Tropos Kynikos: Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk

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42   The Deserts of Bohemia

than to the minting of two-drachma coins in his garage.37 Through this rhetorical loophole the rascal beats the legal rap!

But how do we know, an agelast will ask, that the non-serious (metaphorical) reading of this anecdote is correct? This question points to the heart of the ludic matter. We will never know, because play unfolds in the name of chance, forgoing the comfortable security of decidable truth. The reiterations of signs in the Diogenes chreiai are therefore governed not by the principle of identity as utter self-sameness, as a faithful imita­tion of the original, but by exigencies of an ever-changing context. These are playful remintings of the "same" as different (homonymity of nomisma) and, at another level, of the "different" as same (synonymity of counterfeiting and transvaluation). What such permutations of analogies and divergencies strive for is not the approximation of an ideal that is measurable by the yardstick of veracity but the nebulous joys of probing, laughing, and challenging (or whatever motivations for playing there might be). And their outcome is as secure as that of any other wager. Oth­ers might view what is for some Diogenes' brilliant display of ludic prowess as the proof of his ignorance, his madness, or, in the case of forged money, his moral turpitude.

Let me illustrate Diogenes' ludic challenge to the authority of truth and power with two examples. Kierkegaard's essay on repetition opens (as everyone knows) with a repetition. "When the Eleatics denied motion," reads its first line, "Diogenes, as everyone knows, came forward as an op­ponent. He literally did come forward, because he did not say a word but merely paced back and forth a few times, thereby assuming that he had sufficiently refuted them."38 What intrigued Kierkegaard in this story is, I believe, its amusing ambiguity. For is it the repetition that creates motion (a unidirectional walk by Diogenes would most likely have been inter­preted as his retreat, not as an instantiation of the concept), or is it motion that creates repetition (Diogenes' coming forward to repeat in deed what Parmenides or Zeno had negated verbally)? Moreover, by doing what he did, did Diogenes intend to refute the Eleatic doctrine (as Kierkegaard in­timates, Lives is silent on this issue) or something else? In other words, was his walking around an assertion of the existence of motion or merely an imitation of it—a pantomimic jab at those who predicated its nonexistence? Diogenes' performance—and this is the only thing we can say with some certainty—did not prompt Kirkegaard's Eleatics to endorse

37 For an extensive discussion of this theme, see Probsting, Der Kynismus des Diogenes, pp. 43-47.

38 Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling. Repetition, ed. and trans. H. V. and E. H. Hong (Princeton, 1983), p. 131. In Lives this event is recorded as follows: "In like manner, when somebody declared that there is no such thing as motion, he [Diogenes] got up and walked about" (41).

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