R : O : T : F

OMG is "Language to Infinity" a wild essay. I'm not competent to judge the actual sources of Michel Foucault's prose style, but if not he then his translators were sipping from a Gothic chalice indeed. "Boundless misfortune, the resounding gift of the gods, marks the point where language begins; but the limit of death opens before language, or rather within language, an infinite space." As infinite as death, I guess he means, making language death's mirrored opposite. Does Foucault ever love that mirror image! "Perhaps there exists an essential affinity between death, endless striving, and the self-representation of language. Perhaps the figure of a mirror to infinity erected against the black wall of death is fundamental for any language from the moment it determines to leave a trace of its own passage" [through poetic performance].

This happens all the time in pop music. All you have to do is insert the words "and they were singing" before the chorus and anyone who sings along is merged with the good old boys drinking whiskey and rye, or whoever the fictional singers in/of the song happen to be. Rappers do it too, as on "One More Chance" where Biggie goes, "First I talk about how I dress/with diamond necklaces, stretch Lexuses/the sex is just immaculate, from the back/I get deeper and deeper, help you reach etc." He's not just telling you how awesome he is, he's telling you about how he's telling you, and has you up and dancing like a motherfuck (to the remix). ROTF is kind of like that, when through the figure of the prisoner's improbably prolonged manuscript ("I write by stealth. He who has furnished me with the means, I fear, has suffered for some symptoms of pity he may have discovered for me...") whose installments multiply in the teeth of its author's infinitely receding demise ("Again I return to this poor consolation--again I have been permitted to see another day. It is now midnight!") it represents its own self as textual production (an analogy clinched by the candlelit bedroom setting of Adeline's serial consumption of the text).

This, says Foucault, it is no mere literary flourish but a systemic tic or disembodied jeu d'esprit of language itself. Exactly how it serves as a symptom of language's struggle against death is hard to explain. Am I the only one who would rather see it done without mirror metaphors? Let me think about it some more and get back to you.


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