Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Camp Concentration 011 - The Golden Tomb

(Thomas M. Disch)

“There is one concept that corrupts and perplexes all others. I am not speaking of evil, whose limited empire is that of ethics; I am speaking of the infinite”. (Jorge Luis Borges, “Avatars of the Tortoise”).

Borges speaks of infinite itself. Disch chooses for his novel a Borgesian version of infinite, and of hell: the labyrinth. His characters are locked in an underground prison which is not infinite, of course, but is claustrophobically organized as a mixture of jail, hospital, research facility and hôtel de luxe. The physical confinement of the body (the clocks; the absence of natural symbols; the cells) is simmetrically opposed to the luxurious living it is offered (the dictates of fashion; the cuisine; movies; other entertainments; team sports). The juxtaposition of such extremes magnify the possibilities of the enhanced mind and is, in itself, a kind of torture..

“We go everywhere we go in elevators” (CC, p. 85, June 18 entry)

They live inside the tunnels of a former goldmine in Telluride, Colorado, which means that Camp Archimedes is located both underground and above sea level (circa 8,700 feet or 2.6 km). They are as much "above" as they are "below".

(Telluride is in the valley below)

“The town was named after the chemical element tellurium, which was never actually found in the mountains of Telluride. Tellurium is a metalloid element sometimes associated with deposits of gold and silver. An alternate theory for the naming of Telluride is that it is a contraction of "to hell you ride". (Wikipedia)

Maybe it is the historical link with gold mining that suggests to Mordecai and the other prisoners the idea of the alchemical for the Magnum Opus, the Philosophical Egg, the Transmutation of Bodies, the Eternal Life. Buried underground, with their bodies rotting and their minds soaring, they are at the very threshold of the Dissociation of Mind and Body, when Mind may be free at last from Space and Time.

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