Elderism #51

May 15th, 2009

I can’t stop thinking about (probably because I don’t fully understand it) something that Mia Coutu, Mozambique’s most famous novelist, writes about in “Languages We Don’t Know We Know,” his essay in the new Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing. Quoting a short story of his in which a terminally ill woman is able to fall asleep only once her husband speaks to her in a made-up language or gibberish, Coutu explains, “those sounds brought back memories¬† of a time before she even had a memory! And they had given her the solace of that same sleep which provides the link between us and what was here before we were alive.”

Going on to say that James Joyce called this relationship with an unformed, chaotic world “chaosmology,” Coutu says rites that we should all be able to speak the language of chaos. He writes,

“The man of the future should surely be a type of bilingual nation. Speaking a finished language, capable of dealing with visible, everyday matters. But fluent too in another language to express that which belongs to the invisible, dreamlike order of existence.”