Monthly Archives: January 2012

In these gaps is the darkness

What guarantee is there that the five senses, taken together, do cover the whole of possible experience? They cover simply our actual experience, our human knowledge of facts or events. There are gaps between the fingers; there are gaps between the senses. In these gaps is the darkness which hides the connection between things…. This darkness is the source of our vague fears and anxieties, but also the home of the gods. They alone see the connections, the total relevance of everything that happens; that which now comes to us in bits and pieces, the ‘accidents’ which exist only in our heads, in our limited perceptions.

— Idris Parry, Kafka, Rilke, and Rumpelstiltskin (via here)

A hazy torpor overcomes our thoughts

The first moments of sleep are the image of death: a hazy torpor overcomes our thoughts, and it is impossible for us to determine the precise instant when the I, in another form, resumes the creative work of existence. Little by little an obscure underground cavern grows lighter, and the pale, solemnly immobile figures that inhabit the realm of limbo emerge from shadows and darkness. Then the picture takes form, a new light illumines and sets in motion these old apparitions: –the world of Spirits opens before us.

— Nerval,  (via here)


A sin against speechlessness

Sam: ‘All writing is a sin against speechlessness. Trying to find a form for that silence. Only a few, Yeats, Goethe, those who lived a long time, could go on to do it, but they had recourse to known forms and fictions. So one finds oneself going back to vieilles compétences [know-how] – how to escape that. One can never get over the fact, never rid oneself of the old dream of giving a form to speechlessness.’

About his new work, he said [the problem is] ‘qui est qui. One would have to invent a new, a fourth person, then a fifth, a sixth – to talk about je, tu, il, never. Qui est qui. The logical thing to do would be to look out the window at the void. Mallarmé was near to it in the livre blanc. But one can’t get over one’s dream’. Avigdor said, ‘Because of energy.’ Sam: ‘And entropy. And between these two we know which one wins.’ Avigdor: ‘That’s being.’ I: ‘Being isn’t logical.’ Sam repeated: ‘A sin against speechlessness. When one tries to say it, one uses the old forms, one tells all kinds of stories.’

– Anne Atik, How It Was: A Memoir of Samuel Beckett

Language is a lie

‘God’, too, comes forth, is fabricated by the power of naming, from nothing. In this sense, the God that is named is an impostor. Whereas verbal richness constitutes the lie of the language of men, nudity and poverty are the lies of God (‘La nudite´, la pauvrete´ sont mensonges de Dieu’, Livre des questions, p. 93). The inventive, mythifying power of the word is human in its wealth of flourishes and divine in its dearth, its blankness clearing space for infinity. But in either case, language is an artifice, a lie relative to the truth of infinite silence that outstrips it and is always already there where words end. So that the saying even of nothing betrays it into the guise of something: some sound or sign is given to represent the unrepresentable. This makes language constitutively mendacious.

William Franke on Jabès 

Writing now means somehow prevailing over oneself

Writing now means somehow prevailing over oneself, for what to write when everything one touches is unspeakable, unrecognizable, when nothing belongs to one, no feeling, no hope; when an enormous provision, got I know not where, of suffering, despair, sacrifice and misery is used up in large amounts, as though everybody were somewhere in the whole mass, and the single person nowhere; nowhere any longer is the measure of the individual heart applicable which used to be the unit of the earth and the heavens and all expanses and abysses.

— Rilke, letter (via here)

What is in a word?

What is in a word? What lies at the core of language? It can only be the silent, empty Nothing of the tomb, the pyramid of the dead letter, as in the letter A. For language abstracts from things, it memorialises life, it voids presence. Yet, language says this nothingness in so many beguilingly soft, sweet, subtle and insinuating ways. The textures of words make it palpable, their sonorities render it audible and their suggestively shapely letters display it graphically. At the core of a word, beneath the crust of its consonants, is the liquid of its vowels, and these vowels in effect liquidate the word until it flows into the ocean of nothingness. This nothingness is what Jabès finds harbouring rapturously in the wings of language, and he parades and stages it in his books. But that nothingness into which all that is articulated dissolves is the unity of everything, albeit a unity that is itself nothing. As such, the inexistent totality/nullity of the Book governs every passage of the writing of words. Words are but the unfolding of this total nothingness. It turns them into a universe of emptiness: ‘Le verbe est univers du vide’ (‘The word is a world of emptiness’, El, p. 93).

William Franke on Jabès

In spite of, or rather along with, those exchanges, quips, questions, there were also entire evenings when he didn’t say a word. At such times it was not easy to break the silence; it would have been worse than interrupting an avowal. There’d be a murmur, a shift in position, and someone’s voice slowly breaking the artefact that silence had become. Even though Sam’s was not an aggressive directed against anyone, but rather a sinking into his own private world with its demons, or so we imagined, those present suppressed their acute discomfort and feelings of ineptitude when it happened. His intimate friends learned how to cope with his struggle – A. by talking about a wine he had tasted, the theatre designer Jocelyn Herbert by bringing in a chessboard. I coped by bringing up Dr Johnson, and Con Leventhal. His old friend from Dublin, by retelling a bit of Trinity College gossip. They, or we, coped by doing any of the ordinary things friends do, the more ordinary the better, to bring to an end the fleeting and rather frightening chill.

— Anne Atik, How It Was: A Memoir of Samuel Beckett

The plaque in the lake

It is a common perception among colleagues and friends that where his writing was concerned Max played his cards very close to his chest, revealing, if anything, very little, and, if ever, very often after the event. Even though we knew that Max would occasionally submit pieces for publication in German periodicals and literary magazines, successes such as the publication of Nach der Natur (After Nature) in 1988, as well as his being shortlisted for the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis in Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1990, were communicated to us casually in typical throwaway lines. A case in point is the story which he recounted on his return to UEA shortly after receiving the Johannes-Bobrowski-Medaille in Berlin in June 1994. At one of our regular convivial gatherings in the German Sector office, Max described how, early in the morning after the award ceremony in Berlin, he had made his way down to the shores of the Wannsee. He had with him what he dubbed the “indescribably hideous” plaque which he had received at the ceremony. Unable to contemplate ever being able to find houseroom for it, Max, an aesthete through and through, had hurled it into the water, where, he assured his incredulous colleagues and to his evident glee, it had sunk without a trace.

Gordon Turner 

Herzog on the jungle

Of course we’re challenging nature and it hits back, it just hits back, that’s all, and that’s [the] grandiose [thing] about it, and we just have to accept that it’s much stronger than we are. Kinski always says it’s full of erotic elements. I don’t see it so much [as] erotic, I see it more [as] full of obscenity. It’s just… nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotic here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and… just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it’s the same misery that’s all around us. The trees here are in misery, the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain… It’s an unfinished country. It’s still prehistorical. The only thing that’s lacking [here] is the dinosaurs. It’s like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever goes too deep into [it] has his share of that curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It’s a land that God, if he exists, has created in anger. It’s the only land where creation is [still] unfinished. Taking a close look at what’s around us, there is some sort of harmony. It’s the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder. And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle, we in comparison to that enormous articulation, we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban novel, a cheap novel. And we have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication, overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the stars up here in the sky look like a mess. There’s no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted [with] this idea that there’s no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this full of admiration for the jungle. It’s not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.

Werner Herzog

A merciful surplus of strength

Each time, the act of writing depends upon what Kafka has called ‘a merciful surplus of strength’ that returns the writer to the ‘I can’ that opens the world according to what is possible for a human being. Each time, strength lifts the writer from the quagmire, from those swamplike moods in which the self is not yet gathered together. Moods which, if not uncommon are too quickly forgotten, like the night mists that vanish with morning.