In a world such as ours, where three-quarters of the population live in poverty or in the midst of war, writing about literature and violence—let alone writing—is a privilege. I am indebted to many people and institutions for having granted me that privilege, and to my parents, Anamaría and Raúl, above all for the efforts they made to grant their children the advantage of an education.
The ideas suggested in this book are the result of so many partnerships that it is as difficult to do justice to them as it is to account for the times that led to their crystallization.
Early work for this book was done under the auspices of Yale University's intellectual community and with Yale's financial support, for which I am most grateful. The book took its current shape partly during a postdoctoral Mellon fellowship at the Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania; it was completed during a sabbatical year granted to me by a Morse Fellowship at Yale University. I wish to express sincere gratitude to the editorial board of Stanford University Press: special thanks to Emily-Jane Cohen and Norris Pope for their warmth, support, and professionalism; to Sarah Crane Newman, John Feneron, and Martin Hanft for their extraordinary efficiency, kindness, and help in the production process. I am also most grateful to Marcel Hénaff and an anonymous reader who so generously offered comments on the manuscript. A Frederick W. Hilles Publication Fund grant from Yale helped with publication costs; thanks, too, to Jon Butler and Emily Bakemeier, whose support at Yale has been vital throughout.
I benefited from invaluable comments made by many readers at different stages of work. For their advice on my early work, I am grateful to Shoshana Felman, whose lessons in reading have been invaluable, and to Roberto González Echeverría, Michael Holquist, and Rolena Adorno. I must also express immense gratitude to Rosi Braidotti, who, in spite of not having been directly involved (p.x) with this book, long ago and far away gave me a clearer idea of the kind of scholar I wanted to become. I am short of words to thank Laura Wexler for all these years of reading, support, friendship, and intellectual conversation, which made so many things possible. To have Carol Jacobs as a close reader, mentor, and friend is a privilege and a joy I could not have imagined: I cannot thank her enough for her comments on this manuscript, her unmatched intellectual generosity, her friendship, and her readiness to help, even at the last minute.
I could not have been more fortunate to have for an intellectual home Yale University's inexhaustible intellectual community, and especially the Department of Comparative Literature, where collegiality makes all the difference. Thanks to David Quint, Dudley and Stephanie Andrew, Katie Trumpener, and Richard Maxwell for the intellectual conversation, support, and wonderful spirit of giving, to Ala Alryyes for the friendship but also for so many rides back home when I had too many books to carry on foot; to Peter Brooks, Francesco Casetti, Rainer Näele, Barry McCrea, Alex Beecroft, Katerina Clark, Pericles Lewis, Henry Sussman, Benjamin and Barbara Harshav, and Haun Saussy, and to Victor Bers in the Classics Department for his wonderful seminar on Greek tragedy. Michael Denning, Nigel Alderman, Geetanjali Chanda, Maurice Samuels, Hazel Carby, Jean-Jacques Poucel, and Dale Martin have been inspiring intellectual companions and supportive friends throughout. Without Mary Jane Stevens's assistance and friendship it would be hard for me to imagine Yale; thanks also for Angie Schrieber's kindness and help. Geoffrey and Renée Hartman's humorous and persistent message that I “should sometimes look at the good side of things” always made life so much easier; they, as well as Ben Kiernan and Dori Laub, have helped shape my thinking about genocide and representation.
Many lines in this book stem from passionate discussions about politics, culture, and justice with three cherished friends at the Yale Law School whom I cannot thank enough; they made their homes a home for me. Owen Fiss and George Priest are the best of interlocutors, since they also inhabit my Argentine home; Paul Kahn, who always helps me think through the problem of violence, also invited me to his summer seminar in Germany on law and violence, an experience that had an impact on this book.
I am short of words to acknowledge the intellectual inspiration and friendship of newer interlocutors: Fred Jameson's questions made me reconsider several passages and several other problems for a future inquiry on violence: his intellectual vision, critical passion, and generosity of heart and mind are (p.xi) unparalleled. John Beverley encouraged me to publish this book after reading a summary of it. Thanks for Susan Willis's wonderful insights and generosity; and to Ariel Dorfman, whose spirit of giving, political and literary writing, and limitless enthusiasm for life inspire me constantly. Special thanks to Gerry Prince for encouraging me to publish an earlier part of my work on Sade in French Forum (“Riveted by the Voice: The Sadean City at Silling,” French Forum 30.2 [Spring 2005]:49–66); thanks also to Shane Herron and Sol Peláez for publishing an earlier version of my thoughts on Antigone in Theory@Buffalo (“Violent Boundaries: Antigone's Political Imagination,” Theory@Buffalo, Issue: Democracy and Violence [Spring 2006]).
It is true that one always writes in a foreign language: our mother tongue is at first alien to us, and then one struggles with written language as something alien to the “native” oral idiom. Nonetheless, writing in a language that is not one's mother's tongue has entailed more hours of mourning for me: one mourns metaphors that have the sound of music in one's mother tongue but do not make the least sense in English; one mourns those fictions that made reality livable while growing up and that one cannot imagine in a language other than that of one's childhood; one misses tones, emphases, concepts, and ways of perceiving that have no translation. It would all have been impossible without the support of friends here, at home, or scattered all over the world. My biggest thanks to sisters in the United States—Nadia Altschul, Kamari Clarke, Sara Nadal-Melsió, and Ana Puga—who not only read my work critically but with whom I also share the travails of uprootedness within and beyond the academy; special thanks to Leo Lisi and Olivier Reid, who read the entire manuscript with incredible patience, critical insight, and eye for detail. Thanks for the friendship of Joel Tolman, Cecilia Enjuto-Ranjel, and Pedro García Caro, who also offered invaluable help for last minute problems; thanks for Erik Butler's wicked sense of humor and expertise in classics; and to Elizabeth Tulis, Catherine Flynn, Sonya Collins, and Tobias Hetch for help at different stages with editing. Thanks to Marta Rivas and Jorge Santiago, and Julie and Krimo Bokreta for so many meals in Philadelphia, and to fellow travelers María Willstedt, Masha Salazkina, Luca Caminati, Fernando Rosenberg, Amy Chazkel, Pepe Cárdenas, Kate Holland, Duncan Chesney, John Charles, Patricia Gherovici, Gustavo Klurfan, and Marc Caplan.
Having lived in seven different countries means that “home” is mainly created by the friends one meets along the way. Shared nomadisms with friends of friends have been vital throughout: enormous gratitude goes to Seema (p.xii) Kazi, Elizabeth Janz Mayer-Rieckh, Marcos Mariño, Araceli Varela, Ariel and Adriana Méndez, Sylvia Pópoli, Sylvia Mitraud, Vladimir Flórez, Miguel Rojas, and Philippe Skolle; and a debt is owed to an old friend, Gustavo Guerrero, who long ago, in Caracas, showed me a different entrance to poetry through the modern Greeks. Buenos Aires, though, is still the city where the unfailing loyalty of old friends anchors and revivifies me. Thanks to Kuky Coria and Mariano Plotkin for insisting that I take the plane to come to Yale; to Elena Alloé, Andrea Tolchinsky, Mirta Clara, Miriam Wlosko, and Debora Yanco for their constant help and wisdom; to Jorge Myers for always going out of his way to share his boundless knowledge; to Francisco Naishtat for his insightful reading of a chapter; to Pablo Kreimer and Gabriel Guralnik for their unbeatable sense of humor in the face of catastrophe; to Laura Klein, Silvia Chejter, Gerardo Gutman, Mercedes Etchemendi and Marcelo Ferrante, Eduardo Abbate, July Cháneton, Viviana Matta, Anahí Valent, Miguel Wald, Itatí Acuña, Judith Filc, and Peter Kahn for being there at crucial moments; and then there is my old debt to Pablo Pavesi, for helping me long ago to find my roots in literature.
My family is inscribed in every single line written, book read, tear dropped, smile given, and scintilla of happiness or misery felt throughout this process. No words suffice to express my debt to this special circle that sustains, simply put, life itself. I am who I am thanks to them. I owe many of my intellectual and political passions to my parents, both of whom are also the most loyal supply of books, films, articles, and acid humor. I rely on my brother Erich and my sister Sonia as I do on no one else: they, along with Cecilia, Luis, Iván and Vera, Camila, and Agustín, make every last minute of every trip home precious. In Canada, it is Liz and Jack, Pamela, Peter, Stephanie, and Aidan, Ian, Addison, Nick, and Alex who make all the difference. And if John, who read, edited, and (rigorously) criticized all that I wrote, had not entered my life (and cooked so many meals), I would not be able to imagine how to look at life again. For my gratitude to his love, I could always try to find metaphors and metonymies, but this gratitude, like poetry, has no translation: haces añicos los miedos; luego me muestras los remolinos de mar donde esparcirlos para iniciar la ceremonia de la alquimia.