Sunday, September 26, 2004

Nomadic Multilingualism (Deleuze)

These days I think more and more that there is no such thing as chronological development in one's literary/intellectual life. We don't make progress. I have often felt frustrated over the years-how sophomoric--because of my lack of progress in just about everything. But this is only too natural. I am reminded of this by opening for the first time in many years (at least fifteen or so) the great book of philosophy called Dialogues (Deleuze and Parnet). There is absolutely no wonder that this is one of the books that changed me most when I first read it as an undergraduate at the end of the tedious seventies.

"Nomads have no history, They only have geography" (31). In your intellectual life you move from one topos to the other and it doesn't mean you really dig each of them. The topoi make a landscape, of which you can gain knowledge only the size of the sole oof your shoes. You stay at a point and you come to know the place well. Your memory only comes back to you when next time you revisit the same spot. Problems are constituted geographically, not chronologically.

My idea of omniphone has long been discussed by Deleuze, and admirably, in the following fashion:

We must be bilingual even in a single language, we must have a minor language inside our own language, we must create a minor use of our own language. Multilingualism is not merely the property of several systems each of which would be homogeneous in itself: it is primarily the line oof flight or of variation which affects each system by stopping it from being homogeneous (4).

In other words, multilingualism becomes interesting only when each of the languages involved begins to show self-deviation, its own minority-becoming, or clinamen.

I have long had an idea of writing a series of short monographs (probably 120 pages each in a book form) on the poets of my choice. But this surely comes from Deleuze's working method, his own "thin" monographs, of which he writes the following:

Think of the author you are writing about. Think of him so hard that he can no longer be an object, and equally so that you cannot identify with him. Avoid the double shame of the scholar and the familiar. Give back to an author a little of the joy, the energy, the life of love and politics that he knew how to give and invent (119).

Now, it's this kind of posthumous joy, its giving and taking, that so much of literature is about.