46. Sam

Chapter 45

Sam

Translated from the original German by Nina Klein, edited by James Parsons

  1. Compasses and other navigational tools work as normal inside. Rough latitudinal/longitudinal calculations place the hotel at +34.42 and -110.42, somewhere inside the Sitgreaves National Forest near Springerville, Arizona. All attempts to find the hotel in the region have been fruitless. Furniture in the hotel is made from ponderosa pine, the predominant species of tree found in the Sitgreaves National Forest. The free-standing tree visible from every window in the hotel appears to also be a ponderosa pine. The treeline at the edge of the field looks at a distance to be Douglas fir, also found in the National Forest. Topographical and aerial maps of the region return no matches to the field.

  2. Perception and sensory experience do not function as they normally do in the hotel. I’m not sure how to put this – your eyes don’t do the seeing. You can close your eyes and still see. You could probably gouge them out. You can see behind you; you can see outside and through walls and ahead in time to things that haven’t happened yet. It’s disconcerting, and probably the most difficult thing about entering the hotel to get used to. Additionally, rooms in the hotel seem to possess some kind of connection to their occupants. I can feel the presence of others who enter my room no matter where I am in the hotel, and even outside it. It remains to be seen if rooms are affected by mental or physical state, or even if they can be altered in any meaningful way.

  3. The room in which I find myself upon waking up in the hotel is numbered 61. I find myself in this room regardless of where I was prior to entering. Over the course of my six visits to the hotel I have placed personal items in that room, including copies of this journal, spare paper, a survival kit, several books, and a handgun. I can reasonably expect them to remain there. I can only assume that the safes contained in other rooms hold similar items for their occupants. I have been unable to open any safes but my own. I have never seen another guest in the hotel save for the one who entered with me. Three times over the course of my excursions I have heard voices in the hallway, but was unable to find a source.

  4. As mentioned previously, the halls of the hotel are all identical and any attempt to mark or deface them is met with failure – signs written or carved into the walls disappear upon exiting the hotel and in some cases upon moving to a different floor. I have been unable to discern by what mechanism this occurs. There is one exception that I have found to the above: the ceiling of one hallway is marked with long and deep scratches that spell out the word “panopticon”. This writing has appeared over multiple visits to the hotel, always in the same place twenty-one floors above my room (the hotel‘s uniformity makes it impossible to give an absolute location, so I have found that ones relative to my starting position are the most effective). It is unknown whether the word on the ceiling refers to the prison of Jeremy Bentham, the power-dynamics of Michel Foucault, the literal definition of the word (“all-seeing”), or something else. Research into the above-mentioned works of philosophy have proven fruitless, although Bentham may yet provide some insight into the nature of perception inside the hotel. Why in this one instance the seemingly-unchangeable hallway has been permanently defaced is unknown, as is who defaced it, why, and how. It is possible but unconfirmed that other locations in the hotel are similarly marked.

Update:

The following is taken from a series of essays called Catch and Release, published anonymously in 2012 in the Stanford University Press. Please see the attached annotated bibliography for an analysis of sources used. The essay is largely concerned with the power dynamics of the Romani gypsy culture and its subjugation, but contains a passage below that seems irreconcilable with the whole, and which seems relevant to our interests. Here are the relevant passages, both found in the essay’s introduction, in context, with my notations in italics.

The most subtle and most effective form of oppression we have been able to conceive of is what Michel Foucault calls the panopticon, literally translated as “all-seeing,” a term borrowed from English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In principle, the panopticon deals with self-imprisonment: without the application of force or even its threat, those under its rule will regulate their own behavior to fit the standards of their oppressors – the panopticon creates “a state of permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power … in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers” (Foucault 201). In its most sinister form the panopticon allows this to occur without the knowledge or even with the consent of those oppressed. The panopticon has existed in some form or another since long before the institution of slavery (Foucault 195-198). Now, rather than simply being a large part of the culture of imprisonment, it is its last and most difficult to destroy remnant.

The panopticon under Foucault’s conception contains several mechanisms relevant to enslavement and oppression. As its name implies, it involves an all-seeing entity whose presence is felt in the middle of a metaphorical prison, looking outward on the inmates with searchlights. A person in the center of the panopticon may remain invisible while surveying the entire prison and its residents – those inside the cells have no way of knowing whether the center or even the other cells are occupied or not, because the searchlights are active regardless. This is a crucial distinction: Foucault notes that prisoners’ behavior – and even their sensations – will be modified even if they are not observed, as long as the impression of surveillance remains intact: “the perfection of power should tend to render its actual use unnecessary” (Foucault 201). In this way, those in the center of the panopticon can influence and discipline whether or not they are actually present: a disabled security camera makes just as good a deterrent as an active one. In terms of physical mechanism, this is the entirety of panoptic theory: the prison’s real effect is accomplished by establishing a very powerful gradient of authority through observation (Foucault 431).

This parenthetical notation contains reference to a page in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish that does not exist. Most additions of Foucault’s book run between 330 and 350 pages, and the provided bibliography cites only pages up to 226. The presence of the specific number 431 is strange, especially considering its use in reference to a metaphorical prison. The following passage is taken from the next page of the article.

Contained within the panoptic theory is the notion that surveillance alone is enough to alter behavior. Foucault notes that “he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection” (Foucault 202-3). In other words, the act of seeing – and its privation, in the case of the inmate – is an expression of power: the act of viewing one who cannot view back is by definition an objectification: “visibility is a trap” (Foucault 200). The overseer’s power over the slave is not in the whip but in the eyes – by observation alone he can keep those under his watch in line. Nina Klein’s writing on Hannah Arendt is particularly salient in their dissection of Foucault’s power-dynamics found in abuse and torture.

Nina Klein has never written about Hannah Arendt. I can’t account for her name appearing in the paper. The bibliography never mentions her contribution to the subject in any way. The rest of the paper does not make reference to her – the remainder concerns itself mostly with the writings of George Borrow, a now-obscure English travel writer known for his time with the Romani. This, combined with the reference to the number 431 in a context that doesn’t suit it, indicates to me that something else is going on. Even with the early mentions of Foucault’s panopticon and the two oblique references to the situation noted above, I have been completely unable to merge this essay with my own studies. Its author remains a mystery, although if I am right and he or she is cognizant of the hotel, Nina, and the number 431, it seems likely that he or she is a potential source for further information. Additionally, it seems George Borrow is a dead end – none of his writings even approach relevance to the subject. If the author of this paper is trying to communicate with me, I am unable to discern the meaning of it. Help here would be greatly appreciated.

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Chapter 47

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