Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The list is in charge

What power a list can have, no? That column down the left with all the letters exactly the same, all capitals, one after another, it's always fascinated me. I've always found lists enthralling, why should I deny it? There's nothing wrong in that either, I suppose, nothing reproachable. A telephone directory was the best thing I could have when I was little; I'd put my finger at the top and slide it down a page where they were all ls or ms, where they were all us. The feeling of tranquility that gives you. The feeling that there is an order to the world. Or at least that it can be put in order. Take the chaos of a hotel, for example, and you put it down on a list. I don't care if it's a list of things to do, of guests, the payroll. Everything that needs to be is there and what is not there isn't because it shouldn't be there. And you breathe easy, sure of having done things as they need to be done. Control. That's what you have when you make list; absolute control. The list is in charge. A list is a universe. What isn't in a list doesn't exist for anyone. A list is proof of the non-existence of God. I said that to Papa once and he slapped me across the face. I said it to sound interesting, a bit to see what would happen, and that's what happened, a slap. But deep down it's true.

— from The Informers, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.


Stefanie said...

What an excellent quote! I have never thought about lists in quite that way even though I do love them ever so much.

Isabella K said...

I think it's true that we can use lists to circumscribe our worlds to an extent.

Actually, the context for this quoatation is a much broader discussion of blacklisting, which gives you a whole other can of worms to think about.