03 August 2007

George Steiner

[from George Steiner's After Babel: Aspects of Language & Translation, 1998]

It is likely that the current of language passing through the mind, either in voluntary self-address or in the perhaps random but almost certainly uninterrupted soliloquy of mental activity, contributes largely to the definition of 'interior time' . . .

The modulations of inference, of provisionality of conjecture, of hope through which consciousness maps ahead of itself, are facts of grammar. . . .

The tragic vision of Greek literature turns on this deep paradox: the event most expected, most consequent on the internal logic of action, is always the most surprising . . . We know precisely what Oedipus will discover -- in a crucial sense he too has known all along. Yet with each narration or performance of the fable our sense of shock is renewed. . . . Eteocles' knowledge that death waits for him at the seventh gate does not void his action; it gives it the dignity of meaning.

[Thucydides] The past tense of the verb is the sole guarantor of history.

After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation

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