Swinging the Breaches

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Each time I read again von Hofmannsthal’s “The Letter of Lord Chandos,” I resonate with it profoundly, each time with unique phrases and observations in it.  Today it is the bewildering of art-working, the too much and too little of it at once.  The overwhelm that becomes as perception received / perceptions projected cross and mingle in a deafening void – filled with “the thoughts of so many others caught and resting there.”

Hermann Broch, writing on von Hofmannsthal, speaks of man “unable to bridge the tension between perceiving and the perceived, completely at the mercy of unperceivable experiences, of objects, their impalpability, incomprehensibility, their irony…the contrast of the ‘I’ and the ‘non-I,” of being-‘I’ and being-the-world…one projecting the outer world to the inside, the other projecting the inside to the outer world, a result of mutual conditioning.”

“For of what elements does this non-‘I’ consist, this exterior world wherewith the ‘I’ is supposed to identify itself?  Firstly, the world is in constant motion; secondly, and this is far more disturbing: all means of expression (linguistic or otherwise) given to man to describe the world are part of that world; and thus, thirdly, with each act of identification a portion of the ‘I’ enters the non-‘I’, changing and enriching the non-‘I’ so that a new act of identification becomes a necessity…which leaves only ever a work in progress and never a completed work of art”

My case in short: I have lost completely the ability to think or to speak of anything coherently” I feel the terms crumble and proliferate in my mindmouth (heart?) – “to me it is as though my body consists of nought but ciphers which give me the key to everything” – the impressions that stir in and assault me, the world and its stuff that I soak in, hear, sense, the thoughts of so many others – indecipherable ciphers in me that feel they possess the key to everything…but for which I have no words…

So I face and engage the world, “experiences,” events, persons, the blank page, pregnant, saturate with languages that don’t equal…“because the language in which I might be able not only to write but to think, is neither Latin nor English, neither Italian nor Spanish, but a language none of whose words is known to me”

continually speechless in this profligate void

So what is to be done?  No completing, “a new act of identification becomes a necessity,” apparently woven of my scattering perceptive confusion/profusion and all the not-‘I’ that feels so everywhere-at-once…it leaves Chandos silent, and a whole tribe of Bartleby’s…faced with a world and enormous impressions…but no apparent vocabulary fulfilling them both?

Silence?  Or, possibly…

“Saying, it ceases to signify: it reveals realities that are unintelligible and untranslatable but not incomprehensible.  It does not signify, yet at the same time it is impregnated with meaning” (-Octavio Paz-)

The breaches…speechless moments…never quite right…can I swing them?  Term the betweens?  To the breach – !!

3 thoughts on “Swinging the Breaches

  1. ahhhhh – yes look into him – Princeton Bollingen “Selected Works in 2 vols” will give you delight upon delight! (poems, drama, essays, fiction, aphorisms…) he’s a true dude!

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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