Eloquent silence

(...) I will attempt to describe the relationship between language and silence without resorting to arbitrary, authoritarian distinctions between forms of silence which are 'profound' or 'meaningful' and others which indicate nothing more than a lack of thoughts or feelings. My description will nonetheless contain an ethical element. It seems to me that the only representation of the real gradation between the two, with all its simultaneous undertones and contradictory aspects, is to be found in literature (cf. Hart Nibbrig 1981). In the end, literature derives its force precisely from the attempt to map out unknown realms between language and not-language, between speaking and silence; these realms are filled in in the process. Orpheus is the western mythological archetype for this endeavour: how he brings order to mankind by singing and playing his lyre, how he is ultimately incapable of bringing Eurydice back from the underworld due to his turning round upon hearing her footsteps behind him, and how his head continues to sing and recite even after it is torn from his body by the scornful Maenads.


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