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The Escape Ar(l)tist: Roberto Arlt and Cultural Nationalism in 1920s Buenos Aires.

This article proposes to think through Roberto Arlt's aguafuerte "Silla en la vereda," one of his many renowned newspaper articles detailing the idiosyncrasies of life in Buenos Aires during the 1920s and 1930s. From these short, fun, inquisitive, and sometimes acerbic pieces written to offer a more picturesque and nuanced perspective of life in Buenos Aires, Arlt lays the groundwork for his future works at the same time that through a politically-charged minor literature, he actively thrusts himself into the Argentine political and cultural scene as a counterhegemonic force to a cultural nationalist movement adamantly attempting to impose its idea of a national identity on the nation. While Arlt's aguafuertes are numerous and describe uncountable scenes of the city, two of the most salient aspects of the aguafuertes are that unlike the published book, they are in a constant state of flux. Also, because they were published as newspaper articles, the aguafuerte was easily accessible to the public and thus reached a broader and more diffuse population on a regular basis. Very similar to the people and cultures that he wrote about and thematically unpredictable in nature, the aguafuertes were a constant representation of the particularities of porteno society. This characteristic distanced Arlt's writings both spatially and temporally from some of the more well-known and canonical works of the dominant social sectors (Ricardo Guiraldes's Don Segundo Sombra, for example) that sought to romanticize past figures and customs and the ideals they represented as that which should define the modern Argentine. Free from any ties to a cultural nationalist cosmology, Arlt's aguafuertes resisted the institutionalization of culture that academies like the SADE (Sociedad Argentina de Escritores) and its president Leopoldo Lugones carried out. Instead, this body of works was in a perpetual state of transformation and reformulation just like Argentine society during the 1920s and 1930s, whose demographics were precipitously changing due to the onslaught of both internal and external immigration. Unlike the novel that cultural nationalists and SADE writers so highly regarded, which upon being published served as a museum of sorts where its word became bounded, unmalleable, and generally stored on a shelf for posterity, Arlt's aguafuertes exemplify the opposite. Instead, the aguafuertes become (and never stop becoming) flexible, quotidian conduits through which Arlt meticulously subverts cultural nationalism's political agenda, affording all of society, not just those with the luxury of buying books, access to literature.

If cultural nationalists held fast to the notion of the book as a monologue of sorts that the reader passively accepted, then through his aguafuertes Arlt destabilizes this idea and deforms it so that he is not only an author, but "un interlocutor: dialoga con sus lectores, introduce fragmentos de las cartas que le envian, y sobre todo "oye" a los seres anonimos de la ciudad que le cuentan en el cafe, en la calle, historias, anecdotas, fragmentos de sus vidas" (Corral 39). In re-interpreting the relationship between author and public, Arlt transforms a passive acceptance on the part of the reader into a more active involvement in the text, one in which the common porteno citizen regardless of class, partakes. At the same time that he engages the public through his texts, he engages cultural nationalists in a discursive tete-a-tete with direct implications on questions of identity and on a system of signs imposed upon the nation from an oligarchy that sought to maintain a hegemonic stronghold severely threatened by Hipolito Yrigoyen's ascension to the presidency in 1916. As evidenced by his devaluation of and movement away from the book, Arlt's aguafuertes will illustrate how he comes to represent that which escapes the homogenizing and hegemonic ideology of cultural nationalist rhetoric.

Given that Arlt will symbolize an (un)predictable flight away from cultural nationalism's grand narrative of argentinidad, we will turn to Gilies Deleuze and Felix Guattari's notion of the rhizome to further contemplate Arlt's movements. While highly unlikely that the French theorists had Arlt in mind when theorizing the rhizome, what will become clear in this article is that Arlt and his aguafuertes prefigure the same process that Deleuze and Guattari understood with the rhizome. For this, at the present Arlt will embody the rhizome: the rhizomatic Arlt. However to categorically declare that he and his works were rhizomatic is too simple and presents us with a relationship that is tenuous at best. It is for this reason that we will not only question how Arlt exemplifies Deleuze and Guattari's theory of deterritorialization, but understand the social and political effects contained within Arlt's works in relation to the historical context of an early twentieth century Argentina where cultural nationalists championed an Argentine identity based on reincarnated notions of revised historical figures and ideals. Generally speaking, these revisions prompted a process of "re-essentialization" of Argentine identity among cultural nationalists, one which argued that "people who lived more closely to the soil were believed to be more authentic embodiments of the national being or ser nacional, while those who lived in urban centres were less affected by telluric forces ... and thus more alienated from the underlying core of national traditions" (DeLaney 636). What the present work will therefore contend is not only how Arlt became one of the first writers to successfully write from the margins, but more importantly, how through a process of deterritorialization his writing came to incorporate these same margins in the social production of meaning and cause a radical re-interpretation of a preconceived system of signs stringently upheld by the dominant sector.

Before analyzing Arlt's particular aguafuerte "Silla en la vereda," I will foreground how his mistrust in the national education system served as a critical impulse to his "feet on the ground" methodology that served to pave the way for his aguafuertes. Arlt had a peculiar view on Argentine education during the early twentieth century, and nowhere does this opinion surface more vehemently than in his aguafuerte "El placer de vagabundear." "[L] a escuela mas util para el entendimiento es la escuela de la calle," proclaims Arlt, "escuela agria, que deja en el paladar un placer agridulce y que ensena todo aquello que los libros no dicen jamas" (Aguafuertesportenas 59), admonishing the supposed legitimacy not only of the escuelas normales and the dominant belief system with its strong ties to an insatiable oligarchy, but the authority of the book and any other published artifacts intended as a normative guide for society. By publicly rebuking the "cultural machine" of the national education system, a system that Beatriz Sarlo refers to in her book La maquina cultural as "una maquina de imposiciones" (54) that stressed "nociones de los deberes que tienen para con Dios, la patria y la sociedad en que viven" (20), Arlt--who according to the thought process behind the escuelas normales would have been, and in fact on various occasions was, explicitly categorized as subnormal and barbarous--undermines mainstream thought in one fell swoop by asserting that familiarizing oneself with the street and observing the multiplicity that daily make use of it trump any and all classroom lessons. That is to say that if the escuelas normales sought out to assure a prosperous and homogenous future united by a single monolithic, Argentine culture through lessons imparted in the classroom, Arlt's conclusion is that these lessons only impart rigid and hermetic concepts with a specific political agenda of glorifying lo argentino while debasing lo extranjero.

For Arlt, lessons learned in school are lessons that attempted to occlude the growing heterogeneity of Argentine society, from culture to space, and it is exactly for this reason that he exalts the streets of Buenos Aires. It is here where he, or any other subject for that matter, has the opportunity to debunk those lessons and experience the city for what it truly is: a space constituted by the individualities of a multiplicity of peoples and cultures that are always and already in contact with one another. It is also through this belief that Arlt re-discovers as well as re-introduces the street--a space neglected by those of the SADE and the escuelas normales that believed culture was only to be found in high-end cafes and certain places designated by the state for culture (museums, theatres, libraries)--as a public space full of myriad interactions and indispensable in the production of culture. In doing so he takes a giant step in the direction toward the liberation of the sign from a parochialism that held it captive in cultural nationalism. As a result, he unfolds the city, exposes the margins and the once disenfranchised particularities that make them up, and serves as the impulse that gives life to a process of including the "others"--not just "other"--in Buenos Aires. This unfolding of the city and reclamation of public space inevitably opens up new veins of articulation and makes visible the once invisible coefficients of deterritorialization that had been ignored under oligarchic rule.

To get an understanding of the ideals that cultural nationalists strove to inculcate the nation's citizens, let us turn briefly to some of the earliest writings of a young and nostalgic Jorge Luis Borges, who has little in common with the later Borges of, for example, Ficciones (1944). In this poetry we see traces of those traits that the escuela normal strove to instill in every Argentine and immigrant youth. Now, while Borges should not be considered a cultural nationalist per se, his early poetry resembles the cultural nationalism's highlighting of past customs and its re-mythification of certain historical figures in Argentina. Throughout these poems Borges evokes distant images of the pampa and the gaucho, the card game truco and perhaps most notably, the "mythical" re-foundation of the city of Buenos Aires, among other topics. In a sense, Borges's early poetry stands at a point in the present shortly after Hipolito Yrigoyen took office in 1916, a watershed moment in Argentine politics that marked the first elections under the universal voting system (la ley Saenz Pena) and the rise of popular democracy. With this in mind, Borges's poetry turns its back on this present and the future, and fixates its gaze on a past that while not necessarily distant temporally, because of the rapid modernization of Buenos Aires, seems like an eternity ago. In his poem "El truco," found in his earliest compilation Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923), Borges writes that "[c]uarenta naipes han desplazado la vida. / Pintados talismanes de carton / nos hacen olvidar nuestros destinos" (Borges 26). It should be noted that el truco is an Argentine card game typically associated with the gaucho and the rural life of the pampas; the same gaucho that the father of the protagonist in Beatriz Sarlo's book La maquina cultural chided as taboo and something with which she was forbidden to associate herself. However, as the title suggests, Borges's poem revolves around the magical sensations that this card game provokes in him and should provoke in others, The cards that make up the deck are no longer cards; they are talisman whose presence causes the participants to forget about the road ahead--their destinos--and instead turn toward past epochs of romanticized heroic figures. This necromantic shift ingeniously eliminates the question of what will be and instead "resucita un poco, muy poco, / a las generaciones de los mayores" (Borges 27). In doing so, Borges's sleight of hand moves our attention away from the Argentina of the twentieth century and beyond, and transposes onto it a magical and somewhat melancholic past of mythical figures and the customs that formed part of their lives, as if those same figures and customs should be the only ones that respond to questions of Argentine identity during the 1920s and 1930s.

However, this constant nostalgia of looking backward that concerns Borges in his early poetry is combatted by the forward-thinking Roberto Arlt. Given that Arlt "descree del pasado y de las genealogias abogando por la modernidad" (Rodriguez Persico 45), his focus shifts toward the future of the nation and the immigrant masses. He believed in a movement away from books and toward the importance of la calle as a docent that imparts modern knowledge upon his or her students, and in so doing he successfully uncovers the heterogeneity of the nation. Nowhere is this more evident than in his aguafuerte "Silla en la vereda." In this brief but compelling piece, Arlt contemplates a customary "season" that occurs in Buenos Aires when come nightfall, chairs make their way out of houses and onto the sidewalks of the city. One can only gather that this observation stems from years of wandering through and learning from the streets of Buenos Aires as well as the numerous occasions in which he must have stumbled across what for him at the time was an out of place chair on the sidewalk, causing him to stop and ponder its relevance. Granted, upon first glance this might appear to be a less than provocative portrait of life in Buenos Aires. After all, what possible importance could a chair on a sidewalk have? However given Arlt's migrant background--the son of a Prussian father and an Italian mother--his penchant for recording his own experiences and his interactions with those who inhabited the streets and margins of the city, along with his leeriness of the past, a distinct appreciation of the silla emerges from the shadows of the peripheries and juxtaposes itself against the trite and commonplace understanding of the chair as understood by cultural nationalists.

Before fully entangling ourselves in this aguafuerte, one final word about the criticalness of Arlt's methodology must be mentioned, for it is his flaneurian movement that affords him the opportunity to rethink the city and escape time and again the hegemonic ideology of cultural nationalism that held fast to their beliefs of the city as deeply ensconced in a rigid sign system. Unlike conservative cultural nationalist writers who thought they could verisimilarly describe Argentina from their upper class cafes and their Barrio Norte residences, these flaneurian tactics are the principal method through which Arlt could give an accurate portrayal of porteno society. Because of his strategy, in Arlt we experience the beginning of a corrosive process that eats away at overarching, panoptical, and "rationalizing" systems of order that defined the Latin American city and that Angel Rama elucidates in his book La ciudad letrada. By walking around the city and exploring realms of the urban sphere heretofore neglected by other writers, Arlt unveils how Buenos Aires unfastens itself from the concept of the rigid, hierarchical ordered city, where as in almost all of Latin America, norms were structured around "el esfuerzo de clarificacion, racionalizacion y sistematizacion ... respondiendo ya no a modelos reales, conocidos y vividos, sino a modelos ideales concebidos por la inteligencia" (Rama 3). Rama's hermeneutic understanding of la ciudad letrada bases itself on the notion that an unwavering system of order will shape a chimerical society of the future, and that only through a strict implementation of geometric methods, formulas rooted in Euclidean geometry, Newtonian physics, and an unyielding symbolic order, Latin American society would flourish in a way that would perpetuate the growth of a systemic phenomenological and ontological order.

On top of fragmenting the concept of la ciudad letrada, another critical effect of the rhizomatic--and now flaneurian--Arlt, is that he avoids falling into the trap of a politics of the masses as seen in the concomitant Argentine populist movement of Yrigoyenismo, subsequently dodging the bullet that is the oversimplified qualifier pueblo, or people. He successfully avoids this reductionist perspective while at the same time clearly distancing himself from other writers as well. Thus when Beatriz Sarlo avers in her essay Una modernidad periferica that during the early part of the twentieth century "[e]l espacio se modifica porque la velocidad comienza a ser un principio de sistema perceptivo y de la representacion; lo mismo sucede con los ruidos que no existia para la poesia anterior" (102), she seems to overlook Arlt. Her understanding of cultural production appears to favor the vantage point of those elite vanguardistas (and others generally considered part of the Florida group) where the effects of the process of modernization in Buenos Aires would have been much more visible and easier to account for. For Arlt however, while these stimuli may have been important, they grew out of his understandings of the multifarious articulations inherent in the minutiae of those previously excluded classes and people, articulations that were passed by and neglected by those who could afford to travel on--and had access to--buses and subways. As a result, Arlt's aguafuertes give the sensation of slowing down time and grounding modernization to a halt in favor of the details of the darker side of the process of modernization and those who constitute it.

In returning to Arlt's aguafuerte "Silla en la vereda," we will begin by corroborating that which is already known: that a chair, in its most basic and universal form, is generally understood as an object used for sitting or rest. If asked to define the term, we tend to give an answer that in essence always comes back to this one universal principle. Whether at a desk, at a dinner table, under a lamp to read a book, or simply to rest one's legs, the chair really has only one clearly defined, objective, overarching purpose. In Argentina during the early years of the twentieth century the same held true, for this monovalent and unwavering understanding of the chair simply followed pre-established norms already in play within the nation. Not coincidentally, this understanding of the chair would have certainly been in line with cultural nationalism's notion of the chair, whose endless push to reduce--if not entirely erase--multifarious interpretations of any one object or idea, ran parallel to the chair's pre-existing, fixed significance--or its essence, so to speak. That is to say that for cultural nationalists, whose fears increased as the passing years saw an influx of immigrants that ate away at all that they designated as an Argentine culture, the deterioration of the hermetic understanding of any object would have represented a clear threat to their hegemonic power hold. For cultural nationalists, because to be Argentine meant to speak Castilian Spanish, educate oneself in the escuela normal, serve the nation, and revere figures of a revisionist history like the gaucho as archetypes for what it meant to be Argentine, any transgression of these lessons would have been severely frowned upon. That is to say that on top of the aforementioned practices, part of an Argentine national identity proposed by cultural nationalists would have surely involved using a chair the only way a chair should be used: to sit on.

In Ernesto Laclau's theory on hegemony, he argues that one of the most significant steps in assuring one group's hegemony over another lies in "the imposition of a pre-given organizational principle and not something emerging from political interaction between groups" (Laclau 44). Therefore, for any one group to impose itself on another and assert a hegemonic grip on that group, it must strip the other of a sense of agency, negate all traces of heterogeneity, and establish an impermeable system of signs immune to transgression. Difference represents a threat that must exist, but at the same time must be neutralized. It is to this point where Arlt strives to distance himself from a cultural nationalist hegemonic order whose power--like Deleuze and Guattari's notion of tree logic--rests in one central node with the final say in questions of knowledge and power. It is also a thought that Nelly Richard struggles with in her book The Insubordination of Signs when she writes that "the avant-garde sought to liquidate ties to the past, [and] re-forge the antiquated meanings of signs" (Richard 33). That is, where cultural nationalists revised history and monumentalized it to conveniently fit their hegemonic platform and assure their position as the power bloc by precluding difference, according to Richard, Arlt and others sought to liquidate history, breaking it down to allow for the emergence of other histories and other cultures. Much like Richard's affirmation, in (re)thinking this particular silla, Arlt begins the process of undoing the old notion of silla as a one-dimensional object securely fastened to an immanent meaning, to an item of an unfettered array of meanings always dependent on its immediate circumstances. Nothing about the chair can be pre-established, but its meaning must come to be understood as always under construction, must like space and identity. At the same time he distances himself from Laclau's "pre-organizational principle" so fundamental in the hegemonic process.

Furthermore, in this aguafuerte Arlt divulges the manner in which a chair that once signified a place of rest effloresces to reveal a multitude of meanings, among others he lists a "silla cordial de la puerta de calle, de la vereda; silla de amistad, silla donde se consolida un prestigio de urbanidad ciudadana ... silla donde la noche del verano se estanca en una voluptuosa <<linuya>>, en una charla agradable" (Arlt 38). Arlt does not obliterate the meaning of the silla and make it disappear, for one can still sit on a chair whenever one wants. Instead he liquidates it by re-interpreting its rigid and predetermined significance, opening it up to a simultaneity of meanings that always varies according to its circumstances. Thus, because the circumstances surrounding the silla are ever-changing, the meanings too become mercurial and fluid in nature, and thus are always undergoing a process of reshaping and re-signification.

Just as Arlt looked to debase cultural nationalist's idea of argentinidad, through his aguafuertes he looked to do the same with everyday concepts. Where cultural nationalists adamantly strove to locate an Argentine "(re)essence" that would tower over the city and its inhabitants as an almost omnipresent ideal like the obelisco of Alberto Prebisch's "White City" or Jorge Luis Borges's "Refundacion mitica de Buenos Aires," Arlt de-essentialized this identity and opened it up to an ever-expanding, heterogeneous Argentine society. This notion of de-essentializing identity has lead cultural theorists such as Adrian Gorelik to assert that "[l]a irregularidad social y urbana, las peculiaridades, aparecen ahora como un plus imprescindible para dar cuerpo a la identidad" (Gorelik 363). Arlt accounts for and re-invigorates those cultural irregularities that had been glossed over by cultural nationalists, and much like the essence of the chair--any chair for that matter--is a place to sit, Arlt takes this once hermetic concept and uncovers myriad ways that it is used, thought of, and perceived. Thus, by shattering the universal concept of chair he permits these resulting fragments to constantly reshape themselves by forming new connections within new contexts and free from mandates of some authoritarian higher order.

In thinking back to "Silla en la vereda," Arlt's chair does not only take on one new meaning, which would merely create a superficial dichotomy between what the chair is now and what it was before; a dichotomy advantageous to cultural nationalism's hegemonic push in that the negative pole serves as an over-determinant for the multiplicity and consequently reduces difference to one common and over-determined trait. Instead it takes on countless meanings that prove to be as whimsical as the portenos who serve as the protagonists of Arlt's works. Arlt's interpretation of silla includes both poles of this hypothetical dichotomy, but even more importantly it accounts for any and all possibilities in between. The silla no longer resembles a one-way tracing, as Gilies Deleuze and Felix Guattari understood the term, for it no longer simply follows pre-ordained paths of meaning assigned to it through institutions of power. It is neither this nor that, but it is whatever it may become as necessitated by the circumstances. For this reason it now corresponds to their conceptualization of the map in that it "is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real ... [and] is open and connectable in all its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification" (Deleuze 12). What this openness and "connectability" reveals is that the Saussurean system of signs in regards to Arlt's silla becomes once again as dynamic and extensive as Buenos Aires itself, for on top of the earlier meanings that the chair came to represent, the list continues and la silla even takes on human characteristics, Arlt further refers to it as "silla engrupidora, silla atrapadora, sirena de nuestros barrios," (Arlt Aguafuertesportenas 38) as well as a "silla donde hacen filosofia barata ex barrenderos y peones municipales" (Arlt 38-39).

Where before the meaning of silla was limited by its immanence, what it means to be una silla now takes on a transcendent quality--a liquidness---that endows it with the ability to find its way into spots that when solid would have been unreachable and potentially precarious. Arlt liberates the sign from its concrete definition. He detaches from any one specific referent. He frees it from its imperviousness to outside and social forces. For him, because the meaning of any one object (or subject) is contingent on the people with which it comes into contact, an ever-growing multitude that consistently escapes the clutches of any institution attempting to lower its hegemonic boot will inevitably form infinite connections that serve to give way to more spontaneous and substantial connections that in turn join up with even more distant connections from other groups, and so on and so forth, expanding in an aleatory and unbounded manner; in a word: a rhizome. It is not until a political movement, ideology, or institution imposes and simultaneously maintains one hierarchical way of thinking that the chair loses its ability to expand and is reduced to its preconceived notion, consequently relegating all those other interpretations to the margins, or even worse, to rubble.

Such is the case with cultural nationalism, whose closed off conceptualization of society parallels the Deleuzian notion of "tree logic", or a politics where the "channels of transmission are preestablished: the arborescent system preexists the individual, who is integrated into it and allotted a place" (Deleuze 16). This train of thought results in a hegemonic relationship par excellence, for in ideological systems like cultural nationalism, whose "centers of significance and subjectification, [with] central automata like organized memories" (Deleuze 16) neatly compartmentalize the symbolic order, each and every object is inflexibly prescribed with and anchored to one specific meaning. Therefore when a system--cultural nationalism--comes along and imposes an arborescent and monolithic way of thinking, the chair is violently stripped of its plurality of meanings and forced to relinquish its capacity to engrupir and atrapar--two verbs that highly suggest of the collective and acquisitive power of any sign--only to return to its essence as an object upon which one can only sentar.

The ubiquity of the silla and the arbitrariness of the sign in Arlt's "Silla en la vereda" must be further explored as he takes the social production of meaning of the chair one step further. When Arlt writes, "!Pero tenga cuidado con la silla, socio! Importa poco que sea de Viena o que este esterillada con paja brava del Delta: los corazones son los mismos," (Arlt 39) he deemphasizes the physical appearance and underlines the importance of affect in the social production of meaning--los corazones. It is at this moment when the chair moves into a meta-physical territory, transcending the physical realm of the sidewalk and moving into an affective one, an action heretofore unheard of by cultural nationalists. As it makes this move, it loses touch with an earthly quiddity (essence) and takes on a rarified haecceity ("this-ness") dependent solely on the circumstances in which not only the chair finds itself, but the capricious circumstances of the subject who encounters the chair as well. Thus, in moving beyond the make-up of the chair, in this case "de Viena o ... esterillada con paja brava del Delta" or anything in between, Arlt uncovers how the subtraction of the chair's quiddity signifies its abrupt rupture with a universal and grand narrative that obstinately defined how "chair" was to be understood in Argentina. That is to say that a chair is no longer solely contingent on the materials that constitute it nor on where it comes from, but instead its meaning relies on its circumstances and on the affective reaction that it evokes in the subject as well. For this reason, its once defining characteristic of "borderless-ness" in the fact that its universal essence is understood by all independent of time or place, is shattered.

Upon the rupture from its quiddity, the chair gains a countless supply of new and more intimate meanings that are specific to the context within which it is located and ancillary to affect; in short, haecceities. This shift from quiddity to haecceity echoes the notion shared by Deleuze and Guattari of the relations between smooth and striated spaces when they describe smooth space as "a space of affects, more than one of properties ... haptic rather than optical perception ... based on symptoms and evaluations rather than measures and properties" (Deleuze 479). Arlt's aguafuerte takes this concept one step further, uncovering not only that the chair is being acted upon by external forces, nor that the chair is acting upon external forces, but both of these, plus--and most importantly--the reactions that both of the aforementioned actions solicit in the subject, any subject. To be more specific, the chair as an inanimate object does not have the ability to physically intervene in affairs under its own volition, for it cannot thrust itself into the path of a pedestrian, it does not offer itself to us as a place for us to sit down, and sure enough it does not place itself "en la vereda." However, for every person that comes into contact with it, regardless of how it arrived at its present state, the chair continuously takes on new meanings within the given context by evoking distinct reactions within each and every subject. Subsequently because no two relations between subject and silla will ever be exactly the same due to the spatial, temporal, and affective aspects of every interaction, the silla gets locked in to a state of openness and its meaning is forever being constructed. It can no longer be defined as one thing with one predetermined and obstinate purpose. The moment in which the chair comes into contact with a subject, depending on the site of the interaction, the position of the chair, the mood of the subject at the time of said interaction, environmental and climactic factors, how the chair is situated on the sidewalk or the kitchen floor or wherever it may be located, the path of the subject, a certain and inimitable relation is born between that specific subject and that specific chair at that precise moment based on the sensations that the chair evokes in the subject in his or her articulation with the chair.

On the other hand for example, let us suppose that it was an accidental occurrence and let us say that the subject stubbed his or her toe on the chair while walking past it on the sidewalk. Then, in a fit of ephemeral rage decided to heave the chair into the street at the same time that a car or pedestrian was passing? What would have been of Arlt's silla in that instance? In this hypothetical we come to understand just how tenuous and fragile the essence of the term chair is, for we can safely arrive at the conclusion that it would be interpreted differently between the person who stubbed their toe on the chair and subsequently threw it, and the person who it struck, just as it would have been distinct from a third party who witnessed the occurrence from across the street. While highly exaggerated for the purpose of this investigation, the point of this example is to illustrate that one must always consider that a chair is only but what it becomes in relation to whom or what it encounters at any given time and under any given circumstance; this elucidates why its meaning can vary from a place of rest to a potential weapon and/or anything in between.

Lastly, and in keeping with this hypothetical situation, we will advance it one step further and interrogate potential meanings of the chair if, for example, a staunch nationalist like Leopoldo Lugones came across it in the same way as Arlt. I would like to suggest that in one way or another the chair would certainly revert back to its endowed essence, for as Arlt writes, "El senor Lugones encuentra bolcheviques a los escritores que, como Mariani, Barletta, Castelnuovo, Tunon y yo, quiza, se han ocupado de la mugre que hace triste la vida de esta ciudad" (Aguafuertes portenas: cultura y politica 54). Lugones did not consider those outside of the SADE "literature" as their presence only threatened to destabilize and taint the institutionalization of literature and culture that the SADE represented. Not only that, but as evidenced from the aforementioned quote, that which dissented with cultural nationalist ideology was for Lugones in a word, filth. It is for this reason that Lugones never would have recognized any novelty that failed to speak toward the essence of the chair, or at the very least to any other interpretation not endorsed by this society. Outside of societies like the SADE the haecceity with which Deleuze uses to define smooth, rhizomatic spaces against the striated, hierarchical spaces of state power becomes clear.

What is compelling about the notion of the smooth and the striated is that the two are always intimately linked together; that is to say, even the smoothest surface, when analyzed closely enough, reveals itself as striated, just as within striated spaces there exist pockets of smoothness. This is the manner in which Arlt understood Buenos Aires, as a city analyzed on an atomic level and marked by difference and heterogeneity: smoothness. He understood the city as a fissured, dystopic topography characterized by disequilibrium, disorder, interaction, and affect, but at the same time recognized that within the city pockets of resistance, most notably the SADE and cultural nationalists, loomed large and looked to homogenize space and meaning. It is for this reason that Arlt stresses the importance of a flight away universal and objective exteriorities that resisted opening themselves up to new meanings. Thus, as a result of shedding the universal and objective interiority originally attributed to the chair, Arlt exposes an individual and subjective exteriority based on affects produced when it partakes in any number of particular interactions in an ever-expanding Argentine society. In this manner the chair comes to represent an object of an infinite number of possibilities of meanings, all of which depend on its unpredictable articulations with the world around it and the sensations that it evokes in the individual subject, a current that reflects V.N. Volosinov's understanding of the sign and the perpetual re-signification of the symbolic order when he claims that "the task of understanding does not basically amount to recognizing the form [signifier] used, but rather to understanding it in a particular, concrete context, to understanding its meaning in a particular utterance ... to understanding its novelty and not to recognizing its identity" (68). In a matter of speaking, a veritable "yo soy yo y mi circunstancia" posited by the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset.

If Roberto Arlt offers us a Deleuzian flight away from and "rhizomization" of a homogenous and inflexible national identity proposed by cultural nationalists, we should not mislead ourselves into thinking that his works represent a definitive conclusion to the struggle for a national identity nor a reformulation of the social production of meaning. For even today questions of identity run rampant within the Argentine nation. What it does offer us, however, is a clear idea of how Arlt's modern understanding of the sign system should be looked at as a critical starting point in the emergence of the margins and the birth of the modern Argentine subject, all of which, as we saw earlier will not only result in a paradigmatic shift in the symbolic order and cultural nationalism's downfall, but will help lend a radical re-understanding of the urban cityscape that time and again detaches itself from a center-focused ciudad letrada and continually takes on an ever more open, fluid, and unpredictable dynamic.

Works Cited

Arlt, Roberto. Aguafuertes portenos. Buenos Aires: Reysa Ediciones, 2005. Print.

--. Aguafuertes portenas: cultura y politica. Buenos Aires: Losada, 2008. Print.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Obra poetica, 1 (1923-1929). Madrid: Alianza, 1998. Print.

Corral, Jorda R. "Roberto Arlt, cronista y novelista." Revista de literaturas modernas. (2002):35-48. Print.

DeLaney, Jeane H. "Imagining 'El Ser Argentino': Cultural Nationalism and Romantic Concepts of Nationhood in Early Twentieth-Century Argentina." Journal of Latin American Studies. 34.3 (2002): 625-658. Print.

Deleuze, Gilies and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: The U of Minnesota P, 1987. Print.

Gorelik, Adrian. La grilla y el parque: Espacio publico y cultura urbana en Buenos Aires, 1887-1936. Buenos Aires: U Nacional de Quilmes, 1998. Print.

Richard, Nelly. The Insubordination of Signs: Political Change, Cultural Transformation, and Poetics of the Crisis. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. Print.

Rodriguez Persico, Adriana. "Las fronteras de la identidad. La pregunta por la identidad nacional." Hispamerica. 22.64/65 (1993): 23-48. Print.

Sarlo, Beatriz. La maquina cultural: maestras, traductores y vanguardistas. La Habana, Cuba: Fondo Editorial Casa de las Americas, 2001. Print.

--. Una modernidad periferica: Buenos Aires 1920y 1930. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Nueva Vision, 1988. Print.

Volosinov, V.N. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1986. Print.

Greg Przybyla

University of Buffalo SUNY
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Title Annotation:texto en ingles
Author:Przybyla, Greg
Publication:Confluencia: Revista Hispanica de Cultura y Literatura
Article Type:Ensayo critico
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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