Survival of the Fireflies by Georges Didi-Huberman is now available for purchase! I am thrilled and grateful that I had the opportunity to translate this very timely reflection on power, propaganda, and the survival of individual experience and expression in spite of everything. What’s in it, you ask? Well, here’s a brief summary, chapter by chapter:
Chapter 1: HELLS? Dante imagined Paradise as a great, glorious light, and Hell as a space of small, wandering flashes. But Pier Paolo Pasolini inverts this to create a metaphor for totalitarian power: the dictator blinds with fierce spotlights, while the people glimmer in darkness, like fireflies.
Chapter 2: SURVIVALS. Are the fireflies lost, as Pasolini believed? Perhaps we can understand them as as “minor lights”: deterritorialized, political, collective. Like Walter Benjamin’s dialectical image, their glimmer is only visible from certain positions—yet they survive, in spite of all.
Chapter 3: APOCALYPSES? In Giorgio Agamben’s apocalyptic vision of our contemporary world, “experience has fallen.” Transcendence requires redemption. Yet survivals need neither destruction nor redemption. Truth glimmers in images, not beyond the horizon of final revelation.
Chapter 4: PEOPLES. The fierce light of power overwhelms the smaller flashes of fireflies, just as, in Agamben, totalitarianism reduces the power of peoples. Yet Benjamin’s philosophical archaeology imagines dialectical counterforces and the “tradition of the oppressed.”
Chapter 5: DESTRUCTIONS? What we perceive depends on where we look: do we focus on the immense light of the distant horizon? Or on the faint flashes of images closeby? The image offers us recourse from the decline of experience, but it’s up to us to seek out fireflies.
Chapter 6: IMAGES. Firefly-knowledge, firefly-words, and firefly-images—like those of Charlotte Beradt, Georges Bataille, and Laura Waddington—stand as testimony and prophecy, transmitted through darkness and time, and become flashes for others. Even if it may be reduced to clandestine moments and flashes in the night, experience can never be destroyed.
In a time when many of us (including yours truly) are so entranced with the multiple and ubiquitous lights of screens, which transmit both spectacle and individual expression in the same feed, here is a book that asks us to look, instead, into darkness, in hopes of finding fireflies. I really think it’s worth a read. If you’re interested, you can buy it here.