ANAMNESIS AND ESTRANGEMENT (1): Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison

Scott D. Danielson discusses Harlan Ellison’s reading of “Jeffty is Five”, here. I think he is right in saying that this is not a story of nostalgia. I would claim that it is rather about anamnesis, and I take Deleuze’s view that we are animated not so much by “blocks of the past” as by “blocks of intensity” mobilising affects that are only partially incarnated in our present actions and surroundings. I take this to be behind his description of Harlan Ellison’s voice in reading as “Intensely personal and passionate”. Anamnesis is not so much about rememoration (which would be nostalgic) but about estrangement. The new element in a science-fiction story (what Darko Suvin calls the “novum”) is not necessarily tied to the future, but can be linked to the other fork in a bifurcation (“transition”, as Danielson calls it) to the one that was actually taken. The “other fork” does not automatically disappear, but can continue to inform our present. This is what happens in an SF writer like Ellison, his “Jeffty” is not long gone and long forgotten , but is active in his stories. The imaginative connection to the intensities of the past is not the same thing as nostalgia, and is present- and future-oriented, not past-oriented.

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