By Annick Hillger
Hillger provides a research of Michael Ondaatje's aesthetics and his position in the sleek quest for self and the Canadian quest for nationwide id.
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Additional resources for Not Needing all the Words: Michael Ondaatje’s Literature of Silence
We can well say, using the words of Maurice Blanchot, that in Peter the absence of spirit is speaking. This becomes even more obvious in the poem’s evocation of Christian images. As Gillian Harding-Russell points out (209), Ondaatje introduces Christian imagery in the last section of the poem. But while Harding-Russell reads some of these elements as still carrying their conventional symbolic content, I suggest that, in fact, Ondaatje inverts this content. In “Peter,” these images take on a negative signiﬁcation and thus hollow out from within the tradition to which they belong.
In a sense, it picks up the theme of the artist and his art developed in “Peter,” but it does so in a way that makes us laugh. The poem opens with a depiction of a car speeding through the night: The car carried him racing the obvious moon beating in the trees like a white bird. Difﬁcult to make words sing around your appendix. (DM , 26) Obviously, the speaker is suffering from appendicitis and is being taken to hospital. But ﬁnding the words to describe this event is not an easy task. ” And so the attempt to evoke an eerie setting for the trip to the hospital, the place where people may die, remains feeble.
Not wanting to exclude the possibility of negative transcendence, he concludes that “silence in literature does not necessarily augur the death of spirit” (93). Rather, the silence of Hassan’s anti-literature reveals what modern humanity has an aesthetics of silence 29 suppressed in the quest for self-knowledge: the world of the senses. In Hassan’s words, anti-literature is driven by a “revulsion against the Western self” (95). Like Sontag, he thus relates his concept of silence to the metaphor of violence: silence erupts in contemporary literature as a result of the suppression that aesthesis has undergone in modern epistemology.