La culture livresque d'Alberto Manguel ne cessera jamais de m'impressionner. Je suis fier de ce gamin. Je suis fier de ce texte. Tu viens? J'attaque la rl Kathryn Stockett. Lu 50 pages. Achats du week-end. Je voulais te dire que cette nuit, mon coeur est plein d'amour, il va exploser. Un roman comme un documentaire, ou presque. L'auteure sait vraiment rendre ses personnages attachants! Un sombre pressentiment s'empare de l'inspecteur.
Textes by Sylvie Hampikian, art by me. Available on Amazon, Fnac and all bookstores. Today also on ebook! Stay tuned. And today also on ebook! Il fixe son reflet tordu par les remous. Change-t-il vraiment les choses? En attendant l'orage. Mais ce qui semble partir comme un vaudeville glisse lentement et insidieusement vers quelque chose de plus sombre.
Ont-ils toujours des remords ou des regrets? Une lecture que je recommande. Des amateurs bookstagram? Argus Argutie, sf. Aries , ram Aiietle, sf. Harle- Armadille , sf. Tobn s wort [ loose Asiatique , a. Turkish coin about one penny Assahler, va. Atlas; also Indian Atome , sm. Austin friar Augustine , sf. Aiisim nun Avide , a. April ; prime Aurone , sf. Southern, aus- tralis Autan , sm. Areul, sm. B— mol, sm. B-sliarp Bahel , tour de sf. Asiatic slippers Babouin, sm. Baccbus's feasts Bacchanalber , vn. Bagatelle, sf. Bagatellier, sm. Bagnolelle , sf.
Irasor Baillere ste , sf. Gilet ; veil ; peak ; wreatb Bandelette , sf. Baleine Baptismal , e. Hardi B ardeur, sm. Barque , sf. Baver, vn. Bau fi Beuglement , sm. Bi telle , sf. Blaireau Blesser, va. Bobineuses , sf. Bouche , sf. Brandon , sm. Brebiage , sm. Brazil wood Brelailler, vn.
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Rritish Broc , sm. Bivccoli Proquelle , sf. Cagolcrie , sf. Dutcb fishing boat Cahier, sm. Gregorian calendar. Calenture , sf. Calvary Calvinisme , sm. Calumet , sm. Hat nosed Cambiste, sm. Chamberlain of a pope or cardinal' Cameningal , sm.
Gue puilet Campos , sm. Gne sheep- skin Caneler, vu. Spanisb fly Cantine , sf. Capilal- Capitan, sm. Carreler, va. Carrelure, sf. Cartbcsian Cartier, sm. Cascade , sf. Roman catholic, a papist [ tian like Catholiquement , ad. Ch ris- Cad, sm. Catoptrique , sf. Cerberus Cerceau, sm. Chambellan , sm. Chamber- lain [mantlc-tree Chambranle , sm. Chamaiteur , sm. Candlemas Chandelier, sm. Charcutier, e. Hesliy, plump Chamure , sf. Charpts , sm. Carthu- sian friar or nun Charttier, sm. Chasse-chien , sm. Aies dung Choc , sut.
Christendom Christ , sm. Christ Christianisme , sm. Chimie , etc. Ci , ad. Clarion Clair-seme' , e. Ijarpsicbord Clavette , sf. Clause, sf. Clepsydre , sf. Uv inclose , close PA HT. COC Clos , sm. Cochonce , af. Cojfre fort , sm. Commissaire , sm. Roman feasts in honour of the domestic gods Comptai p riant , e. Frencb horn , a corn Corail , Coral , sm.
Franciscan nun — , sf. Cosser, va. Coterie , sf. Cotignac, sm. Courage, sm. Couvreur de chaises , sm. Creole, C. Crossing Croiser, va. Crottin , sm. Utile pitcher Crucial, e. Cuistre , sin. Cupid Curable , a. Dactyle , sm. Daupbiness D'autant que , c. Depuis quand? Depuis peu, ad. God Dieu-donne' , sm. Dro datus Dijjfamant , e.
Jissolving 1 DIV Dissolvant , sm. Dissonant , e. Dilun , sm. Snnday ser- Domino , s ni. Doric Dorloter , va. Douce , a- f. Eclisser, va. Iru- Economiser, va. Ecourgeon , sm. Edifiant, e. Egyptien , ne. Emblaver, va. Emouleur, sm. Empocher, va.
Liard- ness of beart Endurer , va. Entretien , sm. Saint Anthony 's lire Ergo , sm. Hight ; soaring up Essorer, vn. East Estocade , sf. Et cidera , andsoon, so fortb Elablage , sm. Etabli ,sm. Elalier , sm. Eleignoir , sm. Lo exceed. Escroquer Excursion , sf. Exodus Exorable , a. Fa , sm. Factorerie , sf. Ber- nard Feuille, sf. Cducinry Fief, sm. Filasse , sf. Flagellation , sf. Foire, sf. Foret , sm. Frenchivonian Frange , si. Irilbug ; qiw- vering ; a glee Fredonner, vn. Utile brotber Frc. Fret , sm. Iand tmtilled Friction , sf.
Utile rogue Friponner, va. Lnavish trick Friponnier, sm. Curions ; raging, mad Furie, sf. Grelock, linder- box , steel , ligbt gun Fusilier, sm. Gabare , if. Lnivcs , or scissarj grinder Gagner, va. GAL Gagner au pied , va. Gale, sf. Loiub- ketch Gahpot, sm. Garde , sf. Iife- Garde-ceiulres, sm. Garde - magasin , stn. Utile gaaette Gazette , sf. Tbis word is f. Gile , sm. Lare , smoolh Glace , sf. Glairer , vn. Goulu , sm. Graciable , a.
Grecism Gredin , e. One wbo males wry faces; hypo- crite Grimaud , sm. Gueule'e , sf. Guimper, va. Eggers, a man who had learned to say no. The agent showed a document, issued in the name of those to whom the city belonged and main- taining that every house in which he set foot was to be his; likewise, any food that he demanded belonged to him; likewise, any man whom he saw, had to serve him. Eggers covered the agent with a blanket, drove away the flies, watched over his sleep, and as he had done on this day, obeyed him for seven years.
But whatever he did for him, one thing Mr. Eggers was very careful not to do: that was, to say a single word. Now, when the seven years had passed and the agent had grown fat from all the eating, sleeping, and giving orders, he died. Then Mr. All speech, all linguistic meaning, presupposes spacing, silence in order for words, phrases, and sentences to form. But of course, in the interval of suspended rejection, seven years pass—and what a seven years! Eggers, whose private political manoeuvring may have served his best interests, has become one of the millions of tacit consenters whose inactivity and silence allow for the atrocities of the war when viewed from a different perspective.
Silence thus seems like surrender, worse like complicity. Is it pos- sible to reconcile these perspectives and recover any positive political or ethi- cal content in Mr. In what ways can silence confront power, confront the atrocities of war? For in refusing to speak to the intruder, the French couple give over fully to his voice, and in his monologue, ideologically dubious as it is represented in places, he is revealed as much less simple and odious than they would like to believe.
It tells, straightforwardly, of the six-month occupation of this home by Werner von Ebrennac. The story, narrated by the Frenchman, starts abruptly in intrusion and non- communication. Soldiers arrive to occupy the house. Le silence se prolongeait. Epais et immobile. And so almost every evening he repeats this ritual, revealing more and more about his character, never seeming to resent the complete lack of response. Von Ebrennac is a musician, more precisely a composer a very German vocation! His dream of European union, relying heavily on stereotypes of France and Germany, reveals his sincere naivety, but also the sinister fine line which barely separates such a cultural dream and the expan- sionist, imperial, racist ideology behind the German war machine.
The niece plays the role in the story of the tempting object of this union: he the tall, awkward, lame German beast, she the beautiful, proud, but ulti- mately compliant French beauty. Von Ebrennac clearly begins to see her as a symbol of his vision, but she completely rejects this role. So when von Ebrennac goes away on leave to Paris for two weeks, and then for another week or so continues to absent himself from the evening encounters, he begins to be missed. Finally he returns for a final visit. As usual he knocks on the hallway door, but this time he does not allow himself in, thus forcing some kind of response.
He has now seen the truth of the German will realized in this war, and has completely lost hope for France, for Europe, and for Germany. Une fois de plus, mais, cette fois, combien plus obscur et tendu! Mais sous celui- ci, ah! Von Ebrennac then finishes his narrative, and prepares to leave for a new appointment on the Eastern Front. Le Silence de la mer is a very curious, restrained tale. Giving over speech to the other has inadvertently allowed him to distinguish himself, to individualize him- self, as human, as respectful and respectable demanding respect.
The Brechtian reticence seems to become merely a silence boudeur. Yet the story is not told ironically either. It is neither committed to a revisionist narrative nor explicitly critical of one. It is much more challengingly critical because it stages a fundamental ethical problem, not a more simplified political one. The moral, it turns out, is not one of a revisionist, unsung resistance of the French spirit, however, despite a long history of such an interpretation of the tale.
In giving over speech to the occupier, the family learns that he is human, gracious, endearing, in short, good: the antithesis of the embodiment of a Nazi ideology the discovery of the truth of which leads him to a certain self- destruction on the Eastern Front at the end of the story. Thus the silence of the sea is very far from a self-serving calcula- tion and quiet attentisme of those French waiting out the conflict to see what will happen before committing one way or another. At the same time, Beckett never ceases to demand this space and quiet for the work. But just as in Vercors there is in fact a dialogue of silence and speech within the refusal that is the clandestine work, in Beckett too things will be somewhat more subtle and complicated.
My reason for this brief discussion of Le Silence de la mer is to present a contemporary French work addressing silence, dialogue, ethics, privation and difficulty the War itself is somewhat distant from the work despite the occupying force. This convergence of experience and linguistic constraint would lead to a great work about silence, dialogue, ethics, privation, and waiting, though not a novel.
Rather: En attendant Godot.
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I also believe this to be the case and want to focus briefly on the uses of silence in the play. Beckett would in fact lecture on Racine during his short-lived stint as an academic at Trinity, and though he would soon escape that false calling, he would never lose his interest in the beautiful, severe, formal, controlled, poetic theater of Racine. The daily diet of Racinian claustrophobia forced Beckett to concentrate on the true essentials of theater: time, space, and speech.
It pointed him in the direction that made a tightly focused, monologic play like Happy Days or Play possible. The radical difference of Godot from these earlier dramatic experiments to say nothing of Le Kid! And as his prose works were increasingly dismantling subjectivity and generic conventions, his great contribution along with Pirandello, Brecht, Anouilh, Pinter and oth- ers to the modern theater comes in the destruction of dramatic conventions, from the classical unities to the early modern development of character depth and psychological realism.
However, while Becket will mock and otherwise undermine all of these conventions, he will not—not yet—attack drama at its most fundamental level, namely dialogue. The scene does not change save a few leaves , and is in any case devoid of any characteristics to give it identity;38 the time is so uniform that though a day passes, the very meaning of day is rendered suspicious although we are ostensibly still within the long day of the French tradition, though the dou- bling serves to open unity onto eternity.
Yet, as has long been noted, the play is in fact far from meaningless or empty of action or character, although as Adorno insists with respect to Endgame, Beckett does not present characters in any traditional sense of the term but placeholders whose surface character traits, often mechanical, poorly mask an emptiness within, a loss of subjectivity. Indeed a great many things happen in the slowly developed exposition of a relationship between Vladimir and Estragon. Kennedy, 24 has led to many different interpretations, but on a very basic level we can see in Didi and Gogo as in the variant Pozzo and Lucky, and later in their synthesis in Hamm and Clov—or indeed in Sam and Suzanne41 a minimal- ized exploration of being together, a fundamental ethical relation.
While Vladimir and Estragon lack much of the personal history or psychological depth the nineteenth-century stage developed as markers of verisimilitude of character, they nonetheless have each an individuality that is in the first instance physical. Estragon is his aching feet; Vladimir is his urination problem and tight hat. This interpretation is certainly warranted by the text. I want rather to take this aspect of Godot as given, and review briefly what results from this pain and suffering, and the lack of deliverance or salvation, in the sharing of the burdens of this pain in the situation of being together.
But it is also an awareness that blaming external factors for our sufferings is essentially a waste of breath. For Godot is certainly a secular, a post-religious play, for all its reference to God, Jesus, and so forth as in this very speech by Vladimir which contains mention of the story of the two thieves45 of which Beckett was so fond. We no longer believe, so we can no longer blame. This is all the meaning there is in the situation of suffering and finitude we see staged here.
Vladimir and Estragon are far from being fully stoic or constantly compas- sionate about it. Estragon faiblement. Vladimir avec emportement. Moi je ne compte pas. Godot 11 Estragon feebly: Help me! Vladimir: It hurts? Estragon: Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!
Vladimir angrily: No one ever suffers but you. Estragon: It hurts? Vladimir: Hurts! The selfishness in this episode is, in fact, exceptional for Vladimir and Estragon, as becomes clear when they meet Pozzo, for whom such selfishness granted its Hegelian impli- cations of the other in the dialectic of self-consciousness is quite the norm. Vladimir and Estragon present a completely different model of inter-sub- jectivity. I will not venture to speculate exactly what this could signify48 except to stress that it means most basically exactly what they do and say— they argue; they talk; they help each other—they care for one another.
Vladimir tendrement. Un temps. If necessary. Likewise we learn that in the past Estragon threw himself into the Durance and Vladimir jumped in and saved him Godot 69; G Ne me demande rien! Ne me dis rien! Reste avec moi! Stay with me! It is, indeed, this friendship, as much as physical suffering, that gives substance to the idea that they represent humanity in some general sense. Beyond basic mutual aid and need, they are moreover concerned, despite its near impossibility in their circumstances, with human dignity, which is one of the main reasons they are appalled by the spectacle of Lucky.
Although he suffers, this is no reason to leave his fly unbuttoned. Il se boutonne. He buttons his fly. This is a minor, comic incident, but it proves to be important in that it highlights the need to maintain some kind of dignity in the face of it all. To treat a man. I think that. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!
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I can sum up what I have been saying with an overly literal reading of a key passage from Godot. Estragon hesitates. I assure you. Estragon: A relaxation. Vladimir: A recreation. Vladimir: Try. Vladimir: I will of course. Vladimir: Yes yes. Estragon: We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist? In fact, this fundamental relation grounds for Levinas not only religion, but indeed meaning itself. My relationship to the Other does not derive from knowledge of him or her, from recognition, or from any sort of process that assimilates him or her to the same, the preconceived, categorized and understood.
The Other is a stranger. But Stranger also means free one. Over him I have no power [je ne peux pouvoir]. He escapes my grasp by an essential dimension, even if I have him at my disposal. The being that presents himself in the face comes from a dimension of height, a dimension of transcendence whereby he can present himself as a stranger without opposing me as obstacle or enemy.
Didi and Gogo are beyond this founda- tional moment—which as transcendental is not a moment but a relation that subtends all interaction—but the elliptical, silent, and minimal elaboration by Beckett of their being together allows the fundamental relation to emerge. Only in this openness and giving, this responsibility, is real communication possible. The taking on of the Other, in his or her mystery, which Levinas calls substitution, is in fact traumatic AQE 26; OTB 11—12 , an obsession ; — In developing his sense of finite freedom AQE —; OTB — , in both its finite and its free aspects, Levinas stresses the checks on our liberty made by the Other which alone justify freedom in the first place.
It is rather more an exercise of it. Such is the self changed in its relation to the Other which is to say, for Levinas, such is the self. To have no commerce with others, no community or contact, is anything but freedom. In the case of Vladimir and Estragon, a connection more fundamental than the struggle for recognition or even the will itself holds these two together at the end as at the beginning. If Godot then represents the desire for transcendence for a God that will grant meaning of some kind to sublunar suffering , a glimmer of infinity that exceeds or escapes the totality of the impoverished world of the play, then for Levinas this infinity has already been present from the very beginning in the very obligation of Vladimir to Estragon and vice-versa.
Is this simply a belated Humanism? I will argue in this book that Humanist readings of Beckett are misguided, as are formalist readings overly focused on self-reflectiv- ity, but I do not for all that claim that his oeuvre is uniform, even in its mature phase. Godot simply seems more ambivalent and hopeful than Endgame, Krapp and many of the late works. If Godot is, then, more Humanist, I think it is so in this decentered way described by Levinas.
A whole range of silences, pauses, ellipses, and sudden breaks are on display in Godot expressing any of a number of attitudes, modes, and intents as developed in the previous sec- tion. Just to mention a few, there are anticipatory status-indicative silences, as in the messenger boy from Godot Godot 66; G or Didi and Gogo encountering Pozzo. Lucky shifts from an inactive, modally-constrained may not speak silence to his logorrhea and then later to an absolute modal cannot speak muteness.
There are contemplative Godot 70; G —8 and attentive Godot 82; G silences. Those two come together along with desperation and humor in a passage in the second act: Vladimir. Long silence. Il cherche. Godot 82 Vladimir: Say something! Vladimir in anguish: Say anything at all! Estragon: What do we do now? Vladimir: Wait for Godot. Estragon: Ah! Vladimir: This is awful! Estragon: Sing something. Vladimir: No no! He reflects. We could start all over again perhaps. Estragon: That should be easy.
Estragon: You can start from anything. Vladimir: Yes, but you have to decide. Estragon: True. Vladimir: Help me! Vladimir: When you seek you hear. Estragon: You do. Vladimir: That prevents you from finding. Estragon: It does. Estragon: You think all the same. Vladimir: No, no, impossible. G — As usual in Beckett, the meaning here seems more complex than perhaps it is. But the characters here seem to simply trying to keep the dialogue going. Vladimir, who has the greater fear of silence and solitude Godot 18; G 42 , urges Estragon to speak, and we have a search- ing, somewhat desperate silence.
Estragon finally opts for the easy way out: ask a question. But this leads them back to the basic problem, the waiting without guarantee of arrival, satisfaction, meaning. So they have to start again. Silence, here, is thus key to the rhythm of the scene two lines, silence, four lines, silence, eight lines, silence, two lines, silence.
And the answers are: we fear; we question; we depend each other, make claims on one another; we reason; we speculate; we argue. And we joke, even laugh every once in a while although Vladimir and Estragon do not do that here. Godot 35, 49; G 74, 98 , and so on. The most poetic silence in the play is in the pas- sage that immediately precedes the one I have just been discussing, a scene of dialogic co-existence Godot 80—1 where silence is used most rhythmically as Didi and Gogo flow through their dialogue, however grim its content.
One speaks in order not to think. Estragon: All the dead voices. Vladimir: They make a noise like wings. Estragon: Like leaves. Vladimir: Like sand. Vladimir: What do they say? Estragon: They talk about their lives. Vladimir: To have lived is not enough for them. Estragon: They have to talk about it. Vladimir: To be dead is not enough for them. Estragon: It is not sufficient. Vladimir: They make a noise like feathers. Vladimir: Like ashes.
G This beautiful complaint about the voices of dead thoughts, memories, selves that speak when one lapses into thought rather than keeping up the babble of conversation expresses well the complex dialectic of silence and sound in the play. Silence itself is ultimately what we must avoid: solitude, loneliness, isolation from community, or the kind of companionship Pozzo and Lucky which is so unequal that it cannot guarantee any recognition from the other, any rescue from solitude.
Of course this does not mean that company is neces- sarily companionship, and in any case this talk does not make life good. But the talk that fills the void, however pointless, does in its way fill the void by connecting needy, suffering individuals. Dialogue is essential to the ethics developed in the play.
Without external, transcendent values or excuses, we are left with each other in this world of fini- tude. There is not any triumphant self who gives life meaning through this action. There are rather damaged characters for whom selfhood and meaning are issues and problems and who work it out, such as they do, through dialogue, through shared concern. There is a glimmer here of the ethical.
Bernstein argues in a book I will discuss below in Chapter 5, this is a form of valuing, and thus of meaning. This is what we see in Godot. Estragon, like Clov in Endgame, is repeatedly about to leave. Like Clov at the end of the later play, he has not done so when the curtain falls on the first act as the both of them will not at the end of the second. Ils ne bougent pas. Godot 70 Estragon: Wait!
He moves away from Vladimir. He crosses the stage and sits down on the mound. Estragon: No, nothing is certain. Vladimir slowly crosses the stage and sits down beside Estragon. Vladimir: We can still part, if you think it would be better.
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Estragon: Well, shall we go? They do not move. Parting is pain that is out- weighed by the salve of staying together, suffering together, talking together. At a certain point in their waiting, Vladimir makes a comic, meta-dra- matic remark: Vladimir. Godot 89 Vladimir: This is becoming really insignificant. Estragon: Not enough. G With this passage, Godot opens onto Endgame, and though the later play will hollow out what remains of a human ideal in Godot—dignity!
Community as mutual need and responsibility expressed in dialogue. While I am not convinced that this can also be said of Endgame, it seems that the relationship developed by Vladimir and Gogo in their talking through their meaningless situation gives this situation a meaning. In because of the war; in spite of the war? Thus perhaps the question of the role of silence in late modern literature and art can be best approached, if we grant, as the subsequent history of literary criticism generally has, that Hassan was on to something in this tentative designation, by a look back at, or rather a belated hearkening to silence in the works of Samuel Beckett.
What is the status of silence in his work? This firmly places Beckett within a Modernist tradition of rejection of conventions aesthetic, social, moral and of the dialectical and incessant search for new means to express an understanding of this new world, and thus a dissatisfaction with and eschewal of the constantly obsolescing aesthetic forms. Beckett is by definition in an impossible, or paradoxical, situation. For what can a literature of silence conceivably be?
A silent literature is evidently no literature at all, simply silence. As some sort of desperate or avant-garde gesture, pure silence can have no meaning for art. It merely opts out of the discourse altogether. This is, of course, obvious; it goes without saying. Yet it must be said: the literature of silence must destroy silence in order to articulate it. How it does this is one major question. Why it does or should is another. This selective definition becomes clearer in the post-face to the book in a famous list —8 contrasting the Modern and the Postmodern which David Harvey, among others, adopts rather uncritically as a description of Postmodernism Harvey, The Modern is vertical and phallic in concep- tion, focuses on purpose, design, hierarchy, mastery, logos, metaphor, the signified, the lisible, and so forth; the postmodern is horizontal and androgy- nous, focusing on play, chance, anarchy, exhaustion, silence, metonymy, the signifier, the scriptible, and so forth.
This list is prefaced with a set of doubts about periodization that should be taken seriously, but the fact remains that it is highly problematic, not least as it comes as a sort of culmination of a study of a number of major artists who by no means fit obviously on either side of the divide. In short, a familiar Beckett is presented, the existential humanist if not exactly that recognized in by the Nobel committee , grimly funny in the face of the ostensible meaninglessness of human exis- tence, going on despite it all. This is not an incorrect version of Beckett so much as an incomplete one, however spurious the idea is of a complete or correct description or evalu- ation of the works of Beckett, or of anyone else for that matter.
In any case, fleshing out a postmodern Beckett is not my concern here. Just as Hassan saw two traditions in the Modernist literature of silence, one of fullness and one of vacancy, so critics have understood silence in Beckett in several different ways. Is silence death or salvation? Is silence even possible? The issue of what the poet should or can communicate of his journey is of tremendous importance for understanding the achievement of the Commedia, and is a key theme in the Paradiso. In a very different way, the journeys of Beckett the writer2 and his narrators involve seri- ous questions of the limits of language.
That is, for Beckett and Joyce before him , Purgatory is no purgatory at all—nothing ever gets definitively purged. The rejection of the ideology of the Irish literary revival and along with it of Irish Gaelic as a language of literary expression, is counterbalanced by a rejection of the Anglo-Irish inheritance of Wilde, Shaw and others, and its wholesale adoption of the language of the colonizers.
For Joyce the cosmopolitan commitment came via exile to Italy and to a large part into Italian, and then to Paris and French. Dante is the exile, the first European writer as he is dubbed by Joyce, see Ellmann, , as well as Eliot, , the cosmopolitan, linguistic innovator. Since the scholarly literature on this subject is quite volu- minous, I merely want to focus on one aspect, which is hinted at by Jacques Aubert in his study of The Aesthetics of James Joyce Beauty in short ceases to be a datum and becomes a problem.
In Dubliners [; pub. It is no longer a mode of expressing a revealing fact of life, but a way of giving form and thus mean- ing to experience. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [—], the epiphany surfaces primarily in the image of the bird-girl, and thus no longer in any way as an external embodiment of a general truth.
Nothing could be more universal, and nothing could be more individual, nothing even more personal. This is made possible in Ulysses by the narrative displacement from Stephen, that holdover from the earlier period, to Leopold Bloom, who can behold the manifold signs of the world in a more common manner and through whom Joyce can realize his grand reconciliation in style and poetic form. The deep and abiding meaning given to manifold worldly experience by Dante is of course provided by the metaphysical, theological, teleological structure of his Christianity, though his efforts to give expression to the most personal and particular by way of the—at that time—universal and general was heroic, as a young Joyce might have put it, and by no means the mere application of a system.
Beckett, however, seems to have been moved by very different passages in Dante, above all by Purgatory 4 on the slope of Ante-Purgatory and the figure of Belacqua10 although Beckett, like nearly all readers of Dante, is also intrigued by the story of Paolo and Francesca. In these words Belacqua justifies his laziness and, presumably, his taciturnity. God apparently disagreed, as Belacqua is discovered while Virgil is explaining the ascent of Mount Purgatory towards the Earthly Paradise.
He and Virgil then notice a group of neghittosi indolent, lazy , among whom one attracts special attention. What was he doing now, how was he feeling? This moral problem is also figured through Dante, as well as through the lobster that Belacqua has bought for his aunt for supper. This seems monstrous to Belacqua, but of course, it is simply the way lobsters are cooked, his aunt rejoins.
The end is famous. Well, thought Belacqua, it is a quick death, God help us all. It is not. Beckett , 21 Paraphrasing a famous question of Maurice Blanchot, who speaks this final line? It acts as a sort of missed epiphany, or rather an ironic epiphany that is for the reader, above the heads of the characters in the narrative as sometimes in Dubliners , revealed in form and theme, much as the epiphany became for Joyce in Ulysses. It would take a permanent exile to France and to French for Beckett from on to achieve that break, but Dante would not be lost. This project is certainly unlike that of Dante or Joyce, and indeed marks a very different relationship with the shared precursor than Joyce manifests.
Here Beckett does not share in the Dantean inheritance. Silence is relatively unimportant in the Inferno, compared to Paradiso, but a few passages are worth mentioning. This long silence of Virgil alludes not simply to the years he has been dead Virgil 70 B. Though Virgil is consigned to Limbo because he could at best [Hollander ] only unwittingly prophesy Christianity e.
At the same time, the link Dante establishes between himself and his illustrious pagan guide, is poetic. There is a great gap in poetic genius from Virgil on that Dante sees himself filling. James Joyce, in the same way, will see himself in a direct line, not so much of descent as of communion, with Dante and Shakespeare, though also with Homer much more than with Virgil Dante did not know Homer directly. So the silence is one to lament, meaningful as negative, as a judgment on the corruption of contemporary Italy.
But it is also a questioning silence, a call: who will take upon himself the burden of poetry, of genius? The other main episodes of silence in the Inferno fall into two catego- ries important throughout the Commedia. A good example is in Canto XXX where the pilgrim is ashamed at being admonished for his overly keen interest in a squabble between two falsifiers, Master Adam and Sinon in 10th valley of Malebolge — Much more important are the points where Dante calls into question the limits of representation, and indeed of human comprehension.
In the Inferno, there are two main examples.
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The rhetorical figure adynata here approaches the sublime; yet the poet must speak. While Beckett will undertake this impos- sible task in a very different way from Dante, he will have inherited a specific poetic problem with the highest possible consequences for thinking the very purpose and worth of art. This is a silence of horror. Merely merely! Purgatorio has a number of episodes of silence interesting for understand- ing the complexity and intimacy of the relationship between Dante and Virgil. One might, with the biographers, map this on to the development of the relationship of Joyce and Beckett in Paris, including their famous shared silences which doubtless began, on the part of the ephebe, in fear and trembling before the master.
In any case, in Dante this relation- ship culminates in the most curious silence in the Canticle, that of Canto XXI where Virgil silently silences Dante upon meeting Statius. As the lesser Latin poet states his willing- ness to spend or have spent longer in purgatorial penance if he could only meet Virgil [or rather, if only he could have met Virgil alive], the latter tries to signify to Dante to keep mum, in hopes of circumventing the opportunity for Statius to have such a deviant wish granted.
Despite his good intentions, the pilgrim cracks a smile—rather a more important one than that which Beckett found so amusing in Purgatory IV— and Statius demands the reason and discovers his master. The need for Beatrice as guide becomes clear or in fact, in this case, for St. He was always adding to it. Dante realized, upon his vision of the Earthly Paradise, the need to leave Virgil behind in order to move onwards and upwards in his spiritual-aesthetic journey; Beckett likewise realized, upon his dark vision in and equipped with the scars of his war experience, the death of his father Bill in , and so forth , the need to leave Joyce behind in his onwards and.
The principle explorations of silence in the limits of poetry, human speech, and human imagination occur in the canticle of Paradiso. At the beginning of Canto I, the very difficulty of the idea of a poem about Paradise is put into question. Can something other than silence result from an unwavering study of the desolation of the self, the loss of the trappings of humanity—or the liberal humanist subject—in the process of modernization culminating in the catastrophes of the century?
This problematic of the limits of expression arises a number of times in the canticle. Indeed in certain respects it is the major problem of the poem. It is better, the poet admits, not to try to describe her face 22— Throughout the canticle we also see with Beatrice a play of question, answer, silence, mind-reading, shame and curiosity, as we did between Dante and Virgil. The experience is greater than human language, which leads the pilgrim to make a prayer for the poem 70— Memory can try to recapture the vision like the hazy recollection of a beautiful dream, indeed a sort of mystical-erotic dream 79— Though the poet tries to speculate what the vision revealed 58— , and thus solve major questions of theology, he fails.
As for Beckett, he tends to invert this relation—approaching the end and a desire for an impossible silence. This has less to do with Dante than Schopenhauer, but in any case what is established here is a relation between aesthetic achievement and silence. Those who would press language beyond its divinely ordained sphere, who would contract the Logos into the word, mistake both the genius of speech and the untranslatable immediacy of revelation.
The poem cannot be a representation—this is impossible; thus the poem is simply itself. A triumph of poetry in the failure of language. We will see the failures, and the possible triumphs, to which his language attests. The Descartes of the Discourse especially Part IV and the Meditations, with his methodological skepticism, his reduction of self to mind, to reflective con- sciousness, gives rise to one tradition— of rationalist idealism, historically consonant, as Kenner suggests in his focus on Discourse Part I, with the rise of modern autobiography and the first-person novel.
What results is the putative rejection of the philosophical tradi- tion of scholasticism, and the solitary beginning of modern philosophy. It is in conversation with oneself that one can attain to truth, by a skeptical bracket- ing of the potentially deceptive world of the senses and the famous focus on reason alone. Bodies do not cause effects in other bodies nor in minds; and minds do not cause effects in bodies, nor even within themselves. God is the only true causal agent and is immediately, proximately, and solely responsible for all events in nature. The cause then of my own actions as, a fortiori, those external to me, is God Geulincx, So causality body-body; mind-body remains a mystery.
The connection, explicit in the novel, of the Geulincx text with certain ideas in Murphy is well known e. But according to the Pyrrhonist spirit, this is no cause for anguish or concern for Geulincx, but rather for calm. Peace is the end of quibbling and concern: silence. Doubt will not be so quickly silenced; skepticism will not be so harmlessly domesticated for the purposes of the method, establishing metaphysical certainty, and from this, the certainty of knowledge of the world.
Nor is the much-to-be-desired calm and detachment of quiet in ignorance, the supreme mystical state, so easily obtained despite repeated confirmation of the nescio in every sphere. Joyce 2 So much has been written on Beckett and Joyce that I hesitate to even men- tion the relationship further, but we can simply ask what if anything Joyce has to teach Beckett about silence. Beckett famously spoke about this relationship. I had great admiration for him. The confused and derivative nature of his earliest fictional writing belies this much later recollection of difference.
Beckett refers, in the article, to a relatively simple mimetic relationship between form and content in Finnegans Wake. What is clear is that at some point in the 30s Beckett learned from Joyce that his way was no longer a viable aesthetic choice. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. This linguistic choice was a sort of self-silencing, if that is not immediately obvious in the garrulous Mercier et Camier written in the summer of and Premier amour which also dates from The choice, then, amounts to handicap: Beckett denies himself easy recourse to his fluency and erudition in his mother tongue.
This is not just a personal exercise, though, but more importantly, a fundamental break from a Joycean aesthetic.