A PERVERSE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN HEART by Milad Doueihi

A PERVERSE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN HEART

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Just in time for Valentine's Day (unfortunately), a jargon-blinkered, sclerotic look at a few esoteric insignificances of the human heart. This history is perverse only in how much it leaves out. Doueihi, the former Directeur d'Etudes AssociÇ at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, seems to believe that his analysis of a few obscure, mainly French texts is enough to decant a few minor profundities. But at the center of his swirling gallic vortex of prose there is little beyond sententious meditations and gawky epigrams on ``the intersection of cannibalism and the heart.'' Even here, obscurity and omission are preferred. Everyone you'd expect to find, from the Aztecs to Poe, is missing. At its heart, Doueihi's thesis is not particularly remarkable. The heart, he notes, was once considered the dwelling place of the self. This made its consumption highly significant symbolically: ``The heart is the kernel of an apparatus of exchange and substitutions centered around the possibilities of the representation of the body . . . and the presentation of that representation in discourse.'' But anatomical studies and the progress of science eventually elevated the brain to the center of selfhood, making the heart a much less compelling totemic delicacy. Instead, it retreats to become a metaphorical/metaphysical ``form of knowledge that is at the limits of all knowledge, since its undeniable existence serves to humiliate the arrogance of reason in order to reestablish the hierarchy informed by the centrality of belief.'' Throw in some disparate musings on religious devotions and the Sacred Heart, tangents on the Eucharist, even mystical bees, and you've got a perfect example of academic autisma keen, observing mind hopelessly locked away from intelligible communication. (7 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-674-66325-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1998