Kilito Dog Words _ Galeano

Kilito Dog Words _ Galeano - DISPLACEMENTS Cultural...

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Unformatted text preview: DISPLACEMENTS Cultural Identities in Question edited by Angelika Bammer Indiana University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis [999 r4: gstlxckr‘. 2a,:353531,;1332tta.gq,w4‘:ng , . Dog Words Abdelfattah Kilito Translated by Ziad Elmarsafy Translator’s Introduction Abdelfattah Kilito’s “Les mots canins” was written for a conference on bilingualism held at Rabat University, Morocco in November 1981. The sub- ject was as close to Kilito as it was to most of the participants, all of whom were fluent if not native speakers of at least one language in addition to French. Kilito’s approach, to put it mildly, is unorthodox: he compares the lot of the bilingual person to a lost traveler. This comparison acts as a point of departure for a playful narrative full of lacunae and labyrinthine digressions, constituting an ever—expanding allegorical web that eventually brings its own moment of composition within its compass. This ludic dimension is very much in the classical Arabic tradition of the adib, the producer of texts whose cursory movement seems to lack direction but whose overall economy man- ages to contain a vast and substantial array of information. (The fact that Kilito’s presentation had a very real point of reference was borne out when, in the subsequent discussion, Jacques Hassoun translated the image of the lost traveler into his own plight as an exiled Egyptian Jew.) At issue in “Les mots canins” are language and identity, how one creates the other, and how the act of speaking a different language threatens to strip the speaker of his or her self. Which is not to say that Kilito gives uniformity the upper hand. On the contrary, this essay shows Kilito enjoying himself qua polyglot. Like his two points of reference—the lost traveler and the twelfth— century adi’b Al-Jahiz—Kilito’s text is nothing if not peripatetic and elusive, constantly taking delight in its ability to pass from one possibility to another (and thus contain them both), from one theme to another (and thus treat them both), from one idiom to another (and thus command them both). Rather than reiterate the commonplace argument that Arab francophone writers are necessarily alienated and that authenticity is only possible in a monolingual universe, Kilito is quite happy to let his ideas play themselves out in the space of linguistic and literary heterodoxy. In this respect, he approaches an ideal once described by Roland Barthes: Kilito, it seems, is the last happy (Arab) writer (94 et passim). m Quick, what does a bedouin do when he loses his way at night in the des- ert? What stratagem does he use to find human habitation, and therefore find himself? xxi xxii | Dog Words You will probably never guess the answer, cat will inevitably get your tongue. Then again, what would such a seductive animal do with your tongue? Another riddle, one that does not translate very well into a feline idiom. If I were you, though, I would keep my tongue to myself and fight the cat’s claws tooth and nail, for cats are visibly inhabited by the devil. You will, moreover, have to resign yourselves to hearing little more than miaows and caterwauls for the rest of this talk. How indeed is one to speak of language, of bilingual- ism, without evoking, quoting, and invoking animals? 15 there not an inarticu- late cry lurking behind every articulate word? That is why I shall refer in what follows to a bestiary, The Book of Animals, by the ninth—century Arabic writer Al—Jahiz, a man with bulging eyes (whence his sumame).' I would like to think that the bulging of his eyes was due to his prolonged contemplation of the marvels of creation and his close scrutiny of animal behavior: eyes do, after all, open wide when we are amazed and when this astonishment is extreme they would probably come out of their sockets and stay open. (Jahiz did make a pomt of mentioning frogs, with whom he had at least one physical feature in common on this count.) . het us not get lost in the animal kingdom, despite our theme of loss, dep- rivation, diminution, or, in a word, metamorphosis. So, a man is lost at night in the desert and must find his clan at any price. During the day he may well have left a trail of stones along the way, and his feet probably made prints in the sand. At night, however, neither stones nor footprints are easily perceived. The lost wanderer probably has good eyes, even bulging eyes, but they are not the eyes of a cat. What does he do? Taking his cue from the monkey, he resorts to a rather simian ploy: he starts barking (incredible but true). The Arabic word mustanbib means “he who imitates the dog’s bark.“ As he walks about then, our nocturnal itinerant emits a few scattered barks. if there are any dog; in the area they will start to bark in turn and indicate human habitation to the traveler (dogs generally haunt camps and settlements). One must bark in order to find one’s way; in order to become human one must first turn into a dog. The barker is certainly very clever, and dogs are easily tricked. He barks out of necessity; there is no other way out of the situation in which he finds himself caught. The dogs think that one of their own kind is close by, address- ing them in their own language. They waste no time in heeding the call. Their barking echoes the simulacrum of a bark, it is the echo of an echo, a copy of a copy. The bark does not, in fact, emanate from a member of the genus canis but from an anthropomorphic creature who, in the dark night, pretends to be a dog, from a lost mimic who has temporarily renounced his idiom for that of the dogs. Thus he kills two birds with one stone: he finds people and cheats dogs: Necessity and playfulness go hand in hand. The ludic element plays a very important part in this situation: as a hypocritical simulator, the player finds his way by pretending to be a dog. Eventually he will no longer need to Dog Words I xxiii bark, having returned to his mother tongue, the same one that he had to twist and turn in order to produce the sounds of the canine language. Is it certain, though, that he will find his own kinsfolk, people who speak his language? Has it been established that his steps and barks will lead him back to his own language? We should not be hasty with our reply, for the situ- ation of our nocturnal wanderer is quite complex. Complex enough, quite pos- sibly, to surpass even his own evaluation: he may overestimate the impact of his ploy and his influence, if any, on the dogs. In any case, he runs a big risk by barking, all the more so in view of his nocturnal solitude. What if, upon finding his tribe, he did not find his language? What if he could only bark in response to their questions? What if he were no longer capable of using the language of his family, this language grown so familiar from his days in the cradle, if not before, this other language that he learned by imitating the move- ment of his mother’s lips? The possibility cannot be discounted, its unlikeli— hood notwithstanding. Nighttime is, as you all know, the time of magic, full of witchcraft and sorcery. It would come as no surprise, then, if under the in- fluence of some strange spell, the man changed into a dog or if the barker, having lost sight of the rules of the game (and therefore of himself) were to start barking in earnest. Nobody imitates with impunity: just think of all the disputes that take place between actors. Mimicry and dealing in shadows are dangerous undertakings: shadows can harden and counterfeit barks could dis; place articulate language. Just imagine: a man is imitating a dog. He grows tired of this game at a certain point, decides that he has had enough and wants to return to his former seriousness (one does not spend all of one’s time imi- tating dogs, after all). So our player decides to, stop the game, but is unpleas- antly surprised to find that he cannot utter the words that he could once pro— nounce. He concentrates his efforts, coughs, clears his throat (assuming, of course, that he is still capable of performing such gestures), shakes himself, breathes heavily, and repeats the entire experiment several times to no avail. He cannot Speak; the sounds that leave his mouth are barks, irrevocably. How, then, would his tribe react? His case is rather strange, and they have never seen anything like it: none of the myths and tales that circulate within the tribe deals with a man who starts barking one day and then. . . . Weary with despair (sometimes they tell themselves that it is better justto laugh about it), they surround their wayward son and lament his fate. Eventually, however, irritation gains the upper hand. They do not disown him, of course; he is still one of them, they maintain a certain solidarity (up to a point) with his misfor— tune, they put their hand on their heart and proclaim that they will never ever leave him to his fate. Little by little, however, a certain malaise takes over, and he becomes the sole topic of conversation (it is worth pointing out that nothing has ever warranted such extensive discussion in the tribe; everyone sets out to prove that he or she is not a barker). Troubling symptoms appear: our sad hero xxiv I Dog Words spends a great deal of time with dogs,3 takes a liking to gnawing bones and develops an intense hatred of cats. He still understands what he is told, of course, and what people say to each other, but since he can only express him- self in barks he forces himself to modulate. His barks vary according to time and place: he shouts, groans, yaps, screams, makes voices. When his kinsfolk discuss serious matters, he expresses his opinion in an improper, profane yap- ping that troubles even the most sacred ceremonies. The sorcerer is especially irritated by his inability to cure or exorcise the canine demons that possess our hero’s body. Since he cannot own up to his failure (much less so when his pro— fessional prestige is at stake), he offers the following explanation as he points an accusing finger at our hero: “This individual is a mimic who bears our tribe ill-will.” The accusation does not quite come off with the galvanizing effect he had anticipated (the sorcerer, of course, blames the reticent whom he accuses of suffering from canine influences). The barker is not put to death, nor is he chased out of the settlement and stoned. Instead his jaws (his snout?) are kept shut during ritual ceremonies: two men keep his head locked between their strong arms and thus keep him from yapping. All of this is only a hypothesis, however. I should stop playing with words and barks, threading animal metaphors, tracing nocturnal walks, and weaving a discourse whose thread threatens to divide indefinitely in view of the im- mense number of possible combinations. Then again, can I leave the barker all alone in the thick of the night? My heart won’t let me. Besides, I have to know what will happen to him, I have to know how the story will end. Let us begin again. Dogs designate human habitation to the lost traveler. All he has to do now is confidently direct himself toward his kinsfolk, guided by these promising barks. Actually I am being too optimistic in saying that the tribe he finds will be his own. There are dogs barking everywhere and those he hears are not necessarily the right ones. Everything could, in fact, be de- cided differently, by a most improbable roll of the dice, a move leading to the possibility of unfamiliar dogs. The fate that I would personally choose for the nocturnal wanderer does not count; his itinerary has a logic of its own and I cannot do anything to help him. The best I can do is try to predict the possi- bilities available to his steps and to this speech. There are only two possibilities at first sight (nocturnal visibility notwith- standing) and therefore two possible epilogues: the itinerant will either find his own kinsfolk or he will happen upon a bunch of strangers. Other endings will prove necessary, however, especially in view of the established fact that every epilogue is a prologue. Here, then, is one of the possibilities, one that you could not possibly have imagined: the dogs that answer the traveler’s call might not be real. They could Dog Words I xxv be lost bedouin who in turn are imitating dogs in order to find their way. If that is the case then a double trap is being set: mimicry is being resorted to on both sides, real dogs are thought to exist on both sides and, finally, only make- believe dogs are known to exist on both sides. At a certain moment they wull meet, all will be undeceived and the search will have to start all over again. Assuming that the dogs that answer the call are real, there is no guarantee that they are close to human habitation. They could be lost dpgs. Dogs do get lost: despite their instinct, their alertness, these vigilant animals have been known to get lost. They make mistakes in any case, as Witness their mistaking a false bark for a real one and a man for a dog. ' Fake dogs, real dogs, and other narrative possibilities tempt me, but I Will have to leave them by the way for the time being; I have other fish to fry.4 So, as he hears the dogs bark, the wanderer says to himself, “I will either find strangers or my own people. Dogs are monolingual; the ones that I'know bark in the same way as those that I don’t know. At night all dogs bark in the same way.” Still feeling optimistic, I will leave him to direct his steps toward the sounds he hears, knowing full well that he will find neither the rest nor the security that he so ardently desires. A great surprise awaits him. He ap— proaches, his heart beats, he sees his kinsfolk and realizes that the unimagin- able has come to pass: instead of speaking the language that they usually speak, they are, in fact, barking. Their desire to find their lost child was so extreme that they started barking to signal their presence and the location of the set- tlement. There he is among them, then, greeted by barks instead of words of welcome. What happened to him, or rather what almost happened to him, what could have happened to him, what should have happened to him has now happened to his clan. Unless of course the entire settlement has lost its way, is looking for the camp and its fires which, at this remove, are about as useless as stars; unless the entire settlement has gone out in search of the language that was squan- dered so inconsiderately, the language that they treated so contemptuously and wiped out so gradually to the point where little remains apart from a bark that reverberates in vain. Campfires are burning somewhere and it is probably their reflection that they see in the sky. The members of the tribe have deserted the settlement and .have gone in search of the lost child and the lost idiom. They bark as they stray, and their straying will necessitate their consulting the stars on the location of their camp. The latter, too, is lost or, alternatively, is inhabited by strangers. The wanderer quickens his step during this time, under the mistaken impres- sion that he has found what he was looking for: the dogs have barked, and just around the corner campfires have added to the evidence. Displays of emotion will not, as you may have guessed, take place: on one hand those that he likes Dog Words xxvi I are gone, and on the other hand the new settlers are not particularly hospitable (let me add that they will put out their campfires in order to discourage their unwelcome guest). Here I need to digress slightly in order to prepare you for what is about to follow (what you will hear is quite extraordinary). I have to retrace my steps back to my starting point and to the word mustanbih, a word that connotes wandering and the hope of provoking barks as well as campfires. Barking by itself is not enough as a designation of human dwelling-places. As a sign of human presence, it is necessary but inconclusive (given that lost dogs exist). Its purpose is to lead to another irrefutable index: flames and smoke. Now, if the people that he is about to meet are inhospitable, how are they to put out the fire? They ask their mother to urinate on it.’ She straddles the hearth and re- leases a thin stream of urine (nothing particularly copious since, being a stingy mother with stingy children, she does not willingly part with her own urine). The poet does not tell us if this parsimonious quantity of liquid is enough to put out the fire (then again the fire itself must have been quite weak; those who retain their urine do not squander their firewood) or if the results of the mother’s compromise are satisfactory. The wanderer, in any case, will not be received. I would advise him, moreover, to move on as quickly as possible be- fore it: is torn to shreds by the starved dogs of the miserly (hungry and thirsty) tribe. He risks a different but no less disappointing destiny if his would-be hosts turn out to be generous. There are dogs on the prowl in the vicinity, but they are cowardly dogs who no longer bark. Their masters find themselves enter- taining more often than not, and in the constant comings and goings these dogs lose their sense of direction, inundated as they are by an uninterrupted flow of vertical beings requesting food and shelter. They have been called to order so often that they have lost the habit of emitting canine sounds; besides they are usually too busy eating the abundant scraps that the guests give them. They are, in other words, as charitable as their masters, even though their mo— tives are different. This idyllic scene leaves me feeling skeptical, however, leaves me begging for more. First of all, dogs who no longer bark, dogs who have been condemned to silence, dogs who merely open their mouths for eating: are these still dogs? I would also like to believe the generosity of their owners, but how am I to find these people if no bark indicates the campsite? I also suspect them of a parsimony deeper than that of the miserly tribe we have just left behind: the latter did not, after all, muzzle their dogs, and even though they put out their fires I still felt their reassuring presence, I knew that there were people there and that they communicated their presence to me through the mediation of their dogs. Communication with those who have kept their dogs from barking, on the other hand, is impossible. Imagine, if you will: I pass by them and not one aural sign guides me toWard them. I keep telling myself that xxvii' Dog Words l they are there and that every step I take takes me farther away from their camp. I bark in vain, there are no responses. All the time, we will assume that our wanderer sees the campfires of a foreign tribe; we will assume that these foreigners are speakers and that the barker finds his tongue once again as he approaches them. What now? No matter what he does, he will be seen as an animal. When two languages meet, one of them is necessarily linked to animality. Speak like me or you are an animal. I would have to speak from a position of strength in order to speak in this way, otherwise I would be considered an animal. There is no way that we can speak of conflict in this case: for a conflict to arise the two opponents must be on equal, or at least comparable, footing. Lions fight'tigers, but are quite content to simply devour rabbits or dogs. The state of bilingualism does not evoke the image of two adversaries approaching one another, armed With nets and tridents. In this case, one of the gladiators is already on the ground and is getting ready to receive the death blow. (In the annals of Rome, none of the Caesars took pity on a grounded gladiator.) Our hero will soon discover all of this at his own expense. The strangers, whose language he does not speak, mistake him for an animal, not necessarily a dog (he has stopped barking in their presence) but a monkey. A monkey imi- tating not the language of dogs but the barking of foreigners. As long as he does not speak like them, he is considered a monkey. He knows himself to be a monkey, and an asthmatic one at that. Every time he opens his mouth, he must exert a significant effort, an effort that sets him apart from the others who speak comfortably, like people playing themselves, who speak as they breathe, and whose breathing is calm and regular. It is the effort that. marks him as a monkey and mimic. There is no such thing as an effortless imitation. The monkey, who is none other than our recent wanderer, tries to get rid of his simian character in order to be seen as one of his human interlocutors. If they, who regard him with a mixture of curiosity and sickness, were on a foot- ing equal to his he would not have had to resort to imitation: he imitates be- cause he is not those that he imitates, he imitates what he cannot be, a fact of which he is well aware. The others, too, know, or eventually discover, that imitation does not make a man (as opposed to the dogs who, as we have seen, are easily tricked in games of imitation). The paradox of mimicry resides in the ’ fact that the mimic wants to belong but in the end marks his or her own sepa- ration. Only what one is not is reproduced; “like” does not make. an. identity. Imitation lives on the rupture between being and seeming. An imitation, even if it attains perfection, will never abolish the difference that occaSions it in the first place.7 _ On the other side of the mirror the interlocutors—the monkey’s audi— ence—are in an enviable situation. They have nothing to hide, they appear as what they are, they act in broad daylight, in the noonday sun (the one that xxuiii l Dog Words casts no suspicious shadows). The monkey, on the other hand, is a born hypo- crite; he always hides something, an entirely disavowed shadow zone goes with him everywhere. What he hides is not what he shows. Let us not forget that he was once lost at night in the desert, and that he is now lost among people, all because he is a mimic, because he dissimulates. Curiously enough the monkey’s observers like to play at this game of imi- tation from time to time. Monkeys are amusing animals after all and every- body mimics a mimic. They therefore spend their spare time imitating the ap- pearance, rather than the essence, of the monkey. Now, the appearance of the monkey is an image of what they are, since the monkey forces himself to imi- tate them. In reproducing his image, therefore, they reproduce their own, slightly deformed, but theirs all the same. I shall refer once again to Jahiz, not the jahiz of the Boo/z of Animals but rather the later one, the one who wrote the Boo/z of Eloquence. Trust me, I shall continue to speak of non-anthropomorphic creatures, because neither he (Jahiz) not I are capable of deliberating eloquence without evoking animals. Eloquence is always discussed in relation to the animal. Jahiz wrote that an author cannot be proficient in two languages (Animals I: 76—7). I suspect that he himself was monolingual, even though he uses for- eign words on occasion. Scholars have gone (and still go) through a great deal of trouble to decide whether or not he spoke Farsi, as if it mattered. The fact of the matter is that Jahiz did not need to know any language other than Ara- bic, for the simple reason that there was, in his time, only one language, namely Arabic. All the rest was mere noise, a vast cacophony of yelps, neighs, and caterwauls. jahiz was a happy writer.8 He liked to laugh and his laughter was honest, unencumbered by afterthought. There were times when he experi- mented on real animals, such as snakes and flies (Animals 4: 113; 3: 349—50). He also had occasion to observe individual cases of people who spoke like ani- mals, or rather who did not speak and therefore resembled animals. As proof let me mention this page in the Book of Eloquence where we see some domes- tic animals, a blind man, some hybrid creatures, and a mimic grouped together (69-70)- Why did they meet and what are they going to do together? The mimic (bdlziya), says Jahiz, reproduces the dog's barking and the braying of the don— key; he also reproduces the attitude and gestures of the blind man, and finally he mimics the faulty pronunciation of non-Arab ethnic groups. Imitation makes us laugh at the expense of the other and reconfirms our sense of “our- selves. It presupposes a certain complicity between imitator and spectator, both of whom are present. The object of their mimicry, however, is “absent,” ' elsewhere, confined to the trap of the third person (see Benveniste 22.8), even if he or she seems to say “I” through the voice of the performer and produces the semblance of a “you” for the spectator’s benefit. Imitation is only made Dog Words l xxix possible by the feeling of superiority that the spectators feel visfi—vis the char- acter portrayed. ' You will have noticed that each of the imitated creatures suffers from a certain lack or deficiency. The dog and donkey lack articulate language, the blind man lacks sight, and the non-Arab the ability to pronounce guttural sounds. jahiz points out that a given individual was recognized as being from Sind, from Khurasan, or from Ahwiz from their Arabic pronunciation, be- cause each group had its own set of idiosyncrasies (Eloquence I: 69). Under these conditions, opening one’s mouth amounts to self-betrayal, the revelation of one’s difference and one’s lack. It would be much simpler to walk on in silence with clenched teeth wherever people are to be found. But would a poet resign himself to silence in an age where poetry was not only written and read but recited and heard? There is a story told on this subject regarding two poets (Abfi ‘Ata’ Al-Sindi and Ziyad Al—cham) whose pronunciation was deficient and who, in order to avoid embarrassment, hired slaves to recite their poems. Imagine: before an important figure, the poet stays silent while a representative recites his poem. The poem itself is thus entrusted to two people successively: the composer who creates it in the form of a quiet murmur, and the performer who ex—presses and presents it on the platter that is his tongue. During cere- monies the poet hears his own poem uttered by someone else. He needs a speaker in order to speak. Severed tongues and ruptured eardrums are two phenomena with analo- gous consequences. Remember the deaf musician who was allowed, from time to time, to conduct the orchestra that played his compositions. The first time, the experiment produced little more than sonic discord. Eventually, however, the matter was resolved: a second conductor was appointed and kept hidden from the audience. They saw a musician who was merely playing the part of a conductor as he directed his own inner music. We have, therefore, two conduc- tors, two audiences, and two scores, one audible and the other inaudible. The latter is heard only by the deaf composer who plays it to himself (the orchestra refuses to play along with him) and is thus kept out of step with its audible counterpart. The poet with no tongue is always a step ahead. If you watch his lips closely you will see them moving, mapping out the words that the speaker prepares to pronounce. - Severed tongues are castrated tongues. As you leaf through the seven vol- umes that compose the Book of Animals, do not be surprised if you run into castrati, creatures of questionable gender, neither male nor female (I: 105, 108) or animals whose status is complex and whose complexion complicated. To lose one’s tongue is to lose one’s linguistic aptitude. Losing one’s language is unfortunate but not irreparable. On the other hand, losing language per se, losing one’s tongue, the muscle lodged in one’s mouth; such a loss is insur- mountable. One of the questions that jahiz neglects in his chapter on dogs, ’7! xxx I Dog Words surprisingly enough, is whether or not dogs need tongues to bark. Is a tongue as necessary to the barking of a dog as it is to human speech? But whatever became of our nocturnal wanderer? He has followed his tra- jectory, barking all the while. He is perhaps in a place abandoned even by its dogs (canine deserters do exist). if that is the case, he will bark all night to no avail. As he writes these lines, the author is suddenly struck by a very disturbing possibility. What if, as he writes about dogs, he suddenly finds himself trans- formed into one? What if, in speaking about animals, he were to lose his tongue (or rather his tongues, since he speaks several languages)? What if, all of a sudden, he started barking? This risk is shared by the reader, who is no longer immune, and risks opening his mouth to produce, not phonemes and morphemes, not distinctive and significant units, but rather bark after identical bark.’ If this possibility is a strong source of anguish, just clench your teeth, put your hand on your mouth, and think about something else. Notes “Les mots canins" from Du bilinguisme. Ed. Abdelkebir Khatibi. Paris: Denoél, I98 5. 2.05— 18. 1. Abu cUthman cAmr ibn Bahr ibn Mahbfib al-Kinani al-Basri (c. 776—869 AD), one of the most prolific Arabic prose writers of the First cAbbasid period (749-940). AHahiz’s ugliness was proverbial, and his name (“the pop-eyed”) derives from the Arabic verb iahaza (to bulge) and refers to the rather extreme protrusion of his eyes. His works cover a wide range of themes and a great deal of paper. Best known among them are Kita‘b al—Hayawdn (The Book of Animals), where observations of animal psychology and physiology coexist with passages on philosophy, anthropology, and literary history, and Kittib aLBaydn um al- Tabyin (The Book of Eloquence and Exposition), a polemical rhetoric and selective inventory of the Arabic literary canon extant in the ninth century AD.——Trans. 1. Or rather, “he who provokes the barking of dogs by imitating them.” See Al-Jahiz, Animals 379. 3. We ought to mention, in passing, the massive problems that he thus creates for the canine community. 4. Kilito uses the French equivalent of this expression; “i’ai d’autres chats a fouetter," literally, I‘I have other cats to whip.” He goes on to exploit the issue paronomastically; “des chats dont j’ai déja caressé le pelage électrique et dont il faudra maintenant coincer la queue dans une porte” (“cats whose fur I have already rubbed the wrong way and whose tail will now find itself trapped in a door”).—Trans. 5. i swear that I am not making things up. I am only paraphrasing two lines by the poet Al-Akhtal, the first of which is quoted by Jahiz in Animals (I: 384). 6. The dogs might even be rabid: Jahiz points out that a man bitten by a rabid dog himself starts barking (Animals 2: ro—rr). Dog Words l xxxi 7. Kilito‘s language here is strongly reminiscent of Mallarmé’s: “Une imitation, quand bien méme elle atteindrait un tres haut degré de perfection, )amai n’abolira la difference” recalls the central sentence of Un coup de de’s: “Jamais, quand bien méme lancé du fond d’un naufrage, un coup de dés n‘abolira le hasard.” —Trans. 8. There were numerous “bilingual” writers during the first four centuries after the Hegira (62.2. AD, the date of the Prophet Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina and the starting point of the Muslim calendar). I find it hard to believe that they were all miserable. Misery is, on the other hand, the common lot of today’s Arab francophone writers (whether they write in French or in Arabic) who speak of the hiatus, fracture, and fissure attached to their condition. ., 9. It is of course possible that not all of the barks will be identical. Remember the actor at Sranislavski’s Moscow Theater who managed to create forty different messages from the expression, “good evening," by varying his expressive tint (mentioned in Jakobson 13). Works Cited Al-Jihiz. The Book of Animals. [Kitdb al-HayauuinJ Ed. cAbd Al-Salam Muhammad Harlin. Vol. I. Cairo: 1939. The Book of Eloquence. [Kitab al—Baya'n wa aI-Tabyin.] Ed. cAbd Al—Salam Muhammad Harlin. Vol. 1. Cairo: r960. Barthes, Roland. “Le dernier des écrivains heureux." Essais critiques. Paris: Seuil, 1964. 94- 100. Benveniste, E. Problemes de linguistique géne'rale. Paris: Gallimard, 1966. Jakobson, R. “Linguistics and Poetics." Selected Writings III. Ed. Stephen Rudy. The Hague: Mouton, 1981. Eduardo Galeano MEMORY OF FIRE .I. GENESIS ‘ Part One of a Trilogy Translated by Cedric Belfrage nu Pantheon Books/New York / a 3 3/ D 4 “Wm—— Genesis 45 1492: The Ocean Sea The Sun Route to the Indies The breezes are sweet and soft, as in spring in Seville, and the sea is like a Cuadalquivir river, but the swell no sooner rises than they get seasick and vomit, jammed into their fo’c’sles, the men who in three patched-up little ships cleave the unknown sea, the sea with out a frame. Men, little drops in the wind. And if the sea doesn’t love them? Night falls on the caravels. Whither will the wind toss them? A dorado, chasing a flying fish, jumps on board and the panic grows. The crew don't appreciate the savory aroma of the slightly choppy sea, nor do they listen to the din of the sea gulls and gannets that come from the west. That horizon: does the abyss begin there? Does the sea end? ' ' Feverish eyes of mariners weatherbeaten in a thousand voy- ages, burning eyes of jailbirds yanked from Andalusian prisons and embarked by force: these eyes see no prophetic reflections of gold and silver in the foam of the waves, nor in the country and river birds that keep flying over the ships, nor in the green rushes and branches thick with shells that drift in the sargassos. The bottom of the abyss—43 that where hell starts to burn? Into what kind of jaws will the trade winds hurl these little men? They gaze at the stars, seeking God, but the sky is as inscrutable as this never- navigated sea. They hear its roar, mother sea, the hoarse voice answering the wind with phrases of eternal condemnation, mys- terious drums resounding in the depths. They cross themselves and want to pray and stammer: "Tonight we’ll fall off the world, tonight we'll fall off the world. ” \/ 1492.- Guanahani, Columbus He falls on his knees, weeps, kisses the earth. He steps forward, staggering because for more than a month he has hardly slept, and beheads some shrubs with his sword. Then he raises the flag. On one knee, eyes lifted to heaven, (52) 46 Eduardo Galeano he pronounces three times the names of Isabella and Ferdinand. Beside him the scribe Rodrigo de Escobedo, a man slow of pen, draws up the document. From today, everything belongs to those remote monarchs: the coral sea, the beaches, the rocks all green with moss, the woods, the parrots, and these laurel-skinned people who don’t yet know about clothes, sin, or money and gaze dazedly at the scene. Luis de Torres translates Christopher Columbus’s questions into Hebrew: "Do you know the kingdom of the Great Khan? Where does the gold you have in your noses and ears come from?" The naked men stare at him with open mouths, and the in- terpreter tries out his small stock of Chaldean: "Gold? Temples? Palaces? King of kings? Gold?" - Then he tries his Arabic, the little he knows of it: “Japan? China? Gold?" The interpreter apologizes to Columbus in the language of Castile. Columbus curses in Genovese and throws to the ground his credentials, written in Latin and addressed to the Great Khan. The naked men watch the anger of the intruder with red hair and coarse skin, who wears a velvet cape and very shiny clothes. Soon the word will run through the islands: “Come and see the men who arrived from the sky! Bring them food and drink!” (52) ...
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Kilito Dog Words _ Galeano - DISPLACEMENTS Cultural...

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