Schizophrene: Bhanu Kapil

Kapil writes of mental disorder and immigration; how the complex emotional results of immigration produce mental disorder.

Through her research of Schizophrenia, Kapil presents: “A schizophrenic narrative cannot process the dynamic elements of an image, any image, whether pleasant, enriching or already so bad it can’t be tendered in the lexicon of poses available to it.” (Kapil 7)

Because the narrative cannot process, it needs supporting processors to present what the narrative cannot process. Kapil uses documented memories–personal experiences of immigration, descriptions of the landscape of the orgin and destination, interactions with persons diagnosed with schizophrenia and the experience of the physical, tactile page as supporting processors–as evidence of the narrative experience.

With the experience comes the multiplication of the experience to reach us, her readers. Like cell division, these narratives exist in a physical place as well as in the mental, the notebook or the physical page plays an important part of migration.

From reading Schizophrene I have determined that writing is a kind of immigration.  The words move from the author’s mind to the page just as a person moves from one country to another.

In Schizophrene, Kapil presents us with what happens to her page throughout the narrative arch of her story alongside what happens to her characters and speaker.

The speaker in Schizophrene does not observe accounts of pleasant immigration experiences; instead, the experiences produce a variety of mental instabilities, schizophrenia being Kapil’s main focus.

To emphasize the distortive qualities of the experiences Kapil presents in her narrative, she also describes the decay and distortions that her physical notebook and words go through during her writing process.

Kapil writes: “I threw the book into the dark garden.” (1)

Also, “there was a weird blue light coming off the snow. I threw the book into the snow.” (3)

Thus we are not spared the origin of the land the words have immigrated to. The home of the text sits in the garden, on the ground, exposed to the elements and seasonal distortions.

Kapil also uses the page to describe the results of immigration on the body journey of a body.  “And the line the book makes is an axis, a hunk of electromagnetic fur torn from the side of something still living and thrown, like a wire, threaded, a spark towards the grass.” (5)

She describes the page as a living organism and its journey from her hand into distortion. In the above excerpt is the acknowledgement of the notebook existing as part of a body, a body that is alive.

This is the author’s body and the all-inclusive, singular body of every immigrant. The text of Schizophrene does not identify one specific person’s story, not one specific immigration story, but, a collective narrative of many voices.

It is important for the reader to consider the page as a living organism because Kapil’s “schizophrenic narrative” (7) is not always perceived by society and/or the country of immigration as a living organism. The page, along with the other supporting processors, assists the reader with complete perception of the “schizophrenic narrative.” (7)

Kapil writes: “It is psychotic to draw a line between two places. / It is psychotic to go. / It is psychotic to look.” (53) I feel that her descriptions of the physical page make the deliberate acts of going and looking–WITNESSING–more tangible.

My Lemon Bag

Represents 10 repressed years of struggle with grief; emotional processing of the loss of my father in 2004 and my divorce in 2014. 

My lemon bag is a symbol of the insecurity I feel when I am without. A bag. To put things in. To keep things safe in. 

My lemon bag is a safety blanket even though I can’t fit my harmonica or a notebook inside. 

My lemon bag is a comfort object.

My lemon bag sparks joy.

I am a bag addict.