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6. Tradition and crisis: the transgression of authors. Neologisms, archaisms, jargon and "idiolects". Theoretical definition of incompatibility between literary languages, by levels, and its resolution in practice


b) The lost name of the rose

Literature playing on 'idiolects' brings a dilemma asserted by Hegel to its highest level of expression: the literature ‘of objects’ as opposed to that ‘of stories’. In fact, it is clear that when the narration is split up according to a listing of circumstances to the detriment of their continuity, what collapses is not so much realism, but rather the more elementary sense of Ego. Therefore the literature of the twentieth century, which dedicated its most elevated ‘backgrounds’ to the loss of Ego, is based on a mixing of the expressive codes. All things considered, the reasons for the present-day death of humanism lie in the division of languages into small parts to which the impossible agreements between intention and expression have condemned our social existence. And yet, one must be careful to avoid the ambiguity of verisimilitude: when Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in vulgar Florentine, he used an exclusive language, for the most part still not semantically defined, and as such, without radical differences compared to the odd, bureaucratic-engineering ‘divisionism’ used by Gadda in Pasticciaccio, or the Gaelic archetypes used by Yeats in The Tower, as indications of mythical places; or, lastly, the automatism of foreign language conversation manuals on which the dialogues of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano are constructed. In all these cases the agitated effect does not come from a misrepresentation of the mimesis, but from its obstinate exaltation.

The epic heritage of every people has peculiar characteristics. The skaldic epic poem involves an insistence on the use of adjectives clearly contrasting with that bare concreteness tied to the classical world. Certain grotesque perceptions of the Gothic medieval imagination would be unthinkable in a Renaissance context. The fanciful figures germinated from the earth by the association of real and fantastic animals, or the imagination with which Arcimboldo combines vegetables and creepers to construct his ‘real-life’ portraits represent an opposite trend to the symmetrical classicism peculiar to the utopias lying between court and academy that give substance to the quest for a centre around which the meditation of sixteenth-century treatise writers converges. Hence the translator’s need to know the figurative arts, and the way painters choose an eccentric point of view, or ‘break through’ space in its manifold derivations. It is difficult to translate Aragon without knowing those strange vegetable efflorescences designed by Gaudì in the public areas of his Barcelona, according to an expression of antihumanism which is the opposite of the ‘agglutinative’ chosen by Palladium. The Austrian critic Sedlmayr defined Modern as that period in which the ‘death of light’ was made a virtue, instead of a negative value. Thus, Friedrich’s Two men contemplating the moon, where two men are seen from behind while moving away from the landscape instead of being its protagonists, describes more than any literary text our discourse on the theatrical as a parody: an expression of every modern ‘loss of centre’.