The Hidden Fortress

Bourdieu in the forest

Tabaimo, BLOW. 2009, still image. Courtesy of James Cohan, New York and Gallery Koyanagi. © Tabaimo.

The life of a man
Burn it with fire.
The life of an insect
Throw it in the fire.

Ponder and you’ll see
This world is dark.
This floating world
Is but a dream.
Burn with abandon.

These are the words the villagers sing during the fire festival in Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, the film that inspired George Lucas’s StarWars. Words meant to burn a path among the living for the spirit of the departed. A few weeks after my book came out, I had a dream about the movie. I am Princess Yuki, and the samurai who takes me into hiding, along with the treasure of the Akizuki clan, is, for some reason, Pierre Bourdieu. His face is blue and his hair is green, but I find him in good health. He has faked his own death in order to be able to direct a research center hidden in the forest. A center founded not merely on the credibility of a single person but upon the refusal of the average citizen to endure the capitalist erosion of humanity. Under cover of a France Culture radio broadcast, we are able to discuss strategyin code, of coursewith those members of the group who have agreed to continue living in the world as it is. We get all of the new research on social inequality. In this new community, I am no longer a princess or a goddess; I work like everyone else.

At times, I catch myself feeling afraid that my book will be misunderstood, that it will be read backward, like the prayer of parents asking for their children to come home safe from war but that God may hear as a request to slaughter the children of others, to burn their fields, to leave nothing after the war but smoke and silence. Sometimes, I wonder if there is a spell at work when we write, one that causes what is said to be said without us. And indeed, that is perhaps what writing is, isn’t it: what is said there is said without us. If I could stop writing, I think maybe I would.

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