Not everything we read is to our liking. These past weeks, I’ve been spending bits of my time wrestling with a mish-mash of Middle Eastern esoterica, Critical Theory, and metaphysical Political Economy called Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials by one Reza Negarestani.
It begins with an American woman arriving in Istanbul to meet an online friend. The anonymous acquaintance never arrives. What she does find in her hotel is a mysterious manuscript.
Lured by what seemed like a promising frame story, one is instead treated to a lifeless pseudo-theoretical treatise. The contents of this manuscript would become the focus of the rest of the book.
There are indeed some pretty interesting stuff in the attempt to marry ancient occultism and pseudoscientific obscurities to explain the horrors of the present US War on Terror in West Asia. This include some inspiring passages, like “The utilization of power in a decaying system is a necrophilic experience.”
But “horror fiction” or “middle-eastern Odyssey” Cyclonopedia certainly is not as what it is made out to be in the blurbs.
The ancient monsters Cyclonopedia conjures as well as the vision of apocalypse that it fleshes out is certainly horrific. Oil, it is argued, is the single most important current that moves the world forward. A sentient entity that seduces a whole gamut of politico-military forces into protracted war and the eventual desertification of the entire planet.
But the way this is presented, with all the fancy formulas and diagrams, pseudo-academic jargon, practically useless treatises on war strategy, scattered criticisms of Deleuze, and the most lifeless accounts of ancient monsters and myths, leaves much to be desired.
It would also be productive not to forget amidst all the shibolleth the book’s underlying endorsement of war and terror as inherent to West Asia and its reactionary vision of capitalism as the endpoint of history:
Petroleum poisons Capital with absolute madness, a planetary plague bleeding into economies mobilized by the technological singularities of advanced civilizations. In the wake of oil as an autonomous terrestrial conspirator, capitalism is not a human symptom but rather a planetary inevitability. In other words, Capitalism was here even before human existence, waiting for a host.
It is a given that not everything we read is to our liking. The obverse side of this maxim is that we cannot have access to all the ideal writings that we would like to read. ■