The Ruins of Language
How can we do aesthetic justice to words that speak directly to the problem of violence? And how might we reveal the violence it does to us upon reading their tales? Language can injury us and it can bring us to the point of ruination. We can feel every word cutting into our skin, every line of every letter marking the body and tearing open the memory of life. As Franz Kafka once wrote: "“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us".
The ruins of language takes 11 books from the political philosopher Brad Evans and shows how they bring great violence to the world. The words on the pages don't merely depict or narrate the history of atrocity and the painful conditions of human existence. They demand we confront the intolerable, which inspires the artist to tear the wounds of the words apart and excavate the devastation of its prose. It is to show the blood that weeps out from every page, the wires that bind across its disordered layering, and to sever the neat and ordered binding of history, which despite the best intentions, still frames and excludes.