Jalal Toufic

The first thing one notices in many nineteenth century photographs is the blurriness of the living. Since the early daguerreotypes and calotypes required long, multi-minute exposures, at first photography best preserved the dead, not the living, the quick (quick. 6. Archaic a. Alive. [American Heritage Dictionary]). But even at present, one would be able to see clearly, if the fear of fear did not force one to swish pan one's look, that when the motionless living and the frozen undead are side by side, the frozen brings out the blurriness of the motionless. While the living never become immobile but only motionless, i.e. move less, to a lesser degree; the vampire and the dancer come to a dead stop. The freezing of the undead is not merely motionlessness, but the coming of the motionlessness to a violent, furtive stop (breaching the conservation of momentum). He had seen corpses before, but this thing he was now perceiving in the coffin was very different, was not moving at all. To belong to nature whether as an object or as a living entity is to be restless.1 Even the corpse, even one in suspended animation, moves, is restless, when compared to the freezing of the dead and to that of the dancer; it is only the ones released from Karma, as well as the vampire and the dancers when they are frozen, that are not restless. The freezing of the dancer in Coppelia is what differentiates her from the mannequins since, unlike their motionlessness, this freezing is not worldly but occurs only in the realm of mortals. The blurriness of the living is due to their movement even as they stand still; the bleariness of the dead, perceptible in Francis Galton's and Nancy Burson's composites,2 is the result of the decomposition of the different composites of which each was composed ("I am Prado, I am also Prado's father. I venture to say that I am also Lesseps... I am also Chambige... every name in history is I"3 ). The living person is a composite that dissociates in death-as-undeath or during some states of altered consciousness first into separate subunits that are themselves composites,4 most of them uglier than the original one, then into elements, becoming alien. Each of us is common, not alien, both because each of us is a composite of all the others, even of those who lived erstwhile and who are long dead, and because each of us is part of the composite that constitutes the others. That is why we do not find others or for that matter ourselves alien, and that is why they too do not find us alien. In certain states of altered consciousness, though, we see the dead, people who have become not merely uglier, but alien, and that is because they are no longer composites (the withdrawal of the cathexis of the world).

What is extremely discomposing about the double is that in a twisted, too logical way, he is more me than myself: while I include all the others, he includes only "me"; and therefore is not really me, since I am never purely myself. The double is unrecognizable because he is the Same. The double is not the other, but I divested of all others. That is why whenever I encounter him, even in a crowded public place, I feel I am alone with him, alone with the alone;5 he embodies the divestment from the world. That is why encountering the double is such a desolate experience, and is a premonition of death with its bereavement from others and the rest of the world.

Jalal Toufic, (Vampires): An Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film, revised and expanded edition (Sausalito, CA: The Post-Apollo Press, 2003), pp. 172-174.


  1. The freezing of the dead manifests the usual physical restlessness of objects and living humans and animals (only a perfect crystal at the absolute zero of temperature would have zero entropy), but also makes possible an obvious unnatural auto-movement of objects.

  2. Nancy Burson, Richard Carling and David Kramlich, Composites: Computer-generated Portraits (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1986).

  3. Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. Christopher Middleton (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), p. 347.

  4. In the case of the dead before dying Nietzsche, one of these subunits into which he dissociates and that are themselves still composites is Nietzsche, as the every name in history is I in his "I am Prado, I am also Prado's father. I venture to say that I am also Lesseps... I am also Chambige... every name in history is I" implies. One can thus unfold the statement: "I am Prado, I am also Prado's father. I venture to say that I am also Lesseps... I am also Chambige... I am also Nietzsche... every name in history is I." This implied "I am also Nietzsche" in an enumeration of the other names Nietzsche has become is most uncanny.

  5. Alone with the Alone is the English title of Henry Corbin's book on the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabî; in Corbin's title the second Alone refers to God.