One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Foe": Writing As Literary Colonialism

Or at least that seems to be part of the point Coetzee is trying to make.

Barton speaking to Foe:
   You err most tellingly in failing to distinguish between my silences and the silences of a being such as Friday. Friday has no command of words and therefore no defense against being re-shaped day by day in conformity with the desires of others. I say he is a cannibal and he becomes a cannibal; I say he is a laundryman and he becomes a laundryman. What is the truth of Friday? You will respond: he is neither cannibal nor laundryman, these are mere names, they do not touch his essence, he is a substantial body, he is himself, Friday is Friday. But that is not so. No matter what he is to himself (is he anything to himself? -- how can he tell us?), what he is to the world is what I make of him.

*

Another good quote--very similar to something Coetzee has written elsewhere (I can't track it down--was it in Summertime, In the Heart of the Country, or Youth?--and if the words and context were slightly different, the images evoked "in me" were identical)--is Foe speaking to Barton re "a life of writing books":
   In a life of writing books, I have often, believe me, been lost in the maze of doubting. The trick I have learned is to plant a sign or marker in the ground where I stand, so that in my future wanderings I shall have something to return to, and not get worse lost than I am. Having planted it, I press on; the more often I come back to the mark (which is a sign to myself of my blindness and incapacity), the more certainly I know I am lost, yet the more I am heartened too, to have found my way back.
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