Cthonic Nightmare

Posted by | Chris | 23.12.10 | 4 Comments

Over the last few days I've been reading Cyclonopedia. It's an incredibly strange journey through the wormholes, oil pipelines and sandstorms of the Middle East. Philosophically there's all kinds of things going on inside; Islamic and Arabic history, contemporary conflict and geopolitics, archaeology, mythology, Lovecraft, a lot of Deleuzean and - more infuriating and strange even than D&G - (pseudo?)numerology.

The central premise of the book "the Middle East is a sentient entity - it's alive!" is incredibly interesting. The ways in which oil, sand and solar economy have shaped not only Middle Eastern history and politics but global events is considered not as a function of any human sphere of interest but of an anonymous material drive goading civilisations to new creations and corruptions.

My favourite chapter of the book so far talks of Ahkt, the fallen black sun god of oil, and the Blob, the sentient drive of oil to propagate it's slimy lubricant particles. War is not the creation of war machines but vice versa and in the colonial wars of aggression of the technocapitalist nations oil is the aim, the medium and the burning remainder. Tanks fuelled by petroleum and greased by oil role across deserts and oil-based napalm clings to and disfigures landscapes.

As much fun as it is to read I just don't know what to make of the whole thing. The fictional accounts of archaeologist Hamid Parsani and American Colonel West seem redundant, since everyone seems to write in the same mode of Deleuzean auto-induced trance. Whole chapters (if not the book in its entirety) seem wilfully obscure, and I've often wondered how much attention I should pay; is this difficult paragraph an important intervention to a difficult problem, or is he making this shit up? The styling of the book as an edited series of incoherent notes is continued when you try to start researching online. This comment just about sums up the experience: "I haven’t found any other reference to this technique… Did Reza make this up?"

Presumably this blurring of the boundaries between reality, theory and fiction is precisely what Negarestani wanted. Blurring these boundaries further I had horrible nightmares last night and my girlfriend is angry at me for shouting and fighting in my sleep.