Thursday, May 3, 2012

Herta Muller: On Silence

Herta Muller
From Herta Muller's talk at Deutsches Haus (NYU) this afternoon:
"When we don't speak we become unbearable, and when we do, we make fools of ourselves.  Can literature bear witness?"

And, "How can you use words to explain that inside a dahlia there is a complete interrogation when you've just been questioned, or that it holds a prison cell when someone like you is in jail?"

Herta Muller, so elegant and petite and fierce, and who's eyes were slightly teary as she finished, writes of paranoia so beautifully one starts to become afraid of the grass and the asphalt and the blouse that grows and the cherries and the chickens who walk up the ladder to roost in the tree beside their master/teacher's corpse.  A woman behind me today asked me almost desperately of Muller's book, The Appointment, "Does he rape her at the end?  Does he?"  Her symbolic language creates a haunting effect, and so much of it comes directly from the experience of the body and the silencing of bodies before the silencing of voices.  I didn't think her work relates to Orientalism before I saw her.  I still would say  doesn't.  But after thinking  of silencing and the body and even the silencing of voices and the misplacement of power, I decided it indeed has a place in Orientalish...

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