Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Yes, when I speak to somebody, I do not know with whom I speak, and I do not wish, I cannot wish to know him. There is no lyric without dialogue. Yet the only thing that pushes us into the arms of the interlocutor is the desire to be surprised by our own words, to be captivated by their novelty and unexpectedness. The logic is ineluctable. If I know to whom I speak, I know ahead of time how he will regard what I say, whatever I might say, and consequently I shall not manage to be astonished by his astonishment, to be overjoyed by his joy, or to love through his love. The distance of separation wipes away the features of the beloved person. Only then does the desire arise in me to say to him that important thing I could not have said when I had his image before me in the fulness of its reality. I permit myself to formulate this observation thus: the sense of communication is inversely proportional to our real knowledge of the interlocutor and directly proportional to the felt need to interest him in ourselves. It isn't about poetics on should concern oneself: that will come of itself. More likely, about distance. It's boring to be whispering to a neighbor. It's infinitely tedious to pressure-drill one's own soul (Nadson). But to exchange signals with Mars--without fantasizing, of course--that us a task worthy of a lyric poet."

--Osip Mandelstam
"About an Interlocutor"
(1913; translated by Sidney Monas in
Osip Mandelstam: Selected Essays, 1977)

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