The sixth sense by Nicolas Vergara

1. At the end of 2015, J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz published a book of conversations around different matters in psychoanalysis. Coetzee did something similar before — he published private conversations that might throw light on his works and intellectual inquiries—but if that book of correspondences was characterized by a kind of asymmetrical relation between two writers (a relation supported mostly by Paul Auster), this new book of exchanges offsets the first one. In many ways Arabella Kurtz seems to say to Coetzee: relax man, this is not that serious, it’s just therapy. 

2 As many writers and artists, Coetzee is interested in psychoanalysis as a way of articulating stories—self-narratives—and through them, reaching some aspect of the true (subjective or social). One of the first things that struck me when I was reading this book happened when AK explains to JMC that not all the narratives that we have to explain ourselves are characterized by one specific structure. “Most of the patients come because they find unconnected zones of their memory”. A good example is when you have forgotten something important that has been traumatic, like the exact day of the death of one of your beloveds (compared to that experience, how easy it is to remember birthdays).

3. I have heard that when you have a prosthesis, you deal with it as if it were a ghost. If you have forgotten your prosthesis at home and then you try to do something that involves it, you will probably not notice that your prothesis was left behind. I wonder if the traumatic experiences described by AK could be analyzed in that way.  Connected by ghosts,  the memory keeps its own structure working. 

One of the closest relations that I have had with those kinds of ghosts are my glasses. I have been wearing glasses since I was in kinder-garden, and I am always surprised when my nephews draw me with them. When I draw myself (not very often luckily), I always forget to draw my glasses.

4. In their work about Freud’s “Wolf Man”, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok develop the notion of criptonime, to show the system of partial synonyms that illustrate the impossibility of saying the traumatic word. The Crypt, for Abraham and Torok, would be the figure of paralysis that would keep grief in suspense.  In their theory, the incorporation of the traumatic object would be sheltered into the self as a foreign object, “invisible but omnipresent”. Because this object is resting to be incorporated, its manifestation will be cryptical. This kind of incorporation would build an intra-psychictomb that refuses the lost object, and the lost objet is buried alive. 

5. Zombies and ghosts have a special role within North American culture. In popular media, Mexicans have telelenovelas and Canadians and American have zombies. Three years ago, I was taking a walk with a friend on Spadina. He grew up in Europe and came to Canada when he was eight. We were discussing different formulas to transform Toronto into a combination of Yukon and Montreal, and when were in the queue at the LCBO, he said, “Toronto does not have any ghosts, and that is the problem with this city”. Right after that, we started to research ghosts and Haunted Houses in Ontario. We found very cheap tours,  and enough number of paranormal activities to satisfy the voracity of a tourist but not our ghost-hungry spirits. 

6. I don’t care if a house looks like a Haunted Condo or a ghost looks like french toast, whether the ghost looks like a prosthesis or an intra-psychic zombie. But what I am not able to negotiate is this: when I am in front of a ghost or when the ghosts are observing me, I expect to feel either very sad or nervous, and emotionally perturbed. 

I am not the kind of person who is sensitive enough to feel when horrific deaths or ghosts are around me, but my sister is. Whenever I went to places that are haunted, I always said to myself, “If my sister were here, she would be saying something painful has happened here. I wanna leave this place ASAP”.  As if she were taking control of my body and I were just an instrument or a way of communication between my sister and the great beyond.