Chapter Four: Reading in Reverse

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Mr Klein

“Juives Information—arrive, but the Jew has already gotten his. You do not sign or counter sign you are signed for, you are ditacted to, you are subscribed, prescribed.

Telephone also goes haywire whenthe girlfriend calls andKlein answers, and she hten hangs up. After Kliens speak to each other and agree to meet, the lawyer phones the olice and get there ahead of Klein. So Kleincould stop here, but he throttles his lawyer. Again, the papers ahvearrived, so Klein could stop. Klein has been caught. But Klein cannot stop repeating himself. SO thre is an uncanny kind of self-blinding but also a problem of turning text into image andviec verse.

Jewish reistance to images perhaps, but at the price of illegibiitlity. Jewishness is no longer tied to the body—it’s an organizational system, a map, police cars, a clock set at 5 a.m., a detention center with the alphabet to organize prople by their last names.
Also there are Gemran and Ferrnchtroops but the Frenchtroops do all thescore settling.
The double is doubled--as mimetic and as on mimetic the non-mimetic is

also doube as space between wall and painting, as in the p.o.v. of the

hallway corridor, and aslso between writing that is relayed but not

read.
Like the letter Moreau burns without readng; or the juives

informations that goes unread, but we see two, or the double shot of

x, y, and z in deportation scene, then repetition but we can't see it

clearly. We see a, b, and c.

Like the repetition of the Europe libre poster the second time we see

it reflected in the bus window of the bus. The first time we see it,

it is blurrred and only partially visible.  The second time is a

series of back and forth from the outside and inside the bus.  The guy

outside the bus doesn't read the note Klein.  So the reflection is

already a  text and an image, then becomes a text the crumpled or

burned, or unread like the no jews allowed sign in the window.

There's also the melvile text linked ot the photo, the way we can't

see Klen's face (it's blurred because shot is soft focus) in the

window as we see Moreau meet her lover inteh motorcycle, the real

Klien, and his face is hiddeninthe photo.

Also Klein not only hdes behind Klein, but bhind hte reistance fighter

who is blown up and a corpse Klein sees inteh morge trying to bomb the

gestapo eadquaters (because hte explosives explode whilehe palsn the

bomb).  We get the fue tha Kleinburns in the aprtment, then hte

detonator than hte factory that francoise works in, thenshe vanishes.

People keep vanishing.

But then ther is a nother veil, anotehr reeition. There is no stopping

the dynmic, hte repeition, becuase the lack is what creates desire in

teh forstplace, the revserible tracks (The Prefecutre reoprted you,

No, I reoported it to the Prefecture).  Not really so much Kafkaseqsuq

as Furdian--you have to think the political thorugh hte ontological

and uncanny--what is fiction,w hat is true, what is legiible ,

visible, what is not.

Not reduicible to two sides, resistnace to ocupation and collobration

with occupation.

Moby Dick is another text not read. The girl in bed doesnot rad it, after Shmael.


Alsol, a non speaking. Klein keeps not finishing his sentences, wil not speak the word Jew.

When talking to Jewiush News editor.

reference to the Cmmunard who was sent to Algeria marrid the

grandmother. So she was not an Arab.

Goes back to Fracno-Prussian war of 1870.

Also, like Mark 18th Brumaire--history already a repetition, already spectral. See Derrida’s Spectres of Marx—he thinks the historical through the Freudian / Hamletian phantom.

So historical repetition and psychic repletion intersect. We see and don’t see, just as Klein does. We see what is missing, or what he misses, but we are caught up in the same inability to stop as he is. Repetition of dialogue at the end—in voice over-- as it was in the beginning of the film. There is a spectral calculus in which the owner writes the receipt himself as it is dictated to him by the purchaser.

The Kafka logic is really not that Kafkaesque. It’s a crucial repetition, not a single event.

Klein has no face; he stands before the seller. The seller is also moving through the crowd before we see him shot standing where the Letter K is; the shots seem backwards. Evidently he too has a K for the initial of his last name. They are in the same place. The other is there and not there, recognized and not recognized. Bureaucracy copies, reproduces news written by and for the Jews but actually invisibly dictated by the Prefecture of Police. Plot can’t stop because history remains to be read, even when visualized. Even when history happens in front of you r face, you can’t see it (all). The cop car round scene isvery odd since the cars are all full of copys. Not clear what they are doing except in the case of Klein, where they take him ot the deportation bus after he fake passport, in a scene we don’t see, is falsified—the face of het cop that is there as an extra seems to recgnize him, know he is lying. Hisotyr just keeps receding. SO even though we know where the trains are going, we remain outside them, the camera is stationery. We can’t see a part of what happened. Not a simple being there or not, being inside the camps or not. Triump of Spirits does and does not go in the camps. Blow up happens just before Defoe is about to throw in corpses. Hedoes not have to box his brother. We never see the losers of hteboxing matches go to the crematoria.

Also why is het amily form the Balkans if they are Greek?

The only time Klein complains about the treatments of the Jews is when he is treated as a Jew.. but he does not mention the Jews or say that they are being mistreated. He is just being confined, mistreated.

The painting he buys—missing paintings, spacing between fame and wall, is also a temporal spacing—disruption of a generaltional line from beginning to the present, from painting to photography or film.

The actualMr Klein does showin the deportation station. We see him from the fornt raise his ahnd in a lng shot, but then we see him fromteh back mediumclose up. Not clear that he is wearing htesame suit in both shots.

Mimetic mirroring and writing (nonmimetic (though Moby Dick becomes an image—he laves trough Klein’s copy, doesn’t read, reds only the insert about photography.
Klein is an inept detective. There is no angrosis scene, no final Oedipal confrontation.
Just frustrated scenes of seudciotn. Klein is never in bed withhte woman,just tells her to go to bed; the fialed seduction due to the “father” the husband, but the lover as well, already there.
The photo is and is not francoise; Francoise disappears.
Are the aristos who let for Mexico Jewish? Or is the discreteness –what is said—due to not needing to say / o / know to the obvious.

(K)Not (k)no(w).


Texts that go unread:

The letter to Moreau form Klein; Moby Dick; the message dropped by Klein form the deportation bus to the teenager; the poster—reversible, perhaps not read by us;

The poster For a Frnace Libre,
The passport and paers (by the cops),
The brht ceritifcate the alwayer has from the grandmother.

General aranoic detective rading that goes form the mirror stage to the symbolic, a constant lack, which induces paranoia in Klein that then seems to be justified at points.

Klein as collobroatros like his kangaroo who lies when she says she never saw his face.
There is a lteiral and metaphorical defacing of text and image, an illegibility, not enough room, a space that frames but that does not make visible.
Hence the painting sold first becomes an allegoricay of not redaing, the mircospcoe being a metaphor for aninvitationto read a text that cannotbe read(in the film—the caerma isnever close enough to it).
The exchange between Jewish body (failure to identify the Jewish body, already missing as it were, and the work of art, returns as a single file redoubling of seller and urchaser in the final scene.

German shepher on both sides too—Like s Mr Klen.

Vendoer says I don’t knowhis name, Mr. Klein” when Klein asks him to cal the dog away. So the dog seems to recognize him.


Hkleinsays he has abslute trust in the French bueracracy and even the telphone, but when he finally goes to the phone, the person has not even called. Then the boy says he ws on the phone, but no, he was at the bard,then he is gone. Then Klein sees his mirro image but can’t read it. We see sign No Jews allowed.

108:59 of Shoah (disc three? or four?) on the Mitteleuropaishesreisebureau” handling the ticketing for the Resettlement Trains--the survivors and children rode free. But the adult soldiers had to be ticketed. Charges were also made if the boxcars had to be cleaned because they were in an excessively filthy state when emptied of their human cargo. Jews went to their death just the same way as any normal passenger—they went to the gas chamber the same way a vacationer was went to their favorite resort. Nazi confiscation of Jewish property of deportees financed their transportation. There was no budget for destruction.

Here is a case of the normal—civilian agency handling a military task-- itself becoming strange, uncanny, especially given the centrality of travel in Freud’s essay and the death drive as well. Put this in discussion of Mr. Klein.

Of use to me in this chapter is the way questions of classification according to nationality take on new importance:

Until this time [of the French Revolution] the questions ‘What is French? What is German?’ had constituted not a political problem but only one theme among others discussed in philosophical anthropologies. Caught in a constant work of redefinition, these questions now begin to become essentially political, to the point that, with National Socialism, the answer to the question “Who and what is German?’ (and also, therefore , “Who and what is not German?’) coincides immediately wit the highest political task” (130)

This question in reverse (Who is a Jew? Who is not a Jew?) is the central concern of Mr. Klein. Agambendoes nt think about the uncanny double (Klein is and is not french, is and is not Jewish), the faked passport, or about passports at all (refugees are only one group among others who travel; Fittkow’s stateless persons are another) and the Kafkaesque possibilities the bureaucratization of classification (answers after exams to answer these new questions) as well as transport system (transport trains become boxcars for deportation in which humans are packed in like animals). I will work the passport into my discussion of The Counterfeiters.1

Quote the parts of Homo Sacer on the problem the Nazis had constructing categories once bare life is declared.

Until this time, the questions “What is French? What is German?” had constituted not a political problem but only one theme among others discussed in philosophical anthropologies. Caught in a constant work of redefinition, these questions now begin to become essentially political, to the point that, with National Socialism, the answer to the question “Who and what is German?” (and therefore also “Who and what is not German?”) coincides immediately with the highest political task. Fascism and Nazism are above all, redefinitions of the relations between man and citizen, and become fully intelligible only when situated—no matter how paradoxical it might seem—in the biopolitical context inaugurated by national sovereignty and declarations of rights. (130)

Kind of odd that Agamben conflates national sovereignty here with man and citizen (of a nation), when classifications of who is a citizen (French and German but not German and German Jew or German versus Jew) become problems, requiring medical testing, certificates, provenance. Hence the work of art kicks in—relation to provenance—who owns the painting. But provenance is not reducible to Specters of Provenance ethnic cleanings of the museum’s holdings by its own deNazification process—to a question of intellectual property or legal title.

The allusions to Moby Dick in Mr. Klein may be a sort of homage to Jaen-Pierre Melvielle, who ws born Grubach (a Jew) and changed his name to the name of his favborite author, Herman Melville. See the Criterion booklet, essay by the historian.

How German is it? La Regle du Juive

As for written or inscribed language, it appears in Hegel’s text only in the most literal of ways: by means of the parabasis which suddenly confronts us with the actual piece of paper on Hegel, at that very moment and in this very place, has been writing about the impossibility of ever saying the only thing he wants to say, namely the certainty of sense perception . . . unlike the here and now of speech, the here and now of the inscription is neither false nor misleading: because he wrote it down, the existence of a here and now of Hegel’s text of the Phenomenology to the endlessly repeated stutter: this piece of paper, this piece of paper, and so on. We can easily enough learn to care for the other examples Hegel mentions: a house, a tree, night, day—but who cares for his darned piece of paper, the last thing in the world we want to hear about and precisely because it is no longer an example but a fact, the only thing we get. As we would say, in colloquial exasperation with an obscure bore: forget it! Which turns out to be precisely what Hegel sees as the function of writing. . . . Writing is what makes one forget speech . . . the definitive erasure of a forgetting that leaves no trace . . . the determined elimination of determination. (42; 43)






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