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Memorize your timetables: The rational world and the power of prediction in Tabucchi’s La Testa Perduta di Damasceno Monteiro

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  1. Don Fernando can be interpreted as committing himself to a claim.
  2. Don Fernando - then, l'opinione pubblica can be manipulated in a predictable way.
  3. The insopportabile human behaviour that Don Fernando considers.
  4. Whether or not the world is, in fact, 'rational' or 'irrational,'.
  5. I contend that Don Fernando senses his own existence as a small part of a much larger world.
  6. Conclusion.

In Antonio Tabucchi's La Testa Perduta di Damasceno Monteiro, the reader is pulled into a detective murder-mystery dealing with decapitation, murder suspects named il Grillo Verde, and tripe. Of particular interest, however, is the character of Don Fernando, a lawyer whose mind flies from topic to topic such that he seems to know everything about anything but who nonetheless is weighed down by his obesity. In this paper I plan to argue that Don Fernando's metaphysical presuppositions about the rationality of the world around him grant him the means by which to control that same world. It follows that I will first need to describe in what exactly Don Fernando's worldview might be said to consist. More specifically, I will show that he considers the world to be rational insofar as the human experience therein is calculable or predictable. Interestingly enough, his understanding of rationality proves itself to be peculiar on two points: First, while manifestations of rationality in the world are typically viewed positively by the philosophers who posit them, Don Fernando judges the world negatively, concluding that it operates according to an insopportabile logica ; and second, the kinds of human phenomena he takes to be predictable?and thus rational?are those which are depicted in philosophical thought as contributing to the irrationality of the world.

[...] Then again, given Fermino's admiration of him, I feel compelled to say at least a few words about his view of the world and the nature of human existence. In History and Class Consciousness, Lukács argues that history is a forward- moving, rationally evolving process in which the past, present, and future are all equally real parts of a larger historical whole (p.181). Specifically, he states that must be able to comprehend the present as a becoming? and that the present, past, and future are all ?equally concrete? or parts of a larger, evolving historical process in which the current reified and reifying capitalist economic system will be ultimately overthrown (pp.203-04). [...]


[...] While it seems peculiar for Don Fernando to criticize the world he has constructed qua its rationality, he really can be seen as creating a distance between himself and the notions of time and space he desires to control. Whether or not the world might ultimately best be conceived as rational or irrational, it is interesting that Don Fernando uses a discourse of predictability to define rationality. His mastery of the Swiss timetable only serves to emphasize that his underlying concern is the relation between knowledge and power. [...]

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