This site is an archive. Content is no longer being updated.

These words are ghostings

In Reasons on March 13, 2009 at 10:27 am

I. At the beginning, all I find is an out-of-focus vision. An incomplete image, gradually forming in my mind. It comes from nowhere, it’s a black and white slide. At times, the seminal image glides, as if it were a coat slipping off the chair, or a trolley which slowly runs on rails. There’s a screen within my brain walls; my head is a room where fragmentary films are shown. Whether I want it or not. Wim Wenders says every photo is the first frame of a movie; in my small universe, every photo is the foetus of a word. That’s how I start writing every day: the primal image is the seed (or the germ, if we believe that “language is a virus“) of a word. Of one word. I venture into the unknown to grab it. At the beginning, it is a word which is “word”; I must catch it to extract it. At the beginning, the image only contains its word, which is “word”, naked, raw, pure. Not by chance I know how to say “word” in far too many languages: palabra, mot, szó, Wort, parola, слово, beseda, λόγος. Sometimes, the image itself is a word; the picture of a typographic kernel. It quivers; and if I try to read it aloud, its ligatures dissolve. I must take the word for granted, I must approach it – formal and cautious. I know I will find a sequence behind it. Words behind the word follow in a recurrent pattern; that serial arrangement is the DNA of the story I’m trying to narrate.

II. Words haunt me; I do not need to be in front of a blank page to get imprisoned. Words I hear, words I see out of the corner of my eye; a magnetic induction hurls them against me. Some words hit me – an imaginary glossary-sling, throwing consonants and vowels; with certain words, I fall in love desperately. At times, they’re foreign words, and if I translate them the spell is lost; that’s why I often experiment. My desk is full of hybrids, implants, inventions. Over and over the tribute to Samuel Beckett that appears in ‘Exercices d’admiration’ by the Romanian-born French philosopher Emil Cioran comes to mind. They met in Paris, both feeling exiled and rejected. Both had chosen to repudiate their mother tongue. The evening the two men spent in search of a French equivalent for the English “lessness” is the perfect example of the writing obsessions that turn into creativity: the word “sinéité” (a French Latinism; ‘sine’ means ‘without’) was brought into existence. It’s not just a neologism: when I stare at Beckett’s calligraphy etching it on paper I feel my world being richer, wider. At times I think that writers are somehow forced to distill, to invent new words: a tribute – or a toll – they pay to the muse. For sure, assembling new words by putting together fragments of different languages reveals the only truth we all should share when it comes to poetry and literature: as Kafka said, writers do not belong to a nation, a race, or a gender. Writing make us stateless, the free writing citizens of Macondo.

Lore Stein eats words. Inconsistently Buddhist, she keeps a messy scrapbook at Sam&Sara Motel, and lives with freaky cats and a broken Nikon.

Advertisements
  1. ‘For sure, assembling new words by putting together fragments of different languages reveals the only truth we all should share when it comes to poetry and literature: as Kafka said, writers do not belong to a nation, a race, or a gender. Writing make us stateless, the free writing citizens of Macondo.’

    yes yes yes!

    this piece made me think about something i often wonder because quite a lot of what i read is translation:
    if there’s always something lost, no matter how good the translation, and perhaps some essential meaning / nuances only speakers of the original language can comprehend. and that notion of if certain feelings are only possible in certain languages. (or perhaps it’s chicken & egg and certain languages simply give -words- to certain feelings.)

    i loved this.

  2. Un dia nos tenemos que encontrar en Macondo, el Macondo de mi juventud, y hablar de la palabra y lo demas hasta el amanecer.

    Dude I fucking love this! [And that I must express in my true tongue – the American English of my teenage mind.]

  3. So for reasons of editorial decorum, I was going to leave this comment until later. But I can’t. I’ve had the privilege of reading this piece of your mind a number of times before publishing it here, and I am still – what’s the word? – gobsmacked by it. That’s one hell of a brain you’ve got there. (I maybe a little bit drunk.)

  4. well done (just like i like my steaks)

  5. I’ve read your piece a couple of times in the past day or so. I like it a lot.

  6. You describe both powerfully and eloquently the way in which words can take over one’s mind, one’s every waking moment. It is a state to be treasured, even as it can be all-consuming. This piece of art has transfixed me with its intensity. Thankyou.

Comments are closed.