Friday, December 08, 2006

Marechera and Melancholy.


Unsane and Safe has pointed out a fascinating source for Marechera’s novel Black Sunlight: Bataille. This is quite clearly a missing link, something that I felt was there—hermeticism—but felt unlikely. Bataille speaks of two motions in alchemical thought: rotation and sexual activity. These are conceptual metaphors in the history of alchemy, for the Great Work cycles and the image of the Great Work is frequently depicted in terms of coition (invariably heterosexual, King and Queen, Brother and Sister, but occasionally homosexual). In the light of this it is significant that the central character in Black Sunlight is able to “screw like a circular saw” (p.47): this unifies exactly the occult terms shaping Bataille’s thought.

When Bataille discusses the dark aspect of the sun, he is drawing upon a well-established trope of alchemy, namely, the Black Sun. The Sol Niger, according to Jung in The Psychology of the Transference is “the black shadow” of the psyche, the depression (p.57). Seen as the Black African or the Skeleton, in such works as Splendor Solis or Viridarium Chymicum, the Dark Sun is an expression of the Putrefactio, literally the shit of human existence, the chaos that surrounds human life. The Black Sun’s black sunlight, in a biblical sense, expresses the Original Sin, the iniquity that darkens the bones of mankind. Such an alchemical reading would follow Christian interpretation and the Psalms. But Marechera’s reading of Black Sunlight as excrement, in Bataille’s alchemical sense, is an approach that re-directs Marechera’s thought away from his Anglican upbringing and towards a more radical, political definition.

(Sol Niger).