The last book written by Mark Fisher before he left this world, The weird and the eerie is the inauguration of a new focus, although echoes of it have been perceived in his previous books, which who knows where it would have taken the English intellectual, had he not committed suicide.
It could also be said that this book is not so much about what the subtitle presents us with, strange and disturbing in the contemporary world, with its numerous analyses, we find it practically everywhere, as it is a book about the contemporary essence of the unheimlich, another word that is difficult to translate and which we will take for granted as ‘perturbing’.
And it is precisely from the premise of the unheimlich that the book takes two different directions, that of the weird and that of the eerie, faceting these two ‘human sensations’ through books, films, but also music CDs, in essence through everything that can create a narrative. In the part dedicated to the weird, its supreme king Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, the Fall, Tim Powers, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Philip K. Dick and David Lynch show us the alienating sensation of perceiving something out of place, of realising that something does not add up in a familiar environment, after all, as Fisher tells us, Surrealism has an absolute predilection for it. In the part dedicated to eerie, on the other hand, Christopher Priest, Brian Eno, Alan Garner, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Glazer, Stanley Kubrick, Andrej Tarkovskij, Christopher Nonal and many others show us the unsettling sensation of being confronted with something when one does not expect anything, or on the contrary, of finding nothing when one expects something, science fiction is steeped in eerie, after all, the alien is by its very nature ‘something that should not be there’, the other par excellence.
We will realise, without Fisher telling us about it openly, that these two sensations, as we leaf through the book and handle these two terms more easily, are not only present in numerous narratives: plots of any genre, from detective stories to fantasy; not only, taking a step further, in the entire history of art, continuously, from Masaccio’s frescoes to Stelarc’s performances, to Cattelan’s purely communicative operations; but also, and herein lies the real scope of this book, in those concepts that Jacques Lacan first and Slavoj Žižek later, define as the ‘Great Other’. Let us think of religion as well as capitalism and we immediately realise their enormous eerie scope, let us think of surplus value: it is at the basis of any capitalist society (so much so that one could say that capitalism is actually the production of surplus value rather than the production of commodities), it has appeared out of nowhere, it is something we find where there should be nothing, and it has an immense concrete influence on the life of societies.
We live immersed in the weird and the eerie, then, but we are not easily aware of it, thanks precisely to the chiaroscuro and perturbing nature of these sensations. Over the centuries, their influence has become more and more pervasive and today we also exist in a split universe weird (social networks) but also eerie (the Internet in general). To know these feelings and what they come from is to know oneself and Fisher with this book, as with those he has written before, gives us a further hand in this titanic undertaking.
Mark Fisher, The weird and the Eerie, Repeater Books, 2017