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Fr. 582

December 9, 2014

“Moreover, I, in contrast to him, am totally opposed to quotations. Quoting gets on my nerves. But we are sequestered in a world that is constantly quoting, in a constant quotation that is the world, Doctor.”(Gargoyles, p. 149)

Without a doubt, literature can develop from the same ideas as philosophy and come to a view that resonates with a properly philosophical one, and often with more humor. In the quotation above, Thomas Bernhard reckons in oblique fashion both with the structure of his own text and, perhaps more importantly, with the nature of the world in which we find ourselves.

There are several manners of reading this passage, itself a quotation, and we will begin with perhaps the most obvious: 1.) The world is a text. This view, a common starting point in hermeneutics, is typically elaborated under the form that: texts require interpretation; anything that requires interpretation resembles a text to some greater or lesser extent; the world, our environment, requires interpretation on a daily basis; hence, the world is a text. By collating quotation with text, we would arrive at the statement above. This seems to hold water in the sense that our interpretations of the world are conveyed to others in the form of statements, or quotations, and, thus, the world is constituted or, more weakly, represented to the other in the form of quotation.

There is, however, at least one secondary reading. The most notable is: 2.) We quote the most relevant features of the world to one purpose or another. In a way, 2.) is not so far 1.). Indeed, the question of quotation (or highlighting) is as well a feature common in hermeneutic accounts. In much the same way that selecting a quotation highlights a theme, motif or aspect of a work, selecting a quotation of the world highlights a belief, a purpose or feature of the world. Accordingly, our quotation of the world or the world as quotation consists in the manner in which we bring one feature of the world to the attention of our interlocutor at the expense of some other feature in virtue of our ends.

Yet it is perhaps the tertiary reading which most stands out amongst these interpretations, if only for its humor. In a reflexive turn, Bernhard would seem to say: 3.) My literary works consist precisely in quotation both overt and latent. This point is borne out by brief examination of Bernhard’s oeuvre, brimming as it is with reported speech, indirect speech at several degrees and quoted monologues.


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