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 февруари 2003

Есето "The Homo Sapiens Syndrome" е предговорът към книгата на Никита Нанков "(Post)modernism & (Post)communist: Essays in Theory, Film, and Literature", която ще бъде издадена до края на 2003 г. в превод на хърватски от английски.


Никита Нанков*

The studies in this book have been written in the last ten years or so, from 1992 to 2002. In a preface to a collection of this sort, academic practice requires me to enumerate the essays one by one by providing a short synopsis of each and, finally, to append a long list of acknowledgements. I would rather skip the first part of this academic routine for if a reader wants to peruse the essays, he will; and in this case the abstracts would be redundant. And if he were unwilling to browse the studies, no promotional ruses disguised cleverly as abstracts would tempt him into the labor of reading.
Instead of following the well-trodden academic path I would like to touch upon a characteristic of most of the studies that might elude the reader's eye due to the diversity of the studies' material, the authors whose work they address, methods, problems, cultural traditions, and languages. What, for me, is the most important idea behind the motley of concepts in the essays is that humanistic studies should be more tolerant and all-embracing; they should be able to include all trends and conflicts in culture. During my quarter of a century in academia--in both the Old World and the New, living within both communism and capitalism--and despite the many wonderful intellectual experiences I have enjoyed in both worlds, I have been consistently disappointed by my observation that tolerance and open mindedness are not often the rule. During this time I have started to suspect that it is much easier to kill and destroy--literally as well as hermeneutically--what appears to be strange and foreign rather than to understand and accept it, and thus make it a part of one's own enriched existence. Once the challenging otherness is overcome by annihilating it, we start to study this now dead otherness academically. Our books, conferences, and museums are all too often, I am afraid, solely tombstones whose main task is to institutionalize and ennoble our own murderous barbarism. Our pretences to objectivism and impassionate cultural reconstruction, I am afraid again, are more often than not no more than the construction of ideologies that tacitly serve our own momentary interests and provide us with an excellent excuse to impose our will on others as the natural law. This predilection for destroying and disregarding before understanding and incorporating the otherness in our lives is what I would designate--somewhat ironically--as the Homo sapiens syndrome; ironic, for "sapiens" implies precisely the opposite of what we, the species of Homo sapiens, usually are and do.
The story of human intolerance seems to have started at least some 40,000 years ago when our predecessors in the form of the Cromagnon people began settling in today's Europe and, in the process, exterminated their closest kin, the Neanderthals, who lived in these areas for approximately 250,000 years before the arrival of their rivals. The annihilation was so immaculately radical that there are no traces of Neanderthal in our genes. Since then the Homo sapiens syndrome of destroying and shutting one's eyes, ears, and consciousness to everything different from what is ours has taken on gargantuan and often hideous proportions. Thus the original sin of Homo sapiens is not the eating of forbidden fruit, but of eating it without sharing it.
If this book is perceived not only as a collection of professional essays but also as a plea for more tolerance, empathy, and wisdom in Homo sapiens by a representative of the species horrified by his own evil genes, I will be satisfied. What the last ten years of my life have taught me is not only a familiarity with new methods and authors, but, more importantly, greater patience and readiness to merge with what is beyond me. This is why I place between the covers of this volume authors, issues, and languages that are considered--by convenient prejudice, I think--culturally unequal. I have compiled this collection in the hope of making it, among other things, a little symbolic republic where the cultural Cromagnons and Neanderthals can learn to exist together--and remain alive.
I can already hear the silent laughs of some of my academic colleagues (political correctness does not allow loud laughing in the face; however, silent stubbing in the back is permitted and encouraged). Yes, mine is a Quixotic effort because no book has ever solved the world's mysteries and miseries. Mine will not, either. Yet, speaking of solutions, I cannot but mention that in the last ten years, while honing my academic skills and writing my papers, I have kept thinking of an amateur fifteen-minute documentary made in 1979 by two then-sixteen-year-old girls who preferred working with the camera in the streets to laboring over textbooks in the classroom. Their movie tells the story of an old illiterate woman who lives all alone in a small and already deserted village high up in the mountains. Besides her everyday chores the woman goes every morning to the deserted church, and rings the bell. "Why do you do it," ask the young filmmakers. "There's no one in the village!" "Someone must ring the bell even if there's no one to hear it," the old woman answers. What an unlikely follower of the Spanish hidalgo this old woman is! If I see some hope of an antidote to the Homo sapiens syndrome, it is the fact that Quixotic madness, under certain circumstances, is highly contagious and affects both the old and young of our sapiently foolish and foolishly sapient species.
August 30-September 1, 2002
Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.
Copyright © Никита Нанков

*Авторът преподава сравнително литературознание в Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, US; има редица публикации в областта на българската и чуждата литература и в интердисциплинарните изследвания - естетика, семиотика, изобразително изкуство, кино и теория на превода. Негови са книгите "Празни приказки" (2000) и "В огледалната стая" (2001). Двете книги могат да бъдат купени директно от издателя, адрес за връзка:
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