Vietnam - Superfiction

By Arias-Misson, Alain | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Vietnam - Superfiction

Arias-Misson, Alain, Chicago Review

Earlier issues of Chicago Review had addressed the Vietnam War through pieces on guerilla theater and a transcript from the protests outside of the Democratic Convention in Chicago. In the following piece by Alain Arias. Misson, the war is assessed through an experimental narrative form, "superfiction," which was gaining interest during the period. ARIAS-MISSON, who was a frequent contributor to the magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, recently explained how this piece came to these pages: "In those years I had practically adopted the Chicago Review - or should I say Chicago Review had adopted me, being a review wonderfully open to experimental writing - and published regularly in its pages. Perhaps because I took off with CR with my first published translations of the Catalan poet Joan Brossa with the editor at that time, Leonard Shaykin, and followed that up with an entire issue which I put together for editor Eugene Wildman." Of "Vietnam - Superfiction," of which a longer section appeared in the Autumn 1971 issue, he recently noted, "this piece was excerpted from my book of the same title; the book has been published in fragments in various magazines and anthologies in the USA and in translation in France. In the US the most extensive excerpt was reproduced in Writing under Fire, edited by Jerry Klinkowitz and published by Delacorte & Dell Books many years ago." The magazine would continue to address the war through a special issue in Autumn 1972. Arias-Misson would continue his aesthetic experiments: an example of his visual poetry appears later in this retrospective issue.

(May 9-August 9)


"Thus an essential property of language is that it provides the means for expressing indefinitely many thoughts and for reacting appropriately in an indefinite range of new situations. The grammar of a particular language, then, is to be supplemented by a universal grammar that accomodates the creative aspect of language use and expresses the deep-seated regularities which, being universal, are omitted from the grammar itself."

- Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Chomsky

"The things we have seen and read during these horrible years surpass belief. I have in front of me now an Associated Press photo from the New York Times.... I cannot describe the pathos of this scene, or the expression on the face of the wounded child."

- American Power and the New Mandarins, Chomsky

July 6

I looked at their faces curiously. I feel a certain security, a freedom to speak, to interpret. I remember that luncheon with the journalists, almost two months ago. What is there between those faces, I wonder. I sense the comfort of the surroundings. The sofa, the textures. I know of course there is no more to describe here than outside. There are their titles: Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu. There is nothing in their faces; nothing I can see. I feel I must watch myself carefully, watch the words I use. I know the reality of this language is in their names. I come a little closer to watch the expressions on their faces. There is a feeling of suspension in the room. I look at Secretary of State William P. Rogers; I realize there is nothing beyond naming him. I cannot see his eyes. Why is it, I wonder, that I feel at the same time a greater freedom and a lesser tension of the real. I am conscious of the blood and torn flesh involved in their talk. I wonder again what there is between them, I listen as they talk in low tones, I can hear no tension in their voices. I realize that the only relations are those which exist between their names, like pieces in a game. I am surprised by my readiness to interpret; I believe it is because of what lies in the background. I remember their screams and their eyes; they seem to be lost. I know there is nothing behind their names. They move here, and talk in Saigon Saturday, but I know it is the oscillation of their names. …

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