Tuesday, August 4, 2009

David Kishik on Cain

I've been considering the tragedy of Cain and Abel lately, from the point of view that the struggle between these siblings, which neither would have chosen, reads as the source of our deepest anguish, shame and anger, the start of the long-lasting bruising that feeds hate mongering and continues to mark humanity. In their narrative, which might as well have grown from a seed of the apple Eve's vanity sought to taste, we see the first ramifications of the dance of duality, where the shifting balance of strong and weak, gifted and forsaken, good and bad rend our hearts. Following Nicola Masciandaro's charmed wanderings I came across this on David Kishik's blog, Notes for The Coming Community, and lost a little footing, with pleasure. This passage of the post blends themes of Kafka, Baudelaire, Cain, Abel, and the Hebrew Alphabet, and it is a wonder to find. From the section "Tet"

But no one is responsible for the “re-branding” (in every sense) of Kain more than Baudelaire, who “defines the face of the modern, without denying the mark of Cain on its brow,” as Benjamin puts it. His poem, “Abel and Kain” from Les Fleurs du mal, is a perfect manifestation of the currents that seek to interpret the story from the fourth chapter of Genesis in a radical way. Humanity is divided into two groups or classes: the race of Abel and the race of Kain. The race of Abel is the successful one, the ruling class, the lucky throw, comprising of the favored sons or the bourgeoisie, if you like, on whom God smiles complacently (in Hebrew, abel simply means "vanity"). The race of Kain stands for the downtrodden, disinherited, and dispossessed, for the pariahs and the proletariat, if you wish. Nevertheless, it is in the hands of the race of Kain that at the very end of the poem Baudelaire entrusts the task of going up to heaven, grabbing God, and throwing him down to earth.

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