Friday, October 28, 2011

The slobbery origins of speech

“When you stop to examine the way in which our words are formed and uttered, our sentences are hard-put to it to survive the disaster of their slobbery origins. The mechanical effort of conversation is nastier and more complicated than defecation. That corolla of bloated flesh, the mouth, which screws itself up to whistle, which sucks in breath, contorts itself, discharges all manner of viscous sounds across a fetid barrier of decaying teeth—how revolting! Yet that is what we are adjured to sublimate into an ideal. It's not easy."

Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night, 1932. Celine was a doctor who survived WWI, a misanthrope whom I expect the Absurdists would have adored. It's fun to read a counterbalance to starry-eyed adoration of the miracle of language. Be in a tough or quirky frame of mind if you consult this collection of Céline quotes.