The Move towards an Empathetic Temporality in Yuri Medvedev’s "The Bride’s Room"

"Bloom Again in Autumn"

Seminar Paper, 2012

30 Pages, Grade: hundred per cent (10 out of 10)

Free online reading



1. An Empathetic Reading of the Text

2. History, Old Age, Gotterdammerung

3. Ode to an Empathetic Autumn

Notes and References


Time sings to us through echoes. We float amidst the mirrors reflecting Time’s face. As Giorgio Agamben points out, ‘Since the human mind has the experience of time but not its representation, it necessarily pictures time by means of spatial images.’ [1] However, these ‘spatial images’ are not just fallacies or fictions –because, as Stephen Hawking reminds us, ‘We must accept that time is not completely separate from and independent of space, but is combined with it to form an object called space-time’. [2] So, time is not an Invisible Tree whose withered leaves – the illusions of temporality - we catch in the jewelled cups of the ‘spatial images’- it is the tree and the falling blossoms at once- the tree that becomes blossoms to fill the spatial matrix with their petals. Time can be theorized, time can be experienced. Time can be embraced, time can be abandoned. Innumerable philosophical walls can be raised between ontic and epistemic times. In philosophy time is the Tree; but physics, after “relativity”, can dissolve that Tree of Time into the petals of space. Fiction, however, creates its own flock of doves to move between the Tree and the petals, a time of the beak and a time of wings. Narrative time grows between words – nay - from the erotic clinging of the words to each other. Narrative time is the egg and the bird at once - the warmth that moves through the narration to ensure its graceful flowering. Thus, it is poised between the moss and the pebble, in the whirlpool that is at the heart of a stasis. The story is a perpetually blossoming seed with each narrative moment lending wings to the warm sleep of life.

Julia Kristeva writes in Proust and the Sense of Time, ‘Proust goes further indeed, since he puts into words a category of felt time which cuts through the categories of metaphysics, bringing together opposites like idea, duration and space, on the one hand and force, perception, emotion and desire, on the other …. [3] This Proustian felt time is linked to the image of a ‘temple’ in Kristeva’s rhetoric- ‘He is contrasting the disarray of the world and of the self with the unending search for that lost temple, that invisible temple, which is the felt time of our subjective memories’ [4] . But what shall we find if we move from a felt time to a feeling time, towards an empathetic temporality? Shall we find atoms instead of a temple? Or will it be a temple of an altogether different sort? A temple that grows like grass, and knows how to bend like a rainbow? Hawking says, ‘Space and time not only affect but also are affected by everything that happens in the universe. Just as one cannot talk about events in the universe without the notions of space and time, so in general relativity it became meaningless to talk about space and time outside the limits of the universe.’ [5] Now, what constitute the ‘limits of the universe’? Are they only the ‘material’ limits, as we understand the term in the conventional way? Or are there larger and deeper elements determining the limits- or - limitlessness of the universe? For Spinoza, who equated ‘nature’ with God, the cognition of the universe was intrinsically connected to the ‘love of God’ [6] . He wrote, ‘…that eternal and infinite being we call God or nature acts by the same necessity as that by which it exists, for we showed that it acts from the same necessity of its nature as that by which it exists’. [7] ‘Blessedness’, argued Spinoza, ‘is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself… Blessedness consists of the love of God….’. [8] This love is ‘intellectual love’, and ‘no love save intellectual love is eternal’ [9] . Nevertheless, one can broaden the arena of this Spinozean love, to include the non-intellectual love as well, the emotional, affective dimensions of an empathetic existential orientation, which is not preoccupied with “eternity”. An empathetic temporality does not look forward to an eternity that flames up from the ashes of time, but rather anticipates a fragrant immersion into the perpetually falling petals of time. Carlo Levi says of Tristram Shandy, ‘The clock is Shandy’s first symbol. Under its influence he is conceived and his misfortunes begin, which are one and the same with this emblem of time. Death is hidden in clocks, as Belli said; and the unhappiness of individual life, of this fragment, of this divided, disunited thing, devoid of wholeness: death, which is time, the time of individuation, of separation, the abstract time that rolls toward its end……..’. [10] This time of individuation is always a source of fear, an origin of internal and external alienation that generates a desperate urge to escape and ensures its frustration. As Jorge Luis Borges says in ‘A New Refutation of Time’, ‘To deny temporal succession, to deny the self, to deny the astronomical universe appear to be acts of desperation and are secret consolations. Our destiny …is not terrifying because it is unreal; it is terrifying because it is irreversible and iron-bound. Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges’. [11] This inescapable time is but an ontological burden. To move from this burden of time towards an empathetic temporality is to let the river of time metamorphose itself into a lotus, or a fish, to let the fire of time release from its womb a constellation of relationalities. In ‘The Bride’s Room’, a brilliant science fiction narrative by Yuri Medvedev, we discern this move from the Temple of Time towards the petals of time, from the Borgesian tiger of time towards the temporality of what Edouard Glissant would call ‘a poetics of relation’, [12] from the death-hungry river of time to the little calm whirlpool, where the lotus and the fish of time are engaged in a perpetual play of mutual resuscitation instead of reciprocal devouring.

1. An Empathetic Reading of the Text

Medvedev’s story begins with ‘the three-million-eight-hundred-and-forty-seven-thousand- one -hundred -and -twenty -second leaf from the quivering birch grove’ falling ‘onto the wet grass’, ‘land(ing) by the baby crow’s head’ . [13] We have here, at once, the bird of time and the feathers of time. The first stirring of the Bergsonian elan vital in the egg of the narrative, and the imperceptible rustling of wings. Italo Calvino writes, ‘In practical life, time is a form of wealth with which we are stingy. In literature, time is a form of wealth to be spent at leisure and with detachment…… saving time is a good thing because the more time we save, the more we can afford to lose.’ [14] What is Medvedev doing in ‘The Bride’s Room’? Saving time or losing it? The old man, whom ‘the driver of the elecar’ considers to be a madman, is concerned about the doom approaching the baby crow - ‘The bird’s encounter with the bulldog would take place in just over six minutes’ time. Just over… six…. just under six…’. [15] Time is precious, because it is now intrinsically linked to the question of survival and death. The old man (who is in fact Ivan the astronaut who has returned from the planet, Indra) has developed an over-intuitive capacity for discerning the crises of the living beings of the earth, and hence, time has assumed a different dimension for him - that of an affective, empathetic temporality. It is a temporal poetics of relation- where time is not a fist enclosing an individuated existence but rather a centre of empathetic intensity from which warm hands are stretched towards the others. The bird does not die eventually , as the driver of the elecar saves it, despite his scepticism towards the intention of the mad, old man. However, thanks to the delay caused by his conversation with Ivan, the driver of the elecar misses the Kerguelen flight. It turns out to be a blessing for him. Because, ‘on the evening after these events in the birch grove the research station of Port-o-France on Kerguelen was destroyed by the terrible cyclone Cecilia. Nine local members of staff and seven Japanese volcanologists who had flown in that morning were killed. The news of the disaster had an almost unpredictable effect on the driver of the elecar. … And many a time in all seasons he visited the birch grove that had kept him alive. In the hope of meeting the eccentric old man whom he had insulted. But he never saw him again’. [16] In the narrative, thus, the preservation of the life of the bird is rhizomically (a la Deleuze and Guattari) linked with that of the life of the scientist who had mocked Ivan’s altruism. The brief time period, within which both the bird and the scientist are saved from their respective disasters, constitutes the realm of empathetic temporality. It is a time tottering on the intimate shores of death, and yet gathering the foam of life from the ocean that is determined to be the goal of Luis Borges’s river of time. Here we see that the time-tiger is not an ontological constant closeted in the human body-it can grow wings and become a bird: there is no lack of windows. The death-driven temporality of the bird’s endangered life and that of the scientist are not separate, individuated temples of fire that must fulfil the “consumption”; they can come together in the terrain of an empathetic temporality, a feeling time as opposed to a felt time, thereby challenging death itself. And yet, it is not the Spinozean mode of abstract eternity that is underlined here – here is the warmth of an empathetic, operational togetherness, a poetics of relation binding together a temporal plurality: my time and your time can join in a naked togetherness. Within this temporal mode man ceases to be a ‘divided disunited thing’, and begins to relate to the others- a relationality which is not necessarily anthropocentric. The empathetic temporality Medvedev foregrounds functions in the fraternity of the living within the matrix of Mother Nature.

It is interesting to dwell on the narrative core of the story, as it is, in many ways, ‘archetypal’. Nevertheless, what the author provides us with is but a reversed archetype. Ivan had fallen in love with Marina, but then reached a curious planet, Indra, wherefrom he returns to the Earth as an aged man, now unrecognizable to Marina, and also to the boy, Alexei, who takes Ivan to be the “old Man Chernomor”. [17]

Hawking discusses the ‘twins paradox’ in A Brief History of Time, ‘The theory of relativity gets rid of absolute time. Consider a pair of twins. Suppose that one twin goes to live on the top of a mountain while the other stays at sea level. The first twin would age faster than the second. Thus, if they met again, one would be older than the other. In this case the difference in ages would be very small, but it would be much larger if one of the twins went for a long trip in a spaceship at nearly the speed of light. When he returned, he would be much younger than the one who stayed on Earth. This is known as the twins paradox, but it is a paradox only if one has the idea of absolute time at the back of one’s mind. In the theory of relativity there is no unique absolute time, but instead each individual has his own personal measure of time that depends on where he is and how he is moving.’ [18] In the legendary and mythical narratives, it is generally the figure of the interplanetary or intergalactic traveller who returns ‘much younger than the one who stayed on Earth’. The Earth changes, decays rapidly, and he who returns finds himself trapped in a wilderness of change and loss. Calvino writes, ‘The relativity of time is the subject of a folktale known almost everywhere: a journey to another world is made by someone who thinks it has lasted only a few hours, though when he returns, his village is unrecognizable because years and years have gone by’. [19] In ‘The Bride’s Room’, however, we find the archetype effectively reversed. It is Marina, the woman who remains on the Earth, who remains young, and Ivan returns from Indra, aged beyond recognition. As he puts it, ‘I had paid for my return with time.’ [20] What is significant in this narrative of ‘lost time’ is that different persons lose time differently. The temple Kristeva speaks of is thus demolished amid the crisscrossing or conflicting trajectories of lost times. From Indra, Ivan brings a ‘semi-sphere’ which is ‘like an upturned crystal bowl’, where he can conjure up the scenes of different times and places. Especially moving is the meeting between the aged Ivan and his former beloved, Marina, where Marina (naturally) cannot recognize him and thinks he is only displaying his magical abilities by conjuring up the scenes of the “lost time”- ‘“How do you do that?” came her frightened voice. “That’s me in your hand, Grandad, alive, although very small…. Is this the surprise Borya was hinting to me about? Why don’t you answer me? And why have you put that …. that crystal thing out?”’ [21] The quasi-magical semi-sphere, however, cannot bring back the lost time-it is an artificial bouquet of times in search of what T.S. Eliot would call the ‘significant soil’ [22] . There is a tremendous irony woven into the conversation between Ivan and Marina, especially when Marina assumes that Ivan would return young while she would grow old waiting for him-“At thirty a man is still young. But what about me? I will get old. I will be about eighty. ‘Like to dance, Grandma?’ I’ll have hollow cheeks and flabby skin. My hair will fall out, my arms and legs will be as knotted as Baba Yaga’s and I shall croak more hideously than Shakespeare’s witches.” [23] But we know that the story has reversed the archetype of the return from the other world- it is Ivan himself who has become a ‘Grandad’, and his “loss” of time is a double loss-a loss of the familiar temporality as well as an objective loss of the past. The latter is his own doing, the former is not. The “bride”, Marina, who is going to be married to another man, cannot suppress her own grievances against the lover who has left - “Do you think I haven’t wept these wretched five years? Pored over our photographs and video films time and time again? Waited for news from him?” [24] Waiting operates within the temporality of Luis Borges’s time-tiger, the time as an unbearable ontological burden. As opposed to the Proustian felt time whose temple Kristeva envisages, it is an unfelt time, and probably an unfeeling time, too. It is, in a very surreptitious way, death as time and time as death, what Giorgio Agamben identifies as the ‘unreal time, which exemplifies experience as waiting and deferral’ [25] . Within the temporality of waiting, the self becomes confined to its cloister, trapped in the spirals of solipsistic solitude. How can one expect the female beloved to continue embracing this suffocating self-ossification indefinitely? Ivan, too gradually, comes to understand this. Marina cannot let her time-tiger keep mangling her perpetually. Within waiting, time is an imperious monster-tree, shedding no petals but heaping a plethora of pebbles. Eventually, Ivan comes to realize that he must place his bouquet of times in the urn of love- otherwise, time cannot take on wings, the empathetic temporality cannot blossom forth, petal by petal. This love would not be centred on possession or revenge, but on acceptance, the acceptance of the temporal loss which can be compensated for only within a larger framework of empathetic time, the time of relating to the palpable life of the universe. ‘You were afraid of being a toothless old woman where you met your hero, Marina, but it was a grey-bearded hero who came back, and you are still young! And it is within my belated power to set your watch and mine at the same time - even without the help of the brothers on the blue star…..No, that’s wrong. You must never pay with your youth as I have, neither in fact nor in fiction. You must never transfer your own suffering to anyone else, even if it is not your own, but has been forced upon you. Do not break the secret contact, do not curse or hate. Heal with love and kindness. Remember the wise man’s saying:

Lift yourself on a wave to another life,

Sense the wind from the blossoming shores…

Only then, stranger, will your dream come true and the impossible become possible…’ [26]

This is a lesson Ivan receives from the Indreans whom he initially dismissed as ‘wretched pygmies’. [27] It is they who teach him that time is not a tiger devouring the individual, but a not-so-turbulent stream where the human being, with a subjective investment of altruistic empathy, can make lotuses bloom. When Ivan impatiently longs to return to the Earth from Indra, they ask him to ‘swim over the river of time’- a suggestion that seems bizarre to Ivan who disparagingly thinks of them as unscientific ‘lovers of Earth mythology’. The Indreans tell him, “Those who swim over the river of time can see the stars in daylight too, stranger”. And Ivan, too, is finally able to see ‘ the sky of Indra full of stars’. [28] The empathetic temporality the Indreans keep hinting at opaquely is related to the “Garden of Beauty”, an aesthetic of existence itself. Medvedev, in a brilliantly evocative passage, presents this “beauty” to his readers- ‘On the night before I left for the south pole I had a prophetic dream. I was trying to climb a high mountain, the peak of which pierced an unfamiliar sky. I could not make it. I kept losing my way between the cliffs and even forgot how to get back. Then I saw a ladder made of birds’ feathers tied together. At the end of my strength I went higher and higher and suddenly saw a garden glowing with lights. In the garden were hundreds of gold, silver and copper trees. The needles and leaves were of burnished gold, the cones of semi-precious gems and the trunks strangely patterned. Then I heard the voice of the river flowing between banks of topaz and jasper say, “These trees know the past, the unreturnable, the impossible, and can foretell the future that guards your return.” I went up to a copper tree over the river and thought to myself, “When shall I return to Earth?” The branches rustled mysteriously, “When the snow shines silver on the mountain of the skies…”’ [29]

Within this surreal Garden of Beauty is sown the secret of empathetic time. While discussing Heidegger’s concept of time, Agamben says, ‘Man does not fall into time, ‘but exists as primordial temporalization’. Only because he is in his being both anticipatory and having-been can he assume his own thrownness and be, in the moment ‘of his own time’.’ [30] However, the surreal timescape with which the Indreans present Ivan is not centred on the ‘thrownness’ of man. It is not a temporality conceptualized anthropocentrically, as in Heidegger. It is, rather, closer to Rilke’s “the open”, a realm where the human and the non-human existence can partake of a single Circle of Being. Rilke says in the Eighth of the Duino Elegies,

‘we live our lives, for ever taking leave’. [31]

Our consciousness of being-in-the-world is colonized by the Borgesian time-tiger. Rather than floating like lotus leaves on its waves, we let ourselves rot in the river of time. The Indreans, though they are ostensibly enigmatic and even to some extent punishing figures, show Ivan the way to the lotus out of the dark mire of the burden of time. They offer Ivan a glimpse into a different order of temporality, where the space-time framework is involved in an empathetic poetics of relation.

It is a time which sprouts between the self and the other, the human and the non-human, the subject and the object. A shower of petals that must be collected together by the empathetically related living beings. In short, it is a shared and a sharable time. This time floats between the waves of life: a fragile conch-shell. One that awaits our breath. When we breathe together into this conch-shell of time, the harmony of our earthly existence is complete.

Medvedev’s story, in a very significant way, is continually concerned with the earthly dimension of the human existence. The empathetic temporality, in this sense, is an earthly, and not “transcendent”, affair. In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt puts forward this question, ‘Should the emancipation and secularization of the modern age, which began with a turning away, not necessarily from God, but from a god who was the Father of men in heaven, end with an even more fateful repudiation of an Earth who was the Mother of all living creatures under the sky?’ [32] The same question is indirectly voiced by Medvedev in ‘The Bride’s Room’. Ivan is obsessed with the “sky” rather than the “earth”, and Marina complains, ‘In the sky….. that’s all I ever heard from Ivan! About the sky! The call of stars! The slow dances of the coloured suns! The astromorphosis! The chrono-tunnels! Wait for me to return victorious!’ [33] This rhetoric of the victorious ‘repudiation of an Earth’ is also replete with the echoes from a patriarchal episteme of associating women with the Earth. Marina says, ‘I asked to go with Ivan, but they wouldn’t let me. It’s only men there, as you know…..’ [34] . This episteme of ‘victory’ establishes a principle of absolute alienation- the alienation between the sexes as well as that between the earth and the sky. It consolidates that mode of time which is the essence of alienation, the individuated time moving towards the closure of death. It confines every human being to his or her own temple of felt time round which grows a wilderness. Arendt writes, ‘The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition, and earthly nature , for all we know , may be unique in the universe in providing human beings with a habitat in which they can move and breathe without effort and without artifice. The human artifice of the world separates human existence from all mere animal environment, but life itself is outside this artificial world, and through life man remains related to all other living organisms’. [35] It is noticeable that Ivan’s voyage to Indra culminates in a deepened appreciation on his part of the value of the earthly nature of the human existence. It is in the “sky”, beyond the Earth, in a different planet, that he receives the most significant message about the Earth. Medvedev is showing a world obsessed with scientific voyages, unconcerned about the oikos of the human species, the Earth. The gap between the “world” and the “earth” (in the sense Arendt uses the terms) is widening more and more, in effect undermining the temporality of relation in the name of conquering the cosmic space-time that is relative. One of Medvedev’s special concerns is the artificialization of life itself. When Ivan (as the aged Grandad) tells Marina that he is the cherry guard, Marina says, ‘So you’re the watchman here? I heard your profession died out in the last century. They have electronic guards everywhere these days.’ Ivan has to enunciate, “I’m not electronic” [36] . Marina’s groom, when he sees the cherry flowers presented to her by the aged Ivan (the “cherry-guard”), says, ‘These days you can’t tell the difference between real and artificial ones. My pal, Venka Margelov, travelled round the Sahara recently with some archaeologists. And you’ll never believe it, but the whole desert was literally bristling with palm trees. Artificial ones, made of bio-crown.’ [37] . Man’s distancing of himself from natural life “throws” him into a temporality of ontological isolation, an excess of unshared time that finally consumes him. This time is a barren black bough, a negation of relationality, a temple that has shut out the universe. Arendt says, ‘For some time now, a great many scientific endeavors have been directed toward making life also “artificial”, toward cutting the last tie through which even man belongs among the children of nature’. [38] Arendt’s ecological consciousness finds a deep resonance in the story I am discussing. It is indeed curious that the other planet, Indra, stands for the earthliness which the human beings on the Earth are trying to trivialize or even nullify. The Indreans are different from the conventional archetypes of “aliens”- it is not a world that reflects an over-advanced technocratic system; rather, it is symbolic of a socio-cultural organization that is labelled as “primitive” in the Eurocentric cultural epistemology. ‘There is no sign of rockets, planes or elecars. Just as the ancient civilisation of the Incas managed without inventing the wheel, so it is ignored here too.’ [39] There is a universal acknowledgement of the sacredness of life in Indra: the Indreans are angry with Ivan because ‘the vibration of (his) elecar’ ‘kill(s) (their) reptiles, insects, birds and beasts’ [40] . Arendt says, ‘This future man, whom the scientists tell us they will produce in no more than a hundred years, seems to be possessed by a rebellion against human existence as it has been given, a free gift from nowhere (secularly speaking), which he wishes to exchange, as it were, for something he has made himself.’ [41] Throughout The Human Condition, Arendt elaborates the concept of making, or “fabrication”. She writes, ‘This element of violence is present in all fabrication and homo faber, the creator of the human artifice, has always been a destroyer of nature. The animal laborans, which with its body and the help of tame animals nourishes life, may be the lord and master of all living creatures, but he still remains the servant of nature and the earth; only homo faber conducts himself as lord and master of the whole earth.’ [42] The ‘violence’ involved in the process of fabrication, according to Arendt, manifests itself most blatantly in the modern age, thanks to its valorization of ‘making’ rather than ‘acting’. ‘Only the modern age’s conviction that man can know only what he makes, that his allegedly higher capacities depend upon making and that he therefore is primarily homo faber and not an animal rationale, brought forth the much older implications of violence inherent in all interpretations of the realm of human affairs as a sphere of making.’ [43]

The Indreans in the Medvedev story fully realize the nature of the violence involved in the “fabrications” of the earthman as homo faber. Ivan is a perfect embodiment of the ‘future man’ Arendt speaks of - he represents the ‘rebellion against human existence as it has been given’. On the other hand, the Indreans have a civilization that ‘had taken a completely different direction from that of the Earth right from the start’. The Indreans are strict vegetarians ; they ‘deified all living things’. ‘In their ancient legends Indra was likened to a big animal. They….. I believe, understood the language of beasts, birds and fish.’ It is the Indreans who hold up a critical mirror before the “scientistic” homo faber from the Earth - ‘They probably saw me- why deceive myself! - as a kind of cosmic thug, a bloodthirsty monster. I can just imagine a cannibal from a strange land arriving in one of our harbours on Earth, San Francisco, for example, or Nakhodka, in a strange vessel…… What sort of contact can you establish with someone like that?’ [44] It is necessary to notice that Medvedev’s story continually foregrounds the negative impact of violence and aggression on the enterprise of initiating an interplanetary dialogue between the earthmen and the “aliens”. The violence of fabrication bleeds into the violence of the victory over the earthly existence of man, thereby constituting a chain of aggressions which radically separates the time of the human “world” from the time of the “earth”. It is in the penumbral shadow between these two disjointed temporalities that man suffers from the ontological burden of time, confined within a solipsistic temple of felt or unfelt, essentially unshared, time. In this temporal zone, man’s obsession with his “world” turns time into a tiger, a destructive sequence of fleeting moments, a saga of the voyage towards death. This time never leaves a space for a voyage together, negating the dream of a proliferation of time’s feathers between two hands stretched towards each other.

Ashis Nandy writes in Time Warps, ‘All efforts to talk about the future are a way of talking about the present and past. Talking the language of the future only forces us to look at our times and our pasts differently. Thus, if we look at the twentieth century from the point of view of the next, we are quite likely to conclude that ours is the century when human destructiveness reached its creative pinnacle … Twentieth-century science may have produced many wonderful discoveries and miracles, but the gas chambers and the mushroom clouds remain its most resilient symbols… This awesome destructiveness has killed not only individuals, but communities, cultures, ideologies, and worldviews. It has affected us, our children and grandchildren, perhaps even our imagination. For this violence has found a way of lodging itself in the less accessible parts of our consciousness and influencing us without our being any the wiser.’ [45] Medvedev’s narrative, too, is concerned with these unsettling linkages between the twentieth century scientific progress and the orgy of aggressive destructiveness. Ivan says, ‘I thought that the key to understanding other worlds would cost us more than it appeared at first glance. Hadn’t the same thing happened with the conquest of nature, when the mistakes and impatience of our ancestors, dab hands with the petrol saw, the excavator and the derrick, levellers of mountains, had led to almost irreparable losses; even long after people had learnt to control human relationships and built a just society all over Earth, nature had still not fully recovered everywhere from the harm which had been done to it. Yet most of the ardent refashioners of the environment had been acting in the name of the public good…’ [46] ‘Talking the language of the future’, ‘The Bride’s Room’ seeks to sensitize us to the destructive subtext of our past and present narratives of progress. Nandy talks about a psychoanalytical tradition that sees ‘creativity (as) a form of atonement’ – ‘it is born in our innate destructiveness and our fear of and guilt about such destructiveness.’ [47] The earthman in the Medvedev story has to atone for the innately destructive creativity of the homo faber by paying for his return to the Earth with time. The lost time is here also the temporality of atonement. It is from this time of atonement that the empathetic time grows. When this world is a complex utopia that conceals the traces of dystopic threats, one can journey to a different world to put to test one’s “final vocabularies” (a la Richard Rorty) [48] . Interestingly, Ivan does not go to Indra to question and test his own final vocabularies, but rather lands on the new planet to gather knowledge about it. This epistemological objectification of the other world is also symptomatic of a violent and destructive “fabrication”, the making of knowledge. It is against this violence that the Indreans react, eventually forcing the astronaut to “atone” for the innate violence of the modern scientific epistemology by losing time in several ways. It is a lost time that cannot be regained. Nevertheless, this time, though lost, is a god that, from the entrails of the tiger that devours him, reemerges, like Dionysus. It is a lost time reborn as an empathetic temporality.

The story seeks to redefine the category of “Science” itself by pitting it against the putatively non-scientific, or “anti-scientific” elements of myths, legends and fantasy. Ivan the old man’s words seem to the ‘driver of the elecar’ to be ‘idiotic, anti-scientific nonsense.’ [49] Ivan’s semi-sphere appears to be a “magical” item to Marina. Interestingly enough, it becomes apparent from Ivan’s interactions with the Indreans that the latter know more about the mythologies of the Earth than Ivan himself does. They say, ‘But we know about your many-eyed Argus, the son of Gaea, stranger. And about the Sea Abyss Around the Eye, from your Pomor tales.” [50] Agamben says, ‘But with Descartes and the birth of modern science, the function of phantasy is assumed by the new subject of knowledge … Between the new ego and the corporeal world, between res cogitans and res extensa, there is no need for any mediation. The resulting expropriation of the imagination is made evident in the new way of characterizing its nature: while in the past it was not a ‘subjective’ thing, but was rather the coincidence of subjective and objective, of internal and external, of the sensible and the intelligible, now it is its combinatory and hallucinatory character, to which Antiquity gave secondary importance, that is given primacy. From having been the subject of experience the phantasm becomes the subject of mental alienation, visions and magical phenomena-in other words, everything that is excluded by real experience.’ [51] Medvedev, by writing back ‘phantasms’ into a Science Fiction narrative, and endowing them with the potential of psycho-spiritual de-alienation, radically subverts the scientistic definition of science. It is at the level of the phantasms, where the subjective and the objective coincide, that the drama of the empathetic time is staged. Indra remains a “mystery” for Ivan, a mystery that cannot be solved. The Indrean voice tells him, “How can you hope to learn about other worlds before you have properly understood your own, stranger?” [52] Here, Medvedev deals with a central thematic topos of all utopian fictions. Is one’s utopian imagination necessarily propelled by a hasty departure from the inadequately understood world of one’s own? If it is so, the resultant utopia will never become an oikos, but a perpetual metaphor for alienation. The Earth, if not properly understood, would be sought to be violently modified by the homo faber into a utopian “World”. That utopia would be a superstructure fragile enough to dwindle into a dystopic state at any moment. The scientistic utopianism is pernicious in that it seeks not only to depart from the earthly existence but also to negate the reality of that very existence through an interminable chain of reifications. The Indreans preach self- knowledge, but it is not something “mystic” or obscurantist. They urge Ivan to reenergize his natural human potentials, to appreciate the “free gift” from nature, as Arendt would say. The conquest (whether epistemic or militaristic) of the Other must be replaced with a patient exploration of the Self within the matrix of an empathetic poetics of relation. What is foregrounded in the narrative through the evocative passages about the beauty of the small, earthly creatures and the beauty of the “sky”, the cosmic space, is “wonder”. Luce Irigaray writes, ‘Is this the passion (“wonder”) that Freud forgot? A passion that maintains a path between physics and metaphysics… A primary passion and a perpetual crossroads between earth and sky…’ [53] Science, in the world of ‘The Bride’s Room’, the science of a technocratic age, has forgotten the value of “wonder”. Hence, the passage between the earth and the sky is utterly hampered; while spaceships crowd the intergalactic spaces, the metaphysical conjunction between the sky and the earth is denied, due to the impoverishment of “phantasms.” Irigaray writes, ‘Wonder would be the passion of the encounter between the most material and the most metaphysical, of their possible conception and fecundation one by the other. A third dimension. An intermediary… The forgotten ground of our condition between mortal and immortal, men and gods, creatures and creators. In us and among us.’ [54] This wonder already has an empathetic potential, a power of “fecundation”. The ‘intermediary’ role of wonder serves to relate a human being to the whole panorama of the living, in an affective, empathetic way. As Ivan observes, ‘It became clear that the stellar palace of the universe is made up of identical bricks: the flora and fauna of all living planets is more or less the same. Provided that the bearers of superior intelligence have not done their utmost to destroy their environment, that is. Yes, one and the same tiller turns over the soil of the universe with spiral ploughs, sowing the seeds of life. And we should expect miracles, both good and bad, not from nature, but from ourselves…’ [55]

After returning from Indra, Ivan inhabits a different space-time, that of empathy. In this new spatio-temporal dimension, he can relate to the whole domain of “life”, not in an abstract intellectual sense, but in an actively affective way. This empathetic relation to earthly life has its own poetics of relation – from Ivan it spreads to the ‘driver of the elecar’ who is saved from the imminent disaster at Kerguelen. This scientist, eventually, turns into ‘an active member of the Society for the Protection of the Earth’s Nature’ and ‘set(s) up a Nature Corner in his own home.’ [56] The ‘lost’ time of Ivan blossoms forth from the womb of the earthly life into an affective temporality, a time that is not embodied in any single human individual, but rather distributed among all living creatures, a golden web of empathetic relations. As Ivan observes, ‘So Indra did not open up before the stranger, like a flower at sunrise, and Earthmen are not yet ready to meet their brothers in the magic garden – what does it matter? “There are other worlds, which are beyond our understanding, yet the mysterious contact with them is vital to man; if this contact is broken within you, you will curse and hate life.” My brilliant ancestor wrote these words, with his own blood, as it were, about himself alone, it would seem, but in fact about you, my contemporaries, about you, my distant descendants , about all of us, the family of Earth and its destiny.’ [57] In this way, time becomes an embrace of multiple rainbows at the centre of an empathetic intensity – the past, present and future are not the branches of this time, but rather the rudiments of a nest in its beak. It is at this point that time becomes an oikos, but an oikos for all, for the other as well as the self. Time as water and time as lotus, time as flames and time as a constellation, time as fallen petals and time as tree – all converge into a single circle of empathetic relations. ‘What does it matter that you look like an old man? You learned the price of life on Indra and now understand better than anyone else, that no matter what you are, an old man, a whale, a deer, a worm, a wagtail, a raccoon, or a swallow, there is only one joy in the Universe – to breathe, to feel, to be alive.’ [58] In this empathetic temporality, each living creature has become, for Ivan, what Adriana Cavarero calls the ‘necessary other.’ [59] The pollen of empathetic time has healed the secret wounds of the “lost” time. Ivan now operates in a new realm of “action”, as opposed to “fabrication”. Arendt continually stresses the political dimension of this “action” – ‘But the action of the scientists, since it acts into nature from the standpoint of the universe and not into the web of human relationships, lacks the revelatory character of action as well as the ability to produce stories and become historical, which together form the very source from which meaningfulness springs into and illuminates human existence.’ [60] Ivan has now transcended the narrow action of the scientists – and his involvement in the ‘web of human relationships’ is part of his larger and profounder involvement in the whole organic web of earthly life – ‘What will you do with yourself now, stranger? I’ll tell you what. Gaze at the falling autumn leaves, save birds, animals and people.’ With the “foresight” and great intuitive power that he has gained from his voyage to Indra, he will ‘issue warnings about typhoons, floating icebergs and earthquakes.’ And he will keep accompanying the little boy, Alexei, showing him ‘live pictures from all ages’ with the help of his semi-sphere. [61] Now he has planted his miraculous bouquet of times in the ‘significant soil’ of the urn of love. From the fragrant loam of the empathetic time, many a relation would sprout, inter-connecting the living fabric of the universe through the flaming moments of wonder.

At this point, one no longer needs to ‘refute’ or annihilate time. Agamben has noticed the discrepancy between the concept of history and the concept of time within the theoretical fold of historical materialism. As he insists, ‘The original task of a genuine revolution, therefore, is never merely to ‘change the world’, but also – and above all – to ‘change time’.’ [62] For Agamben, this ‘change’ should involve a shift from ‘the chronological time of pseudo-history’ to ‘the cairological time of authentic history.’ [63] Agamben’s “cairological” time is modelled on the cairos of the Stoics – ‘For the Stoics, homogeneous, infinite, quantified time, dividing the present into discrete instants, is unreal time … Subservience to this elusive time constitutes a fundamental sickness, which, with its infinite postponement, hinders human existence from taking possession of itself as something full and singular….. Against this, the Stoic posits the liberating experience of time as something neither objective nor removed from our control, but springing from the actions and decisions of man. Its model is the cairos, the abrupt and sudden conjunction where decision grasps opportunity and life is fulfilled in the moment. Infinite, quantified time is thus at once delimited and made present: within itself the cairos distils different times … and within it the sage is master of himself and at his ease, like a god in eternity.’ [64] We may see Ivan’s semi-sphere as a symbol for the cairos, distilling different times within it, housing alien times within a familiar place. But Ivan himself is not sheltered in it, is not ‘a god in eternity’. He has planted his cairos into an empathetic time which makes irrelevant the concepts of mastery and possession. Within the empathetic temporality which is like the shower of autumn leaves, the god leaves his eternity and engages himself in the poetics of relating to the others. Like the stars between clouds and the clouds between stars, he moves from the fish to the lotus, from wonder to wonder, on the river of empathetic time. While Agamben sees ‘freedom’ and ‘pleasure’ as the central principles of the cairological time, Medvedev’s story foregrounds interdependence and love as the central features of the empathetic time. And this time is a curious god, stretched between the galaxies and the grass, frozen in the blooming coral and blooming in the frost, making life meaningful through the coincidence of my time and your time, extinguishing the fire of my time in your river of time, making your time-tiger fall asleep amid the feast of the falling petals of my time.

And hence, the empathetic temporality cannot be confused with Mircea Eliade’s ‘sacred time’. Eliade sees the ‘sacred time’ as ‘indefinitely recoverable, indefinitely repeatable.’ [65] Empathetic temporality, on the other hand, operates in the domain of what Cavarero would call an “unrepeatable uniqueness” [66] , generating unique webs of relations with the living that cannot be “repeated”.

2. History, Old Age, Gotterdammerung

Yuri Medvedev was a student of Ivan Antonovich Yefremov, the noted Russian science-fiction writer. Yefremov emphasizes the value of the “beauty” of both earthly and cosmic existence in the creative explorations of science fiction. But it is interesting to notice that while his focus is on the accumulation of the human strength ‘to conquer the awesome interstellar expanses’, [67] in Medvedev, ‘conquest’ is replaced by empathy. Vitaly Sevastyanov, the Soviet cosmonaut ,in his ‘Foreword’ to Medvedev’s The Chariot of Time, employs the image of Odysseus – the “heroic” image – to describe the journey of man ‘on our common shining path’. [68] This Odysseus –image, however, is radically problematized by the text of ‘The Bride’s Room’. The story begins with a conventional odyssey-motif coupled with its normative gender idioms, with the burden of waiting imposed on the woman and the glory of journey attributed to the man. But, as the story progresses, the futility of the temporality of waiting is foregrounded – ‘waiting’ has to be abandoned, if the empathetic temporality is to emerge. Ivan’s nostos is not that of a victorious Odysseus; he himself acknowledges that he is ‘a failure who had not lived upto the hopes of mankind.’ [69] In other words, he has not been able to “conquer” the ‘interstellar expanses’ Yefremov speaks of. When he returns and enters the realm of empathetic temporality, the notion of heroism gradually changes for him. He retains – nay - heightens his love for Marina, his Penelope who has refused to wait for ever, into a profounder empathetic experience, a cosmic poetics of relation. Dispensing with the masculinist obsession with possessing the beloved, he gradually comes to realize the secret of earthly existence which consists in the giving out of human love, not in possessing the other. Thus his whole worldview is transformed, and the life of the Earth is celebrated by him as the fundamental principle of cosmic togetherness; it is – he understands – not the mere raw material out of which the homo faber would violently fabricate his “world”. Nicolae Stanescu, in the late 1970s, acknowledged that ‘The task of maintaining the ecological balance in a society, in which growth and development simultaneously represent an economic and a political objective, is, according to many specialists, as difficult as the exploration of outer space, manned interplanetary flights, missions to the moon, the study of the sea depths, etc… The society, in which the ecological balance is consciously kept up, should not be found in a state of economic stagnation or of material or spiritual misery.’ [70] Stanescu’s ecological consciousness, however, is essentially anthropocentric, consonant with his affirmation of ‘the superiority of socialist society’, [71] a system that naturalizes its anthropocentricism and androcentricism through its discourse of humanism. The figure of Odysseus illumines the subtexts of socialist utopias, and the wavy sea of victories and conquests is implicitly preferred to the stability of the oikos. In her thought-provoking essay, ‘“Passages” in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein : Toward a Feminist Figure of Humanity?’, Cynthia Pon, drawing on Donna Haraway, argues, ‘The discourse of masculine humanity, intent on “conquer[ing] all fear of danger or death”, is monologic.’ [72] This sort of monologism often finds a disturbing resonance in the official ‘socialist’ humanism of the 1970s. Pon compares Mary Shelley’s art to Penelope’s art of ‘weaving and unweaving’ – ‘As we see in her early novel, one by one she unravels the heroic discourses – the masculine shroud that betokens suffering and destruction….’ [73] Pon suggests, ‘By unravelling heroic discourses, her text causes us to look at the underside of progress, to reintegrate the voices of those who have been dismembered or displaced.’ [74] Interestingly, Medvedev, though a male author, echoes these anti-androcentric concerns of Frankenstein, one of the foundational texts of the Science Fiction genre, in his ‘The Bride’s Room’. Here Penelope does not unweave the heroic discourses of progress; rather, the Odysseus that is a ‘failure’ has to learn from the Indrean aliens how to unravel the dazzling discourses of masculine humanity. In effect, Ivan, at the end of the story, becomes a quasi-androgynous figure, enshrining at the centre of the masculine wheel of the ideology of victory the principle of a feminine oikos. As Pon insists, Mary Shelley’s ‘discourse of dismemberment offers new turns of possibility, after the breakup of reflexive ideals that power European humanism – a practice of connection and accountability that creates and sustains new life.’ [75] This is exactly what Ivan, inspired by the emphasis on “life” in the Indrean ecological epistemology, seeks to materialize in his own planet.

Was Medvedev, then, a ‘dissenter’ in the Communist utopia(or dystopia) of the Soviet Union? We cannot say with certainly. In The Unfinished Revolution (1979), Adam Ulam insisted that in the USSR, most of the “dissenters” had adopted a ‘fatalistic attitude’. [76] Around the same time, B. N. Ponomarev, the ‘Secretary of the CC CPSU,’ was affirming a dogmatic faith in “socialism” as the panacea for all the problems concerning the scientific and technological revolutions of the time. [77] This blind faith in the omnipotence of “scientific socialism” on the part of the leaders would naturally turn the dissenters into fatalists. But was Medvedev, too, a fatalist? The optimism that characterizes ‘The Bride’s Room’ is not a blind optimism based on a faith in the omnipotence of socialism, but an empathetic optimism, a non-anthropocentric vision of earthly togetherness. Ulam’s fatalist dissenter could not have shown this healthy optimism; nor could the leaders like Ponomarev have widened their epistemic horizon so adequately as to accommodate an empathetic concern for the tiny birds and beasts.

In a poem, ‘The Hand and the Knife’, Serge Pey, the French poet, says,

‘The poem is a ear

and not a mouth

for man in born

from a ear that sees

and every ear copies the child

who turns in the womb of a star

that searches for the sky she does not have

Only the mouth capable of becoming a ear

is a real mouth

I speak

You speak

like a star

We conjugate the night…’ [78]

The basic problem with the Communist utopia of the Soviet Union was that it refused to let its mouth become ‘a ear’, and hence, ultimately, its mouth became an unreal mouth. In Indian Philosophy in Modern Times (1984), which was published around the same time as Medvedev’s work, V. Brodov begins by saying, ‘Indian philosophy and the history of Indian philosophy are considered in this book from the positions of Marxism.’ [79] It is the classic example of a mouth professing to listen to the other voices of philosophy without ceasing to be a mouth, without becoming a ear. In effect, its listening becomes only another name for its speech. While discussing Tagore, Brodov unhesitatingly promulgates, ‘The great humanist was right: Communism is the “power of humanity”; only communism ensures the establishment of friendship between peoples and the triumph of social justice, opening up the epoch of the flourishing of the material and spiritual forces of mankind’ [80] . This “communist” appropriation of Tagore’s philosophy is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in the Soviet Union of the early 1980s. Maybe a subterraneous realization of the lacunae of the Communist ideology was plaguing the obsessively conformist thinkers, to overcome or bypass which they had to keep on applauding communism almost ritualistically. Tagore’s own ecological consciousness finds echoes in ‘The Bride’s Room’ which seeks to accommodate the so-called “anti-scientific” aspects of what Ashis Nandy calls ‘non-historicised pasts’ [81] within the scientistic empire of Soviet socialism. Was Medvedev, unlike Brodov, eager to listen to other mouths than the Unreal Mouth of the Soviet Union? ‘The Bride’s Room’ is imbued with an ethics of listening, and its true poetic quality consists in its ability to become ‘a ear’. As C. P. Cavafy suggests, ‘the wise perceive imminent events.’ [82] Did Medvedev perceive the ‘imminent events’, the catastrophe that the communist utopia would be hurled into very soon? Ivan’s “foresight” might have been metonymic of the political foresight of his creator. When we listen to the others, our perceptual capabilities are enhanced. Like Agamben, Medvedev too probably noticed the non-revolutionary, conventional nature of the Marxist temporality. But instead of choosing a cairological time of self-mastery, he moved towards an empathetic temporality, a time for which the “temple” cannot be a trope. Rather, it is the shower of autumn leaves, or the falling flowers, that symbolize this time. They are the traditional symbols of decay – but Medvedev, just as he does with the notion of the Odyssean heroism, subverts the conventional ideas of decay that associate the Borgesian time-tiger with an inevitable process of entropy. In her discussion of the ‘vision of entropy’ in King Lear, Germaine Greer says, ‘… however great the hero, to this he must come, if he has the misfortune to live so long… Shakespeare does not reject ‘the wide world and all her fading sweets’ in order to contemplate the joys of heaven in the de contemptu mundi tradition but keeps his eye fixed on the created universe, arriving at something more like a vision of entropy. In the Lear world, more is lost than can be replaced. The king is a figure of man, the crown of creation, with ‘knowledge and reason’ ‘the marks of sovereignty.’ As the king loses his temporal power, so humanity must lose these marks of sovereignty, if indeed they were ever truly evident, for man may be deluded about his importance in the scheme of things.’ [83] It is interesting to note that Ivan in ‘The Bride’s Room’ too has turned into an aged man, like Lear. He is socially alienated, a ‘failure’. But this state is, in a way, productive for his deeper understanding of the illusory nature of the species sovereignty of the Homo sapiens. Greer writes, ‘Lear is beginning to see man as a species among species and to realize that if human life has value it cannot reside in state or in the ‘marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason’ but in the lowest common denominator of humanity, even such as he in whom ‘Nature… stands on the very verge of her confine’…’ [84] Like Lear’s old age, Ivan’s, too - though it is not natural but imposed - lets him grasp the central conceptual error behind the anthropocentric chauvinism of the discourse of civilizational progress. Ivan’s lesson in Indra is centred on the ethic of seeing ‘man as a species among species.’ The dominant communist discourses of ethical life always try to appropriate “altruism” into an anthropocratic episteme, forgetting or obfuscating the role of altruism in the sustenance of the natural processes themselves. As Greer reminds us, nature is not just a locus of egotism, but a site of altruism as well. [85] Medvedev’s story foregrounds the natural altruism whereby the universal vibrations of life are maintained.

Nevertheless, there are also significant differences between Lear’s condition and that of Ivan. Greer writes, ‘He is still deluding himself that he is the lord of creation, unaware that, like the year itself, he has lived through his cycle of generation, his spring, his summer, his fall of leaf, and now his bitter winter.’ [86] Ivan, on the other hand, has not ‘lived through his cycle of generation,’ his winter is untimely. This untimeliness is deliberately highlighted by Medvedev. And yet, it cannot be seen simply as a breach in natural time, as, with the advent of the theory of relativity, we have to begin to renegotiate the idea of natural time itself. Natural time is relative, not absolute. So, Ivan is not within (science-) fictional time as opposed to real time, but rather placed in a temporality where the fictional and the real bleed into each other. His untimely autumn offers him a scope for radical speculations on the empathetic dimension of time. Medvedev embraces a vision of entropy and yet finally transcends it. He opaquely points to the ‘bitter winter’ of Soviet socialism, underlining the delusion of the (socialist) man ‘about his importance in the scheme of things.’ However, Ivan’s autumn is different from the winter of the Soviet Union, the latter centring round the time-tiger that reigns over the realm of individual and collective entropy, while the former is located in an empathetic time, where one transcends the episteme of loss by listening to the little voices of the earth – the falling leaves, or the cherry blossoms – the throbbing forces of the poetics of relation.

3. Ode to an Empathetic Autumn

The bride’s wedding is taking place in autumn. It is the time of the fall of leaves, of growing greyness. But are the seasons really confined to an automatistic natural cycle? Are they just the daughters of the Death that has his castle in the clock? Are they unalterable – that is to say, is there no possibility of an affective correspondence between the “psychological arrow” and the “thermodynamic arrow” of time? Hawking says, ‘First, there is the thermodynamic arrow of time, the direction of time in which disorder or entropy increases. Then, there is the psychological arrow of time. This is the direction in which we feel time passes, the direction in which we remember the past but not the future. Finally, there is the cosmological arrow of time. This is the direction of time in which the universe is expanding rather than contracting.’ [87] Hawking goes on to insist, ‘I shall argue that the psychological arrow is determined by the thermodynamic arrow, and that these two arrows necessarily always point in the same direction.’ [88] But, do they really ‘necessarily always point in the same direction’? In other words, does the psychological arrow of time perennially overlap with the arrow of entropy? These are the questions to which the fiction writer’s response is bound to be different from that of the scientist. While in the winter of Lear the psychological arrow of time is conditioned by the time-tiger, the embodiment of entropy, in Ivan’s untimely autumn, there is hinted the possibility of an empathetic interaction between human time and seasonal time, the opaque probability of the occurrence of a cairological moment in the apparently inevitable chronological flow of the seasons. But it is not an isolationist cairos, where the sage redeems himself from time. It is, rather, the empathetic temporal bridge between nature and man, where the withered leaves of autumn cease to emblematize entropy.

When Ivan presents Marina with the cherry blossoms, her ‘wedding present,’ she is astonished that the blossoms are blooming even in autumn – “It’s started to blossom! There are flowers on it! They smell like the blossom in May, It’s magic! So it’s true what they say, that trees sometimes bloom again in autumn.” [89] But nature and magic are not binaristically opposed in the story; they are included in the single circle of the existential experience. The empathetic time that ushers in a poetics of relation amidst the whole spectrum of living beings grows between listening mouths, flowing between the lotuses that blossom out of your time and my time, moving from entropy to replenishment. Through the magic of nature, the cherry tree blooms in autumn – spring and autumn coincide, instead of colliding, in the matrix of natural time. We transcend our deterministic vision of the “seasonal cycle”. Perhaps there is nothing that we can determine, and the empathetic temporality leads us beyond determinism. The feathers of the empathetic time keep falling on our palms, and the gathering of the untimely blossoms of autumn transfigures the lost time into a time of replenishment. If the autumn of Ivan’s aged body is untimely, so are the blossoms of the cherry tree that flowers in autumn. The empathetic temporality of ‘The Bride’s Room’ carves a space for the untimely within time. The untimely that is emancipatory.

Within the chasms of time, its mysterious waters run. With the warmth of empathy we can fill these subterranean clefts of time with untimely lotuses. In each whirlpool of the heart there is the oikos for the lotus. When the Earth is experienced through the empathetic temporality, we can whisper to the cherry blossoms of a passing spring, ‘Bloom again in autumn!’

And they will bloom, amidst the plenitude of an empathetic time.

[I gratefully acknowledge the enthusiasm that I received from Rimidi(Dr Rimi B Chatterjee, Associate Professor of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India) who strongly recommended that I should publish this paper.]

Notes and References

A special note: Clare Hemmings, in Why Stories matter, the Political Grammar of Feminist Theory (Duke University Press, 2011), pp.203-204, discusses ‘empathetic temporality’ from the perspective of feminist narrativization. However, my perspective is totally different, and my definition of ‘empathetic temporality’ is derived from my reading of the story under discussion here. I believe that reading literature itself may give rise to certain possible theories, and it is not the case that one always has to interpret literature with ready-made theoretical tools. Theories can emerge from perceptive readings of literary texts.


[1] Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History, The Destruction of Experience, trans. Liz Heron (London and NY: Verso, 2007), p. 100

[2] Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, From the Big Bang to Black Holes (London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland and Johannesburg: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 24

[3] Julia Kristeva, Proust and the Sense of Time, trans. Stephen Bann (NY: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 7

[4] Ibid., p. 7

[5] Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 36

[6] Spinoza, Ethics, translated by Andrew Boyle and revised by G. H. R. Parkinson, the Everyman edition (Gurgaon: Hachette India, 2009), p. 217

[7] Ibid., p. 142

[8] Ibid., p. 223

[9] Ibid., p. 217

[10] Quoted in Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (NY: Vintage International, 1993), p. 47

[11] Jorge Luis Borges, ‘A New Refutation of Time’, in Selected Non-fictions, edited by Eliot Weinberger and translated by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine and Eliot Weinberger (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2000), p. 332

[12] Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1997)

[13] Yuri Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, in The Chariot of Time, trans. Robert King (Moscow: Raduga, 1988), p. 297

[14] Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, p. 46

[15] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 298

[16] Ibid., pp. 303-304

[17] Ibid., p. 335

[18] Hawking, A Brief History of Time, pp. 35-36

[19] Calvino, Six Memos, p. 37

[20] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 337

[21] Ibid., pp. 310, 312

[22] T. S. Eliot, ‘The Dry Salvages’ in Four Quartets, in The Complete Poems and Plays (London: Faber and Faber, 2004), p. 190

[23] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, p. 314

[24] Ibid., p. 315

[25] Agamben, Infancy and History, p. 111

[26] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ pp. 340-341

[27] Ibid., p. 331

[28] Ibid., pp. 330, 332

[29] Ibid., p. 334

[30] Agamben, Infancy and History, p. 113

[31] Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies, trans. J. B. Leishman and Stephen Spender, fourth edition (London: Hogarth Press, 1968), p. 81. Also see the ‘Commentary on the Eighth Elegy’, pp. 132-133

[32] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, second edition (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 2

[33] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 314

[34] Ibid., p. 315

[35] Arendt, The Human Condition, p. 2

[36] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, pp. 312-313

[37] Ibid., p. 317

[38] Arendt, The Human Condition, p. 2

[39] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, p. 320

[40] Ibid., p. 324

[41] Arendt, The Human Condition, pp. 2-3

[42] Ibid., p. 139

[43] Ibid., p. 228

[44] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, p. 326

[45] Ashis Nandy, Time Warps, The Insistent Politics of Silent and Evasive Pasts (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2007), pp. 212-213

[46] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 331

[47] Nandy, Time Warps, p. 215

[48] Richard Rorty, ‘Private Irony and Liberal Hope’, in Charles Lemert (ed.), Social Theory, The Multicultural and Classic Readings (Jaipur and New Delhi: Rawat, 2004), pp. 471-72

[49] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, p. 303

[50] Ibid., p. 330

[51] Agamben, Infancy and History, p. 28

[52] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 330

[53] Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill (London and NY: Continuum, 2005), p. 68

[54] Ibid., p. 70

[55] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, p. 322

[56] Ibid., p. 303

[57] Ibid., pp. 339-40

[58] Ibid., p. 340

[59] Adriana Cavarero, Relating Narratives, Storytelling and Selfhood, trans. Paul A. Kottman (London and NY: Routledge, 2000), pp. 32-33, 82

[60] Arendt, The Human Condition, p. 324

[61] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 339

[62] Agamben, Infancy and History, p. 99

[63] Ibid., p. 115

[64] Ibid., p. 111

[65] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, The Nature of Religion, trans. Willard R. Trask (Orlando, Florida: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987), p. 69

[66] Cavarero, Relating Narratives, p. 112

[67] See the ‘Foreword’ to Medvedev, The Chariot of Time, by Vitaly Sevastyanov, pp. 7-8

[68] Ibid., p. 8

[69] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room,’ p. 334

[70] Nicolae Stanescu, ‘The Scientific and Technological Revolution and the Aggravation of the Problems Facing Man in General’, in Academy of Sciences of the USSR, The Scientific-Technological Revolution and the Contradictions of Capitalism (International Theoretical Conference, Moscow, 21-23 May, 1979) (Moscow: Progress, 1982), p. 576

[71] Ibid., p. 579

[72] Cynthia Pon, ‘ “Passages” in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein : Toward a Feminist Figure of Humanity?’, in Harold Bloom (ed.), Viva Modern Critical Interpretations/Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (New Delhi: Viva Books, 2007), p. 151

[73] Ibid., p. 158

[74] Ibid., p. 152

[75] Ibid., p. 163

[76] Adam B. Ulam, The Unfinished Revolution, Marxism and Communism in the Modern World, revised edition (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1979), p. 263

[77] See B. N. Ponomarev, ‘Opening Address’, in The Scientific-Technological Revolution and the Contradictions of Capitalism, pp. 22-23

[78] Serge Pey, ‘The Hand and the Knife (a fragment)’, trans. Nirupama Rastogi, in Michel Bulteau and Christian Petr (eds), An Anthology of Contemporary French Poetry (New Delhi: Rupa), p. 84

[79] V. Brodov, Indian Philosophy in Modern Times, trans. Sergei Syrovatkin (Moscow: Progress, 1984), p. 5

[80] Ibid., p. 357

[81] Nandy, Time Warps, p. 1

[82] C. P. Cavafy, ‘The Wise Perceive Imminent Events’, in Selected Poems, edited by Avi Sharon(Penguin, 2008),p.27

[83] Germaine Greer, Shakespeare, A Very Short Introduction (New Delhi: OUP, 2006), pp. 100-101

[84] Ibid., p. 107

[85] Ibid., p. 110

[86] Ibid., p. 105

[87] Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 153

[88] Ibid., p. 153

[89] Medvedev, ‘The Bride’s Room’, p. 316


Agamben, Giorgio. Infancy and History, The Destruction of Experience. Trans. Liz Heron. London and NY: Verso, 2007.

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Cavarero, Adriana. Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood. Trans. Paul A. Kottman. London and NY: Routledge, 2000.

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Luis Borges, Jorge. Selected Non-fictions. Edited by Eliot Weinberger and translated by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine and Eliot Weinberger. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2000.

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The Move towards an Empathetic Temporality in Yuri Medvedev’s "The Bride’s Room"
"Bloom Again in Autumn"
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