Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Neither present nor past

From the entry for Otha Orkkut (1890-1943), poet, translator, and historian, in The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, edited by C.D. Rose:
Cimbrian, it is said, was a unique language in that it contained a tense which was used to describe a person or object which had gone missing or been lost: neither present nor past, still existing in a space or time which no non-Cimbrian can ever properly comprehend.

A number of critics and translators are currently at work on Orkkut's books, her manuscripts now inhabiting the realm of that unique Cimbrian tense.
Identified as a Bothno-Ugaric language, "Cimbrian" may be referencing the same language known in Italo Calvino's quarters as "Cimmerian," described by Professor Uzzi-Tuzzi as "a modern language and a dead language at the same time."

I treated myself to this lovely volume at Christmas, to add to my shelf of weird dictionaries. This collection of 52 lives, by turns tragic and comic, easily lends itself to browsing; I reach for it for inspiration, for reminders, for warnings.

The introduction alone is worth the price of admission, exploring the concepts of erasure, "faith in the ineffable," linguistic negation, "literature of the unword," "stories that would prefer not to."

Biographile: "The simple fact is this: books are real; writers aren't."
PopMatters: "It's questionable whether insanity is a prerequisite for the arts."


1 comment:

Stefanie said...

Ooh, call me intrigued!