Illustator: Alison Schooling / Sarah Tang
« Since its earliest appearances in 1932, Flann O’Brien’s ‘John Duffy’s Brother’ has fascinated and troubled readers, very often simultaneously. Jeremy Fernando has offered, for the first time, an extended meditation on the internal life and times of John Duffy’s brother — an identity so anonymous, so approximate to each of our selves that we can only know him by association with and through the fictional. Using this intra-day nervous breakdown and subsequent recovery as a starting point, je me touche locates the precise site where the tensions between the unremarkable and the histrionic meet in the human psyche, both individual and collective. To Fernando, writers like O’Brien and Herman Melville belong on the same arc as the impulses that gave rise to the global Occupy phenomenon — they see nothing absurd about the absurd moments in all our quotidian dramas. Fernando channels a wide array of voices to get to the heart of what it means to be transformative. Instead of crises internal or otherwise, Fernando, by way of writers and thinkers as diverse as Cervantes, Hamacher, Baudrillard, Bizot, and others, discovers possibilities — that what might at first sight seem like self-imposed hampering impulses are in fact liberating gestures. For Fernando, self-imaginings (such as of the locomotive sort in O’Brien’s story) are not imaginings at all but authentic epistemological and ontological re-constitution. These are to be the intent legacies of all our breakdowns and recoveries. There is nothing loco about being possessed of the idea of oneself a train; it is instinct as well as groundedness ».
— Lim Lee Ching
This book is an attempt to read, to respond to, the Occupy Movement in four movements. Opening with a reading of Flann O’Brien’s evocative short story, ‘John Duffy’s Brother’, it opens the dossier of the generative powers of imagination: not just in opening possibilities in the world, but that what is brought forth is always already a world onto itself. This is followed by a reading of Hermann Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’, with a particular focus on the utterance, « I would prefer not to » ; not just as a phrase of negative resistance, but as a potential challenge, as a seductive challenge. The third movement is an attempt to directly respond — if such a thing is even possible — to the Occupy Movement in all of its potentiality: in no way, shape, or form, does the text attempt to explain it; instead, it attends to it in all of its possibilities, unknowabilities, absurdities even — en bref, as an event. It ends with an attempt to reflect on what it means to speak of something, especially an event — through, and alongside, the slippery figure of the subject, the « I ».