In House of Leaves, Danielewski
seems to make the task of the literary theorist redundant. The book -
the designation 'novel' no longer seems to be adequate in
this case, or it has to be in a postmodernist sense - not only seems
to be an ideal example of the research domain of cultural studies, since
it integrates literature, architecture, philosophy and film / documentary;
at the same time, it also incorporates the domain of the study of literature
and of literary criticism, both in the text itself and in an extensive
system of footnotes. Danielewski alternately refers to fictitious references
and to existing scientific material, most importantly - in the light
of this article - to Anthony Vidler's 1992-study The Architectural
Uncanny. This self-reflexive mode of operation is already announced
in the first chapter: "Numerous professors have made The Navidson
Record required viewing for their seminars, while many universities
already claim that dozens of students from a variety of departments have
completed doctoral dissertations on the film." (Danielewski: 6)
From these existing and fictitious studies, Danielewski will draw an endless
amount of elements in order to create an exhaustive and comprehensive
theoretical discourse around his story. We may however not lose track
of the fact that this theoretical discourse is just as much an essential
part of the book, and thus of our object of study, as the story itself.
With the present essay, I would like to join those dozens of fictitious
students, even though I myself will not investigate The Navidson Record
- a film that is by the way entirely fictitious too! -; instead
I will focus on the book, and more specifically on "its inherent
strangeness" (Danielewski: 6).
1. Intrusion of the uncanny and a first, tentative exploration
Already in chapter IV, the first uncanny change occurs in the house
bought by the Navidsons: after a four-day visit to Seattle, all of a sudden,
they find a dark room between the parental bedroom and that of the children.
[T]he change was enormous. It was not, however, obvious - like
for instance a fire, a robbery, or an act of vandalism. Quite the contrary,
the horror was atypical. No one could deny there had been an intrusion,
but it was so odd no one knew how to respond. On video, we see Navidson
acting almost amused while Karen simply draws both hands to her face
as if she were about to pray. Their children, Chad and Daisy, just run
through it, playing, giggling, completely oblivious to the deeper implications.
The concept of the 'uncanny' in House
of Leaves, on which I will focus my attention in this article, is
extensively introduced, described and theoretically studied in the footnotes,
where Danielewski combines the theories of Freud, Lacan and Heidegger.
In their absence, the Navidsons' home had
become something else, and while not exactly sinister or even threatening,
the change still destroyed any sense of security or well-being. (Danielewski:
What took place amounts to a strange spatial violation which has already
been described in a number of ways - namely surprising, unsettling,
disturbing but most of all uncanny. In German the word for 'uncanny'
is 'unheimlich' which Heidegger
in his book "Sein und Zeit" thought worthy of some consideration:
[…] In anxiety one feels uncanny. Here the peculiar indefiniteness
of that which Dasein finds itself alongside in anxiety, comes proximally
to the expression: the 'nothing and nowhere'. But here 'uncanniness'
also means 'not-being-at-home.'
[das Nicht-zuhause-sein]. (Danielewski : 24)
Nevertheless […] Heidegger still fails to point out that unheimlich
when used as an adverb means 'dreadfully', 'awfully',
'heaps of', and 'an awful lot of.' Largeness
has always been a condition to the weird and unsafe; it is overwhelming,
too much or too big. Thus that which is uncanny or unheimlich
is neither homely not protective, nor comforting
nor familiar. It is alien, exposed, and unsettling, or in other words,
the perfect description of the house on Ash
Tree Lane. (Danielewski: 28)
In the same vein, Vidler, in a study Danielewski himself refers to on
page 359 (cf. infra), remarks that 'the uncanny' as a concept
has found its metaphorical home in architecture
- first and foremost in the house, "haunted
or not, that pretends to afford the utmost security while opening itself
to the secret intrusion of terror". (Vidler: 11) In Danielewski,
this is expressed in the following manner: "Confining us to the
comforts of a well-lit home gives our varied
imaginations a chance to fill the adjacent darkness with questions and
demons." (Danielewski: 98) According to Vidler, the passage from
the homely house to
the haunted house can be compared to the lexical
ambiguity of heimlich and unheimliche.
In other words: there is a "general drift of the uncanny movement
from homely to unhomely,
a movement in most ghost stories where an apparently homely
house turns gradually into a site of horror."
(Vidler: 32) This is exactly what happens to the house
in Ash Tree Lane.
With House of Leaves, Danielewski
upholds a prolific tradition stemming from the nineteenth century.1
By far the most popular topos of the nineteenth-century uncanny was
the haunted house. A pervasive leitmotiv of
architectural revival alike, its depiction in fairy tales, horror stories
and Gothic novels gave rise to a unique genre of writing that, by the
end of the century, stood for romanticism itself. The house
provided an especially favored site for uncanny disturbances: its apparent
domesticity, its residue of family history and nostalgia, its role as
the last and most intimate shelter of private comfort sharpened by contrast
the terror of invasion by alien spirits. (Vidler: 17)
Vidler even specifies his definition of 'the uncanny' by
giving a special status to 'the spatial uncanny': "one
no longer entirely dependent on the temporal dislocations of suppression
and return, or the invisible slippages between a sense of the homely
and the unhomely, but displayed in the abyssal
repetitions of the imaginary void. […] This endless drive to repeat
is then uncanny, both for its association with the death drive and by
virtue of the 'doubling' inherent in the incessant movement
without movement." (Vidler: 37-38) In Vidler's terminology,
we could speak of "repetitive stages toward infinity", especially
when taking into consideration the endless character of the labyrinth.
(cf. Infra) This view is also explicitly uttered in House
The unheimlich, or 'unhomely'
as the 'uncanny', is perceived wherever we are reminded
of our inner tendency to yield to obsessive patterns of action. Overruling
the pleasure principle, the daemonic in oneself yields to a 'repetition
compulsion.' […] Freud […] maintains that "every
emotional affect, whatever its quality, is transformed by repression
into morbid anxiety." Among cases of anxiety, Freud finds the
class of the uncanny, "in which the anxiety can be shown to come
from something repressed which recurs." But this 'unhomely'
might as well be called 'the homely,'
he observes, "for this uncanny is in reality nothing new or foreign,
but something familiar and old-established in the mind that has been
estranged only by the process of repression."
You see emptiness here is the purported familiar and your house
is endlessly familiar, endlessly repetitive. Hallways, corridors, rooms,
over and over again. […] A lifeless, objectless, soulless place.
Godless too. (Danielewski: 359)
On top of all this, Danielewski provides us with a historical-linguistic
definition of the term 'uncanny', being the translation of
the German 'unheimlich'.2
However, in translating 'unheimlich'
by the English 'unhomely' instead
of 'uncanny', the typical feeling of uprootedness, unhomeliness
and alienation is indeed preserved. In his article "The Uncanny",
Freud already pointed out this denotation of the German word 'heimlich'.
The first dictionary extract he gives already starts with this denotation:
"belonging to the house, not strange, familiar,
tame, intimate, friendly […] friendlily comfortable; the enjoyment
of quiet content, etc., arousing a sense of agreeable restfulness and
security as in one within the four walls of his house."
(Freud: 222) It is precisely this shade of meaning that constitutes the
core of Vidler's study The Architectural Uncanny. Vidler
thus summarises his interpretation of the concept of the 'unheimliche':
"For Freud, 'unhomeliness'
was more than a simple sense of not belonging; it was the fundamental
propensity of the familiar to turn on its owners, suddenly to become defamiliarized,
derealized, as if in a dream." (Vidler: 7) The 'unheimliche'
seems to situate itself on the thin border between dream and reality.
This notion of derealization, of living in a dream, regularly returns
in House of Leaves. In the
beginning of the second chapter, this derealization is already announced
when Danielewski mentions: "the impending nightmare [Navidson] and
his entire family are about to face." (Danielewski: 8) Wax too,
when confronted with the anomaly of the dark hallway and the sheer endless
staircase, remarks: "It's so deep, man, it's like it's
almost dream like." (Danielewski: 85) At the very end of the story,
the notion returns in Karen's words:
Q: How did you get him out of the house?
Karen: It just dissolved.
Q: Dissolved? What do you mean?
Karen: Like a bad dream. We were in pitch blackness and then I saw,
no… actually my eyes were closed. I felt this warm, sweet air
on my face, and then I opened my eyes and I could see trees and grass.
I thought to myself, 'We've died. We've died and this
is where you go after you die.' But it turned out to be just our
Q: You're saying the house dissolved?
Karen: [No response]
Q: How's that possible? It's still there, isn't it?"
Confronted with this first manifestation of the uncanny in the sudden
changes in the house, Navidson's first
reaction will be one of denial, of repression: he cannot admit to himself
that something in the house escapes his control.
This reaction is expressed in his desperate but unavailing attempts to
offer a rational explanation for the anomaly he himself records -
on the inside, the house is 6 mm wider than on
the outside - by ascribing this "goddamn spatial rape"
(Danielewski: 55) to inaccurate measuring instruments. Immediately after
this first change, however, a second one announces itself, with much more
far-reaching consequences. In the living room, a door has emerged, which
leads to a dark, endless and - above all - variable labyrinth
of corridors. Navidson will try to compensate his initial loss of control
by an exploration of these corridors. After all, knowledge implies power.
"Techniques of spatial occupation, of territorial mapping, of invasion
and surveillance are seen as the instruments of social and individual
control." (Vidler: 167) When he has to save Holloway and his team,
and thus enters the hallway with a concrete aim, he seems to attain some
certainty about this radically unknown phenomenon - initially that
Navidson, Tom and Reston continue forward beneath those gables of gloom
and walls buttressed with shadow, lighting more flares, penetrating
this world with their halogen lamps, until finally what seemed undefinable
comes forth out of the shimmering blank, implacable and now nothing
less than obvious and undeniable - as if there never could have
been a question about the shape, there never could have been a moment
when only the imagination succeeded in prodding those inky folds, coming
up with its own sense, something far more perverse and contorted and
heavy with things much stranger and colder than even this brief shadow
play performed in the irregular burn of sulfur - mythic and inhuman,
flickering, shifting, and finally dying around the men's continuous
progress. (Danielewski: 154)
Immediately afterwards, however, they enter an "immense, incomprehensible
space […] [of] inky oblivion, while in the background Tom
stands surrounded by flares which just as ineffectually confront the impenetrable
wall of nothingness looming around the Spiral Staircase." (Danielewski:
155) Navidson cannot, however, stay in control for very long. The leadership
over these explorations is from the onset taken out of his hands by Holloway,
which frustrates Navidson and eventually leads to an ultimate, almost
fatal journey into the innermost part of the labyrinth.
The intrusion of the uncanny deprives the Navidsons "of any existing
cohesion" (Danielewski: 83) and undermines the attempt at reconciliation
which the war photographer Navidson and his partner Karen were planning
to undertake by moving into this new house. It
was their last attempt to build a solid family life with their two children.
At a certain moment, Karen voices this attempt when she cries out loud,
sobbing: "This house, this home,
was supposed to help us get closer. It was supposed to be better and stronger
than some stupid marriage vow. It was supposed to make us a family. But,
oh my god, look what's happened." (Danielewski: 321) Here,
we recognize Heidegger's theorisation concerning the uncanny. According
to Heidegger, the post-war human being explicitly experiences the world
as a homeless place. That is precisely the reason
why we so obstinately try to create a safe home.
As a war photographer, Navidson had had a similar experience of fundamental
"unsettledness", and it was precisely for this reason that
he wanted to set up an 'outpost' against the hostile and transitory
However, because Navidson and Karen react in diametrically opposed manners
to the manifestation of the uncanny, their relation perceptibly gets worse.
Navidson undertakes ferocious attempts to master the unknown, trusting
fully on the modern religion of the exact sciences; he is the "classic
hunter. [He] select[s] weapons (tools; reason) and […] track[s]
[his] prey (a solution)". (Danielewski: 37) Karen refuses
to discuss the anomaly, she "refuses the knowledge. A reluctant
Eve who prefers tangerines to apples. 'I don't care,'
she tells Navidson. 'Stop drilling holes in my walls'."
(Danielewski: 30) She develops her own mechanism against this intrusion
of the uncanny, the 'unhomely', by
leaving her stamp on the space: she hangs a couple of bookshelves on the
wall in an attempt to introduce normality. This demeanour is typified
as denying as well as showing maturity, in which case maturity has everything
to do with the acceptance of 'not knowing'. She is the (female)
archetype of the collector, the accumulator. The hallway, which "offers
no answers" and "remains meaningless", "though
it is most assuredly not without effect", of which the presence
is "incontrovertibly there but virtually inviolate to interpretation",
rouses the "domestic tensions" and breaks up the family. (Danielewski:
60, 62) Navidson, the adventurer who has always been ready to put his
personal safety at stake in order to attain his goal, now finds himself
opposed to Karen - flag-bearer of responsibility and categorically
opposed to any risk that might endanger her family or happiness.
[F]inally the lack of physical intimacy and emotional understanding
leads both of them to make privately voiced ultimatums.
Karen: But I will say this, if he goes in there, I'm outta
here. Kids and all.
Navidson: If she keeps up this cold front, you bet I'm going
in there." (Danielewski: 62)
In psycho-analysis there have been two major theories concerning the
uncanny and more specifically concerning its 'causes'. Danielewski
refrains from opting for one of these theories; instead, both can be applied
to the "inherent strangeness" in House
of Leaves. (Danielewski: 6) Initially, the uncanny effect seems
to be caused by intellectual uncertainty; it is precisely this intellectual
uncertainty that Jentsch poses as the essential condition for the feeling
of uncanniness. The uncanny in Jentsch's conception
seems to express that somebody who has an uncanny experience is not
quite zu Hause [at home] in the matter, that
he is not heimisch [homely],
that the affair is foreign to him. Jentsch attributed the feeling of
uncanniness to a fundamental insecurity brought about by "a lack
of orientation," a sense of something new, foreign, and hostile
invading an old, familiar, customary world. […] he ascribes the
central factor in the production of the feeling of uncanniness to intellectual
uncertainty; so that the uncanny would always, as it were, be something
one does not know one's way about in. The better oriented in his
environment a person is, the less readily will he get the impression
of something uncanny in regard to the objects and events in it. (Vidler:
So there is a relation of "the uncanny to the spatial and environmental,
that of 'orientation,'3
, 'knowing one's way about.'"4
In this light it is obvious that no compass can work in the house
- "the needle never stays still. North it seems has no authority
there." (Danielewski: 90) - : the impossibility of orientating
oneself thus increases the uncanny feeling already present. Freud, in
turn, refutes Jentsch's thesis. He characterises the uncanny as
everything that should have remained secret and concealed, and nonetheless
has come to light. In Freud's theory - contrary to Jentsch's
- the uncanny is not something new and unknown, but something old
and familiar, something that suddenly returns, completely unexpectedly
- "in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is
familiar and old established in the mind and which has become alienated
from it only through the process of repression." (Vidler: 55)
The uncanny effect in House of Leaves
can then be understood as a combination of Jentsch's intellectual
insecurity, and of Freud's characterisation of the uncanny as everything
that should have remained secret and concealed, and has nonetheless come
to light. In House of Leaves, Danielewski
narratively repeats Freud's movement: at first, Jentsch's
postulation seems to describe most accurately what is going on: the uncanny
feeling arises from the not-knowing, the not being able to explain the
phenomena taking place in the house. As the story
evolves, however, Freud's concept of repression, caused by real
traumas or phantasmagoria, will come forth more strongly. The idea of
intellectual uncertainty is however never completely abandoned; exploration
(knowledge) of the hallways eventually becomes a true obsession for the
men, especially for Navidson, until the point where they are willing to
risk their lives in order to attain this knowledge. The structure of the
novel - a framestory - contributes to this intellectual uncertainty.5
Whereas in many stories this intellectual uncertainty is evoked and maintained
by a narrator who wilfully leaves the reader in the dark about which laws
(natural or fictional) to abide by, the specific structure of House
of Leaves makes it clear from the onset that this hallway does exist
for the characters and the reader, although the external reality seems
to contradict its existence.
In one continuous shot, Navidson […] momentarily focuses on a
doorway on the north wall of his living room before climbing outside
of the house through a window to the east of
that door, where he trips slightly in the flower bed, redirects the
camera from the ground to the exterior white clapboard, then moves right,
crawling back inside the house through a second
window, this time to the west of that door, where we hear him grunt
slightly as he knocks his head on the sill, eliciting laughter from
those in the room […] before finally returning us to the starting
point, thus completely circling the doorway and so proving, beyond a
shadow of a doubt, that insulation or siding is the only possible thing
this doorway could lead to, which is where all laughter stops, as Navidson's
hand appears in frame and pulls open the door, revealing a narrow black
hallway at least ten feet long, prompting Navidson to re-investigate,
once again leading us on another circumambulation of this strange passageway,
climbing in and out of the windows, pointing the camera to where the
hallway should extend but finding nothing more than his own backyard
- no ten foot protuberance, just rose bushes, a muddy dart gun,
and the translucent summer air - in essence an exercise in disbelief
which despite his best intentions still takes Navidson back inside to
that impossible hallway. (Danielewski: 4)
2. A second, more thorough exploration- in search of a meaning
A haunting question has been lurking since the uncanny change was mentioned
for the first time. What is the meaning of the labyrinth? Does it even
have a meaning?6
I will now try to answer this pressing question. The formulation of such
answer will however take the shape of an exploration in itself, albeit
not of a labyrinthine house, but of a text -
itself a construction in its kind.
The earlier position that the dark hallway offers "no answers"
and "remains meaningless" (Danielewski: 60), is refuted only
a few pages later in the book (in the mean time, Tom has installed a door
to barricade the hallway): "Sadly, even with the unnatural darkness7
now locked behind a steel door, Karen and Navidson still continue to say
very little to each other, their own feelings seemingly as impossible
for them to address as the meaning of the hallway itself." (Danielewski:
61) The hallway, and the labyrinth that is shaped by its windings do not
seem to be as meaningless as what may appear from the previous pages of
the book. What their exact meaning might be, still remains an unanswered
question. It does however look as if there will be more than one meaning
to it. The text itself offers a whole series of possible interpretations.
"Is it merely an aberration of physics? Some kind of warp in space?
Or just a topiary labyrinth on a much grander scale? Perhaps it serves
a funereal purpose? Conceals a secret? Protects something? Imprisons or
hides some kind of monster? Or, for that matter, imprisons or hides an
innocent? As the Holloway team soon discovers, answers to these questions
are not exactly forthcoming." (Danielewski: 111)
[N]o one, not even a god or an Other, comprehends the entire maze
and so therefore can never offer a definitive answer. Navidson's
house seems a perfect example. Due to the wall-shifts
and extraordinary size, any way out remains singular and applicable
only to those on that path at that particular time. All solutions then
are necessarily personal. […] While some portions of the house,
like the Great Hall for instance, seem to offer a communal experience,
many inter-communicating passageways encountered by individual members,
even with only a glance, will never be re-encountered by anyone else
again. Therefore, in spite of, as well as in light of, future investigations,
Holloway's descent remains singular. (Danielewski: 115 and 118)
On closer examination, the house primarily seems
to externalise the psychic problems and anxieties of its inhabitants in
its architectural structure, corresponding to Vidler's characterisation
of 'the uncanny' as "outgrowth of the Burkean sublime":
"[i]ts favourite motif was precisely the contrast between a secure
and homely interior and the fearful invasion
of an alien presence; on a psychological level, its play was one of doubling,
where the other is, strangely enough, experienced as a replica of the
self, all the more fearsome because apparently the same." (Vidler:
3) The anomaly of the house, the terrifying dark
hallways, are thus a projection of one's own fears. Or, as Vidler
states: "the 'uncanny' is not a property of the space
itself nor can it be provoked by any particular spatial confirmation;
it is, in its aesthetic dimension, a representation of a mental state
of projection that precisely elides the boundaries of the real and the
unreal in order to provoke a disturbing ambiguity, a slippage between
waking and dreaming." (Vidler: 11) "The architectural uncanny"
does, in other words, not refer to buildings summoning an uncanny feeling
on the basis of for example "special effects of design". One
can only say that "the buildings and spaces that have acted as the
sites for uncanny experiences have been invested with recognizable characteristics.
These almost typical and eventually commonplace qualities - the
attributes of haunted houses in Gothic romances
are the most well known - while evidently not essentially uncanny
in themselves, nevertheless have been seen as emblematic of the
uncanny, as the cultural signs of estrangement for particular periods.
[…] Spatial estrangement [...] represented precisely that mingling
of mental projection and spatial characteristics associated with the uncanny."
(Vidler: 11) Likewise, the mutations in the house
on Ash Tree Lane reflect the psyche of its owners.
reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it. Dr. Haugeland asserts
that the extraordinary absence of sensory information forces the individual
to manufacture his or her own data. Ruby Dahl, in the stupendous study
of space, calls the house on Ash Tree Lane
'a solipsistic heightener,' arguing that 'the house,
the halls, and the rooms all become the self - collapsing, expanding,
tilting, closing, but always in perfect relation to the mental state
of the individual. (Danielewski: 165)
In many ways, Navidson's house functions
like an immense isolation tank. Deprived of light, change in temperature
and any sense of time, the individual begins to create his own sensory
[ ], [ ]d depen[ ]ng on the duration of his stay begins to project more
and more of [ ] personality on those bare walls and vacant [ ]allways.
In this view, the horrors with which Navidson was confronted in his house
were nothing more than manifestations of his own confused mind. The same
idea is to be found in E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Sandman",
where Klara explains the horrors Nathanael experiences as existing solely
in his own mind, where a dark psychic power takes on a form reflecting
or mirroring, as it were, his own being, thus leading him to grant belief
to that power and give it the necessary space to fulfil its dark work.
The outer world only plays a minor part in these strange manifestations.
A glance at Navidson's youth teaches us that his father was a violent
alcoholic who was more often absent than present, and that his mother
soon left Navidson and his twin brother to make a career as an actress
- mostly in a horizontal position. Navidson's very first human
relationship was thus characterised by absence, the legacy of which he
would carry with him all his life.
Perhaps one reason Navidson became so enamored with photography was
the way it gave permanence to moments that were often so fleeting. Nevertheless,
not even ten thousand photographs can secure a world, and so while Navidson
may have worked harder, taken greater risks and become increasingly
more successful, he was ultimately misled in feeling that his labor
could make up for the love he was deprived of as a child and the ultimate
sense of security such love bestows. (Danielewski: 22-23)
"On every woman falls the shadow of the mother, what immediately
imparts her with the power, possibly the omnipotence, of the mother."
(Verhaeghe 1999: 53. My translation8
) This absence of the proto-relationship cannot, however, explain in itself
why Navidson had to create such an impenetrable / unfathomable labyrinth.
A lot of questions are raised here, to which we cannot immediately formulate
an adequate answer - keeping in mind the multi-interpretability
of the concept of the labyrinth itself ("the house
frustratingly resists any single interpretation" (Vidler: 119)).
This might be the right place to turn our attention to the theories of
Freud and Lacan. "In 1995, parapsychologist Lucinda S. Hausmaninger
claimed that Navidson's house was analogous
to the blind spot created by the optic nerve in the retina: 'It
is a place of processing, of sense-making, of seeing.' However,
she soon altered this supposition, describing it as 'the omphalos
of all we are.' It did not matter that the house
existed in Virginia, only that it existed in one place: 'One place,
one (eventual) meaning.'" (Danielewski: 414) Now, as Verhaeghe
points out, "[f]rom a Lacanian point of view, this [notion of
the omphalos, "the core of our being" N. B.] can be understood
as the relationship between the Real and the other two orders [the
Imaginary and the Symbolic, N.B.]. Freud's core, navel, primal
scene or mycelium, i.e., the dynamic drive element, is the impossible
Real that lies beyond the Imaginary and the Symbolic, resisting every
attempt to give it representation. […] The Real is apparently traumatic
in itself and yields a primal anxiety as a basic affect."
(Verhaeghe 1999 (a): 28) Thus, it is everything but "a place of
processing, of sense-making, of seeing", it lies precisely outside
of any determinant. The core of our being as well as the omphalos of the
dream share ""the opacity of the trauma (…) its resistance
to signification" and "the pathogenic nucleus as what is being
sought, but which repels discourse - what discourse shuns.""
(Verhaeghe 1999 (a): 28-29)
Henceforth I will take on a Lacanian perspective to try to come to terms
with the meaning of the dark hallway. In this perspective, we can regard
the subterranean corridors in House of Leaves
as the Real that has to be dealt with defensively in the Imaginary and/or
the Symbolic. This defensive assimilation takes the shape of repression.
Freud discovered that this repulsive material is always a passive trauma,
characterised by lack of desire - in Freud's theory, passive
equals feminine. "To be more accurate: passivity became a substitute
signifier for femininity because even Freud could not find the right words
for it. In other words, the traumatic Real, for which there is no signifier
in the Symbolic, is femininity. Freud had discovered the lack in the
Symbolic system: there is no signifier for The Woman." (Verhaeghe
1999 (a): 39) The implication of this Lacanian reading is that the labyrinth
expresses femininity - that which is without signifier. With this
line of reasoning, we have reached Freud's theory of desire and
urge or drive. That it is precisely the passive feminine that constitutes
the Real (that should be repressed) in House
of Leaves, is expressed in the work itself. In a (fictive) interview
with Karen, (the real) cultural critic Camille Paglia says:
Notice only men go into it[?] Why? Simple: women don't have to.
They know there's nothing there and can live with that knowledge,
but men must find out for sure. They're haunted by that infinite
hollow and its sense-making allure, and so they crave it, desire it,
desire its end, its knowledge, its - to use here a Strangelove-ian
phrase - its essence. They must penetrate, invade, conquer, destroy,
inhabit, impregnate and if necessary even be consumed by it. It really
comes down to what men lack. They lack the hollow, the uterine cavity,
any creative life-yielding physiological incavation. The whole thing's
about womb envy or vagina envy, whatever you prefer. […] How would
I describe [that place]? The feminine void. (Danielewski: 357-358,
The house as vagina: The adolescent
boy's primary identification lies with the mother. The subsequent
realization that he is unlike her (he has a penis; she doesn't;
he is different) results in an intense feeling of displacement and loss.
The boy must seek out a new identity (the father) … Navidson explores
that loss, that which he first identified with: the vagina, the womb,
the mother. […] Navidson's house
is an incarnation of his own mother. In other words: absent. (Danielewski:
Paul Verhaeghe's collection of essays Love in a Time of Loneliness,
from which I have quoted above offers a number of indications for such
an interpretation. Verhaeghe notes that within each patriarchal monotheism
(itself evolved from a matrilineal clan system), it is the female who
has to be mastered; the danger supposedly residing inside her has to be
curbed before it is even named. (Verhaeghe 1999: 133, my trans.) "Sensual
pleasure, as well as anxiety and aggression will be directed against the
female, who has to be either mastered or fled. 'Female' stands
for something different, something indescribable, something real, beyond
any form of - always partial - pleasure." (Verhaeghe
1999: 140, my trans.) The female is thus regarded as a danger which the
male should master. This attempt at mastering is the most obvious in the
institutionalised genital mutilation of the clitoridectomy. In the most
serious form of clitoridectomy - called infibulation -, next
to the excision of the entire female genital, the remainders of the labia
majora are stitched up as well. This kind of mutilation is directed against
the - by the male supposed and feared - female lasciviousness,
a lust reducing the male to a mere object, "an unresisting, spineless
instrument that is used and consumed. […] What the male fears, is
the transgression, the crossing of a boundary beyond which he no longer
exists. The female, merely through her femininity, invites him to cross
this boundary, awakens the need in him to transgress this limit. Every
female opens up the abyss, in which the male fears, but at the same time
longs to fall into." (Verhaeghe 1999: 143, my trans.)
In House of Leaves, the hallway seems
to force Navidson to penetrate deeper and deeper into it. Every corridor
he cycles through during his last exploration, runs downwards, into the
heart of the labyrinth. "It's as if I'm moving along
a surface that always tilts downward no matter which direction I face."
(Danielewski: 425) A way out no longer exists since there is only one
way: downwards, inwards. "The male fear for the female, for her
supposed lasciviousness, is the fear to disappear in the female body.
His fear is thus a sexualised modelling of a much more ancient anxiety,
which affects both man and woman in their status of children. Beyond the
female, the figure of the Omnipotent Mother arises, together with a primitive
logic: we stem from it, so consequently, the way back lies open."
(Verhaeghe 1999: 145, my trans.)9
Here we arrive at the origin of the mythological consuming genital, the
vagina dentata. This myth presupposes an insatiable mother, desiring
an unlimited sensual pleasure and using her product, her fruit to this
end. The pleasure of the Other thus becomes threatening for us. Camille
Paglia characterises the struggle between the sexes as follows:
'For the male, every act of intercourse is a return to the mother
and a capitulation to her. For men, sex is a struggle for identity.
In sex, the male is consumed and released again by the toothed power
that bore him, the female dragon of nature.' Sex is a battle that
the man always loses; still he keeps joining it, driven by an inner
force unknown to him and therefore situated outside himself, in the
woman, where it has to be fought or fled. At the cost of that woman.
(Verhaeghe 1999: 143-144, my trans.)
Freud however adjusted his initial theories, and it is precisely this
more balanced theory that applies to Karen. Apparently it is not only
the male who flees from the presupposed and frightening female pleasure.
"What every subject flees from, is the passive position towards
the other10 ; what every
subject has to manipulate, is the resulting fear." And yet, as Verhaeghe
adds: "What Freud does not emphasize, is that the thing or condition
most fled from, is at the same time the most desired. Beyond the fear
lies the desire for that passive position, for the subjection to the other,
to that other. For the disappearance in the other." (Verhaeghe 1999:
180, my trans.)
In House of Leaves, it is precisely
the characteristic of endlessness11
that frightens the men to death. Willy-nilly they hope to find the exit
to the labyrinth. From the moment that any return seems to be impossible,
panic however strikes. The lacking of such a necessary end point is an
essential characteristic of the drive or urge, the 'jouïssance'.12
The distinction between desire and urge
is primarily a distinction in the related perception of time. Desire is
delineated or scanned in time, thus offering a safe anchor. The jouïssance
or enjoyment lacks precisely this delineation, "carrying in itself
the risk of losing oneself in it, of disappearing in the shoreless stream
and of no longer being able to return." From this lack
of delineation stems the anxiety of the ego for the enjoyment. There is
however a secured form of enjoyment, namely the (male) phallic-orgiastic
one, where "the body has built in a security mechanism through the
installation of a direction and an end point, the genital orgasm."13
(Verhaeghe 1999: 168, my trans.)
Moreover, it is no coincidence that it is the male who, time after time,
is driven to the female; he is after all the part that fell off, that
was left behind, and irresistibly returns to his origin. The drift is
a serious step backwards in relation to the desire, where we are satisfied
"with the identification, the absorbing of the desire of the other".
(Verhaeghe 1999: 184, my trans.) 'Le désir de l'homme,
c'est le désir de l'autre', to use Lacan's
words. The drift is the "incorporation, the literal absorption of
the other himself"; a frightening incorporation, since it presupposes
a totally, passively being absorbed by the other, and thus the disappearance
of the own self. As Verhaeghe puts it: "The price for the totality
is extremely high, one pays it with oneself, one disappears as a subject.
'Jouïssance': usufruct, fruit of and for the Other."
(Verhaeghe 1999: 60, my trans.)
It is exactly this (incomprehensible,) irresistible urge to return that
drives Navidson: "The obsession just grew and grew until it was
Navidson who was finally possessed by some self-destructive notion
to go back there and yet completely dispossessed of any rational
mechanism to override such an incredibly stupid idea." (Danielewski:
386) There is a "notion of an impulsion toward a loss of the subject
into dark space, linked directly […] to the death drive."
(Vidler: 175) In this perspective, the fact that Tom, Navidson's
twin brother, tries to create a sense of security "by installing
a door to close off the hallway" (Danielewski: 61) becomes acceptable,
just like his attempt - right after their escape from the devouring
tunnels (where two men lost their lives and two other men barely escaped
the same fate) - to barricade the door and thus 'stitch up'
the entrance to this frightening 'female genital'.
Afterwards, Tom hands the keys over to Karen. At first sight, this seems
rather strange since she is a woman, and as a woman, she should be mastered
as well. However, Verhaeghe puts us on the track of a possible explanation.
In the course of the novel, it becomes clear that Karen - most likely
- has been sexually abused by her stepfather. In a psychopharmacological
investigation Karen once participated in, there was no evidence of a history
of sexual abuse. "However it does not seem unreasonable to consider
a traumatic adolescent experience, whether a fantasy or real, as a possible
source for Karen's fears." (Danielewski: 347) Tom's
handing over the keys can be understood as a concession to a fantasy of
Karen's which is common to victims of sexual abuse (whether real
or fantastic), namely "the rewriting of a scenario through which
one gets a better role than before, and can pass on the Black Peter. 'Better'
usually means active-controlling instead of passive-enduring." (Verhaeghe
1999: 170, my trans.) So it is an attempt to give Karen some kind of control,
or at least a feeling of control, over the horrors behind the door.
In her first confrontation with the dark, unknown hallway, Karen suffers
a fit of claustrophobia - a form of the original global anxiety
expressing itself in an "anxiety to 'fall', to 'disappear',
to 'get beside oneself'." (Verhaeghe 1999: 145, my trans.)
The fact that the claustrophobia turns up precisely in the confrontation
with this dark space is not surprising, since "space is assumed
to hide, in its darkest recesses and forgotten margins, all the objects
of fear and phobia that have returned with such insistency to haunt the
imaginations of those who have tried to stake out spaces to protect their
health and happiness." (Vidler: 167) When Navidson enters the house
as a modern Jonah to ward off the storm, and Karen takes the liberating
step in the dark out of love for him, the uncanny anomalies disappear
like snow in summer. Ultimately, the hallway was a challenge to Karen
as well as to Navidson. Should we dare to conclude that without the hallway,
which seemed to mortgage the attempt at reconciliation entirely, this
attempt might never have worked?
3. Answers - Delial and the death drive
Finally I have come to the point where I can formulate an answer to the
previously asked question why Navidson had to create such an impenetrable
/ infathomable labyrinth, and what he thus wanted to conceal. To answer
this question, we have to go back to Navidson's past. As a war photographer,
he had won the Pulitzer price with a photo of "a Sudanese child
dying of starvation, too weak to move even though a vulture stalks her
from behind." (Danielewski: 368) Navidson named the little girl,
whom he could not save from death, Delial. Only at the end of the novel
it becomes clear what this mysterious name, that Navidson keeps mentioning
in his dreams, signifies. In a letter to Karen, written the night before
his return to the house in Ash Tree Lane, he
tries to justify this return (which he himself significantly calls a "penance",
Danielewski: 391). In a long, very emotional interior monologue, written
down without punctuation and full of spelling mistakes, pointing out the
state of mind he was in at the moment of writing it, he reveals the significance
of the name 'Delial': she represents his failure - "'I
waited too long with Delial. I'm not going to do it again.'"
"[…] and now I can't get Delial out of my head. Delial,
Delial, Delial - the name I gave to the girl in the photo that
won me all the fame and gory [sic], that's all she is Karen, just
the photo. And now I can't understand anymore why it meant so
much to me to keep her a secret - a penance or something. Inadequate.
Well there it's said. But the photo, that's not what I can't
get out of my head right now. Not the photo - that photo, that
thing - but who she was before one-sixtieth of a second sliced
her out of thin air and won me the pulitzer though that didnt keep the
vultures away i did that by swinging my tripodaround [sic] though that
didnt keep her from dyding [sic] five years old daisy's age except
she was pciking [sic] at a bone you should have seen her not the but
her a little girl squatting in a field of rock dangling a bone between
her fingers i miss miss miss but i didn't miss i got her along
with the vulture in the background when the real vulture was the guy
with the camera preying on her for his fuck pulitzer prize it doesnt
matter if she was already ten minutes from dying i took threem [sic]
minutes to snap a photo should have taken 10 minutes taking her somewhere
so she wouldnt go away like that no family, no mother nor day [sic],
no people just a vulture and a fucking photojournalist i wish i were
dead right now i wish i were dead that poor little baby this god god
awful world im sorry i cant stop thinking of her never have never will
cant forget how i ran with her like where was i going to really run
i was twelve miles from nowhere (Danielewski: 391-393)
The remembrance of this failure, that has been haunting him ever since
he came back from Sudan, has become even more vivid after Tom's
death in the latter's attempt to save his niece Daisy when the house
collapsed on its inhabitants. Tom handed over Daisy through the window
to Navidson, who was already outside the house
and thus in safety, and who subsequently had to watch his twin brother
being swallowed up by his house and die in a
horrifying manner. Again, Navidson himself was safe while a little child
(this time his own daughter) was in danger of her life. Again, he was
powerless in the confrontation with death.
i had no one to [sic] her to no window to pass her through out of harms
way no tom there I was no tom there and then that tiny bag of bones
just started to shake and it was over she died right in my hands the
hands of the guy who took three minutes two minutes whatever a handful
of seconds to photograph her and now she was gone that poor little girl
in this god awful world i miss her i miss delial i miss the man i thought
i was before i met her the man who would have saved her who would have
done something who would have been tom maybe hes the one im looking
for or maybe im looking for all of them". (Danielewski: 393)
In the pages following the revelation, Danielewski again, in his usual
style, comes up with a whole series of critics, all ventilating their
own opinion concerning Delial, and what she concretely meant to Navidson.
Most of them agree on one point: Delial would soon transcend the meaning
of her own existence. "Memory, experience, and time turned her bones
into a trope for everything Navidson had ever lost." (Danielewski:
395) As Danielewski himself - in his assumed role of literary critic
- points out, Delial also comes to represent the loss of Navidson's
twin brother Tom, although his death takes place twenty years after hers.
It is no coincidence that as Navidson begins to dwell on Delial he
mentions his brother three times: 'I had no one to pass her to.
There was no window to pass her through out of harms way. There was
no Tom there. I was no Tom there. Tom, maybe he's the one I'm
looking for.' It is a harrowing admission full of sorrow and defeat
- 'I was no Tom there' - seeing his brother
as the life-saving (and line-saving) hero he himself was not. (Danielewski:
An explanation for the sudden importance of Delial in Navidson's
last letter - after twenty years of silence; before the appearance
of "The Navidson Record", neither friends nor family
nor colleagues knew that Delial was the name Navidson gave to the starving
Sudanese child - is grounded in
a repressive mechanism enabling [Navidson] to at least on a symbolic
level deal with his nearly inexpressible loss. After all in a very short
amount of time Navidson had seen the rape of physics. He had watched
one man murder another and then pull the trigger on himself. He had
stood helplessly by as his own brother was crushed and consumed. And
finally he had watched his lifelong companion flee to her mother and
probably another lover, taking with her his children and bits of his
sanity. (Danielewski: 395)
"She [Delial] is all he needs to find." (Danielewski: 394)
Everything happening in Navidson's life in some way gets connected
with Delial, thus making Delial the centre of a web of different meanings.
The very shape of the hallways, as Navidson experiences them during his
last exploration, is partly determined by his past: "[Environmental
image, a generalized mental picture of the exterior physical world] is
the product both of immediate sensation and of the memory of past
experience, and it is used to interpret information and to guide
action." (Danielewski: 176) The repressed keeps coming back.
This interpretation of Navidson's letter is however refuted by
other critics in Danielewski's book, who characterise the letter
drunken babble chock-full of expected expressions of grief, re-identification
with a lost object, and plenty of transference, having less to do with
Navidson's lost brother and more to do with the maternal absence
he endured throughout his life. The desire to save Delial must partly
be attributed to a projection of Navidson's own desire to be cradled
by his mother. Therefore his grief fuses his sense of self with his
understanding of the other, causing him not only to mourn for the tiny
child but for himself as well. (Danielewski: 397)
This refutation in fact points back at Freud's earlier discussed
concept of transference, according to which "on every woman falls
the shadow of the mother, what immediately imparts her with the power,
possibly the omnipotence, of the mother." (Verhaeghe 1999: 53, my
trans.) Indeed, the repressed keeps popping up where it is least expected.
Danielewski suggests that only after 'finding' Delial and
reaching an understanding about his own life, Navidson will be able to
properly escape the house. To Navidson, the house
(and only the house) offered "the possibility
that he could locate either within himself or 'within that vast
missing' some emancipatory sense to put to rest his confusions and
troubles, even put to rest the confusions and troubles of others, a curative
symmetry to last the ages." (Danielewski: 402) He sees himself as
the biblical Jonah. During his very last exploration of the house,
the somatic and psychological symptoms of everyone exposed to the house
decreased (Danielewski: 406: table);
[e]ven more peculiar, the house became a
As Reston discovered, the space between the master bedroom and the children's
bedroom had vanished. Karen's bookshelves were once again flush
with the walls. And the hallway in the living room now resembled a shallow
closet. Its walls were even white.
The sea, it seemed, had quieted.
'Was Navidson like Jonah?' The Haven-Slocum Theory asks.
'Did he understand the house would calm
if he entered it, just as Jonah understood the waters would calm if
he were thrown into them?'" (Danielewski: 406)
In the scraps of paper to be found in the Appendix, however, this positive
outcome is refuted, suggesting Navidson did not wholly come to terms with
his own past.
"The only ominous note was struck by the ambulance driver who
took Navidson and Karen to the hospital:
It was late afternoon, nice, real peaceful, and we got him on a stretcher
and loaded up, and she started to cry a lot, sort of coming out of the
shock of it, I seen that happen a lot. It was real intense - he
being about to die and she crying and all - so I shouldn't
have noticed anything else but I kept hearing this banging. Over and
over, bang, bang, bang. So finally I lookt [sic] over at the
house and sure enough their screen door was
slamming open and shut. I forgot about it until I'm driving back
to the hospital. See, I told you it was nice out. Well that was true.
Real nice, there weren't [sic] no breeze to speak of.
The trees weren't swaying, nothing, just still. But that screen
door was banging open and shut like we were in the middle of a darned
hurricane. A few weeks later I drove by the house
but the door was closed and they'd started putting up that big
fence. […] The house still stands on
Ash Tree Lane. Karen still owns it. It is not for sale. As she warns:
'There is nothing there. Be careful.' (Danielewski: 550)
His last enterprise seems to have failed too. The reason for this new
failure - again expressly offered in the book itself - can
be found in Navidson's unconscious desire for death.
"Navidson began believing darkness could offer something other
than itself. […] 'Even the brightest magnesium flare can
do little against such dark except blind the eyes of the one holding
it. Thus one craves what by seeing one has in fa ct not seen. […]
That house answers many yearnings remembered
The point of recounting these observations is simply to show how understandable
it was that for Navidson the impenetrable sweep of that place soon acquired
greater meaning simply because […] it was full of unheimliche
vorklänger and thus represented a means to his own personal
propitiation. […] when Tom died every 'angry, rueful, self-indicting
tangle' within Navidson suddenly 'lit up,' producing
projections powerful and painful enough to 'occlude, deny and
cover' the only reason for their success in the first place: the
blankness of that place, 'the utter and perfect blankness.'
It is nevertheless the underlying position […] that Navidson in
fact relied on such projections in order to deny his increasingly more
'powerful and motivating Thanatos.' In the end, he sought
nothing less than to see the house exact its
annihilating effects on his own being. […]
Thus emphasizing the potentially mortal price for beholding what must
lie forever lost in those inky folds." (Danielewski: 387-388)
Navidson's return to the house could,
in the last resort, be regarded as an encounter with the threat of death,
which, as a photographer, he never had felt, because he had always placed
someone else between himself and the threat. "Returning to Ash Tree
Lane meant removing the other. It meant photographing something unlike
anything he had ever encountered before, even in previous visits to the
house, a place without population, without participants,
a place that would threaten no one else's existence but his own."
(Danielewski: 422) "Only my end exists. […] Maybe that is
the something here. The only thing here. My end." (Danielewski:
472) At the end of the tunnel, Freud's death drive was awaiting
"Non enim videbit me homo et vivet". (Danielewski
: 388) 14
Danielewski, Mark Z. 2000. House of Leaves.
Foster, Hal. 2000. Compulsive Beauty. Cambridge (Ma): MIT P.
Freud, Sigmund. 1964. "The Uncanny". The Complete Psychological
Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. XVII (1917-19) London: The Hogarth P:
Hoffmann, E.T.A. 1969 . "The Sandman." Selected
Writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Volume 1: The Tales. Ed. and trans.
Leonard J. Kent and Elizabeth C. Knight. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
Verhaeghe, Paul, 1999. Liefde in tijden van eenzaamheid. Drie verhandelingen
over drift en verlangen. Leuven: Acco.
----.1999 (a). 'Does the woman exist?' From Freud's
Hysteric to Lacan's Feminine. Trans. Marc du Ry. London: Rebus
Vidler, Anthony. 1992. The Architectural Uncanny. Essays in
the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge: MIT P.
1. A frequently asked question
at the publication of "The Navidson Record", was: "was
the subject a haunted house?" (Danielewski:
2. "While unheimlich
has already recurred within this text, there has up to now been no treatment
of the English word uncanny. While lacking the Germanic sense
of 'home,' uncanny builds its meaning
on the Old English root cunnan from the Old Norse Kunna which
has risen from the Gothic Kunnan (preterite-present verbs) meaning
know from the Indo-European (see OED). The 'y'
imparts a sense of 'full of' while the 'un' negates
that which follows. In other words, un-cann-y literally breaks down or
disassembles into that which is not full of knowing or conversely
full of not knowing; and so without understanding exactly
what repetitive denial still successfully keeps repressed and thus estranged,
though indulging in repetition nonetheless, that which is uncanny
may be defined as empty of knowledge and knowing or at the same time surfeit
with the absence of knowledge and knowing. In the words of Perry Ivan
Nathan Shaftesbury, author of "Murder's Gate: A Treatise On
Love and Rage" […]: 'It is therefore sacred, inviolate,
forever preserved. The ultimate virgin. The husbandless Madonna. Mother
of God. Mother of Mother. Inhuman'. See also Anthony Vidler's
"The Architectural Uncanny: Essays In The Modern Unhomely"
(Cambridge, Massachusetts; The MIT Press, 1992)." (Danielewski:
3. Navidson, during his last and
almost fatal exploration, "is slowly becoming more and more disoriented.
He suffers from surges of nausea, 'like I've got a bad case
of the spins.' Questions plague him. Is he floating, falling, or
rising? Is he right side up, upside down or on his side?" (Danielewski:
4. Vidler: 23. It is for good reason
that Holloway takes Jed, who "possesses an uncanny [!] sense of
direction" and Wax, a guide, with him. (Danielewski: 81). "'I
guess all we've got now is your sense of direction,' Wax jokingly
tells Jed, which as Luther Shepard wrote: "Only helps to emphasize
how real the threat was of getting lost in there'." (Danielewski:
90). "Though Wax puts his faith in Jed's unerring sense of
direction, Jed admits to some pre-exploration apprehensions: 'How
can I know where to go when I don't know where we are? I mean, really,
where is that place in relation to here, to us, to everything? Where?'"
(Danielewski: 94). "The problem, of course, was that the certain
'something' Holloway so adamantly sought to locate never existed
per se in that place to begin with." (Danielewski: 95)
5. Entirely according to Kofman's
theories. (Kofman: 150)
6. The house
seems to deny all laws of nature concerning supporting power. "So
that place, beyond dimension, impossibly high, deep, wide - what
kind of foundation is it sitting on?" (Danielewski: 355) Something
without foundation, has no ground, ergo no meaning… Or: "I
trace the lines, do the math, study the construction, and all I come up
with is… well the whole thing's just a hopeless, structural
impossibility. And therefore substanceless and forgettable. Despite its
weight, its magnitude, its mass… In the end it adds up to nothing."
(Danielewski: 361) "Just as a nasty virus resists the body's
immune system so […] the house resists interpretation." Meaning
could only originate "if you tied the house
to politics, science or psychology. Whatever you like but something."
(Danielewski: 356). Moreover, one should keep in mind one issue: "It
could represent plenty of things but it also is nothing more than itself,
a house - albeit a pretty weird house."
7. The darkness reigning in the hallway
is not coincidental. At the end of the 18th century, the fear of darkness
brought about a great fascination for everything concerning the dark side
of life, for a fantastic world, filled with dark stone walls, hiding places
and dungeons. A spatial phenomenology of darkness came to life. "Absolute
darkness [was] the most powerful instrument to induce that state
of fundamental terror claimed by Burke as the instigator of the sublime."
8. I have not been able to consult
the English translation of this collection of essays. (The reference of
the translation is: Verhaeghe, Paul. 1999. Love in a Time of Loneliness
- Three Essays on Drive and Desire. New York, London: The Other
Press, Rebus Press). All translations of Verhaeghe 1999 are therefore
mine, as will be indicated.
9. This interpretation gains even
more power through the support of another quote: "Realizing what
is about to happen, Navidson makes a desperate grab for the only remaining
thread connecting him to home, but he is too
late." (Danielewski: 293) This thread of course suggests the umbilical
cord, connecting the new-born to its mother, but irrevocably waiting to
be cut through.
10. When asked for his interpretation
of the house, Derrida answers: "The other.
[Pause] Or what other, which is to say then, the same thing. The other,
no other. You see?" (Danielewski: 365)
11. When asked for his description
of the house, Hofstadter answers: "A horizontal
eight." (Danielewski: 364). ¥ : the mathematical sign of infinity.
12. Both in its sense of enjoyment
as in its sense of usufruct. From here on, I will use the word 'enjoyment',
but one must keep in mind both meanings of the word.
13. "The shores are delineated
and the energy is channelled. The thrust reaches its height, the dams
break, but the finish is in sight. The 'I come, I come' is truly
the right expression, for, beforehand, the I was far gone." (Verhaeghe
1999: 168, my trans.)
14. "Maurice Blanchot translates
this as "whoever sees God dies." (Danielewski: 388). The literal
translation goes as follows: 'The man who sees me and lives does
after all not exist.' In his letter to Karen, Navidson writes: "God's
a house. Which is not to say that our house
is God's house or even a house
of God. What I mean to say is that our house
is God." (Danielewski: 390).