More specifically concerning: language
06.03.02 – Wednesday
The professor wept today in Latin class; over the death of Priam. I must admit, for once it is poetry. Here. Priam has just lobbed a spear at Pyrrhus, but it caught on the boss of the shield and dangles there, useless: Cui Pyrrhus: ‘Referes ergo haec et nuntius ibis Pelidae genitori; illi mea tristia […]
31.03.02 – Sunday
Still reading Waley’s translation of Genji, with which we ‘are not best pleased,’ to borrow Waley’s idiom. (There are also several printers’ errors sprinkled liberally throughout the text, tho’ in our generous spirit we pretend not to mind them — but I hear there’s a new translation on the market…) However: A simple Chinese verse […]
2.05.02 – Thursday
The workmen spoke in iambic pentameter, a swift and toneless sequence of stressed and unstressed, not languid or melodic, but with a choppy sharpness, unconscious precision and imprecise annoyance. Curiously, the word ‘fuck’ could take any metrical position, as the sentiment or the phrase required.
4.05.02 – Saturday
‘What’s all this about sin, eh?’ ‘That,’ I said, very sick. ‘Using Ludwig van like that. He did no harm to anyone. Beethoven just wrote music.’ And then I was really sick and they had to bring a bowl that was in the shape of like a kidney. ‘Music,’ said Dr Brodsky, like musing. ‘So […]
8.05.02 – Wednesday
A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss. The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the […]
[Bloom] claims to be of the school of aesthetic critics, remarking that, in an ideological age, ‘I feel quite alone these days in defending the autonomy of the aesthetic.’ Yet he himself doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to produce anything approaching the aesthetically pleasing in his own writing. In an interview in […]
In the Garden
Books take up space, and libraries, being confined by walls, must occasionally weed the shelves of injudicious pamphlets and books unborrowed through the centuries. That this should astonish or dismay comes as something of a surprise. That, however, is not my theme. I would like to return to the metaphor of libraries as gardens. It […]
England, 12 November, 7:24 a.m. When I remember something I would rather forget, or when some unpleasant action or unwitting stupidity of mine forces its way forward into the present from the past, I think I don’t feel well. Oh happy past, which can so disorder the present. A people that grows accustomed to sloppy […]
Note to Self (2)
17 November 2002.
For words have a weight beyond their meaning, the sound of the stithy drawing measure from the iron of Elizabethan poetry, skirting the Joycean quicksilver to forge a something other than consciousness—a feeling, then, a fear. The chthonic sibilance and uneven lisp hammering out associations and leaving nothing but the need to hear.
Notes on not Englishing Homer
῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε·1 Man, Muse — tell me about that trickster, tossed topsy-turvy since the time he torched Troy’s sacred towers… The main problem with it being (aside from its awfulness2 ) that the Greek is primarily plosive, while the translation is terribly dental. […]
Part the Sixth
Heroically, Elspeth persevered, as her Aunt Maude had always encouraged her to do. (This was the same Aunt Maude who had fallen in love with a dead Russian novelist and, whenever the radio happened to play Rachmaninov, would shake her head sadly, saying with a gentle smile, ‘oh… the Russians,’ before wandering to the kitchen […]
of doubtful origin
The hipster (who aspires to archeologist street-cred because she worked one summer at Petra) was talking about a scandal involving the Met Museum, a fracas she had heard about while working as a law clerk in New York. An eccentric gentleman had, it seems, written a book pointing out that many of the ancient artifacts in said museum ‘have no provenience’ and that the trustees, curators, & co. were, if not actually hushing the matter up, at least not proclaiming this ‘truth’ in large letters on billboards for the edification of the public…
Now although this elegant ordination of vegetables, hath found coincidence or imitation in sundry works of Art, yet is it not also destitute of naturall examples, and, though overlooked by all, was elegantly observable, in severall works of nature. – from the Garden of Cyrus I dreamt I was made to sit an examination on […]
8. Philaletheia, the disinterested love of scholarly truth, can lead one into some strange places. The connection of the two marginalia is the urge to recover the sense of an ancient text in full and accurately; to probe past the obscurity of poet and translator alike, to what Lycophron’s persona thought was to happen in […]
adventurous students always read classics.
Lately I’ve been thinking (very slowly) about the word choir and, in particular, its appearance in two familiar poems. The first is Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth‘, and the relevant passage (ll.5–8) runs as follows: No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, — The […]
Postcard (from the editor of the text to his godmother) found in a copy of ‘Urne Buriall’ and ‘The Garden of Cyrus’ … according to the notion I have of reason, neither the written treatises of the learned nor the set discourses of the eloquent are able of themselves to teach the use of it. […]
When reading, I don’t always look up the words I don’t know the meaning of – usually because context is enough, but often just because of laziness. This habitual sloth set me on a false scent with the following passage: Nobody, probably not even Kathy, need ever be aware of his spiritual child Katherine Volkov; […]
Started reading The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić. The novel proper begins as follows: 1. ‘Ich bin müde,’ I say to Fred. His sorrowful, pale face stretches into a grin. Ich bin müde is the only German sentence I know at the moment (3).1 I note this only because ‘Ich bin müde’ was […]
language strata at high table.
Our ancestors wrote prose in long, beautiful sentences, convoluted like curls; although we still learn to do it that way in school, we write in short sentences that cut more quickly to the heart of the matter; and no one in the world can free his thinking from the manner in which his time wears […]
a cross bearing
We had mock language proficiency interviews the other day, just so our instructors could get a better sense of where we were in our language interview and whether they need to panic about our chances of passing the actual language proficiency interview at the end of training.1 The format was simple, the first part being […]
You reach a point in learning a language – usually sometime shortly after you can successfully ask and understand the way to the lavatory – when one word, usually a little word, will trip you up in supposed subtleties, tumble you into an ecstasy of confusion out of all proportion to its importance in actual […]
the ugly byzantine
Byzantine diplomacy was very expensive. Dowries, gifts, subsidies to whole nations, all involved the treasury in enormous sums. Even economic blockades, sometimes effectively employed towards the Saracens, were costly for the Empire also. The Government was moreover perfectly willing to pay its enemies direct not to invade its territory. Lawless princes across the frontier thus […]
Even today, the majority of people in poor countries learn all their language skills without any paid tutorship, without any attempt whatsoever to teach them how to speak. And they learn to speak in a way that nowhere compares with the self-conscious, self-important, colorless mumbling that, after a long stay in villages in South America […]
to have done
…in the course of the years the study of foreign languages had become almost a mania with Chwostik, indeed a sort of collector’s mania (as exemplified by his acquiring Armenian as a particularly exquisite ‘piece’)… – Heimito von Doderer(The Waterfalls of Slunj, p. 144) This is how we spent our morning: sitting on the floor […]
From Imagined Communities: It is always a mistake to treat languages in the way that certain nationalist ideologues treat them – as emblems of nation-ness, like flags, costumes, folk-dances, and the rest. Much the most important thing about languages is their capacity for generating imagined communities, building in effect particular solidarities. (133) But also: If […]
Right around the time I was reading that fibers from the cornel tree were used to make the Gordian knot, I realized that I was losing track of what I was interested in: how the cornels are used in Armenia.
fruits & spoils
The nourishing fruit of the historically understood contains time as a precious but tasteless seed.1 While content and language form a certain unity in the original, like a fruit and its skin, the language of the translation envelops its content like a royal robe with ample folds.2 – Walter Benjamin Illuminations, ‘Theses on the Philosophy […]
layers upon layers
‘That’s the nice thing about foreigners,’ said the fat woman who had stopped in at the corner shop, ‘they’re always willing to acknowledge you.’ She was, as the poet said, spherical, like a globe, rather bilious in her fur coat, and completely blocked the narrow square of floor between the door and the queue for […]
aydqan mard es
The more languages you know, the more of a (hu)man you are.
the importance of reading long books.
derring-do among the philologists
no fuss no muss
One of the very nicest things about learning a variety of languages – besides, of course, being able to attempt communication with a variety of people – is chance of spotting arbitrary similarities in completely unrelated languages. For instance: in both informal Eastern Armenian and Khalkh Mongolian, you can use an m-reduplication (i.e. repeat the […]
Antonio Tabucchi. Requiem: A Hallucination trans. Margaret Jull Costa. London: Harvill, 1994. Please, he said, don’t abandon me to all these people who are so certain about everything, they’re dreadful. You don’t need me, I said, don’t talk nonsense, the whole world admires you, I was the one who needed you, but now it’s time […]
on the Greek language.
a mere habit
It is snowing outside and there is nothing to do save sit in front of the fire and read. Indeed, there is nothing one would rather be doing. Did she distrust all figurative language because she was sharply aware of the aptitude of the most languid figurative expressions for persisting as a mere habit of […]
There is a legend about a prisoner sentenced to solitary confinement for life. He spent years scratching a boat on the wall with the handle of a prison spoon. One day, they brought him his water, bread, and gruel, as usual, but the cell was empty, and the wall was blank. He had climbed into […]
One might be tempted to think this is merely the result of a false sort of conjugation, something along the lines of: ‘I have taste; you have preferences; s/he has an unfortunate partiality’; except I would be the first to admit that I have no real taste – it has been rarefied out of me […]
The walk to work takes an hour to cover approximately three miles. This is a bit slow, perhaps, but given the uncertain state of draw bridges, traffic signals, and my own ambling pace, it feels about right. It gives me plenty of time to think – about the day ahead, about anything at all. The […]