Bhanu Kapil in The Boston Review
Davy Knittle reviews Ban en Banlieu by Bhanu Kapil as part of his "Summer Poetry Reads".
In Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue, place and its particular violences are memorialized in the body. The book considers Ban, a fictional girl from Kapil’s hometown in London’s suburbs and the protagonist of a novel Kapil began but never completed. Ban, who lies down to die in a race riot in 1979—an act repeated throughout the book she inhabits—is at once a single body, the absence of a body, and the presence of trauma in many bodies. In Ban Kapil is Ban but also isn’t; she uses her writing, protest, and performance art to expose the ambient violence she has experienced and carried since childhood. Thus, she honors “the ‘person left for dead’ who—perversely—does not die.” Broken into sections, including “[13 Errors for Ban],” “Auto-Sacrifice (Notes),” and “Installations and Performances,” Ban en Banlieue becomes its various procedures, made hybrid by living in its imagined forms. These procedures are as communalistic as the violence Ban holds. In the twenty pages of acknowledgements, Kapil thanks Jena Osman for the week “I got to think through pilgrimage” and a family member for “lying down next to the ivy, at the age of nine.” Many of Ban’s catalysts are intangible, either in the past or imagined, yet together they become the concrete book the reader holds. As Kapil notes: “You can be hybrid and not share a body with anything else. Thus, the different parts of ‘Ban’ do not touch. They never touch at all.”—Davy Knittle