Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peter Nadas, "Fire and Knowledge"

In July, Deborah Eisenberg published a review of the Hungarian writer's newly translated book of fiction and essays. One of the essays, "Homecoming," includes musings by the author after early successes as a writer:

These torments increased to the point where after the execution of a few polished short stories, not only did I become dissatisfied with my sentences, but I also felt the punctuation of my sentences was invalid and false. Commas and periods, dashes and question marks: they were all false. I found paragraphs even more repulsive. . . .

I felt I was putting punctuation marks here or there because that's how others were doing it, without comprehending their relation to me; so my marks had only a global meaning but no personal value. And the more faithfully I served this consensually accepted global sense, the more I distanced myself from my personal requirements.

In other words, language was speaking him.


Jorgen said...

I was thinking about that when Kasper said he didn't know enough words to write his biography. If a biography is a representation of one's self, then what does it mean when a single word is then omitted from the text?

Are we more "the" or "is" or *comma* than "Entrepreneur"? If language can distance ourselves from ourselves, what does this say about what language can do for us in understanding ourselves.

Grabloid said...

i've always felt weird about using punctuation (specifically commas and semicolons etc)
it never really seemed right to me to put them in the 'right' places
maybe i just don't know the grammatical rules very well
even still when writing i only use punctuation as it 'sounds' right to me and i get by just fine

mmsmith said...

I disagree with the final statement that language was speaking him. After reading the excerpt, it seems like Nadas' frustration was stemming from the very fact that language was failing to speak him, or misspeaking him. Nadas was finding that language was perhaps inadequate in speaking him. It was surely speaking something; he comments that what was written had "global" meaning, but it had started to lose its attachment to himself.