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|Title:||“Still More Distant Than the Most Distant Stars”|
Department of English, NTNU
|Abstract:||This paper explores some closely-related themes in Nietzsche, Kafka, and Benjamin: a trans-temporal “bridge” that is broken or interrupted in the middle, “breaking news” whose delivery is infinitely delayed or impossible, and the figure of a partially-constructed wall which may also serve as the fragile foundation for a new Tower of Babel. The Benjamin passage at stake is Thesis IX of the “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” where the angel (angelikos, messenger) of history suddenly appears, caught between immanent and eternal time, and wants to (but cannot) “make whole” the fragments of wreckage from human history that are thrown in a heap at his feet. The above themes from Nietzsche and Kafka are used to interpret the angel’s impossible project of making-whole as a project, not of delivering but of reconstructing the original message, now taken as the originally universal and communal human language, meaning or “name” which was fragmented by God into a “babel.” Here this original language, also seen in the context of Benjamin’s still-idealized notion of “pure language” in “The Task of the Translator,” remains metaphorically tied to the figure of the Tower of Babel, a tower whose piecemeal construction, ambiguously decreed by the Emperor in Kafka’s “The Great Wall of China,” implies the virtual equivalence of (its own) construction and deconstruction or collapse.|
|Appears in Collections:||Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics|
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