"que de sang caillé sur mon chemin griffé de lumière, l'or défunt des réverbères"

Tag: writing

T.S. Eliot on Writing as an Attempt

“Trying to use words, and every attempt

Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure

Because one has only learnt to get the better of words

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which

One is no longer disposed to say it.”


T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets, “East Coker”, V. (1943)

Lichtenberg on the capricious Nature of Language

“It is as though our languages were in a state of confusion: when we want an idea they bring us a word, when we require a word they bring us a dash, and when we expected a dash there stands an obscenity.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – “Notebook F” in: The Waste Books. Translated and with an introduction by R.J. Hollingdale.

Robert Brandom – Why even write (philosophy)?

“That old philosopher Fred Allen used to say he could not understand why someone would spend years writing a novel, when for a few dollars you could buy one practically anywhere. A similar remark might be made about contributions to that peculiar genre of creative nonfiction writing to which philosophical works such as this one belong. This book is an investigation into the nature of language: of the social practices that distinguish us as rational, indeed logical, concept-mongering creatures – knowers and agents. This is of course a topic that has been much explored by philosophers, both the mighty dead and the ablest contemporary thinkers. Surrounded as we are by the riches they have bequeathed, it is hard to avoid asking why one should bother reading – let alone writing – yet another such work. This question may seem all the more urgent inasmuch as it is acknowledged (indeed, some pains are taken to show) that the basic building blocks out of which this account is constructed – its motivating insights, commitments, and strategies – are not novel or original.”

Robert B. Brandom – Making it Explicit. Reasoning, Representing & Discursive Commitment.

Paul Valéry – Conversion and Dissemination

“Le prosélytisme m’étonne.
Répandre sa pensée?
Répandre – sa pensée, sans les reprises, sans l’absurde qui la nourrit, la baigne, – sans ses conditions.
Répandre ce que je vois faux, incertain, incomplet, verbal, ce que je ne supporte qu’à force de réserves, d’astérisques, de parenthèses et de soulignements. À force de réserves possibles, de reprises à date non certaine.
Et, par un autre côté – répandre mon meilleur. Ou bien: commençant avec chaleur et lumière, tout à coup, au son réfléchi de ma parole, en entendre la faiblesse, l’absurdité brusquement accusée – et alors m’interrompre ou … poursuivre. Me mentir ou me rétracter.”

Paul Valéry – Cahiers 1894-1914. XII 1913 – mars 1914. Édition intégrale établie, présentée et annotée sous la coresponsabilité de Nicole Celeyrette-Pietri et Robert Pickering. Préface de Jean-Luc Nancy.

Der gesenkte Blick

“Bis vor wenigen Jahren habe ich fast immer nur zu Boden geschaut. Wenn ich etwas lese, was ich ganz früh geschrieben habe, habe ich das Gefühl von einem Menschen mit gesenktem Blick, so viel auf der Erde Liegendes kommt darin vor, und so viel Kleines. Ein weggeworfener Handschuh, die vom Tau beschlagene Zellophanumhüllung einer Zigarettenschachtel, Hände im Schoß ohne die Gesichter dazu… Das alles sah ich als Zeichen für das, was ich nicht sah – für die monumentalere Fremdheit der menschlichen Lebensäußerungen, die sich in der Umwelt, wenn auch nicht so poetisch verschlüsselt wie in dem Anblick eines angebissenen Apfels in einem Kanalgitter, in den Bauten und Straßenfluchten gezeigt hätte, wenn ich nur schon hätte aufblicken können. Heute erst weiß ich, daß dieses Wichtignehmen von Kleinigkeiten auf dem Boden nicht möglich gewesen wäre ohne den Reflex, der mich vor der Übermacht der verbauten Natur weiter weg zurückschrecken ließ. Der gesenkte Blick war nichts als eine Abwehrbewegung vor so viel menschenverdrängenden Anblicken.”

Peter Handke – “Die offenen Geheimnisse der Technokratie” in: Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat. 

Barthes et le Discours Moderne

“Pour toute action romanesque (relevée par le discours du roman classique), il y a trois régimes possibles d’expression. Ou bien le sens est énoncé, l’action nommée, mais non détaillée […] Ou bien le sens étant toujours énoncé, l’action est plus que nommée: décrite […] Ou bien l’action est décrite, mais le sens est tu: l’acte est simplement connoté (au sens propre) d’un signifié implicite […] Les deux premiers régimes, selon lesquels la signification est excessivement nommée, imposent une plénitude serrée du sens, ou, si l’on préfère, une certaine redondance, une sorte de babil sémantique, propre à l’ère archaïque – ou enfantine – du discours moderne, marqué par la peur obsessionnelle de manquer la communication du sens (sa fondation); d’où, en réaction, dans les derniers (ou “nouveaux” romans), la pratique du troisième régime: dire l’événement sans le doubler de sa signification.”


Roland Barthes –  S/Z

“And the tiger a tiger”

“Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar.”


Jorge Luis Borges – “Borges and I” in Labyrinths

E.M. Cioran on The Expatriate Writer

“The man who has lost everything preserves as a last resort the hope of glory, or of literary scandal. He consents to abandon everything, except his name. But how will he impose his name when he writes in a language of which the cultivated are either ignorant or contemptuous?
Will he venture into another idiom? It will not be easy for him to renounce the words on which his past hinges. A man who repudiates his language for another changes his identity, even his disappointments. Heroic apostate, he breaks with his memories and, to a certain point, with himself.
And the man without a country becomes – or aspires to become – a novelist. The consequence: an accumulation of confusions, an inflation of horrors, of frissons that date. […] Nothing in literature exasperates a reader so much as The Terrible; in life, it is too tainted with the obvious to rouse our interest. But our author persists; for the time being he buries his novel in a drawer and awaits his hour. THe illusion of a surprise, of a renown which eludes his grasp but on which he reckons, sustains him; he lives on unreality. Such, however, is the power of this illusion that if, for instance, he works in some factory, it is with the notion of being freed from it one day or another by a fame as sudden as it is inconceivable.”


E.M. Cioran – “Advantages of Exile” in The Temptation to Exist (Transl. from French: Richard Howard)

Leonard Michaels, Transitions into Transformations

“The problem of storytelling is how to make transitions into transformations, since the former belong to logic, sincerity, and boredom (that is, real time, the trudge of “and then”) and the latter belong to art.”

Leonard Michaels – “What’s a Story?” in The Essays of Leonard Michaels

Mavis Gallant on Writing

“Samuel Beckett, answering a hopeless question form a Paris newspaper – “Why do you write?” – said it was all he was good for: “Bon qu’à ça.”

[…] I have been writing or just thinking about things to write since I was a child. I invented rhymes and stories when I could not get to sleep and in the morning when I was told it was too early to get up, and I uttered dialogue for a large colony of paper dolls. Once, I was astonished to hear my mother say, “Oh, she talks to herself all the time.” I had not realized that that kind of speech could be overheard, and, of course, I was not talking but supplying a voice. If I pin it down as an adult calling, I have lived in writing, like a spoonful of water in a river, for more than forty-five years.”


Mavis Gallant – Preface to The Selected Stories of Mavis Gallant