- Omnicide: Mania, Fatality, and Future-in-Delirium by Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh
Urbanomic/Sequence Press' most recent publication, Omnicide: Mania, Fatality and Future-in-Delirium (2019), finds Iranian-American philosopher and comparative literature theorist Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh carving the figure of the diffracted neo-Bedouin wanderer, whose mania we tail through the book's haunted pages. The book's namesake, "omnicide," refers to the complete and total erasure of the Earth--the term has most recently been generally applied in ecological contexts, most markedly in regards to the Anthropocene and futurology. However, it is the explicitly poetic and literary intersection between mania and the grotesque that Mohaghegh inches us towards, lifting omnicide from its proscriptive use in the Western philosophical/sociological tradition and goading it towards an unfamiliar cryptic terrain. Surveying ten contemporary Middle Eastern poets and fiction writers, including Sadeq Hedayat (Iran), Réda Bensmaia (Algeria), Samuel Adonis (Syria), Joyce Mansour (Egypt), Forugh Farrokhzad (Iran), Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya), Ahmad Shamlu (Iran), Ghada Samman (Lebanon), Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine) and Hassim Blasim (Iraq), Mohaghegh parses curious stanzas and plucks spectral paragraphs from myriad texts so as to navigate the largely occluded and excised narratives of the contemporary Middle Eastern philosophical-literary canon. Not only does Mohaghegh acuminate the multifaceted question of mania and its variegated networks, chambers, byways and sunken burrows--so as to juxtapose two different world literatures (East and West)--but Mohaghegh also illuminates this oeuvre to affront the Western psychoanalytic treatment of mania as an exclusionary vessel. Thus, despite Mohaghegh avoiding any explicit references to Western philosophers and scientists, both the codified dictum of the medical decree and the hyper-genealogical superlative tradition of Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault and their contemporaries rankle Omnicide's annals.
Mohaghegh begins with a frank admission: rather than treat mania as an object of didactic study to be harryingly prodded at and examined in isolation, this book welcomes imbibing in mania's pyrexial haze and gyrating in its drunken stuporous ceremony. Mohaghegh remarks that "[t]he proper approach to a book of mania is to show willingness to enter manic straits and apply [End Page 3] maniacal styles" (p. 14), co-opting mania's rhythm and dance, so as to interpret its syncopation with unrivaled vigor. It is in this enchanted intersection between scrutiny and complicity that we follow our guide through a fragmented mania tabula, inaugurating our descent into these subterranean chambers of fatality and omnicidal destination with "augomania" (mania qua sunlight). From this point forwards, becoming entwined with mania's seductive grasp is inevitable, albeit richly rewarding.
Each chapter parses a particular strand of mania, as we find Mohaghegh depluming the aforementioned writers' works to hallucinate in half-storytelling, half-theoretical prose. With each instantiation and persona--the fortune teller, the assassin, the fatigued desert-dweller and a host of forlorn renegades--we reach new inflected heights. For instance, Mohaghegh recalls Joyce Mansour's description of an amputated limb, sumptuously gleaming and framed in the flaxen sunlight, which "enables a spotlight effect to entwine seamlessly with horror" (Mansour, quoted on p. 34). In turn, Mohaghegh turns his magnifying glass to the bond between light and mania. This is further inflamed by the recurrent link between the moon and the selenomaniac, through which the dream distends, bursting into a nightmare before lapsing into "ultimate fiasco (disarray of mind)" (p. 89).
Meditating on Ahmad Shamlu's description of the selenomaniac, we are immersed in esoteric ritual with the moon, smuggling tonics and conspiratorial whispers while "drawing blades" against it (Shamlu, quoted on p. 103). Further deliberating on this schizo-position, Mohaghegh reveals one of Omnicide's most central concerns:
";[w]hat is it exactly that occurs when one punishes an ocean channel with whips and manacle, or takes a steel weapon to the moon? Are the psychoanalysts right to pore over such dreams only to yield reductive interpretations of paranoia, or is there a grander cosmological tremor in play here, some magnificent determination known only to mad...