34/1030:  “Die Küste des Exils” continued 

Mircea Cărtărescu is a Romanian author who was asked to contribute to a collection of writings about the Black Sea: Odessa Transfer (2009). Several other eastern and middle European and Turkish  writers contributed- anyone who had something to say about the Black Sea coast. The themes of the collection are travel and the unrest that comes with the transgression of borders. “Den literarischen Nachrufen auf das Untergehende und Verlorene lassen wir mit Odessa Transfer die Erzählungen vom Leben am Meer und die Reflexion über Räume der Unruhe folgen” (1).  An important part of these contributions are reflection, this thinking back on this region, despite maybe having different intellectual and cultural ideas of this space.

Of course, I can’t help but think about the text in light of my new knowledge of the existence of an anthropological approach to literature (really, how is this different than cultural studies?), but I will try to focus on what I already know.

“Ovid hatte noch geglaubt, der Mensch verwandle sich ausschließlich unter Einwirkung der Götter. Seit Kajka wissen wir, daß dem nicht so ist.”(Unbekannter osteuropäischer Geschichtslehrer)

Something that struck me about this text, as I already mentioned before, are the intertextual references. Was Kafka mentioned because of this quote, one I found in the epigraph to the next text? Or is he significant as an inner exilist? Someone who felt a stranger in his own land, sort of like the guest at the wedding (96).

The other references, of course to Ovid most of all, are significant. He is the original exilist on the Black Sea. He was the famous exiled Roman, sent to live among the “barbarians.” He experienced the loneliness and displacement of an exile, and as a poet, whose magic was in songs and words (the Euripides Chor makes an appereance, reminding of Nietzsche) and who lost the words.

diese Briefe wurden immer ungehobelter, enthielten immer mehr sarmatische, illyrische und getische Wendungen, bis er gegen Ende eine neue, eine unbekannte Sprache erfunden hatte, die Sprache des Unglücks, in der alle wahren Bücher geschrieben werden. (108-109)

While a hybrid language resulted, one of unhappiness and bad luck, it’s the one Cărtărescu says all true books are written in. This, of course, relates strongly to Bakhtin who would argue the same thing. For him, the novel was the most successful art form, since it allowed all kinds of language to base expressed, common and art. Lyric, or poem, cannot reach this.

Und am Ende schrieb er in der getischen Sprache, hatte er die barbarischen Wörter ins lateinische Versmaß gegossen. Das Gedicht fand Gefallen. Und seitdem galt er unter den Barbaren als Dichter. Das Kauderwelsch der Ein- heimischen erldang in zehntausend Sprachen des Meeres, und Ovid, der Dichter der Liebe, der Schönheitspflege und der Metamorphosen, sah sich gezwungen, sie alle zu lernen. (102)

The language of the sea slowly poured into his writing. And this sea had 10,000 languages. And he had to learn them all. There’s something significant about the water image throughout the text, and the ending line: “Denn nach Mallarmé ‘existiert die Welt nur, um in ein schönes Buch zu münden'” (110). The world only exists so as to flow into a pretty book.

I wonder if there’s a connection here to biosemiotics and therefore to the rising understanding of nature in anthropological studies of literature (or vice versa), but one thing is for sure, this is an extremely productive text for my PhD project.

Work Cited:  Cărtărescu, Mircea. “Die Küste des Exils.” Odessa Transfer Nachrichten vom Schwarzen Meer. Ed. Raabe, Katharina und Monika Sznajderman. Frankfurt am Main: Surkamp, 2009. 93-110. Print.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.

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