Letters of Insurgents: A brief commentary

authors note:

This text was originally an attempt at an online book reading & discussion over at http://insurgentsummer.org/ . The site is unfortunately currently down as of December 2013 (and before), but one can still process the gems of wisdom from the wonderful Internet Archive page lookup. It was a series of blog entries that have since been edited with many revisions and changes made, but still keeping the overall flavour. Times have changed, my writing was really bad - it hopefully is a little better here; it's still really bad, but the pictures are nice.

Part One

So, things are heating up over at "Insurgent Summer", a participatory reading of Letters of Insurgents. Tomorrow is the deadline for the first letters to be completed, and I've just finished them, so I'll try and write down some thoughts to get the ball slowly rolling. I'm going to try and do this for every set of letters, so we shall see how that goes. It is really exciting for me to be reading this book again (I first read it last summer), since I consider it to be within my current top all-time favorite books. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez are my other two favorite books currently, so it has good company. This will be my second time reading the book, but I'll only be commenting on the weeks reading section (or the previous sections, when related) - so I'll try not to bring up any spoilers before their time.

What I'd really like to do, and what I wanted to do before when I read the book, was write an all-encompassing review of the work - however, this never really happened - and instead we're left with this. Perhaps, these weekly posts along with other commentary from individuals will help in the overall creation of an in-depth review of the book someday [unfortunately it looks like with the site offline, this information is no longer readily accessible except with the way back machine https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://insurgentsummer.org]. If you don't have a copy of the book, which is out of print and can be difficult to obtain, you can read it from The Anarchist Library here http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/sophia-nachalo-and-yarostan-vochek-letters-of-insurgents. The original book was scanned, machine read, human edited, and uploaded to the library for specifically for this online reading.

The book takes the form of a series of incredibly touching letters between two long lost friends, Yarostan and Sophia. Do you write letters to your friends? Prisoners? How has letter writing has changed with the advent of computers, e-mail, cell phones, and text msg? It would seem there is much less of this actual long-form letter writing, and much more of the short instant msg shared by technology. It is a lost art. As much as I enjoy the fact of being able to quickly communicate with friends; at the same time, I really miss the personal touch of the post. Reading Letters of Insurgents kind of makes me envious of friends who can write such eloquent long-form letters, and express themselves so-well in this manner.

Visions of horror are inverse utopias so beautiful tears come to my eyes

There is so much to comment on in the first letters alone, if one is to really delve in (a bit of a cop out on my part, no?). But, that's tough, and it's only Thursday - so we can leave it for the easy going... for the moment at least.

If anything, I will try and comment a bit further in comments on the first part and continue with some posts on the other letters. And most of all, have fun this summer. Saludos!

"In a context where any word or gesture can lead to the dreaded arrest there's no freedom"

- an excerpt from Yarostan's first letter

Part Two

losing your illusion in the land of gigantic objects and monstrous toys

Hello there world. It has been a busy week, with the official start of summer, and one more set of letters.

One idea that really sticks out in this set of letters that of illusion. In true Gunz 'n Rose's fashion, we find ourselves losing our illusion, only to shed it off for another illusion.

Since we all know we'll eventually die, since any of us might die tomorrow, are all our hopes and dreams illusions?

- Sophia (2)

How does one

go about shedding their illusions,

losing them,

like death,

nothing else is imaginable

Shedding our illusions, repressing our wants, forgetting our possibilities: these are the slogans of the ruling order; coming from you they sound bizarre.

- Sophia (2)

I recall the time some years ago, when I was living in La Habana, Cuba seeing a distinctive orange cargo truck with the words "viva la ilusión" spray painted on it, toting the circled A for anarchy meandering through the city streets.

What is your life project?

The following are headlines from the media: (of course only jokes, but actual quotes, just with titles that define them from the get-go!)

Yarostan, the killer:

"At first I shot to avenge my parents. Later I just shot; my only concern was to hit."

- Yarostan (2)

Sophia on friendship:

"A complete lack of human warmth, understanding, sympathy, comradeship. A cold, dispassionate disection of an animal."

- Sophia (2)

Sophia on Hakim Bey:

Can you really be saying that insurgents only rise against the ruling order so as to reimpose it? Can you really be saying that the only dreams of rebels are dreams of authority and submission?

- Sophia (2)

Sophia on the radio:

The radio is an instrument which kills communication; it robs people of their tongues; it broadcasts the voice of a single individual to millions of listeners, reducing them to passive receptacles. If communication has the same root as common and community, the radio is an instrument for uprooting all three.

-Sophia (2)

Sophia on teaching:

"I decided during my first teaching job that I wasn't going to let myself be reduced to a means of production for the production of means of production."

- Sophia (2)

Sophia on life:

"I've tried to show you that my whole life has revolved around the experience I shared with you and that all my life I've sought to communicate with you."

Well, goodnight all. Till, next week and then some. Saludos...

ps. sophia = much sweeter? love struck? and regretting leaving paradise?

Part Three (y más)

Dancing in the Dark (you can't start a fire, without a spark)

If you haven't been paying attention, the folks over at Insurgent Summer have made some great posts about the book so far and I've really enjoyed reading their thoughts, as an addition to the book. Some things we have in common, and other things I probably would have never realized if I hadn't read their thoughts.

I'd like to briefly comment on one area that is really important for me. It's dancing, and to be honest I'm a terrible dancer (in terms of official dance, a la salsa, etc). But, I love to dance - I mean, I love to go wild and lose myself in the music, in the passion of movement/moment, and going crazy with your friends, basically having a good time (don't stop me now!). It makes me feel good. I think one of the problems with society is that people forget how to dance. My mom, who is a warrior - has really helped me realize how important stuff like this in life.

"But you just said, 'It takes doing.' Dancing is doing! Poor Jasna is always so sad, and she was so happy when she danced."

Jasna is the sad, lonely, solitary being that loves to lose herself in books. She literally loves books and they are her extreme, reading.  And read. And read for days on end, nothing is more important - on being caught up in the life of books.

I feel in love with the Daft Punk album Homework when it first came out, and I was in my very early teens then and it made me want to dance. Music, plays such an important part of so many peoples lifes.

You can do anything you want

"impossibility is a term of logic and reality doesn't observe the limits of logic"

- Sophie (page #382)

Don't get me wrong, I actually really enjoy writing on a keyboard/screen/computer, but at the same time there are things about handwriting stuff that just blows me out of the water. There are so many things I like about handwriting - a few of them are, looking back upon, reading it years later, in your hands, no screen, the writing style and way of forming words / fonts that develop and begin to show with time. Plus, I don't know - but it just seems that something is different when you hit keys vs. actually writing the words out with your hand, certainly not as fast - but none-the-less refined.

Today, after I woke I spent the entire day riding bikes with a friend out to the country, escaping from the city. I thought about Sophia and Ron (plus Sabina) riding their bikes out as far as they could go. We found things that we never knew about before, and traveled to places unknown - it was wonderful. Then tomorrow, (now today) one more day before the world of work resumes.

These days off vs. days of work, are special for me - and I'm sure many feel the same way, unless you're a Luisa. Some of us work much more than others, and sometimes I think it is one of the most important things to spend a day doing nothing, like a days spent walking around aimlessly on city streets like Sophia or weeks on end spent reading books like Jasna. Actually, Jasna is kind of funny - it seems she reads to lose herself from reality and create something that is unreal, like an imaginary illusion. Or, just as Yarostan remembers, it's not my life project to find myself in death, looking back realizing that I never really was alive.

Here are some quotes that I marked along the way:

Yarostan on species being:

All around me human beings are attempting to come to life as human beings, as universal individuals, as species beings, each advancing with all and all with each. (page #193)

Zdenek on representation:

I think humanity is finally rejecting what has always been an impossible project, the project of representation. The present proliferation of major and minor pharaohs around the world is the final and ludicrous stage of that impossible project. My life can't be lived as a representation; my representative can't realize my aspirations, take my steps or engage in my actions. The pharaohs are the final and definitive proof of the impossibility of representation. I think we've all finally learned what took me so long to learn, namely that I'm robbed of my enjoyment if my representative enjoys himself for me, that my hunger remains when he eats for me, that I don't express myself when he speaks for me, that my mind and my imagination stagnate when he thinks for me, and decides for me, that I lose my life when he lives for me." (page #199)

Hugh on friends [to Sophie]:

My new friends don't need you. What you carry inside you, what surrounds you, whether you intend it or not, is all the rot we've started to shed. (page #409)

Imagine someone saying this to you. Sometimes, we all need a bit of a reality check, some more than others - and I suppose really in the end this is what it must have felt like to have this said about you. I like this because even if it sounds pretty mean, it also feels like inspiration. Where do we find what moves us each day? Is it anger that drives you? Something else, or perhaps better a combination of things? Do you even know what drives you? Or what you drive for?

Sophia on school newspaper:

That group of students didn't disperse at the end of the school year, the way we did. They kept their publication going.

I think this is an interesting quote to think about, because it actually seems like a constant problem among student groups (or even other groups who may have some form of seperation) who have a running publication. I imagine the time and distance of a summer to be huge gap between doing and non-doing - so how does one, keep the metaphorical ball rolling?

Sabina on what it all means:

There's nothing to understand, Sophia, and nothing to fit into. It's your life to do with as you will. There's no structure. Nothing is banned. Everything is allowed. No holds are barred."

And I will leave you with that, and now that I've caught up again with the reading, after a monstrous never-ending summer took hold - I look forward to keeping a more steady grasp on the writing, and thinking a little more critically about the book. Cheers!
 

Letters of Insurgents: Just Dance

A rather funny comment, yet touching - that was said the other week was something like this: "gosh, I think it was worth visiting just to see [insert name here] going wild on the dance floor." I don't know about that, but I can appreciate the sentiment, obviously dancing around with your friends is wonderful. And, how could it not be?

Zdenek on dancing:

"I dream of nothing else! I haven't danced for over twenty years and I'm bursting with the desire to dance!"

***

Mirna on the real Mirna:

"you might not like her as well as you like your shepherdess"

Out of the other parts of what I've read so far in Letters #6, this quote was one that stuck with me. In many ways, this book is fascinating because each one of us can relate to it in some way with the characters. As for Mirna - a shepherd growing up on our small family farm in the middle of the countryside. Although, I think for Mirna, she didn't really like the animals that much - and almost secretly dreamed of the city.  We imagine growing up on a farm to be one of the best possible situations today, although it is up in the air. Rewilding, falling off the map, going off-the-grid, is the anti-civilization dream, but you can't escape everything. We barely ever made any money.

***

Justice - "Dance"

Broken Social Scene - "Meet me in the basement" (video inspired by G8/G20 in Toronto, check out all the dancing!)

Reality is starting to incorporate our dreams

Maybe what's happening is that we're all becoming children again. Our rigid roles and characters are dropping off like dried skin. We're fascinating to each other because each one of our acts might be a total surprise, at any instant our personalities might change completely. Like children, we're not exhausted by what we've been and are; life is ahead of us; we're no longer dead.

- Sophie, (page #561)

Yesterday, August 20th was Fredy Perlman's birthday. Are birthdays important? I don't know, but they are nice. It also marks the end of Insurgent Summer, and even though I still haven't finished the book yet (so close!), here is a brief post. Like Yara, I will be spending the next week going to the mountains, or rather you could say - someplace far away in the middle of nowhere Adirondacks. Goodbye Internet, and goodnight neverland. Perhaps, I may finish the book there, and even write my final thoughts, upon a rock somewhere like Lem. Or not. Lem, IRL would freak me out in some ways and seems a bit wing nut - or crazy/insane (almost) as society may think. Don't hold your breathe.

"The contradiction between the subject of those books and my own mindless drift became unbearable to me."

- Sophie (page #570)

Oh, really?

no army can be "popular"

- Yarostan, (page #510)

This quote reminds me of something my mom always told me growing up - that "no one ever really wins a war".

How about something less lethal... like, books - you say?

Sure. On a totally different note, although when put through Kevin Bacon's nine degrees, things seem alright.

Drawing a line between love and (anti)politics

What's a book? Is it a self-realization of an individual's life in the context of living others? Or is it self-realization as a closed compartment, for example an "insurgent," a category that remains separate from all the other separate categories?

- Sophie

Back from the Mountains

In typical fashion, almost a month late - over the last weekend I triumphantly finished reading Letters of Insurgents. This was my second reading of it, as I had read it the summer before as well. I don't think, I will read it next summer, but perhaps sometime years from now, again - certainly. It is a really tremendous book (what is a book though?). Fredy Perlman is one of the greatest story tellers and writers to have graced the professions. Example:) When was the last time you started crying after reading a book? Never?

A note about the writing part: I'm kind of amazed at how much some people managed to write [others participating in the discussion] - and even though I haven't really looked over everyone else's thoughts or some of the discussion of the forum, I did manage to read a few + plan to read the in the future. Often times I avoided the discussion, because I was behind in the reading (surprise, surprise) and didn't want to read that far into the letters yet (even, if again). I guess an eight-hundred and thirty-one page book deserves a good lengthy discussion - or at least a major blockbuster movie to be made about it? So, who is going to make the Letters of Insurgents movie?

tête-à-tête

In no specific order:

On being neighbors: Mr. Ninvino (spelling error? I have to look his name up in book again...) is the neighbor of Yarostan and Mirna. Doesn't it suck when the people you live closest too are not that friendly? Or turn out to be complete assholes? This has been an ongoing experience in my life, living next to people, who you try and be friends with - but, they turn out not to be that friendly. Not that my family and my friends are hard to get along with, we're really not. I think it is fair to say, that yes - some people just plain suck. Fortunately, I've had and continue to have some really awesome neighbors in my life - and if you can't make it happen with your neighbors, then how are you living?

If I hadn't been exchanging letters with you for the past months, I would have reacted to those headlines the same way they did. And I realized there's no such entity as a human species, or rather that it doesn't recognize itself as such; it possesses no faculty of community. Either it never had such a faculty or it lost it. The beings I was among, including me, were not species-beings but closed compartments. Maybe what we've just experienced on both sides of the world shows that the faculty of species-being is something still to be created, and that it's not the abstract "community" I've always envisioned but something very concrete, as concrete as Mirna's "excursions." Maybe it's nothing but the willingness to touch, feel, look at and listen to each other.

- Sophie [you say Sophia]

On work: I really appreciate the many takes Letters offers in regards to the subject of work. All the way from not working (CrimethInc.), to factory jobs (NEFAC) and anti-civilization (Green Anarchy), to being a student and/or teacher (Institute for Anarchist Studies), or being into politics (RAAN) (plus more). As mentioned before, one attraction of this book is that it appeals to me, in part, because of shared experiences and the discussion that revolves around them. While at times it may not be large, often the little things can have the most impact, after all isn't that what chaos tells us?

On friendship: Pretty much the entire book is about the relationships experienced throughout living. All different, if you will, kinds of friendship and relations are developed throughout the book. Some are quite beautiful and others not so much, but the efforts to explore these kinds of questions is something I feel relevant to my life.

When I first read the book, it simply amazed me how someone could write such long beautiful letters to one another. It kind of made me jealous that this stuff happens no matter, and I wondered what it would take for me to write a letter to one would sign with love? In the age of e-mail and instant messages, these kind of letters seem less and less common.

Dreams are realized only during vacations?

On that note, my vacation into this book isn't over - I don't think it ever will be - but, I'm going to spend some time in other places. Perhaps, I will add some more thoughts in the near future and as I read more of the other posts that have come from this reading of the book create a list of my personal favorites and edit all of this mess here.

Until then, besitos and a very strong hug,

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