It’s been ten years now since I’ve had a European ask me why the Japanese still haven’t given up their ideograms. Instead, I’ve noticed a growing interest in ideograms. The children at the German schools where I’ve given readings have shown far more interest in the Chinese characters than my texts. Maybe this has something to do with the texts. Even when I write in German, image-based script in the broadest sense is still present in my texts. I don’t know if the growing interest in ideograms can be explained more by the interest in manga culture or China’s economic growth. No matter whom I come in contact with—employees at a computer store, academics, people at arts organizations or the artists themselves—everyone wants to know more about ideograms. Perhaps this is part of a global process in which visual thinking is taking on a more central role.(I note that before clicking through to the piece itself, I took the word "Letter" in the essay's title - "The Letter as Literature's Political and Poetic Body - to mean letter in the sense of epistolarity.)
When I’m writing, I’ve often found myself inspired by German words like “Stern-kunde” (star-science, or astronomy), “Schrift-steller” (script-placer, or writer) or “Fern-seher” (distance-viewer, television). It always seemed to me as if two ancient Germanic ideograms were being joined together to make a new word. Romanic languages surely sound more melodious and colorful than German. English has a spare, modern elegance that German sometimes lacks, and my love of Slavic languages will never vanish. But for me the building blocks of German words have an ideographic character that seems to be crucial for my writing.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Tawada Yoko on the fate of the ideogram amidst competing systems of reading and writing, courtesy of Bookforum. Here's a bit I especially liked: