“…in the universe of the sign there are no clear-cut identities, only delayed differences. Never a dead end, always an already-but-not-yet; never a genuine original, always an imperfect copy. Language is a simulacrum of simulacra, the privileged hiding-place of the psychoanalyst’s repressed supplement.
“Pushed to its own limits, the difference between identity and difference is that in the world of the former everything sticks to itself, while in the heaven of the latter everything escapes from itself. Comparison rests on a foundation of difference, for once a sign is interpreted it no longer is what it used to be. And exactly therein lies the crux of the matter, for it is well established that the structure of language itself makes perfect translation impossible. It follows that reality is never what it is said to be, for reality and language are never one and the same, a painful lesson…
“The conclusion is straightforward: although word and object are always related, they are never identical.” – Gunnar Olsson, Abysmal
7 thoughts on “Addenda of sorts”
it’s an important topic, especially, of course, to writers. just thinking about it puts me at the rim of the grand canyon with a stiff wind behind me — it makes my stomach plummet. it’s just amazing that we can understand each other even a little bit. and then the incredible complexities of translation are even more sobering. i have been reading aloud to my five year-old grandson a lot lately, and he often asks me to define a word he doesn’t know. sometimes, i discover that i really don’t know it either, because I can’t explain it clearly even though it is quite a common word.
Amen & thank goodness.
Olsson’s comment is confusing to me, Nathan. I may be off base here but why would he think that something communicated could possibly be the thing communicated about? Language may be a noun but it acts like a verb. Isn’t language simply communication (even if in some cases it’s just between the writer and the page)? And there are so many different types of language…body language, written word, visual language, song…
” Comparison rests on a foundation of difference, for once a sign is interpreted it no longer is what it used to be.” I think this is how it should be. It keeps words and all kinds of language alive. Perhaps then it can be a tool for continuous creation rather than dictating “reality”. Good post Nathan. Thought provoking. Like it!
Well I often think people confuse communicative content with communicative medium…though Olsson does not, but I love that you think these ways about these things. This certainly suffers from myself being steeped in its context – an elaborate, masterful, layered and threaded sort of event of literature – and trying to pick out representative parts. And I agree that the almost forced creativity of sharing languages means whatever “reality” might be, it is wobbly and unstable for those of us participating :). Thank you for your thoughts and the shrewd and sharp depth of your thinking.
Aha! Well thank you Nathan for explaining this further. Most enjoyable…
Profound. The perception of truth or identity is a clay persona. Every mind ,interpreter ,medium shapes it with preferred indentations . And the ‘truth” as we term it is a monster of wonders. How can you possibly know it outside of your own mind ? It will always be what you perceived. And even when we assume it to be a universal identity outside of our minds, it shall always be meddled with by the various elements of communication and wisdom. Thanks for sharing this, intriguing .
Right on, thank you! I feel stuck or hesitant in this place of being…at nearly all times. Thanks for reading 🙂