Literary Escapes and Astral Shelters of an Incarcerated Conspirator

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					               Literary Escapes and
               Astral Shelters of an
             Incarcerated Conspirator
                                         Lisa Block de Behar
                           Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay

                     Translated by Virginia Gutiérrez Berner

     And in this circular cell a man who looks like me is writing, in characters I
     cannot understand, a long poem about a man in another circular cell writing
     a poem about a man in yet another circular cell. The series has no end, nor
     will anyone ever read what these prisoners are writing.
                                                                                         —Jorge Luis Borges

     On the edge of things we do not entirely understand, we create fantastic
     stories in order to venture hypotheses or to share with others the vertigos
     of our perplexity.
                                                                                 —Adolfo Bioy Casares (1964)

     The eternity of hell’s punishments has perhaps taken the worst sting out
     of the antique idea of eternal return. It substitutes eternal torture for the
     eternal circuit.
                                                                                         —Walter Benjamin

CR: The New Centennial Review, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2010, pp. 61–94, issn 1532-687x.
© Michigan State University Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.

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62 ●   Literary Escapes and Astral Shelters

       It is the legitimate endeavor of scientific man now, as it was twenty-three
       hundred years ago, to account for the formation of the solar system and of the
       cluster of stars which forms the galaxy, by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.
       The greatest expounder of this theory, when asked how he could write an
       immense book on the system of the world without one mention of its author,
       replied, very logically, “Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.”
                                                              —Charles Sanders Peirce (1998)

  In more than one sense, Eternity Through the Stars, pu
Description: Written by Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), a revolutionary whom history remembers for the audacity of his conspiracies and the perseverance of his political agitation, the book surprises by the poetic lucidity of an imagination that supplies an unexpected itinerary, at once sidereal and familiar: "I take refuge in the stars where one can wander without limits," Blanqui writes to his sister in a letter addressed from prison, as if he were referring to a welcoming astral shelter to which he habitually recurred. In the notes that anticipate his book on Baudelaire, Benjamin proposes to confront them both, to clear away once and for all-they are his words-the fog that obscures the "illuminations" of one who is usually remembered according to the discontinuous vehemence of his followers: "Baudelaire finds himself as isolated in the literary world of his epoch as Blanqui is in the world of the conspirators" (Benjamin 1989, 384). Condemned for his insurrections against the monarchy; feared for his violent accusations against the clergy, against the bourgeoisie, against Freemasonry; persecuted as the intrepid organizer of secret societies; victim of the slanders of those who were his companions; Blanqui was incarcerated more than twenty times, deported, and three times sentenced to death. In circumstances of continuous political dissension and constant social unrest, Blanqui conceives and writes this book, so foreign both to his political fervor and to his revolutionary works, which surprises in that neither the excesses of his combative spirit nor the adversity of his condemnation nor the penuries of prison are insinuated. Contemporary of the flneur who bears his idleness in the streets of Paris, Blanqui takes pleasure in wandering aimlessly through the infinite space beyond the uncertainties, beyond the contingencies that [he] foresaw at a distance, bound to his time but writing at the margin of history and its din, of its deafening actions that he himself provoked
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