Ark of Martyrs: An Autobiography of V
Ark of Martyrs: An Autobiography of V (Sming Sming Books, 2020) is a rewriting — or, in the author’s words, a “polyphonic replacement” — of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel, Heart of Darkness. In the vocal traditions of gospel, toasting, and rap, Allan deSouza (Art Practice) substitutes Conrad’s words with ones that loosely rhyme. DeSouza’s resulting text creates a portrait of dystopian contemporary life, replete with unspeakable desires, political antagonisms, and legacies of war.
Set during a wedding party on a cruise ship adrift and under quarantine, the narrative forms an autobiography of V, whose story is aggregated through the mental chatter of guests. In writing an autobiography of V, deSouza raises questions of authorship — of who is the author, and who is authorized. As a complexly accumulated meshing of histories, experiences, and imaginings, V is a collective self made flesh through the (replaced) word. Formally, the writing is adrift, careening through psycho-histories and psycho-socialities, a form of psychoanalysis but with no direction towards a cure.
DeSouza is joined by Lawrence Cohen (Anthropology and South & Southeast Asian Studies). After a brief discussion, they respond to questions from the audience.