The Infinite Longing for Home: Desire and the Nation in Selected Writings of Ben Okri and K.S. Maniam

The Infinite Longing for Home: Desire and the Nation in Selected Writings of Ben Okri and K.S. Maniam

The Infinite Longing for Home: Desire and the Nation in Selected Writings of Ben Okri and K.S. Maniam

The Infinite Longing for Home: Desire and the Nation in Selected Writings of Ben Okri and K.S. Maniam

Synopsis

David C. L. Lim is Lecturer in English at Open University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

Excerpt

Desire is an infinite metonymy, it slides from one object to another.
[… Its] ‘natural’ state is thus that of melancholy – the awareness that
no positive object is ‘it’, its proper object, that no positive object can
ever fill out its constitutive lack.

The Premise

IN THE BEGINNING, before the emergence of the Word, there was nothing, nothing but the internal churning of infinite longing and sadness in Nature. Nature was permeated by a deep, unappeasable melancholy, because although it yearned to reach and define itself, it was unable to do so, since the spoken Word was not yet given. That is why the emergence of the Word in man is the answer to Nature’s deadlock, for “Only in man […] is the Word completely articulate.” With the revelation of speech, Nature is raised from potentiality to actuality – redeemed, in a word. But redemption comes at the price of its alienation from itself, of the externalization of the power of its centre in a medium outside itself, in man, the subject of enunciation, who is “not part of nature, but Nature’s Other.” This Schellingian logic of symbolization, redemption and alienation has been shown by Slavoj Žižek to apply also to the subject as conceptualized by Jacques Lacan. Prior to subjectivization, man is not the ‘I’ of self-experience but a pulsation of drives, a pure im-

Slavoj Žižek, The Plague of Fantasies (London & New York: Verso, 1997): 81.

F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom, tr. & intro. James Gutmann (Philosophische Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit und die damit zusammenhängenden Gegenstände, 1809, tr. 1936; La Salle IL: Open Court, 1992): 39.

Slavoj Žižek & F.W.J. Schelling, The Abyss of Freedom / Ages of the World (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1997): 43.

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