Doing Away With the Nostalgia for Evil for Good

Jalal Toufic is a thinker and a mortal to death. He was born in 1962 in Beirut or Baghdad and died before dying in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois. His books, many of which were published by Forthcoming Books, are available for download as PDF files at his website: www.jalaltoufic.com. He was a participant in the Sharjah Biennials 6, 10 and 11, the 9th Shanghai Biennale, Documenta 13, the 3rd Athens Biennale, and “A History: Art, Architecture, and Design, from the 1980s Until Today” (Centre Pompidou). In 2011, he was a guest of the Artists-in-Berlin Program of the DAAD; and in 2013–2014, he and Anton Vidokle led Ashkal Alwan’s third edition of Home Workspace Program, based in Beirut.

Catastrophes such as the atomic devastation of Hiroshima in 1945, the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the harsh sanctions imposed on Iraq between the two Gulf Wars and that contributed to the additional deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, undermine the “will.” Who or how many can will the eternal recurrence of such catastrophes? Nazi Germany, seemingly an episode of the triumph of the will (the title of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 documentary on the Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg in 1934), was, through the concentration and extermination camps, a cryptic fundamental attack on it. Evil is nostalgic; how much nostalgia, a symptom of the absence or desuetude of the will, have the concentration and extermination camps produced! Nietzsche’s “The question posed to each thing you do, ‘Do you will this once more and countless times more?’” (The Gay Science, no. 341) is to be read as an ethical injunction to do without nostalgia, to do away with it; only that whose eternal recurrence is willed does not produce nostalgia. Nostalgia is basically less a yearning for the repetition of an event than an indication that one did not will the event, that is, did not “will” its eternal recurrence.
Nostalgia reveals not only what I feel now about a past event, but also how I “willed” that event when it happened in the past: I did not “will” its eternal recurrence. When it is not merely psychological, nostalgia is basically a facet of the present event; with regard to any event toward which I feel nostalgic, I know that I did not “will” its eternal recurrence when it happened. We are nostalgic beings less—if at all—because we are creatures who remember in an ostensibly transient present than because we do not will events.