beatrice & virgil-yann martel

“Colonialism is a terrible bane for a people upon whom it is imposed, but a blessing for a language. English’s drive to exploit the new and the alien, its zeal in robbing words from other languages, its incapacity to feel qualms over the matter, its museum-size over-abundance of vocabulary, its shoulder-shrug approach to spelling, its don’t-worry-be-happy concern for grammar-the result was a language whose colour and wealth Henry loved. In his entirely personal experience of them, English was jazz music, German was classical music, French was ecclesiastical music, and Spanish was the music from the streets. Which is to say, stab his heart and it would bleed French, slice his brain open and its convulsions would be lined with English and German, and touch his hands and they would feel Spanish. But all this, as an aside.” (23)

two phenomenal meditations/metaphors of/in language that are so gorgeous in one day? how fortunate am i? too aware of the blessing to jack prince and maxwell in one line, i’ll tell you that much. but i don’t consider michael jackson a genre, either.


One thought on “beatrice & virgil-yann martel

  1. “Henry chose this unusual format because he was concerned with how best to present two literary wares that shared the same title, the same theme, the same concern, but not the same method. He’d in fact written two books: one was a novel, while the other was a piece of nonfiction, an essay. He had taken this double approach because he felt he needed every means at his disposal to tackle his chosen subject. But fiction and nonfiction are rarely published in the same book. That was the hitch. Tradition holds that the two must be kept apart. That is how our knowledge and impressions of life are sorted in bookstores and libraries-separate aisles, separate floors-and that is how publishers prepare their books, imagination in one package, reason in another. It’s not how writers write. A novel is not an entirely unreasonable creation, nor is an essay devoid of imagination. Nor is it how people live. People don’t so rigorously separate the imaginative from the rational in their thinking and in their actions. There are truths and there are lies-these are the transcendent categories, in books as in life. The useful division is between the fiction and nonfiction that speaks the truth and the fiction and nonfiction that utters lies.” (6-7)

    “Why did he reply to so many letters? Because though his novel belonged to his past, it was fresh to every reader who read it and that freshness came through in their letters. To remain silent in the face of kindness and enthusiasm would have been rude. Worse: it would have been thankless. It was gratitude, then, that got Henry into the habit every week of taking the time here and there to sit down and write back to readers.” (29)

    i love how committed the man is to writing/reading letters, literally and literally. in fiction and in life.

    the rest:

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