Saturday, April 7, 2012
The Power of Words
I have always loved words. Ever since I was a child, my passion for books and knowledge went far beyond what others would deem as "necessary". Even now, I rejoice whenever I discover something new like OULIPO, The Decadent Movement or even the rules of mahjong, because it gives me a chance to read about it and hopefully experience it as well. My stories are an extension of my passion; my fans tell me that reading my stories is like listening to me speak. Yet, what would we do without words? Will there ever be a time when we need more than words to express, discover and enjoy our world?
Several days ago, I read the novel Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee. This was the first book I had ever read by him. Although the novel is slim, the contents, the words, are far from it. The main character, Elizabeth, is a writer who is nearing the twilight years of her life. She has traveled all over the world, spoken to many people and written books that were beloved by all. However, as the book progresses, she is invited to speak at several conventions and conferences, yet the words she uses at each place comes out garbled, confusing and mainly disjointed. It would appear, then, that she has lost her gift with words. Or has she? Has her pursuit of the written word given her an insight as to something greater than words, and that such thoughts require more than words? Is it true, then, that the desire for knowledge could ultimately lead to an intellectual paralysis?
I hope that words shall retain their power in the future, yet I see more and more instances in which words are no longer needed. To convey a thought now merely requires several letters or a symbol, a touch and click on an iPod or Kindle and that is that. Yet, when I wrote the story Peau, I wanted to convey the idea that the power of words was and still strong, as long as we acknowledge said power. Words not read dissolve like sugar in a cup of tea. To be forgotten is to dissolve. May words and their power never dissolve.