December 11th, 2010 / 12:05 am
Power Quote

Maurice Blanchot on inventing language in an unfamiliar tongue

“Since we happened to be in the street at the moment Paris was bombed, we had to take shelter in the metro. At that time these formalities were not taken seriously. And N. enjoyed anything that allowed her to leave her work. So the two of us were on the steps in the middle of an enormous crowd, the kind of crowd that is urgent and unwieldy, sometimes as motionless as the earth, sometimes rushing down like a torrent. For quite some time I had been talking to her in her mother tongue, which I found all the more moving since I knew very few words of it. As for her, she never actually spoke it, at least not with me, and yet if I began to falter, to string together awkward expressions, to form impossible idioms, she would listen to them with a kind of gaiety, and youth, and in turn would answer me in French, but in a different French from her own, more childish and talkative, as though her speech had become irresponsible, like mine, using an unknown language. And it is true that I too felt irresponsible in this other language, so unfamiliar to me; and this unreal stammering, of expressions that were more or less invented, and whose meaning flitted past, far away from my mind, drew from me things I never would have said, or thought, or even left unsaid in real words: it tempted me to let them be heard, and imparted to me, as I expressed them, a slight drunkenness which was no longer aware of its limits and boldly went farther than it should have. So I made the most friendly declarations to her in this language, which was a habit quite alien to me. I offered to marry her at least twice, which proved how fictitious my words were, since I had an aversion to marriage (and little respect for it), but in her language I married her, and I not only used that language lightly but, more or less inventing it, and with the ingenuity and truth of half-awareness, I expressed in it unknown feelings which shamelessly welled up in the form of that language and fooled even me, as they could have fooled her.”
–Maurice Blanchot, Death Sentence

One Comment

  1. Shane Leach

      damn, thank you.