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This article is taken from PN Review 265, Volume 48 Number 5, May - June 2022.

Other Tongues:
Logos & Eros
Iain Bamforth
Advice for the deaf
It is simply profounder, the poet Gottfried Benn writes in his considered essay on old age, to suffer the human lot in silence. A statement like that looks suspicious coming from a writer whose collected works fill several thousand pages in the Klett-Cotta edition. The same applies to Pascal Quignard who, at the latest count, has published over eighty titles. He says of himself in an interview, ‘Et plutôt que porte-parole, je me sens porte-silence’. If he isn’t a spokesman then, he must be a rather peculiar kind of quietist.

Without language how would we ever know that suffering in silence is meaningful at all, as these writers claim? What both writers are hinting at, I think, is that the very act of speaking (not to mention writing) opens the deconstructive possibility of irony.

The true master says nothing, his readers being his living intentions.

Phenomenology of the jawbone
The higher, robotic ‘iron angel’ lifeforms that will ultimately be destroyed by rust and mould in Stanislaw Lem’s story ‘The White Death’ observe the gross custom exhibited by members of the species among which they find themselves stranded: these repellent organic lifeforms keep stuffing various other objects into the back of their face. It is not known why they do this, whether it is some kind of destructive ritual or a method for draining off venom or a brute manifestation of greed, ‘for [they] would consume everything if they were able’.

The robots are of course ...

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