning by this a mere either/or between the "factual" truth and the truth of a form of defeat? I think that these questions call for a different form of historicization, in which a rereading of Benjamin could playa crucial role, because he attempts to think about the role of awakening as a permanent form of questioning the formation and trans-formation of the remembrance of the past.

18 Walter Benjamin, La dialéctica en suspenso: Fragmentos sobre historia (Santiago, Chile: ARCIS-LOM, 1996).

19 Diamela Eltit, Mano de obra, in Tres novelas (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2004), 253-360. All translations are my own.

20 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 476.

21 I would like to thank Zakir Paul for suggesting this word to me.

22 Samuel Weber, Benjamins -abilities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

23 The entire project was subsequently published in 2006 in Spain.

24 Miguel Valderrama, Modernismos historiográficos: Artes visuales, postdictadura, vanguardias (Santiago, Chile: Palinodia 2008), 91-92.

25 Oyarzún, 1996, 25, my emphasis.

26 Ibid., 31-32.

27 Ibid.

28 Diamela Eltit, Emergencias: Escritos sobre literatura, arte y política, ed. Leónidas Morales (Santiago: Planeta/ Ariel, 2000), 25. AU translations are my own.

29 This literary turn is shown by an increasing interest in searching for key events of the recent past: the history of the working class in MDO; the founding key assassinations of the coup in De puño y letra (Santiago, Chile: Seix Barrai, 2005); and political militancy from the perspective of an insurgent woman infamas el fuego nunca (Santiago, Chile: Seix Barrai, 2007).

30 The tide "Las dos caras de la moneda" plays with "moneda" as coin [la moneda - peso chileno] and as the Palacio de la Moneda (the presidential palace that was bombarded on 11 September 1973). Talk published in Eltit, Emergencias.

31 Eltit, Emergencias, 18.

32 Ibid., 19.

33 Ibid., 29.

34 Benjamin, Arcades Project, 476.

35 Jacques Derrida, "Tide -to be specified," trans. Tom Conley, SubStance 10, no. 2 (1981): 5-22, quotation on 8.

36 Medidas Preventivas: En el centenario de la huelga general de Iquique (Santiago, Chile: Metales Pesados, 2008), a recent volume edited by the publisher Metales Pesados, provides the first attempt at thinking about a serious historicization of the Iquique massacre.

37 Alejandro Witker, Los trabajos y los días de Recabarren (Mexico City: Nuestro tiempo, 1977), 53.

38 Isabel Jara, "La huelga, el circo y la muerte: 1907 pese a todo," in Medidas Preventivas (see note 36), 11-25, quotation on 23.

39 El despertar de los trabajadores was published weekly in Iquique from 1912 to 1927, with a total of 1,384 issues of four pages each (Witker, Los trabajos, 58). It was founded by the Cooperativa Tipográfica, organized by the nitrate workers, and it was donated by them to the Workers Party, becoming the latter's official publication (Arias Osvaldo Escobedo, La prensa obrera en Chile [Chillan, Chile: University of Chile, 19701, 165). Although other publications in the first decades of twentiethcentury Chile had this name, the mention of the date and place in MDCs title enables us to see that Eltit is referring to this publication.

40 Historians call Recabarren "the father" of the worker's press (Escobedo, La prensa, 194). Besides being the founder of approximately eleven proletarian periodicals, he was also the mentor of different projects for the creation of schools for the workers [escuelas de educación proletaria] ; see Ivan Ljubetic Vargas, Historia de la asociación de pensionados de Chile: El primer cuarto de siglo (1938-1963) (Santiago, Chile: Asociación chilena de pensionados y montepiadas, 1996), 10.

41 Ljubetic Vargas states that the founding of El despertar in 1912 was one of the steps taken toward "building the conditions to found the Revolutionary Party of Workers" (Historia, 10, my translation). At the same time, the Partido Obrero Socialista was founded in the locale of El despertaría 1912 and would become, in 1922, the Partido Comunista de Chile.

42 The creation of the publication and the consequent founding of the Party were part of a typical enlightenment project where education played a central role (see Tomás Moulian and Isabel Torres's Concepción de la política e ideal moral en la prensa obrera, Documento de Trabajo del Programa FLACSO (Santiago, Chile: FLACSO, 1987]). The Iquique massacre is usually seen as the end point of a disorganized movement in which the miners could make their voices heard only through the strike. The founding of El despertar opened a different chapter in which the Party was to be thought of as necessary for the proliferation of other means of protest, with the creation of an alternative education and culture at its heart. Although this is something that remains to be analyzed in depth, I refer to Moulian and Torres's work as an attempt to delineate the role of the press in the "making" of a Chilean working class (Concepción de la política, 2).

43 Willy Thayer states that Sorel's Reflections on Violence (1908) works as a key language informing the socialist, unionist, and worker organizations at the beginning of the twentieth century ("Huelga productiva, huelga sin obra, huelga pura," in Medidas Preventivas [see note 36], 49-92, quotation on 62).

44 This relates to problems regarding the notions of education and enlightenment, always crucial and problematic "supplements" within the narration of working-class histories. I refer to what is addressed by Dipesh Chakrabarty in his Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal 1890-1940 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), and by Etienne Balibar, Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy Before and After Marx, trans. James Swenson (New York: Routledge, 1994). Acting as fetishes on which the miracle and failure of a working-class consciousness would rely (be formed, advance, etc.), the formation of alternative processes, as suggested by the constellation "El despertar," are still key to thinking about not just the past in which the processes they try to explain took place, but also the present in which they become problematic as categories. In my opinion, the turn in Eltit's work implied by MDO forces us to think in that direction; her work was and still is always critical of the stereotyped discourses and "epics" of Right and Left, while she remains one of the most relevant figures within the field of postdictatorship literature. There always exists a risk of falling into a mere archivization of these irrecoverable histories. However, not to engage this thought because of this risk would be, again, an acritical instance; trying not to not fall into the impurity of the "facts" could result in closing paths, which could instead be opened by a new form of cultural historicization. How then is the narration of working-class historicization (the tools one uses to approach it) already revealing something about the present in which the question of this narration is posed again? In this regard, how are the style and narration of working-class history affected by historical processes? How could the "present" shape the historicization of the working class?

45 The only (scarce) bibliography on working-dass history (the majority written by historians) consists of accounts that merely reproduce the register of an epic of the Left, where complexity is leveled by the fantasy of a unified and self-conscious (male) body of workers. Villalobos-Ruminott's ("Critical Thought," 2000) related argument regarding issues that need to be addressed in postdictatorship theory would here demand a rethinking of postdictatorship and subaltern studies. All of the terms that I am using here ("consciousness," "proletarian culture," "Workers Party") dearly require a further critical analysis - more specifically, a subalternist critique.

46 The store in the novel is what we could call a hypermarket [hipermercado], the site that Tomás Moulian refers to as the embodiment of the post-Pinochet utopia of the end of history.

47 Eltit's text constitutes one of the first literary works to thematize postdictatorship working conditions in Chile and situates them within a larger history played out through different temporal series (working conditions at the beginning of the century, the creation of a working class, and the series of massacres of workers - all this concluding in a temporal doubling that comprises the second section of the novel: "Puro Chile (Santiago, 1970)," which presents us with an empty evocation of Allende and the interruption of the process of the Unidad Popular by the military coup. On the changes in working conditions during and after the dictatorship and the Chilean "miracle," see Peter Winn, ed., Victims of the Chilean Miracle: Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet Era, 1973-2002 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).

48 Eltit, Emergencias, 29.

49 Eltit, Mano de obra, 278, italics mine.

50 Ibid., 277-78, my emphasis.

51 Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 253-64.

52 Eltit, Mano de obra, 280, italics mine; original ellipsis.

53 Ibid., 267, my emphasis.

54 Ibid., 294, my emphasis.

55 Ibid., 295, my emphasis.

56 Benjamin, La dialéctica en suspenso, 481; and Walter Benjamin, "One- Way Street" in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1, 1913-1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W.Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 444-88, quotation on 481.

57 Benjamin, Arcades Project, 388-89.

58 Eltit, Mano de obra, 251.

59 See Raquel Olea, "La disolución de lo social: Acerca de la novela Mano de obra de Diamela Etit," crítica. el,; Rodrigo Cánovas, "Mano de obra de Diamela Eltit: Las nuevas letras del paraíso popular," La torre 10, no. 38 (2005): 645-57; Juliet Lynd, "Writing from the Margins of the Chilean Miracle: Diamela Eltit and the Aesthetics and Politics of the Transition," in PostAuthoritarian Cultures: Spain and Latin Americas Southern Cone, ed. Luis Martin Studino and Roberto Ampuero (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2008), 12-33.

60 Patrick Dove, "Living Labour, History and the Signifier: Bare Life and Sovereignty in Eltit's Mano de obra," Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 15, no. 1 (2006): 77-91.

61 Benjamin, Arcades Project, 458, my emphasis.

62 Ibid., 464, my emphasis.

63 Weber, Benjamins -abilities, 171.

64 Benjamin, Arcades Project, 389, my emphasis.

65 I refer here to this well-known passage: "There is a not-yet-conscious knowledge of what has been: its advancement has the structure of awakening" (Benjamin, Arcades Project, 389).

66 Walter Benjamin, "What Is Epic Theater? A Study on Brecht" (First version) , in Understanding Brecht, trans. Anna Bostock (London: NLB, 1973), 1-14, quotation on 3.

67 Ibid., 18.

68 Weber, Benjamins -abilities, 111.

69 Matthias Fritsch, The Promise of Memory: History and Politics in Marx, Benjamin, and Derrida (New York: SUNY, 2005), 51.

70 Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), 69.

71 Eltit, Mano de obra, 295, my emphasis.

Author affiliation:

Susana Draper is an assistant professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. She is author of Ciudad posletrada y tiempos lúmpenes: Crítica cultural y nihilismo en la cultura de fin de siglo (in press), and she is currently working on The Prison, the Mall, and the Archive (Space, Literature, and Visual Arts in Postdictatorship Cultures) , a book-length project on spaces and temporalities in contemporary Latin American cities, with a special focus on the transformations of prisons and clandestine detention centers (Punta Carretas, Lecumberri, ESMA, and "Olimpo") and the works of literature, critical theory, and visual arts that problematize them.

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