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Floozman in Space

by Bertrand Cayzac

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Man has no being, he only has assets. — Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

No objects, spaces or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language. In particular, there is no ground for ontologically opposing the mythical to the organic, textual and technical. — Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women

It is towards a generalized genetic interpretation of the relationship between man and the world that we need to move in order to grasp the philosophical significance of technical objects. — Gilbert Simondon, Du mode d’existence des objets techniques

John: I understand that the being presupposed in the negation is necessarily anterior to non-being, otherwise there would be absolutely nothing. Who indeed would have produced the non-being into the being? Certainly not the non-being, since it would not presuppose the being by which it would be produced. — Nicholas of Cusa, De possest (1460) Iohannes : Intelligo ipsum praesuppositum esse in negatione necessario antecedere non-esse, alias utique nihil esset. Quis enim non-esse in esse produisset? Non ipsum non-esse, quando non praesupponeret esse a quo produceretur? — Nicolaus Cusanus, De possest

Part I

Chapter 1: A Targeted Space Purchase of a Dedication
to the Hapless Ones of All Times

Dear Mr. Sterne,

If everything conspires — here with there and there with here — you must have always known that the dedication put on sale in the first volume of Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman would ultimately be taken seriously in my time. It is a future from which I greet you very respectfully while exercising my mind’s eye in imagining you living in a constant endeavor to fence against the infirmities of ill health and other evils of life by mirth alone.

The dedication of chapter VIII is certainly ironic, as is the preceding address to the reader, wherein you regret that men such as “his lordship,” who are born for great actions, devote precious time to the benefit of their hobby, and time is something this corrupted world is much in need of. The aforesaid dedication mocks this reader, who is obsessed by vain pursuits; but it also acknowledges the wisdom he will demonstrate by accepting to dismount from his hobby horse and stand on his own two feet.

Can one be so dumb as to accept the offer made in chapter IX, where you propose to dedicate to the buyer the text of chapter VIII? One can surmise how preposterous this idea is by speculating on the number of probable candidates as a function of the book’s sales and distribution.

Did you conjecture that this figure might increase by ever-larger amounts beyond a certain threshold? In a text written for the Harvard Norton Lectures, Professor Umberto Eco, himself the author of several best-sellers, warns that the public reached after the first million of copies may misconceive the “fictional pact.”

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods
Six Promenades dans les bois
du roman et d’ailleurs.

Paris, Éditions Grasset
For instance, a reader asked why a character in Foucault’s Pendulum does not mention a fire that the newspapers reported as occurring at the same date and on the same streets that the story has the character walking along.

Since the quest for profit encourages the development of such a “sub-prime readership,” it is no wonder that your announcement finds its way to a mid-level French employee whose brain is worn out by computation. The fact that it reaches me after several centuries and many detours of history — convulsions, world wars, nameless woes, revolutions, Beatlemania, and other social and language upheavals — is a testament to the vigor of your work, which I hold in great admiration.

I can still taste the flavor of the work despite the profound transformations that have ripped my generation from the Earth and its past. Indeed, I cannot better depict the unrest that marks our time.

Our species is preparing to leave this earth for space, where seedtime and harvest shall cease for want of soil, and where our offspring may not even have noses. That could have incalculable consequences on the reception of Tristam Shandy’s Life & Opinions. I fear that will be the outcome, dear Mister Sterne. It is an effort of style, of course, for it is certain that not everybody will depart for space.

At the risk of abrogating the “fictional pact,” I mean to take your proposal at face value in its form and content. It is quite relevant to one who is preoccupied with containing his overriding passion within the limits of reason.

I thus declare my intent to purchase with no further delay, and I shall abstain from harassing you with “enlightened pragmatism” or any other platitude that may unite us. Of course, I maintain that your proposal is still valid in the edition I am reading in this year of grace two thousand and fifteen.

It matters not what the professors, intellectual-property lawyers, associate managers and business executives feel about it, sure as they are that you cannot be serious. Would anyone of significance be foolish enough to insist it be made a matter of debate? The following obvious points would put him to shame:

  1. This jewel of irony cannot be worn without losing its luster or, worse, without turning into mud.

  2. The sale, obviously intended in jest, is only a literary device and does not constitute in any way an offer that could be binding on the seller.

  3. Since the offer does not carry any expiry date, the considerable time elapsed since the author’s demise — “Alas, poor Yorick” — is enough to make it void. There you have it: case closed.

For my part, I daresay that your will, so frankly expressed, cannot be disregarded without consulting you. To bring this matter still closer to today’s world, let us imagine that a contemporary editor equipped chapter IX with a “Buy Me” button. It executes the software code required to process an on-line transaction. The editor would only be doing his job of adapting the text and dusting it off for modern times, would he not?

Who will say today that a work can be installed without hyperlinks? Can an editor disappoint the latent buyer slumbering in every reader on the mere pretext that you are no longer of this world? Pray tell, what shall be the fate of this purchase order?

Given the silence of the lawyers and in the absence of Sir Dodsley, whom you have mandated to handle the transaction, I resolve to address you without any intermediary and to believe in the robustness of the intertemporal commercial protocol that is necessary under the circumstances and by the medium of which I pray you to take the present offer into consideration.

Purchase offer:

Having carefully read the dedication proposal published at chapter IX of the above-cited book, I am pleased to confirm my intention to purchase according to the specified conditions.

Please find below the content of the text I wish to insert, as well as indications concerning its recommended interpretation. I draw your attention to my desire to spin the content so that the dedication goes to a fictional character in a serial of which I am the author, not to mention the publication of the menial merits that I wish to see attributed to my person with regards to the moderation of my own hobby and which are, I hope, in conformity with the spirit of the dedication.

These departures should remain compatible with the terms of your announcement despite a relatively large use of the space usually allocated to the beneficiary’s titles and good deeds. Nevertheless, pressed by time and having no penchant for negotiation, I want to anticipate the objections you may quite rightly formulate.

Please be aware that I am prepared to expedite these issues in a simple and mutually satisfactory manner. I therefore propose, in advance, to allocate the twenty guineas to any license extension you may deem necessary to satisfy my request and which you have generously deducted from the dedication price. The overall amount of my offer thus comes to seventy guineas in constant value according to the calculation rules recommended by the Central Bank of England. I am quite sure the Bank will be with us as we expand into space.

Proposed dedication to be inserted in the chapter heading:

All of chapter IX, from the words, De gustibus non est disputandum, and whatever else in the book relates to hobby horses but no more, stands dedicated to Fred Looseman, an ex-risk director of Worldwide Credit and an intermittent monetary Messiah. He is a character in the serial Floozman created by Bertrand Cayzac, an employee fearing God and his management, proud to have been able to rein in his literary hobby horse in all circumstances and dismount willingly each time his social or professional activities demanded it.

Praise be to him for never having renounced mustering his labor in order to extend his studies far into the night. In taking account of scriptures and great texts for a longer time, his foolishness would have prevailed. As the Ecclesiast tells it: “Just as dead flies make the perfumer’s oil stink, a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.”

May the author’s pedantry enable him to join, in the hapless souls’ purgatory, the cook who was dismissed by King Hanun the Ammonite after King Salomon, reduced to a vagabond by the demon Asdmodeus, had prepared him a better feast. May this author have dipped his spoon into the right pot!

Ah! The perfumer’s oil! Dense, impassive, metastable: it would have such a sweet fragrance if there were a nose to smell it in the eternity mirrored on its surface.

And I wish to say in conclusion: What the dead flies produce in divine oil, I’m afraid my work does to the beautiful and holy words with which it makes its shameful concoction. It claims to do with well-tempered scenarios what mushrooms do with wine, what yeast does it to cheese to make it runny, firm, and more or less ripe...

One will find lovers of fermentation for some time yet, but everything foreshadows their extinction. I can even let you hear what our progeny will say of these last gourmets. They will say something like this:

“Our masters once summoned up these foods at ruinous costs. That is why they wanted to keep their digestive systems intact. Well, yes, but not so long ago, people were still having bowel movements in space, Madame! Uncomfortably, for sure, but at least they were eating chicken and stuffing!”

May the earth be light upon you, and may we remember you for a long time in the holds of our spaceships.

Your most respectful reader,

Bertrand Cayzac

To be continued...

Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac

Editor’s note: Might space travel cause the evolution of a noseless humanity, a species devoid of olfactory sensation? The hypothesis is striking and original. However, it is logical. Other artists and authors have speculated by inference that noses might be a handicap in space colonization.

For example, Stanley Kubrick makes a brief visual joke about space toilets in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. And another author surmises that Monsieur Cayzac’s forthright consideration of the consequences of eating chicken in space — complete with stuffing — has very serious implications for the colonization of Mars.

The culinary tradition is a long and hallowed one in French literature. One fondly remembers “the good doctor” Rabelais and, in Bewildering Stories, Cyrano de Bergerac’s episode “Go to the Cabbage, and Be Wise” among many others. In a figurative sense, our esteemed author stands on the shoulders of giants.

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