— Croyez-vous aux idées dangereuses ?
— Qu’entendez-vous par là ?
— Croyez-vous que certaines idées soient aussi dangereuses pour certains esprits que le poison pour le corps ?
— Mais, oui, peut-être.
Guy de Maupassant, « Divorce » (1888)
“Do you believe in dangerous ideas?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Do you believe that certain ideas are as dangerous for some minds as poison is for the body?”
“Well, yes, perhaps.”
Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:
• Face Paint – A Face to the World: On Self-Portraits, Laura Cumming (HarperPress 2009; paperback 2010)
• The Aesthetics of Animals – Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour, Martha Holmes and Michael Gunton (BBC Books 2009)
• Less Light, More Night – The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artifical Light, Paul Bogard (Fourth Estate 2013)
• The Power of Babel – Clark Ashton Smith, Huysmans, Maupassant
Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR
“…par la suggestive lecture d’un ouvrage racontant de lointains voyages…” – J.K. Huysmans, À Rebours (1884).
The language you know best is also the language you know least: your mother tongue, the language you acquired by instinct and speak by intuition. Asking a native speaker to describe English, French or Quechua is rather like asking a fish to describe water. The native speaker, like the fish, knows the answer very intimately, yet in some ways doesn’t know as well as a non-native speaker. In other words, standing outside can help you better understand standing inside: there is good in the gap. What is it like to experience gravity? Like most humans, I’ve known all my life, but I’d know better if I were in orbit or en route to the moon, experiencing the absence of gravity.
And what is it like to be human? We all know and we’ve all read countless stories about other human beings. But in some ways they don’t answer that question as effectively as stories that push humanity to the margins, like Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972), which is about rabbits, or Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves (also 1972), which is about trisexual aliens in a parallel dimension. There is good in the gap, in stepping outside the familiar and looking back to see the familiar anew.
Continuing reading The Power of Babel…