Monday, 3 November 2014

Body, language, sentences, words

Today I want to be a translator. I’ve been leafing through some notes I made years ago on a book by one of the most important Romanian writers of the late-twentieth century, Gheorghe Craciun (1950-2007). He’s little known outside Romania, and especially in the English-speaking world. The Body Knows Better (2006), the book I was browsing through, is a journal of sorts. It records the thoughts of a writer obsessed with one thing alone: how to express language through the body, and the body through writing.


For Gheorghe Craciun there couldn’t be a separation between writing and body. Unlike, say, Foucault, who saw writing as a departure from the body, the purpose of which would be to create a fantasy of freedom, Craciun militated (masochistically, I would say) in favour of a painful unification of the two, one that would expose all the physical shortcomings of the one and the creative weaknesses of the other. This is why he needed the form of the confessional to write down his doubts and his hurts, without hypocrisy and without false heroism. “A man alive is a man forever undecided,” he says in one of his aphorisms. And indeed, the volume from which I am translating here is one such exercise in indecision. I chose fragments that speak of writing as toil, as obsession, as obligation, as disappointment. I find them highly relevant to the profession of writing; not as lessons, but as awakenings.

Source: Observator Cultural
I don’t want to reflect on these fragments here. I want to let them be the way I found them, scattered through the book, the way I picked them up one by one, with an impulse typical to aphoristic writings: reading them in no order, reading them for their own sake. But for continuity, I will start with two passages directly connected to my last week’s post on writing and sleep. After that, everything will be a game of combinations.

“In the mornings, after waking up, with the coffee on the table and the cigarette between my fingers, sitting on the chair, I often make long attempts at dragging myself out of the murkiness of slumber. I resemble a machine with its mechanisms out of order. My mind is almost inexistent. But the most serious thing is that there’s no dominant thought, no feeling that I’m about to hold on to something solid.
A deserted state, a state of dizziness and indeterminacy, in which the desire to find my diurnal routines struggles against the obscure pulsations of the body, which are pulling me down, in a kind of mire of pains, nausea, grief, amorphous sensations, independent of me and devoid of sense, memories of my sleep, desires to escape from the vague opacity of my flesh.
A long time goes by before I can feel growing in me that meaning-yielding situation favourable to the writing of the first sentence. That’s exactly what I’m expecting: to become capable of turning my body into a coherent sentence, a nucleus around which I can gather the filing dust of everything inside me that’s obscure, but which has to become structure, transparency.
Mornings should be eliminated from existence. I felt this hundreds of times and I spoke tens of times about awakenings. There’s a mystery in them. It’s not by accident that we consider sleep to be a form of death. It paralyzes, indeed, the structure of our rationality. And my writing, which, paradoxically, aims towards classical limpidity, cannot be satisfied with that which the body (now out of control, cancelled by sleep and by dreams) doesn’t know and doesn’t want to express. I write with the desire to rationalize even my incapacities, the hypnotic nonsense of an organism that exposes, brutally, its independence from language.”
***

Source: Deviant Art
“Every morning offers you the chance of writing the grand page. Better to get used quickly to the idea that you won’t, however, write it today…”
***
“The most terrific accident that could happen to me: to forget writing. A sentence I cannot see is a sentence that doesn’t exist. An object you cannot lock within a sentence doesn’t exist either.”
***
“When it is said that writing is confession, very few realize that this confession is, in fact, of one’s own sins.”
***
“What is writing: a form of witnessing (in which case the one who writes is a witness who's defending a truth) or a form of confession (the self-defense of someone who is being accused of something)?”
***
“I live in order to fill with my experiences sentences that already exist.”
***
“If I’m a hand that writes, then I’m a muscle that thinks. Ha!”
***
“We invented syntax in order to tame our irrepressible need for expression. Any syntax shows, in fact, the desire to tame whatever it is that we want to say.”
***
“Without love, the poison of writing. Without this poison, the imbecility of the quotidian.”
***
“There are times when the obligation to write (for I have become a slave to writing, the way others are slaves to automobiles, to alcohol, to love, to their career etc.) drives me crazy. That’s when I have the feeling that writing is a form of mortification, that it cancels life. It’s therefore understandable how writers give in to bohemian temptations.”
***
“I admit it: I re-read my work every now and then. I do it as an attempt at keeping in check, at least for a few minutes, the misery of this life of continuous obligations. I re-read my work in moments of quotidian disgust, in the hope that I’m not some other imbecile of the great throng.”
***
“If you’re a true writer, you can only write about the body. Not only because it is that thing that pulls you down, towards the region of inferior existence, but also because it constitutes your world. The body makes existence possible: a truth applicable to all of us, to every one of us taken separately. The aberrations of abstract thinking are always the product of those who despise the body, who labour to obliterate it, who want to get rid of it as if it were a residue. Whereas, it’s clear, everything starts with the senses. Our thinking gets its sap from the capillarity of the senses. It’s an uncomfortable condition, I know. The idea of pure thinking, of pure poetry, speaks precisely about this discomfort. But if the body is vulgar, inferior, we need to make the effort of figuring out where precisely it is situated in us (in the structure of our selves), what it looks like, what desires it has. If we want to subjugate this body we must attack it; we must, in fact, love it.”
***

Artist: David Tucker. Source: Second Skins
“I write, and while I’m writing I know that my body would like to be in another place. I feel this place inside my brain, I have it in my mind, behind the eyes; it is never the same. Usually, these places that supplement my writing are places in nature, hills, river banks, forest edges. I write but, in spite of having discovered inside me the other place – which is not the sheet of paper –, I don’t want to stop doing what I’m doing. I simply want to be in two places at the same time. My writing is insufficient; the abstract nature of the space where this writing unfolds makes necessary the other space, the concrete one, the one endowed with precise objects, with material objects: the open space.”
***
“I haven’t clipped my nails in a long time, and I’m feeling inside me something like the excitation of a clawed being.”
***
“Writing depersonalizes. Even those who read your work know it. If you’ve been recognized as a write, you no longer have a right to hesitation, abandon, weakness. Those who know you cease to regard you as a normal human being. You’re no longer allowed to be an individual like all others. Writing is a profession, so you’re obliged to produce. The world expects new books from you, all the time.
Well, it doesn’t really expect them. But the world knows that this un-weakened productivity is a mechanism, that this mechanism must function. There’s this idea in your reader’s mind that, since you write, you are the keeper not only of the secrets of writing as technique, but also of the secrets of life. You’ve reached beyond the stage of trials, of searches, of doubts. You are above all this. Your doubts, if they exist, will show in your manuscript.
In any case, you’re no longer a person, but an institution with a timetable. Your civic persona, with all its happenings, becomes insignificant. If it keeps you from writing, it simply means you’re no longer a writer. But if you still are one, don’t expect to be understood, don’t expect any mercy. Nobody will grant you any mitigating circumstances. It would be unfair if they did.”
***
“A person I know sends me on my birthday a piece of ‘esoteric’ fiction. I tell him it’s not quite well written and that he’s got some more work to do on the text. ‘But I don’t intend to build a literary career!’ he replies standoffishly. ‘Career, you say?’ I burst out loud. ‘You believe this is some kind of trade, something to assure your life fulfilment? Instead of being a writer I’d rather be a mountaineer!’”
***

“Where is the beauty of life? If you don’t know how to create it, it doesn’t exist.”