Cyclonopedia: post scriptum

I think it’s worth saying a few further words about the structure and style of Cyclonopedia, in addition to its contents and general themes. The book is a rather extreme example of the dictum ‘form follows function’, although ‘(mal)form follows (dys)function’ might perhaps be more applicable here.

As mentioned in the main body of the essay, Negarestani’s assertion that “for every inconsistency on the surface, there is a subterranean consistency” applies just as well to the book as a whole as it supposedly does to ancient Middle Eastern necropolis complexes. At every turn, the hyper-dense guerilla-academic style assaults the reader with historical or linguistic facts, invented ‘truths’, concepts and suggestions of concepts leaping out of the page, almost attacking the reader’s conciousness like a rag-tag army of fanatics. Juxtaposition of opposing themes is used throughout to maintain tension and maximise confusion: thus we have cutting-edge unmanned drones compared to ancient Assyrian war demons; the fanatical monotheistic urge towards desertification is linked to the deeply cthonic libido of the Earth and the rotting ‘black Sun’ within it; the curvilinear Arabic script, the lettering in which is inscribed the sacred Word of the Prophet, is revealed as a form of “Middle Eastern dracolatry”, connected to the great Sumero-Babylonian mother-serpent or she-dragon Tiamat, the Persian devil-worm Azhi Dahaka, the Egyptian Apep “and other coiling blasphemies”.

Negarestani’s huge array of thematic sources for the book have another interesting effect. It gives the text the feeling of a scavenging animal – in context, a jackal or vulture – promiscuously flitting from corpse to corpse as it feeds; the corpses in question being the academic disciplines of Middle Eastern languages and history, archaeology, geology, astrophysics, chemistry, mathematics, psychoanalysis and philosophy. Given Negarestani’s well-known interest in putrefaction, decay and ‘nigredo’, this seems to suggest a commingling of the decayed remnants of all these disciplines, melding their blackened, fermented juices into new and strangely fertile (de)compositions. Indeed, in contrast to the traditional idea of artistic creation through composition, it is precisely through decomposition that Negarestani achieves the desired effect of polymathematic phantasmagoria and delirious cosmic horror. “Things leak into each other according to a logic that does not belong to us…”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has a clear antecedent in Lovecraft – consider the following lines from The Thing on the Doorstep:

‘As I stepped unsteadily forward, the figure made a semi-liquid sound like that I had heard over the telephone—“glub…glub…”’

(In this case, a man’s body has been taken over by an Outsider-become-Insider – a psychic parasite – and his own consciousness has been transferred to the invasive entity’s previous vehicle, which is now far gone in organic decay and has been reduced to utter indifferentiation; it could have originally been more or less anything, in line with Henry of Langenstein’s observations about the entropic tendency of putrefaction towards sameness, morbidly wondering if an animal of a given species could be generated from the rotten carcass of another.)

The potential for decomposition and repellent softness to blasphemously imitate and subvert creation – “till out of corruption horrid Life springs” – is used to great effect by both authors. In Cyclonopedia, in particular, it gives rise to the entire concept of “leper creativity” whereby disease and disorder provide fertile ground for all manner of pestilential vitality. Uncharted regions…catalytic spaces…decay.

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One Response to “Cyclonopedia: post scriptum”

  1. More Open Lovecraft | TENTACLII :: H.P. Lovecraft blog Says:

    […] Anon (2011), “Lovecraft, Cyclonopedia and Materialist Horror” part one and part two and postscript. (See also the book of Cyclonopedia responses, Leper Creativity: Cyclonopedia […]

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