Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” Styles of Radical Will (1969)
But the choice of permanent silence doesn’t negate their [Rimbaud, Wittgenstein, Duchamp] work. On the contrary, it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off; disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its validity, a certificate of unchallengeable seriousness. That seriousness consists in not regarding art (or philosophy practiced as an art form: Wittgenstein) as something whose seriousness lasts forever, an “end,” a permanent vehicle for spiritual ambition. The truly serious attitude is one that regards art as a “means” to something that can perhaps be achieved only by abandoning art; judged more impatiently, art is a false way or (the word of the Dada artist Jacques Vaché) a stupidity.
Simone Weil, Gavity and Grace
If only I could see a landscape as it is when I am not there. But when I am in any place I disturb the silence of heaven by the beating of my heart. [See Stan Brakhage.]
Maurice Blanchot, The Unavowable Community
Wittgenstein’s all too famous and all too often repeated precept, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” — given that by enunciating it he has not been able to impose silence on himself — does indicate that in the final analysis one has to talk in order to remain silent. But with what kinds of words? [See Kojève.]
TS Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” The Four Quartets
Words, after speech, reach / Into the silence [via].
Alexandre Kojève, letter to Georges Bataille, 28 July 1942
To manage to express silence (verbally) is to speak without saying anything. There are an infinite number of ways to do it. But the result is always the same (if one is successful): nothingness. [See Blanchot.]
Gary Snyder, “The Art of Poetry N° 74” by Eliot Weinberger, The Paris Review 141 (Winter 1996)
So you think people should read the margins of your books?
This is an oral art. They should listen to the unsaid words that resonate around the edge of the poem.
Deborah Levy, Interview by Mariella Frostrup, Open Book, BBC Radio 4 30 January 2014
Deborah Levy: After my father was arrested — along with Nelson Mandela and other family friends, who were fighting for human rights in the Apartheid era — I kept being asked to speak up at school. Speak louder, speaker louder — I was asked to repeat things all the time.
Mariella Frostrup: And that hadn’t happened before…
Deborah Levy: No. And so it wasn’t really that I’d become mute; I’d become very, very quiet. And I don’t think I wanted to speak — I was probably frightened about what my voice might sound like, because I was very sad. So, one day, in the playground, the school bully — who was a very tough Afrikaans girl, with white pointy teeth — asked me with uncharacteristic pity in her voice, “Are you dumb?” And I kind of shrugged because it wasn’t a yes or no answer. I was beginning to discover the power of silence, and I began to realise that what we don’t say is what really interests people. And that was an insight I was going to put to work later as a writer.