by Marion May Campbell
UWA Publishing | February 2013
“In bricolage writing… you’re in the flux – swarming with words of others” (13). Marion May Campbell’s novella konkretion swarms with words from many sources-- a narrative, a novel in process, historical interviews, imagined interviews, an interior monologue depicting a choreographed performance of Beckett’s Worstward Ho—which is excellent. These are all delineated by changes in font—Campbell asks that you keep up.
Monique Piquet is in Paris to meet a former student, Angel Beigesang, who has just published a piece also called “konkretion”—a prose poem reimagining the relationship between Red Army Faction members Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. Monique is an ailing professor who suffers a nervous breakdown after the death of her latest husband, whom she admits to have loved only after his death. “It seems like she’s dying from the toe and fingers up, the blackness taking hold” (4).
A question posed repeatedly throughout konkretion is “what triggers the conversion from resistance to terror, flick-knife or otherwise, the jump into illegality?” (88). A similar conversation has spanned centuries in anarchist and syndacalist circles—should illegal behavior be avoided and to what end? Max Stirner’s philosophical treatise from 1845 The Ego and Its Own, often used as a starting point in an anarchist education, states—in a very brief summary—all entities, be they a god, a government, a society, or an individual are all motivated be self-interest, and one does not supersede another, therefore every individual should act in their own self-interest. The idea that illegality—and the ensuing terror that can accompany it—may have positive outcomes for an already inhumane world, never gets its due treatment in konkretion. Most people won’t have a problem with this, but it should be noted.
Monique walks through Paris examining her own perceived failures—relationships with her children, her spouses, her work as a writer, and her apostatized radical ideas. Throughout the many layers of this text, what is most apparent is the touching, tender portrait of this woman in decline for whom experience has produced more questions than answers. At the beginning of konkretion we get a few pages of Monique’s newest and unfinished failure, her novel Driving Lessons. She foresees it being panned by critics but knows she still must finish. At the end, a quote by Gudrun Ensslin’s son, Felix: “Art opens out a way of getting around difficult things” (141). Monique the writer and Monique the radical have the same question: Can art save us from this?
review by Craig Chisholm