April 29, 2014

The Time Being Passing Her Time

It seems almost ironic that it took me such a long time to read Ruth Ozeki's wonderful novel A Tale for the Time Being. I am usally a fast reader, but for numerous reasons I could not manage to finish it, and it really made me smile when one of the narrators faced similar problems trying to finish the diary of the other narrator she is reading in the book. I also came across lots of other passages that bore simiarities to my own life and thinking, which is probably what makes you love a book in the first place.

Ozeki quotes from Marcel Proust's Le temps retrouvé at the beginning of Part II, commenting on this very phenomenon:

"In reality, every reader, while [s]he is reading, is the reader of [her] own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument ... to permit [her] to discern what, without the book, [s]he would perhaps never have seen in [herself]..." (Ozeki, 2013 109).

I think I have always been aware of this fact, yet, it still surprised me how very much I could relate to this story or, rather, relate this story to myself. On top of everything else there is a quote that terribly reminds me of what I wrote about language and ghosts from the past haunting our words last December:

"Where do words come from? They come from the dead. We inherit them. Borrow them. Use them for a time to bring the dead to life. [...] The ancient Greeks belived that when you read aloud, it was actually the dead, borrowing your tongue, in order to speak again" (ibid. 345f).

Of course, we are probably both influenced by the metaphors and concepts already existing in our cultures and, thus, in the language making up our worlds... The idea of ghosts borrowing your tongue is as eerily beautiful as the whole novel. Thank you Ruth Ozeki!

Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being. Edinburgh and London: Canongate, 2013.