As it is not possible for me to foresee the moment of my end; as at my age the days accorded to man are but days of grace, or rather of reprieve, I propose to make an explanation. On the 4th of September next I shall have completed my seventy-eighth year: it is high time that I should quit a world which is quitting me and which I do not regret.Chateaubriand, Memoirs, preface xxix
Nie wieder koennen wir Vergessenes ganz zurueckgewinnen. Und das ist vielleicht gut. Der Chock des Wiederhabens waere so zerstoerend, dass wir im Augenblick aufhoeren muessten, unsere Sehnsucht zu verstehen. So aber verstehen wir sie, und um so besser, je versunkener das Vergessene in uns liegt.
We can never fully recover what we forgot. And maybe it is good this way. The shock of regaining would be so destructive that we'd have to cease to comprehend our longing. This way, however, we comprehend it, and all the more so, the deeper entombed what we forgot lies within us.
W. Benjamin, "Der Lesekasten" in Kleine Prosa, 267.
Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance, 15, 86Okay, I thought, age thirty-four, square one. What do you do now? [...] All I had to do was take action, instead of putting it off and putting it off.
"So what do I have to do?"
"Dance," said the Sheep Man. "Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don'teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you'restuck. Sodon'tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb."
An old friend disappeared for more than ten years,then resurfaced, thinner and quieter and utterly sapped of her former vitality. She winces when spoken to and wears foam earplugs on the street. I asked her where she had been.
She told me that she had lost her mind, as a result of her graduate studies in literature, which she has permanently abandoned. Her doctoral dissertation was to have been on the 'saturation hypothesis', a theory of her own devising which held that every word in a work of literature, far from having one or two most likely meanings, meant everything that any reader could make of it, and that each supposed meaning was of equal value to all others. This theory, she said, dovetailed with other current literary theories that gave more power to critics and less to writers, who tended to write with finite intentions.
However, the intensity of her study had caused her, unconsciously, to apply her theory to all words, even (and perhaps especially) those she encountered outside the realm of literature: indeed, road signs, personal conversations, song lyrics and even her own thoughts were fair game. The word swelled with meaning, and the more meaning she identified, the more she became convinced existed outside her immediate perception. Soon she had come to believe in plots against her and the presence of otherworldly interlopers in her life, and she checked in to a mental hospital for treatment.
J.R. Lennon, "Koan", Pieces for the left hand, 187-88.
Paradies n. paradis[e] ... ist entlehnt aus spl. paradisus, dieses aus gr. paradeisos (auch: 'Park'), das auf ein iranisches Wort zurueckgeht (avest. pairi-daeza 'Umwallung', apers. paridaida 'Lustgarten, Wildpark'). Das Wort kommt ins griechische, weil Xenophon es fuer die Bezeichnung der Parks persischer Adliger und Koenige gebraucht. In der griechischen Bibel (Septuaginta) wird das Wort dann fuer den 'Garten Eden' gebraucht, wodurch es zu einem Terminus der christlichen Mythologie wird.
Kluge Etymologisches Woerterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 612.
The word Paradise stems from the the Greek term paradeisos (Park) which relates back to an Iranian word pairi-daeza (enclosed garden or park). The word enters into Greek through Xenophon who uses it to to denote the parks of Persian nobility and royalty. In the Greek bible (Septuagint) the word is then used for the 'Garden Eden' and hence makes it a term of Christian mythology.
Odradek "haelt sich abwechselnd auf dem Dachboden, im Treppenhaus, auf den Gaengen, im Flur auf". Er bevorzugt also die gleichen Orte wie das Gericht, welches der Schuld nachgeht. Die Boeden sind der Ort der ausrangierten, vergessenen Effekten. Vielleicht ruft der Zwang, vor dem Gericht sich einzufinden, ein aehliches Gefuehl hervor wie der, an jahrelang verschlossene Truhen auf dem Boden heranzugehen.
W. Benjamin, "Franz Kafka" in Aufsaetze. Gesammelte Schriften II.2. 431.
Es mag am Bau der Apparate oder der Erinnerung liegen - gewiss ist, dass im Nachhall die Geraeusche der ersten Telephongespraeche mir sehr anders in den Ohren liegen als die heutigen. Es waren Nachtgeraeusche.
W. Benjamin, "Das Telephon" in Kleine Prosa. Gesammelte Schriften Band IV.1. 242.
I have mentally endured the degrading company of Victorian lady novelists and retired colonels who remembered having, in former lives, been slave messengers on a Roman road or sages under the willows of Lhasa. I have ransacked my oldest dreams for keys and clues - and let me say at once that I reject completely the vulgar, shabby, fundamentally medieval world of Freud, with its crankish quest for sexual symbols (something like searching for Baconian acrostics in Shakespeare's works) and its bitter little embryos spying, from their natural nooks, upon the love life of their parents.
Initially, I was unaware that time, so boundless at first blush, was a prison.
V. Nabokov, Speak, Memory, 20.
"UrchinsHow can I help bringing to your mind the Line-
Shall, for that vast of Night that they may work,
All exercise on thee-"
In the dark backward and abysm of time
He recalled a story he'd once heard, about Euler's "proof" of God's existence to Diderot: (a+b^n)/n = x, so God must exist.
K. Iagnemma, "Zilkowski's Theorem", 134.
Henderson slipped into the back of the half-full auditorium and settled into an empty chair, shielding his face with a tattered yellow notepad. Around him, mathematicians stood in groups of three or four, sipping coffee from styrofoam cups and cracking jokes about variational calculus and Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory. Their dreary humor seemed perfectly suited to the auditorium, with its frayed orange carpeting and comfortless chairs and flickering fluorescent lights. So this is Akron, thought Henderson. It was neither better nor worse than he'd expected.
The conference was the same every year, the same three hundred peoeple, the same dismal cities: Gdansk one year, then Belfast, now Akron. Where next - Mogadishu, perhaps? Teheran? Henderson recognized and disliked many of the faces he saw; he found these people infinitely more agreeable bound between the covers of journals, their moist handshakes and pungent breath eliminated, their grating voices smoothed by the uninflected diction of mathematics. Henderson ducked his head and scribbled idly on his notepad. He did not want to catch the eye of the speaker, Czogloz.
Czogloz was presenting a paper entitled "Perturbation Analysis of Weakly Nonlinear Systems," and as the clock swept past two o'clock he stepped to the podium and flipped on the overhead projector. He looked younger than Henderson had hoped he would: his hairline was anchored firmly to his temples, and his forehead was free of the frown-shaped wrinkles that marked most of the mathematicians. Four years of assistant professorship had not affected Czogloz much; this seemed unfair to Henderson. Czogloz was sporting a goatee, and wearing a tie made of some shiny purple material that Henderson thought totally inappropriate for a presentation on weakly nonlinear systems. The goatee, Henderson noted, gave Czogloz a demonic air.
Karl Iagnemma, "Zilkowski's Theorem" in Best American Short Stories 2002, 116-117.
Do you know anything about Marxism? asked Mr Etah, after wiping his lips with a serviette. A bit, yes, but only out of intellectual curiousity, I said. I mean, I'm not in the least sympathetic to the doctrine, ask anyone. But do you know about it or not? A little bit, I said, feeling increasingly nervous. Do you have any books about Marxism in your library? asked Mr Etah. Heavens, it's not my library, it belongs to the community, there might be something, but only for reference, to be used as a source for philosophical essays aiming precisely to refute Marxism. But you've got your own library, haven't you, Fr Urrutia, your own personal, private library so to speak, some books are kept here in the college and others in your house, or your mother's house, isn't that right? Yes, that's right, I murmured. And in your private library are there or are there not books about Marxism? asked Mr Etah. Please answer yes or no, Mr Raef implored me. Yes, I said. So could we say that you know something about or perhaps more than something about Marxism? asked Mr Etah fixing me with his penetrating gaze. I looked to Mr Raef for help. He made a face I couldn't interpret. I don't know what to say, I said. Say something, said Mr Raef. You know me, I'm not a Marxist, I said. But are you familiar or not with, shall we say, the fundamentals of Marxism? asked Mr Etah. Well, who isn't? I said. So what you're saying is that it's not very hard to learn, said Mr Etah. No, it's not very hard, I said, trembling from head to toe and feeling more than ever as if it were all a dream.
Roberto Bolano, By Night in Chile, 86-87.
Our local museum, as part of its recent 'Century of American Art' exhibition, commissioned a famous conceptual artist to create a large-scale work that would illustrate the state, in her opinion, of American at century's end. The artist accepted, and began what she claimed would be a full year of research and contemplation of the work.
Meanwhile, the museum set to the tasks of choosing works from its own collection and requesting loans of seminal works from other museums around the country. A month before the exhibition was to open, the museum closed its doors entirely and renovated all its galleries. Curators prepared essays and tour booklets and hired docents to lead museumgoers through the show. Advertisements were placed which stressed the importance of the conceptual artist and her mysterious fin-de-siecle masterwork.
With a couple of weeks left before the opening of the exhibition, preparators began to hang the works in their respective galleries. The gallery devoted to the conceptual artist, however, remained empty, and she made no appearance at the museum. Curators, fearing she was ill or had (as she was known occasionally to do) suffered a nervous breakdown, left repeated messages on her answering machine. When she didn't respond the curators visited her studio. She was never in. One scant week before the opening, the curators received a call from a lawyer representing the conceptual artist. He arranged a meeting with museum officials, during which he revealed that the artist would not install her great work unless a new contract was drawn up and new obligations fulfilled. These included a promise of certain foods at the opening party, a number of unusual and expensive material gifts, a poem composed in her honor to be read at an unveiling ceremony, and a substantial increase in the amount of her commission. While the museum did not wish to cave in to her demands, they nonetheless recognized the importance of her piece to their exhibition, and swallowed their pride.
On the day before the show was to open, the conceptual artist walked into the gallery reserved for her, and thumbtacked to its far wall signed and executed copies of her original contract, her new contract, and a large color photograph of her lawyer. Then she set a metal salad bowl on the floor, fillied it with twenty-dollar bills in the amount of her 'raise' and burned them to ashes.
The piece drew thousands of eager museumgoers who had read about the contractual haggling and wanted to see what the fuss had been about. Reactions were strong but mixed. Some said the piece confirmed their opinion that contemporary art was an elaborate scam designed to part pretentious fools from their money. Others claimed the piece confirmed their opinion that contemporary art was once vital and incisive, but had since 'sold out' to commercial interests. This latter group divided into two camps; those who believed that the new work was a perfect example of such a sellout, and those who believed that the new work was a brilliant condemnation of those who had sold out.
At any rate, when the exhibition closed, the museum bought the controversial piece for its permanent collection, paying an undisclosed sum far above and beyond the amount originally stipulated for the work's execution.
J.R. Lennon, "Conceptual" in Pieces for the Left Hand, 159-160.