Posted by: Sk | February 15, 2009

4 George Steiner and the limits of tolerance

Perhaps not many do know who George Steiner is, except inside of those deep literary circles nobody dares approaching, really. Or perhaps it’s my feeling derived from the fact that my encounter with his literature was so aleatory that it left this definite impression on my mind.

During the long years of what I finally called my ‘greek exile’ I read very little contemporary literature, as my mind was absorbed by classics in different languages (imagine reading Herodotus in french, german, spanish, greek and english in order to evaluate not only differences in translation but also the different effect on different cultural environments.) I didn’t read many newspapers, either, finally deeply enchanted by the way greek television used to present the news (specially the channel MEGA, until my favourite tv announcer was … pushed to the side by fellow mates.)

Books appeared thus in the strangest ways. Madame Lasségue sent hand commented works on religious history I contemplated with greatest devotion until … I even read them. Stefan Kroner brought a King James Bible of the XIXth Century along with the Solovjev volume ‘on love’ that stayed for years on the mythological shelves, as I was turning suspiciously around the question whether a into German translated Russian book was worth the while reading (German do usually publish anti russian russian books, except of course, but it is of obligation, Dostoyevskij and the kind, and this dark a priori had as consequence that I did rarely read into German translated Russian books). I solved the question after 5 (!) years and was definitely enchanted. The same miraculous way appeared George Steiner ‘Silence et langage’ through a sudden inspiration of former esthetics teacher Anne Moeglin Delcroix, who even dedicated it with something like ‘for the long hours of silence you certainly know about’ (must have been in knowledge ..). As this quite horribly serious and distant teacher would rarely give any signs of life except for sporadic allusions to her presence somewhere, I felt that day as chosen by a miracle and immediately decided to plunge into the reading (of course as usual suspecting that there’d be nothing but really nothing in our contemporary scene that would merit attention.)

By the way, remembering Anne Moeglin Delcroix, who with Dumas and Lasségue made my favourite still serious teachers, I can’t but laugh with the memory of the day we finally managed to invade her ‘private sphere’. You imagine the highly admired teacher who fills everyone with admiration and fear and who is impossible to approach because there are walls and walls of distance in between. Whatever you do. Whatever you try. One day, sitting around with the deepest Moeglin admiror, Maxime Catroux, we were again trying to know how to break the frozen gap, but our highly intended and intellectual questions received nothing but a short cold answer, extremely polite, though, always. There was a Spaniard in class, Eva López, coming from Barcelona. And that day, small Eva, waiting her turn after our insisting boring questions, grasped the oportunity of a short silence and said: “What is your horoscope sign?” To our greatest surprise Mme Moeglin answered, laughing (I don’t remember the answer), and from then on, it was enough to put ourselves in the Eva López mood, in order to break all social barriers imposed by personal ethics. Not only did we (Max and I and I and Max) have coffee somewhere with her, and were even taught lesons on good beer (she highly recommended belgian Rochefort 10, which, I admit, is excellent, although provoking horrible dizzyness quite quickly), and I even had the right to the sharp exposure of her private life (but she really answered to all sorts of irregular questions, in the Eva López mood!), sharp, because she never lost words, and in one sentence you were supposed to understand thousands and thousands of underlying interrogatives. The most intimate moment was to be the one, that one (Hope she doesn’t mind, but we were really both quite drunk) though, where she asked me, whether God was to be thought. My obviously a little altered narcissistic ego immediately got doubly drunk by the evidence that one highly peaked teacher had … asked me a question with a tone of voice as if I could possibly give an answer. In my secret myself this day was marked noted and quoted as extreme success, even more than all the other boring academical successes. Thus, everything coming from a person who had so highly evaluated my intelligence, was to be considered with greatest interest, even, yes, even if it was contemporary literature.

I took the book on my long walks through macedonian fields, blindly followed by my sheep and given light by a silvery darkening sky, while red clouds tainted the whole in an irreal atmosphere. It must have been september 2001.

My attention was almost immediately awakened by the strong honest writing, sometimes almost cruel, and in any case very rare in our hypocritical intellectual world. Bah, I thought. Even the contemporary world gives surprises. When I arrived to the article on the German language, and on the living character of languages as such, my fascinated mind saw at once the possibility of exploiting such an intelligent thought by wisely integrating it into my general frame of interpretation. The bridge I was seaking for, for so long, between testaments and philosophy was eventually to be built up through … a jew. To say that word is god sounds so terribly far away. To say that god is life, though, not that much. If god is life and word is life, omitting the first premiss, you found an excellent wooden bridge upon the abyss. I kept thus George Steiner as a new idol, always refering to Anne Moeglin Delcroix, and in a certain way, to the Eva López mood.

Of course I slightly smiled at the article on pornography, where he spilled demons and curses against this obvious obscene degradating language that was an insult to intelligence. Not that I wouldn’t agree, up to a certain extent. But both my constant dealing with people of let us say lower social classes who would say what I called metaphysical questions in blurry sexual images, and my attempt to decode psychopathic language through very strict assimilation of sexuality to processes of thought and understanding, made me a little larger and tolerant towards this kind of misbehaviour. I still remember him though when I open accidentally pages like ‘www.rotten.be’ landing in my stats department without anyone’s permission. Perhaps I may differentiate pornography from pornography at the end, too. And some pornography that is really the expression of … rotten minds (like the former, but there should be others). And I always finish by asking myself how it happens that there is no limit put to that kind of bastardize. To say always the same: we are just servers and not responsible for the contents is like saying we’re just an edition house and not responsible for the contents either. And the same with Google and other search engines. Until when may I accidentally open a page which does not have the marks of anything too obvious (see the page sexandlust, you won’t certainly open) and have my stomach turned up side down for the rest of the day? I ask myself. Not that I think these things should be forbidden (although I sometimes long for saudi arabian strictness, to say the truth), but at least have a distinguishing symbol that may allow to keep distances if necessary and desired, and also some kind of codes limiting abuse, to my understanding. But this is another question.

Today many questions invaded my consciousness, honestly, and luckily George Steiner had written a book that allowed to give some general line to the whole.

Further, George Steiner said that religious poetry was to be banned as it had ‘obviously shown its contribution to the augmentation of fanatism and religious intolerance’ (somehow badly quoted). Here, my tender heart protested silently remembering Santa Teresa de Jesús and San Juan de la Cruz, opposing that to say ‘you may find God among the sauce pans’ could possibly not lead to any kind of intolerance whatsoever, as little as San Juan’s exalted picture of spiritual love (which, taken as foundation, would quite purify the physical interaction, too, on the other hand), or the first’s ‘tan alta vida espero, que muero porque no muero’ (’and long for such high life, that I die for I don’t die’, often wrongly attributed to San Juan), etc. Of course I wrote a letter to Mme Moeglin sharing my enthusiams and reticences about her book, I suppose she didn’t keep, as having changed from Paris IV to Paris I, most intolerant non religious currents seemed to drown forever her almost innocent request of my University years.

Finally, Mr Landheim did open again the debate. As usual, accidents do accumulate themselves in my stormy life and after having proudly managed to put WP p&f EDITION HOUSE everywhere in Google, Mr Landheim made a comment remarking that I seemed to lack of links. It was Hannah’s custom to always turn seeming negative aspects of our entreprises into positive ones, so that I immediately answered to Mr Landheim saying that the process of selection was very difficult. Someone though who dared so bluntly pointing out at an almost shameful evidence, could not but merit my attention, so that I took a walk around his blog, of course still confusing everything with everything and thinking his links were other people’s contributions to his site, and there discovering to my greatest surprise my highly admired SOLELY SHE, who has dedained until now my most generous offer of making her universally known, too.

Reading Landheim awakes in me strangely some kind of murmuring Steiner. Hm, and hm, and religious feeling is not to be said, and so on. On the other hand I like his very simple language and the horrible effort of keeping a rhythm. This going back to the XVIIth Century custom, quite popularly rooted and made children’s songs, seems almost an atavism in our times, and to your mind appear suddenly Pilgrims and John Steinbeck’s ‘The grapes of wrath’ and you see carriages crossing the West and even two or three cowboys, but mostly farmers with a hat on their heads and making a morning prayer, something horribly american in its depth and thus, interesting. The fact that the language is simple is gratifying. I honestly do hate extravagancies with words and the pretension deriving of knowing many words we usually don’t know how to properly use. Singular exception to this another dedainer of my large offers, SLYNNE, who does really use very strange words (some of them invented, to my understanding), but who manages though to impress through the combination of sounds sufficiently the mind so as to allow the association to particular moments and experiences, some kind of instant vagues of very well described instants and moods.

The fact that the simple words of Landheim are embedded in forced structures do turn the attention to the rhythm, the ryhthm to some children’s song, and the song to difused memories of the past. As, on the other hand, I have never been an ‘individual-worshipper’, and do always try to differentiate inside of someone’s production The song, The dance, The movie (sometimes but rarely, even several), it is enough to keep one small poem as referential:

Yesterday my wife and I,
Took a drive out to the Park,
We didn’t need a reason,
We did it as a lark.

It’s horribly simply beautiful. I would have changed the last verse, perhaps. Double we too redundant and the lark not expressive enough. (Not to say that Lark is a cigarette brand, which somehow disturbs the mind.) But this is another aspect of things. You are not supposed to correct other people’s inspirations on top of that. Thus, proudly, Mr Landheim entered the ‘lacking links in selection procedure’ site. Of course I promised my fantastic marketing campaign, and went yesterday (it was Friday, and I was tired) to an internet café in order to put my project into realization. Of course, again, hundreds of unbelievable magics occured I had to solve quickly. As I don’t know who Mr Landheim is, you just imagine someone as you derive it from writing, and it seemed to me I saw a child’s soul leaning it’s back on a hard soul column. I thought thus he would be very happy if I copied a picture of his along with the blog’s title (little marvel of my inspiration nobody has yet copied, as far as I know). Site does not allow copying. Even better. Take ’select all’ and ‘copy’, and copy the whole on a Word document. Further, you copy the chosen image on ‘Paint’ or ‘Adobe Photoshop’, and keep in .gif. Then, upload. I couldn’t though not put name and book’s name on the top and make horrible mistakes (same with poor Ms Keen, who becomes Skeen, and finally finishes by becoming my type psychologist character Ms Skeery, confusion arising from the pasting of the first name to the last: Suzanne Keen, thus), Mr Landheim becomes Glandheim, and this needs correction. While operating the given changes WordPress refuses to download the third version. Ha! I say. These tricky Wp’s. As it has already happened, I have the solution ready: just copy the image as given in the ‘after examine’ version on the window where you’re posting. Marvel of marvels, it works. Very proud of myself, as usual, I post the whole, and … can’t but laugh. The title appears in superposition with the subtitle (still to see under ‘poetry’) and the second erased picture is still there. I’m too tired. And go to sleep after having sent the ‘european publicity’. (Yes, Mr Landheim, there are 8 hours difference, more or less, and as what is sent lands aleatorily in the tagsurfer, you have to be sure that it’ll be there the same day people are supposed to open the blogs).

Of course in the meantime, Mr Landheim has become very suspicious with my inventions (he’s rather not supposed to correspond to the character I made up), and sends a very suspicious e-mail:

 

Who are you, anyway.   I’ve been to your web site. It is singularly uninformative, but thanks for including a link to me.   I was on Diana’s (called to fish) web site. Apparently you are going to link to her. She asked a similar question.   Are you trying to be a portal of some sort?   Greg LandheimWhat a question! Who I’m and anyway… Well, you never know. I have always adopted the strategy to believe someone may have links to the FBI, just in case it is the case, and I land in prison for an unknown reason. Thus, I give a very serious answer:

Good question, after all.The best information you may perhaps get from my quite particular way of working: blogs sonjakasten1, sonjakastentoo, sonjakasten, skstats, soniakasten, etc (there are more.) I don’t really determine things from the begining. Working on several ideas with probably different principles (mainly aleatory logic, computers as image of psychic interaction, different types of ‘language’ as vehicle of fundamental metaphysical concepts, etc) I leave myself just ‘run’ into one ‘disposition’, land in the most unbelievable places (see the ‘funny’ prophecy of skstats, as an example), and then try to get the logic that has governed the process. In fact one of my most beloved subjects is what I called the aleatory paths of information transmission, I was trying to reconstruct from the psychic field into the electronic one. Thus one of the main principles governing my work (it’s personal, not linked to any institution or other) is a task I set up myself about 2002/3 through the determination of an unknown x (Sask) to find the way through electronic paths to find this person back (kind of possibility of proof in image of psychic transmission fields). If the hypothesis was correct, it would be possible to obtain light on the functioning of psychopathetic behaviour (my main occupation: personal, too).I just leave myself be led by possible by the way inspirations, and working on aleatory appearance of tags in Google, the idea of the WP … EDITION HOUSE was born (pleasure taken of course of the extreme ambiguity arising from the reference to WordPress: but won’t they do the same with Worldpress, on the other hand?). As I think that information is already perspective (remark obtained through sonjakasten), I preferred let things happen. People falling accidentally through Google or Tagsurfer on the site, would ‘choose’ themselves, I supposed, determining an ‘environment’ which would probably condition by itself the information provided, if the given was not enough. See how strangely already, I contact Solely She, you have on your site, while the fish’blog finds interest in yours, and me in that one. The apparent neutrality of the site does take only a determined number of related links, whose nature I’d like to study further. I’d tell you if the post does land in Google (Chris Perry is now easy to find: tag: WP EDITION HOUSE+social, for example). Whether I’ll link the fish’blog is depending on her/his answer. We’ll see. (Most people get horribly afraid by my somewhat sharp ironical approach of things, which does certainly not lack of tenderness, but it is difficult to see. Which on the other hand makes of the whole old fashioned ‘elite’ … with popular touches!)Best regards,SK

This should reassure even an FBI agent, in the worse of cases. But the question remains open. Who am I after all? And of course I start working at the possibility of giving a correct answer, which is to say, almost intelligible for someone who isn’t that humorously inspired. On top of that, arises the question of games and cheating and pingbacks and other inconveniences that cross my crossed mind.

 

Were it not, Mr Steiner, that you arrived to my memory in order to put an order into all that, I’d gone lost in the labyrinth. It’s true that the question of the games remains, but that, we will leave for tomorrow. It was already something to have a guide line, after all, and a good one, and an imprssive reference ! ‘No hay mal que por bien no venga’, the Spaniard says (there is nothing bad not giving birth to some good). Now, what will Mr Landheim say of all this? I’ll have to notify that a serious referrant has made long comments on yesterday’s and today’s happenings …

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