Thursday, 17 October 2013

Before and after "I love you": Kafka and Betrand Russell

“It is incorrect to say that I have known the words “I love you”; I have known only the expectant stillness that should have been broken by my “I love you”, that is all I have known, nothing more.” Kafka

"It was late before the two guests left and Russell was alone with Lady Ottoline. They sat talking over the fire until four in the morning. Russell, recording the event a few days later, wrote, "I did not know I loved you till I heard myself telling you so--for one instant I thought 'Good God, what have I said?' and then I knew it was the truth." Ray Monk's Biography

The utterance “I love you” is in the second instance a kind of self-disclosure. You don’t know the truth of something until you say it, until it’s ‘out there’. The utterance (etymologically, the word is about making something ‘outer’) is both risk and clarification: you put yourself at stake in a form of words which is a kind of litmus test of the truth of what you are. The Word makes it actual and irreversible. Kafka, by contrast, suggests that he lives in a kind of pre-Word. He dwells in the preliminary moment before utterance precipitates you into the world, the world of consequence and realisation. The moment when the Word completes or actualises him never arrives.

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