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Reviews 141 ofOrpheus, p. 121). The difference between the noise of the New York Times Book Review section—or its French equivalent—and Blanchot's "speech" is as thin as a sheet of paper. It is as ephemeral, but also as ineluctable, as the Blanchotian affirmation/negation of the discourse of others—which is no different from Blanchot's own discourse (without at the same time simply coinciding with it). We might argue that this questioning opened a space in which Derrida's labor ofrewriting became "possible." But a problem nevertheless remains, one that is perhaps clearer in Blanchot 's case but is fundamental in Derrida as well (especially in his reading of modernist Uterary texts, such as those by Artaud, Bataille, Jabes, and Blanchot himself): is this affirmation /radical negation of the clichés of modernism sufficient? Can we engage in a critique of modernism that is not constrained to affirm it while rewriting it? Which criteria enable us to affirm it? How could we evaluate modernism's politics using Blanchot's method of analysis? Or, put another way, how could Blanchot read (affirming/negating) the politics inherent in the modernist project? To pose these questions is not necessarily to return to Sartre and his moralizing; nevertheless, an obvious weakness in Blanchot is the fact that these questions, from his point of view, will always necessarily be simply conflated with the Sartrian dialectic. Unfortunately, nothing in Blanchot's fundamental quietism allows us to pose the question of a modernist (or, as is more often said today, postmodernist) politics, its pitfalls and its promise—despite the fact that Blanchot himself recognizes that language is an entirely social institution, even as it is inhabited by death, silence, and dread (and vice versa). "To keep still, preserving silence: that is what, all unknowing, we all want to do, writing" (The Writing of the Disaster, p. 122). ALLAN STOEKL Memories ofthe Future: The Daybooks of Tina Modotti by Margaret Gibson. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986. pp. 52. $6.95 (paper). Sand and otherpoems by Mahmoud Darweesh. Selected and translated by Rana Kabbani. New York: Methuen, 1986. pp. 79. $14.95 (cloth). Margaret Gibson's Memories ofthe Future: The Daybooks of Tina Modotti immediately recalls Margaret Atwood's The Journals ofSusanna Moodie, the portrayal of a woman pioneer in the Canadian wilderness through biographical verse. The effect is startling, throwing the reader directly into the increasingly primitve consciousness of Susanna Moodie. Gibson 's book is no less striking and uncovers the process by which a Western woman finds political awareness. Gibson presents the facts concerning Modotti immediately; her preface directs us to her own sources (among them, the daybooks of photographer Edward Weston, with whom Modotti lived for three years in Mexico City), followed by an explicit chronology outlining the events of Modotti's Ufe. These poems do not surprise with their storyline but rather make clear and powerfully written connections with the odd incidents of this Ufe and the meanings they take on. Using the guise of Modotti's personal journal kept toward the end of her Ufe, Gibson writes that "reflection is a woman's place." Through a progammatically female understanding, then, we assimilate both the past and the present and learn how one who is seemingly ignorant becomes aware. Gibson plants the seeds of what Modotti—an Italian immigrant to the US—will become early in the book: "Of me alone, Papa asked—/Who are you? What have you done? What more/can you give? For whom are you poor enough—/until the questions had dignity, might build something new." As Modotti's committment to communism, the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War and the world-wide anti-fascist movement grows, Gibson shows us how Modotti is unsure yet spiritually trusting, driven to foUow this path: "I felt a newjourney begin—why? to what end?/Unknown./But I'd agreed. I had a passport/stamped in the lines 142 the minnesota review of transition in my palm." She moves closer to those in whom she has seen the pain of hunger and persecution—the poor in Mexico—and by way of a feminine collective embodies them: "Now I...


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pp. 141-144
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