Anyone come across this?Cyclonopedia is theoretical-fiction novel by Iranian philosopher and writer Reza Negarestani. Hailed by novelists, philosophers and cinematographers, Negarestani’s work is the first horror and science fiction book coming from and written on the Middle East.
'The Middle East is a sentient entity—it is alive!’ concludes renegade Iranian archaeologist Dr. Hamid Parsani, before disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The disordered notes he leaves behind testify to an increasingly deranged preoccupation with oil as the ‘lubricant’ of historical and political narratives.
A young American woman arrives in Istanbul to meet a pseudonymous online acquaintance who never arrives. Discovering a strange manuscript in her hotel room, she follows up its cryptic clues only to discover more plot-holes, and begins to wonder whether her friend was a fictional quantity all along.
Meanwhile, as the War on Terror escalates, the US is dragged into an asymmetrical engagement with occultures whose principles are ancient, obscure, and saturated in oil. It is as if war itself is feeding upon the warmachines, leveling cities into the desert, seducing the aggressors into the dark heart of oil ...
At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire, CYCLONOPEDIA is work of theory-fiction on the Middle East, where horror is restlessly heaped upon horror. Reza Negarestani bridges the appalling vistas of contemporary world politics and the War on Terror with the archaeologies of the Middle East and the natural history of the Earth itself. CYCLONOPEDIA is a middle-eastern Odyssey, populated by archeologists, jihadis, oil smugglers, Delta Force officers, heresiarchs, corpses of ancient gods and other puppets. The journey to the Underworld begins with petroleum basins and the rotting Sun, continuing along the tentacled pipelines of oil, and at last unfolding in the desert, where monotheism meets the Earth’s tarry dreams of insurrection against the Sun.
So. Um, yeah. It's pretty weird. Definitely the weirdest book I've ever read. It fits in rather well with the discussion going on at the moment about 'The Repairer Of Reputations', because if any book could genuinely drive you mad, it'd be this one.
Probably the most Lovecraftian aspect of the whole thing is that the deeply nested narrative structure almost perfectly mirrors 'The Call Of Cthulhu'. An artist from New York encounters this mysterious guy in Istanbul (no profile photo, a pseudonym represented by an obscure symbol) via some sort of internet forum and decides to fly over to meet him. He fails to greet her at the airport and when she tries to contact him online, she finds that his account has been deactivated. Intending to make the most of her stay, she books into the hotel he recommended and finds, amongst other various odd clues, a manuscript for a bizarre-looking book titled Cyclonopedia
, which is all about the ideas of an exiled Iranian archaeologist called Parsani on how the Middle East is a living entity. Parsani has apparently vanished without trace some time prior to the writing of the manuscript. When the woman tries to track down the manuscript's author, another Iranian named Reza Negarestani, she finds that he too has disappeared. Having realized that her online acquaintance was nothing more than a ruse to lure her to the Middle East in order to 'discover' the manuscript, she takes it back to America with her with the intention of publishing it. Fact and fiction are cleverly interwoven, in that the artist is very much a real person (she illustrated the book and wrote the introduction), as is Negarestani (the author of the main body of the book), while Parsani is fictional. I think this rather nicely parallels Lovecraft's tendency to mix real historical figures (Olaus Wormius, Francis Bacon, John Dee etc.) with fictional ones (von Junzst, Alhazred and so on).
The style is *incredibly* abstruse, being couched in the deliberately theoretical and difficult language of 20th-century European philosophy and psychoanalysis (especially Deleuze and Guattari, if that means anything to anyone here). There's loads of Lovecraft here, both explicitly and implicitly; Negarestani places humanity as a very temporary and superficial surface phenomenon on an unknowably ancient and unfathomable Earth that hosts Oil, Dust, War and even a blackened, rotting Sun deep inside it, all of which are manifestations of the Outside...an Outside which both inspired sorcerous cults in the time of the Zoroastrian dynasties and the Assyrian Empire and today drives fanatical jihadis and oil-thirsty Western capitalist nations towards each other in all-consuming, unwinnable War, whose purpose is totally alien to any human ideology but is dedicated to liberating the Desert itself.
Or something like that, anyway. Worth a read, if you can get past the cryptic, hyper-academic tone. Definitely very disorienting. I wrote a long-ish essay comparing this book to Lovecraft, if anyone's interested in a look at that too.