The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 8, 2016

Worlds and Names

'They thought there must be a country in the sky, and that
there must be a lake. Some one said they would go on the
warpath. One of them was able to shoot far. Then another one
shot and hit the notch of the (first) arrow. Then all of them
shot, but they did not reach down. When Raven put his nose
there, then it reached the ground. When they were going to
start, Wolverene said: "Wait for me. It will take me two days to
put away my things. It will take me two days." He was still
putting away his things when they started. Then Wolverene became
angry because he was left. When they had gone up, he took hold
of (the arrows) and tore them down entirely. They all dropped
down. Then the women became angry at him because they were left
alone in the town. The pursued Wolverene and he was about to be
killed. They pursued Wolverene, and he was out of breath. He
took up his sinews and cut himself to pieces. He changed himself
into a squirrel. He put it under the belt which was around his
waist. Then he went back somewhere, because he could do no more,
being tired. He went around, and some one said: "Here is
Wolverene." He said: "I am not he; I am called He-who-wants-to-
may-be-done. I am shooting squirrels."'

- from Kutenai Tales, Franz Boas, Smithsonian Institution,
Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 59, Washington, D.C.

Now the Kutenai is given on the page opposite the translation,
line by line. And the translation may or may not be accurate by
Kutenai standards. Consider the narrative as it is, as
transformations and absorptions. Consider more traditional
narrative formations - short stories, novels, etc. There may
always be transformations. The transformations in this fragment
of a much longer narrative grouping, however, speak to something
else, I think (something thinks), the part of the whole of the
part, the vector across organisms and epistemologies (some
thinking of objects and part-objects), the naming across affect
and epistemologies, something shaking the core of ontology (it
thinks) to the (entangled, bifurcated) roots. And it seems to me
(to one (to many)), that this category of tropes and
transformations among tropes reflects as well, a condition
(door, outlook, many think) of existence itself, at least as far
as it applies to organisms, and the negation of organisms
(perhaps sentience, many think (one thinks)) or negations of
organisms (many think) as actors or receptacles, as employers or
employments, as Hamiltonians or Lagrangians (one thinks (many
think)), something to be noticed, something _noticeable_ within
the alterities of narratives and the narratives of alterities
(among the books, slips, notes, diaries, pages, fragments,
varieties and varieties of oral and written textualities (some
say (many say))) - the texts 'dictated' and 'collected' as told
(he says) -

Told by Mission Joe and Felix Andrew

and he (Franz Boas) continues,

'Three other tales were told in the same way by Mission Joe, a
man about 60 years old, whose dictation was repeated by Felix
Andrew, a young man who speaks English very well, but whose
ability to interpret the Indian texts word by word was even less
than that of Pierre Andrew.'

And further -

'All these tales were recorded without translation; and the
translation was made later on, in part with the assistance of
Pierre Andrew, in part with that of Felix Andrew. All my
informants were Upper Kutenai.'

So that there is _that,_ of that period and process, an attempt
at accuracy (for example there is a Kutenai-English, English-
Kutenai vocabulary at the end of the volume). So to some extent,
this situates (loosely, some say (many say) ethnology, scholar-
ship, linguistics, and to a lesser extent perhaps, situates
these tales.

Wolverene says: '"I am not he; I am called He-who-wants-to-act-
be-done."' This is a proper name; in the Kutenai, there are no
dashes. What is the expression indicative of totality? And a
totality defined, as an outlier organism (many say) defined by
negation? Defined perhaps as outlaw, borderlander-after-all
(before all), residing within and without the community, among
them (one says (many say))?

And is this not the problematic of culture in the first and last
place (among the continuum of places, an _open set_ (one says
(many say))? And what of the expenditure of energy, of
maintenance, of legacy (always disappearing, evanescent, always
languaging, always transforming)?

I (one says, (some say (many say))), among others, bring this to
your attention (your perusal, your thinking among this), this
self-hunting, self-dismemberment, this renaming, this whole-for-
the-part, part-for-the-whole, this parting of the whole,
hallowing of the part, this _condition or conditioning_ - of
this narrative - of the wayward or wandering - of the untoward -
of this epistemological breakdown (which was never a whole or
hole, or rather the fragment of a hole, or part or parting of
the hole (one says (many say))) -

I (many say (some say)), there is this among us, the rest
(borderlands, containers, outliers) are fictions at best,
fragments, narrative of proclamations - every language ab nihilo
declarative - for instance - for an instance or instant - for an
instantiation) - circulations (I say (many say)), not
circularities (one says (many say)) ... ...

'Then the ribs on one side of the [water] monster were cut off.
They were thrown away down the river. The one side of the ribs
is now a cliff below. Then the other side was thrown away, there
where it was being cut up. Therefore the cliff is named Standing
Rib. Then its body was cut up and scattered about where there
are people. Its flesh was to be their food. Then its body was
gone entirely, and the people here had been forgotten, where it
was being carved. There was no water there. Someone said: "Is
that in the water there its backbone?" When it was all done,
they talked among themselves. "What shall belong to these
people, because we killed it on their own land?" Then they
picked up the blood and scattered it. They said: "This will
belong to these people. These people will be few. They will not
be many, they will not increase, but they will always remain;
even if many make war against them, they can not be
exterminated." Now it is finished. The end.'

*/ - ibid. p. 83 (one says(many say)) /*

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.