This edition of Limping to an Intellectual Impasse includes a new 7,800 word introduction that explores the history and creative process of the book.


Limping to an Intellectual Impasse is a post-modern and deconstructionist delirium. It’s influences derive from the works of authors and creatives as diverse as Arthur Rimbaud, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Samuel Beckett, Georges Bataille, William S. Burroughs, Ezra Pound, Gerhard Richter, and Jean-Luc Godard, amongst others.


The unnamed narrator of Limping to an Intellectual Impasse is in a state of total uncertainty and collapse. He is in a position where he has no fixed identity and no absolute self. He does not understand why or how he is still living, or, for all the more reason, what he is living. He is conscious only of doubt.


He is racked with nausea and fever, a sign of his body’s decomposition and of the onset of delirium, which becomes a way both of perceiving and as an object of perception. As he awaits death, in a kind of purgatory, it is these many memories and thoughts that he writes in a notebook. He is situated on the brink of annihilation, and his writing is a last desperate attempt at expiation. In exploring the bleakest, darkest, and most hopeless facets of his life – for these are the memories that haunt him most – he believes that they will, therefore, become the most poignantly illuminating and useful; for total emergence in the blackness is confrontation of the utmost degree, and it is only here that its opposite can be understood. His mind moves by taking up one topic by association with another, only to return to those subjects that obsess him.  Indeed, he can only trace the meandering of his mind, back and forth through time.


The narrative begins with the unnamed narrator hiding behind his writing of bombast, deception, and lies. There is for him, only a physical, spiritual, and mental disintegration that is lived day after day. When he speaks, his speech is one that is strangled by the misfortunes of a debilitated body, and a mind that is saturated by the weight of suffering. His voice is one of fear and outrage, as he struggles to express his anguished search for belief at the limits of the impossible.


He knows that he had lost his vitality and his creativity (when he was much younger he wrote a novel that launched him into a brief success). But now, in the decay of old age, he is delving into his past in a desperate attempt to unearth the reasons for his ruin. In a notebook, he writes the many scraps of memory, the many obsessions, the obstacles and deceptions, the lies and beliefs, from which he has never been capable of freeing himself. Without being too consciously aware of it, he has come to believe that his fate depends on writing the interrogation of his consciousness, and in so doing, that such a confession will permit him to enter a new disabused life. As he explores these shards and scraps of memory, he is overcome by nausea and disgust, and even disbelief, with the stupidity and its subsequent result of failure, which seemingly has always governed him. He feels like a helpless observer who points out the many absurdities and atrocities for which he can give no adequate explanation.


As he exhumes his past, what he discovers is the antithetical tension that exists between himself (what it means to live), and his decay. Here, what is encountered is the horror of the body, which quickly becomes an object of repulsion and revulsion. He has discovered that life is a long inexplicable decay and rotting away and that when faced with this fact, he is entirely impotent.


Wracked by pain and anguish, both physical and psychological, and in a state of delirium, the story of his interrogation is told in a first person monolog of a highly fragmented nature; for whoever suffers much necessarily needs to understand the malady that affects one. At times patient and rational, and at times raving and delusional, the narrator traces the meandering of his anfractuous mind in the attempt to negate time past. But for a man so disgusted and so deceived, no explanation can make sense. Indeed, nothing is even worth discussing at length. His exploration is a movement of constraint and annihilation. Memories stab at him from a vast silence and an emptiness. He is forever crying out in bewilderment and anguish as he struggles to cope with an obscene dementia that hurls him inexplicably to a still greater perplexity and atrophy.


Disgusted and appalled by his life and its failure, he erupts a soliloquy of invectives in a relentless attempt to distance himself from the horror this causes and to prevent this horror from overtaking him. But despite how loathsome this denunciation may at times appear, these extremes are also a part of what he (and therefore by extension humanity) must also know of himself (and ourselves); for everything that forms a person is part of what it is to be a person. But failure, always the narrator’s double, is inevitable. He has been trying to speak the impossibility of his existence and to give this impossibility voice from the depths where language fails. From here, he takes the final position and refuses. The only outcome that is, therefore, possible is silence.



When curating a soundtrack, there are two key factors to keep in mind. The first is that the music, the soundtrack, must work with the story. By this I mean it must, in its way, tell the same story as the book, but it must also complement the story, add to the story, and complete the story. Second, it must work with the art. By this, I mean that there are two primary factors regarding a work of literature. There is the story, and there is the book. The book is its form, its structure, its approach to telling the story. In this case, Limping to an Intellectual Impasse is a work of avant-garde, post-modern, and deconstructionist literature. The form of the book is one that is long and free in form. Not only does it ignore most of the rules of storytelling, it purposefully breaks them while searching for new form. Iannis Xenakis is one of the few composers whose work I feel fits these requirements when curating the soundtrack for Limping to an Intellectual Impasse. Iannis too, in his music, purposefully breaks the rules of convention while always searching for new form.








Persepolis by Iannis Xenakis

All Copyright Michael P. Toussaint 2017