writing

Thoughts from John Berger

John_Berger-2009_(1)

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

On Writing

What has prompted me to write over the years is the hunch that something needs to be told, and that if I don’t try to tell it, it risks not being told. I picture myself as a stop-gap man rather than a consequential, professional writer.

After I’ve written a few lines I let the words slip back into the creature of their language. And there, they are instantly recognised and greeted by a host of other words, with whom they have an affinity of meaning, or of opposition, or of metaphor or alliteration or rhythm. I listen to their confabulation. Together they are contesting the use to which I put the words I chose. They are questioning the roles I allotted them.

So I modify the lines, change a word or two, and submit them again. Another confabulation begins. And it goes on like this until there is a low murmur of provisional consent. Then I proceed to the next paragraph.

On Translation

True translation demands a return to the pre-verbal. One reads and rereads the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them to reach, to touch, the vision or experience that prompted them. One then gathers up what one has found there and takes this quivering almost wordless “thing” and places it behind the language it needs to be translated into. And now the principal task is to persuade the host language to take in and welcome the “thing” that is waiting to be articulated.

John Berger, Guardian Review, 13.12.14

Advertisements

The Enriching of Memory

EVOLUTIONlizard

Yet into this world of the machine  – this mechanical disturbance surrounded by desert silences – a ghost has come, a ghost whose step must have been as light and imperceptible as the first scurry of a mouse in Cheops’ tomb.  Musing over the Archean strata, one can hear and see it in the sub-cellars of the mind itself, a little green in a fulminating spring, some strange objects floundering and helpless in the ooze on the tide line, something beating, beating, like a heart until a mounting thunder goes up through the towering strata, until no drum that ever was can produce its rhythm, until no mind can contain it, until it rises, wet and seaweed-crowned, an apparition from marsh and tide pool, gross with matter, gurgling and inarticulate, ape and man-ape, grisly and fang-scarred, until the thunder is in oneself and is passing – to the ages beyond – to a world unknown, yet forever being born.

Loren Eiseley, The Firmament Of Time (Atheneum, 1967), 55-6.

This quote is by one of the finest science writers of the 20th century.  I’ve added hundreds of quotes to this site, writing I’ve collected over the years, in alphabetical order of topic.  Browse here.