SERENDIPITIES: Language and Lunacy

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SERENDIPITIES: Language and Lunacy

Postby blunt » Wed Feb 13, 2008 5:46 pm

BY Umberto Eco
I liked Name of the Rose and Island of the Day Before but I love Foucalts Pendulum.

This is a lovely and wonderous little book.
Peter Bruegel's Tower of Babl on the cover makes it even better.
I bathe in ancient history, origins of language, odd religions, psychic archeology, magick and the occult, and semiotics.
Geurilla ontology.
This book is about the serach for the a priori perfect pre-Adamic language. It used to be assumed that it was Hebrew. Early thinkers thought an infant left completely alone would naturally start speaking Hebrew. It was the language with which God conversed with Adam and the linguistic roots that Adam used to name everything.
It's about the fascinating failures of attempts to reconstruct and establish an architectonically perfect system of ideas composed of mutual dependences and strict classifications from the general to the particular.
It would, for instance, solve the librarian's dilemma at where to catalog a book (Dewey s system leaves a lot tobe desired and complimentary books at opposite ends of the library....)
Eco speaks of mentalese, a hopeful proposed language "written in the very convulutions of our brains, capable of supplying the deep structure of every expression in any natural language."
Borges plays with the idea and quotes from the Foucalt's description of the Chinese encyclopedia Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Recognitions":
-those that belong to the Emperor
-embalmed ones
-those that are trained
-suckling pigs
-fabulous ones
-stray dogs
-those included in the present classification
-those that tremble as if they were mad
-innumerable ones
-those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush
-those that have just broken a flower vase
-those that look like flies from far away....

Loving it. We are getting closer to a polydimensional encyclopedia with hypertext nowadays.
And Alembert could have been have been talking about Wikipedia hundreds of years ago:
"...a labyrinth, a tortuous path, composed of diverse branches, some of which converge towards a same center...and since departing from it , it is not possible to follow all the paths at once---the choice is determined by the nature of the different spirits..."

Interesting, funny, thoght-provoking, and an excellent translation by my favorite translator of Italian, William Weaver. (Is it too geeky to have a favorite translator? I love Cleary, too.)


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