Raymond Federman (ed. and intr. by Thomas Hartl) 
the precipice and other catastrophies / der abgrund und andere katastrophen 

1999. 159 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-04-6; ISBN-10 3-901993-04-5
£18.00 (+ 2.00 p&p), €22.00 (+ 2.50 p&p), US$ 31.00 (+ 3.00 p&p).


Excerpts from the introduction by Thomas Hartl

Raymond Federman - the writer, the word-being - has always lived close to, or better yet: right on the edge of the precipice. He is always (already) writing/telling (his) texts [. . .] at the edge of the precipice leaning against the wind. Far from being merely intended and conceptualized as a metaphor, a trope/trap, this precarious imaginary topography maps a semiotic universe that is distinctly post-modern and postholocaust. The precipice in fact precipitates Federman's fiction. In a kind of "theoretical prologue" to his third novel Take It or Leave It (1976) we read: "Leaning against the winds over a precipice syntax integrates itself to the constraints of the paper / its format / its dimensions / its margins / its edges / its consistency / its whiteness" (n. pag.). Federman was pushed down the precipice a long time ago (in 1942, when the Gestapo came up the stairs and his mother pushed him into a closet at the landing of the stairs to save him from deportation - he is the only survivor of his family - his family exxed out by the Nazis: X-X-X-X). But he survived by hurling himself up again with the help of a thick rope of words. A postmodern bilingual Orpheus with a thick French accent, he has come back to haunt postmodern literature and improvises (noodles and doodles, in fact) his jazz tunes built on the cadences of absence.

The precipice for Federman has thus become the edge that is always there to be surpassed, and at the same time it has become the barrier that cannot be undone. It is the kind of writing that seeks to erase/absent itself, and in the end it is language that is our only means for not absenting ourselves/our selves in favor of silence. The precipice is a postmodern space, a topography haunted by indeterminacy, plurality, glissement and différance. [. . .] It is a communal space where discourses criss-cross and counter-fuck while poised dangerously close to the chasm of unintelligibility - thus the necessity of saying and saying over and over again the "same" thing. Figuratively speaking, as the OED has it, a "precipice" denotes "a perilous situation, a hazardous position" - this perilous situation is the act of writing per se, the danger of the precipitate or headlong fall or descent into the lessnessness of words severed from their referents that leaves the writer precipiced and transforms writing into precipice-writing.


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