Echo for ink

  All writings are echoes of the thoughts of men and women, conscious reflections that bound and rebound over space and time.  The author is dead, his presence is gone… the writings are open to interpretation but not interrogation; one cannot ask the author, for example, to expicate such and such a point.  Re-readings can offer multiple interpretations – but the author is still dead – and yet, somehow alive when their words speak to us.  We can ask them questions, address the voice in our heads – but only the words left written on the page reply: an eternal echo…

  Perhaps I am reading too much into Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  The tale of Narcissus and Echo is a tragic love story gone awry.  Narcissus is in love with the look – he is picky and choosy about who he takes on as a lover and he finds none good enough to qualify for the position.  A jilted lover calls a curse upon him for his vanity after Echo is rejected (but what does it matter who is speaking? it was the final straw).  Echo perishes, she turns into stone – metamorphised into writing – while Narcissus comes afoul of the mirror enchanted by Nemesis.  when Narcissus realises he is himself, the object of the most profound love, he dies and turns into a flower.

  Poetic justice.  A tale for the moral and ethical edification of ancient Romans…and for us today?  How are we to reply to Ovid’s Echo?  What are we to think – if thought is aroused at all – of Narcissus and Echo?  A story left in writing, the originary cause, the author is dead – we cannot interogate him – all we have left, are echoes of his thought in the collected fragments of his writings known as the Metamorphoses…  The writing echoes Ovid’s imaginings: speech is privileged for, indeed, why should we listen to a man who has been dead for over two millenia (the same could be said of Jesus who – like Socrates – never wrote anything except scribblings in the sand when the mob is about to stone a woman to death for adultery (Jesus saves her by saying to the stoners, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’… to the woman, ‘Go in peace and sin no more.’))

  There is no right or wrong answer to these hermeneutical conundrums – perhaps the only purpose of tales and stories is to make us laugh or cry (its the least we should ask of any work of art – even Hollywood (though it does try its hardest for banality)) – and in the play, the drama, on the screen and in the pages, we find the necessary and serious purpose of art and life at work: Narcissus took himself too seriously…


One thought on “Echo for ink

  1. Dear emale

    I feel we write from the same place. I hope we’re not enchanted into believing that our voices do pass through space and time while actually we’re talking, always, just to ourselves, like Narcissus and Echo. But, let’s not take ourselves too seriously – a pitfall that calls me too often – and envision the handsome boy and the beautiful girl in a different context, reservoir dogs probably, each pointing his/her tool to yet another one, and yet another one.

    I worked in the past on the Echo/Narcissus love story, analyzing their impossible Amour Fou. Yet I read your post today, the actual, concrete timestamp which is today, and so here I find myself with a completely different understanding of that story. It’s a flip-flop, painting the scene with some vivid existential colors, and it consists of two voices, as follow:

    The first voice I was hearing, while reading your text, was that of Foucault reading his text “Le corps, lieu d’utopies” – a flip-flop text which starts by divorcing, escaping the fleshy, dystopian, deteriorating cage which is our body, in search for a better, purer, nicer, eternal forms, but only to discover, at the end of the quest, that the place that holds all possible utopias, is exactly this body. He then ends his narration with the exploration of the so far untold territories of the body – a beautiful text. Narcissus and Echo have both experienced that amour fou for themselves for their own empirical sensuality (although supposedly Echo loved Narcissus, le discours amoureux that she had with him and which kept her love on fire, was between her and herself, through the mediation of her echo). So in a sense, both Narcisse and Echo started where we will end.

    The next flip-flop comes from Hakim Bey & Bill Laswell – the first providing the words, the second – the music. The text is called Amour Fou, and one phrase that still hangs around my head is that Amour Fou is not the manifestation of freedom; rather it is its pre-condition.
    Narcissus and Echo, two cases of amour fou that we usually pity, but maybe – just maybe – they were feeling sorry for us, just the same.

    I’m aware that I didn’t tackle, directly, the question you have raised.


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