📑 Ten Ways to Lose Your Literature

Bookmarked Ten Ways to Lose Your Literature by Ed Simon, Author at The Millions (themillions.com)

All literature is of a similar resistance against time, mortality, finitude, limitation. To write it to commit an act of faith, to pray that what words you’ve assembled shall last longer than you, and that they’ll hopefully be found by at least someone who shall be, however briefly, changed.

Ed Simon explores the world of lost literature. He breaks this down into ten ideas.

Literature as merely a fragment:

Literature as fragment, literature as rough draft, literature as the discarded. The history of writing is also the shadow history of the abandoned, a timeline of false-starts and of aborted attempts.

Lost literature as ‘wish fufillment’:

When it comes to such forgotten, hidden, and destroyed texts, Kelly argues that a “lost book is susceptible to a degree of wish fulfillment. The lost book… becomes infinitely more alluring simply because it can be perfect only in the imagination.” Hidden words have a literary sublimity because they are hidden; their lacunae functions as theme.

Literature as cultural memory:

In A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern-day Iraq by Fernando Baez argues that “books are not destroyed as physical objects but as links to memory… There is no identity without memory. If we do not remember what we are, we don’t know what we are.”

Literature and the hope of being found:

There is no discussing lost literature without consideration of that which is found. Just as all literature is haunted by the potential of oblivion, so all lost books are animated by the redemptive hope of their rediscovery.

Literature and the subline:

Because the gulf between printed word and the meanings which animate them is a medium for sublimity, the entirety of all that which we don’t know and can never read as infinite as the universe itself.

Literature and the rhizomatic revision:

A final copy is the result of writing, but is not writing itself. It rather represents the aftermath of a struggle between the author and the word, merely the final iteration of something massive, and copious, and large spreading its tendrils unseen backwards into a realm of lost literature. Revision is a rhizomatic thing, each one of the branches of potential writing hidden and holding aloft the tiny plant. A final draft is the corpse left over after the life that is writing has ended.

Literature and the limits of the inert:

A script is an inert thing, while the play is the thing forever marked by its own impermanence.

Literature, fairy tales and anonymous authors:

So many variations, so many lost stories, whispered only to infants in swaddling clothe over millennia. We can never know what exactly the earliest version of those stories was like; we’ll never know the names of those who composed them.

Literature, fairy tales and anonymous authors:

So many variations, so many lost stories, whispered only to infants in swaddling clothe over millennia. We can never know what exactly the earliest version of those stories was like; we’ll never know the names of those who composed them.

Literature and the tangent of translation:

Translation is feeling about in a darkened room and being able to discern the outline of the door, but it doesn’t give one the ability to step through into the other room (only perhaps to hear some muffled conversation with an ear pressed against the wall).

When a tongue has genuinely stopped moving there is an insurmountable difference separating us from its literature

Literature as a belief in the future:

Literature is a vote of confidence in the future, in the present, in the past – it’s a vote of confidence in other people. The Future Library Project is in keeping with those theorists who are concerned with “deep time,” with the profoundly long view and arc of human history as it rushes away from us.

There are so many interesting ideas in this piece about the purpose and place of literature. It is one of those pieces to come back to and dig into further and possibly beyond just ‘literature’. For example, the idea of the rhizomatic revision has me thinking about music and the act of remixing and remastering.

“Clive Thompson | @pomeranian99
in Clive Thompson on Twitter: “In @The_Millions, @WithEdSimon alerts me to two fascinating books which I’ve just ordered: https://t.co/2QJ5EsNqzm One is “The Book of Lost Books”, a study of literature that has been lost to time. The idea that Euripides wrote 72 more plays than we have is a gut punch (1/2) https://t.co/OLUe0cnEut” / Twitter ()

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